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George R. Dearborn commonplace book


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

George R. Dearborn was a supercargo on the ship Commerce. He was a member of the Dearborn family of New England (specifically Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine), several of whom were prominent military figures from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and public servants and politicians in the United States in the 19th century.

George R. Dearborn's exact relationship within the family is unknown, although items laid into the volume tie him to the sisters Emily Dearborn Boyd and Julia Wingate Boyd, daughters of Annette Maria Dearborn Boyd, granddaughters of Greenleaf Dearborn (1786-1846) and great granddaughters of General Henry Dearborn (1751-1829).

In 1806, Dearborn and the Commerce were in Mocha, Yemen. It is possible that his voyage on that ship began in Charleston, South Carolina in February, 1805, with stops in Antwerp in June and Batavia (capitol of the Dutch East Indies, now Jakarta) in November; before arrival in Mocha in January 1806. It appears that he remained there until at least July 22.

This commonplace book, created by George R. Dearborn between 1805 and 1806, probably documents his voyage to Mocha, Yemen, as supercargo on the ship Commerce. The volume contains excerpts from readings, many about England and Europe, some of which reflect on colonialism and slavery, and indigenous peoples of North America. None of the sources of the copied quotes and notes are certain, although one passage is attributed to James Robertson (1742 –1814), an American explorer, soldier and Indian agent. In addition to the excerpts and notes on readings, there are two recipes (one for the method of making wine in France and one for the method of curing olives), notes on trivia and facts (William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood in the beginning of the 17th century, information about mountains, etc.), fifteen pages of translations of Arabic words to English words, a diary entry from Dearborn's time in Mocha, and a list of expenses incurred during the trip from South Caroline to Mocha.

Copied notes include: "Extracts from Austins' Letters," "Kings of England from the death of Charles II in 1684," "Gratitude is ever …," "A letter said to be written by M. de Nottair in D. 1772 to the Earl of Chesterfield," "The Hero's Philosophy, by the King of Prussia, 1773," "A dissertation on Conjugal Felicity with Strictures on Education—English Gen. [Maggins] of 1774," and "Robertson's Indian."

On page 42 is a single diary entry, dated June 24, with Dearborn's observations of Mocha. His handwriting is very difficult to read, but the entry possibly describes a conflict surrounding a ship and the property of [Sayd Mohammed Ached]. The next page contains a memo from Mocha, dated July 22, 1806, that lists ships leaving Mocha from July 14, 1805 to June 13, 1806; and ships that left Mocha without cargo, probably during the same time.

On pages 110 and 109 (the book was turned upside down and written from the back), there is a list of expenses starting in Charleston, South Carolina in February, 1805; possibly the location in the United States from which the Commerce sailed.

Laid into the volume are three pieces of paper. The most informative is a receipt stating that George R. Dearborn, supercargo (along with Mess. [Hess]) of the ship Commerce paid for 127 bales of gum Arabic on May 19, 1806, in Mocha. On the back of this receipt are calculations, some words in Arabic, and a list of what may be names.

There are also two documents not belonging to Dearborn, but family members who were almost certainly in possession of the volume after his death: a check for annual dues to an illegible association paid by Miss Emily Boyd and a calling card with the names Mary Ambler Marshall Coleman, wife of Louis Minor Coleman I and Mr. Lewis Minor Coleman, Jr. (crossed out). Lewis Minor Coleman, Jr.'s wife was Julia Wingate Boyd, sister to Emily Dearborn Boyd.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2022 November 16

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Commonplace book, 1805-1806.
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