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Rowland Mahaffey, Blacksmith's ledgers


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. 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

Little is known about Rowland Mahaffey, the blacksmith who keep these account ledgers. Marriage records indicate that a Rowland Mahaffey married Elizabeth Colmery in Cecil County, Maryland, on March 25, 1793. The 1820 Federal Census listed a "Roland Mehaffy" residing in Christiana Hundred, Delaware. The census taker recorded one white man and one white woman, both over forty-five years of age, residing in the household. The census record noted that one of the residents was engaged in manufacture. The ledger entries suggest that Mahaffey did work for residents of Cecil County, Maryland, and New Castle County, Delaware. An inscription at the front of Volume 3 dated August 23, 1819, reads "I do hereby transfer or sign over all my rights title & clame of the within book to John Mahafey as witness my hand &c./Rowland Mahafey." It is likely that John Mahaffey was Rowland Mahaffey's son or another family member. Several of the accounts in these ledgers belonged to John Wilson of "New Leeds." Wilson emigrated from Yorkshire, England, in the early nineteenth century and was hired to manage the Cecil Manufacturing Mill for a ten-percent interest. The mill wove the cloth for Thomas Jefferson's inauguration suit. The mill was described in Albert Gallatin's 1810 report on manufactures as having capital of $16,000, 20 employees, and an annual output of 8000 yards of cloth. Wilson left the firm in 1811 to found a woolen mill on Little Elk Creek in Cecil County, which he called "New Leeds" after the British factory town of his birth. Wilson's mill achieved its greatest prosperity during the War of 1812. By 1820, the New Leeds mill had a stone factory with dye houses and a shear shop and employed over thirty people. Wilson's accounts with Mahaffey in Volume 2 show that Mahaffey was splicing spindles for the company, making hoops for shuttle wheels, and even plating knives to cut logwood, a common dyestuff. On September 23, 1816, Mahaffey mended "the slide cog iron on a spinning machine" for John Brown of the New Leeds mill. Maryland Historical Trust Determination of Eligibility Form for Little Elk Creek, submitted January 14, 2003 (accessed on June 14, 2018) "Cecil County Mills" (accessed June 14, 2018), Compiled Marriages, 1655-1850 (accessed via on June 14, 2018)1820 Federal Census (accessed via on June 14, 2018)Information derived from the collection.

These three volumes are ledgers kept by blacksmith Rowland Mahaffey from 1808 to 1820. Mahaffey likely had his blacksmith shop in New Castle County, Delaware, or Cecil County, Maryland.

Each of the ledgers includes an alphabetical index of account holders listing the corresponding page numbers of their accounts. Mahaffey did a variety of work for customers, including shoeing horses, making and mending hardware, sharpening tools, and repairing farm and manufacturing equipment. While his customers sometimes paid their debts in cash, they more often offered credit payments in goods and services. Common goods used as payment included corn, potatoes, flour, oats, flax, and textiles. Customers also paid debts by carrying coal, chopping wood, harrowing fields, and tending Mahaffey's livestock. In several places in the ledgers, Mahaffey reckoned accounts, recording the balance due to him or his customer. These entries were signed by both Mahaffey and the account holder.

Volume 1 is bound with blue marbled paper covers. A label attached to the front cover includes the handwritten inscription "Rowland Mahaffey" in black ink. Printed text at the bottom of the label reads "Sold by Bennett & Walton [illegible number] Market street, Philadelphia." This volume contains 65 leaves of unlined laid paper with handwritten notations in black ink.

Volume 2 is bound in marbled paper with a label on the front cover bearing the handwritten inscription "John Mahaffey" in black ink. Printed text at the bottom of the label reads "Edward Parker, No. 178, Market Street." There are various handwritten inscriptions and calculations in black ink on front and back cover. The volume contains 44 leaves of unlined laid paper with handwritten notations in black ink.

Volume 3 is bound in brown paper with printed poetry and advertisements for Scudder's Museum on Chatham Street in New York City, New York, on the front and back covers. There are spaces on the front and back cover reading "THE PROPERTY OF" in printed text, below which Rowland Mahaffey signed his name. This volume contains 35 leaves of unlined wove paper with handwritten notations in black ink.

Item 0017: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0096

Acquired, 1939

Processed by Marrette Pearsall, 2012. Further processing and encoding by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, June 2018.


University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2018 June 14
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Ledger, 1808 April-1818 March 24.
Item 0017 Volume 1
Physical Description

33 cm

Ledger, 1812 December 24-1820 March 19.
Item 0017 Volume 2
Physical Description

33 cm

Ledger, 1818 August 22-1820 November 15.
Item 0017 Volume 3
Physical Description

32 cm

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