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Clifford Crowninshield Papers, 1692-1861

Identifier: MH 17

Scope and Content Note

The Clifford Crowninshield (1762-1809) papers are comprised of the business and personal papers of Clifford Crowninshield and his family from 1692-1861. The bulk of the material concerns shipping activities from 1795-1800, particularly the affairs of the ship George, alias West Chapelle. The collection is divided into two series.

Series I. Clifford Crowninshield Papers are comprised of ships papers, correspondence, letterbooks, account books, estate papers, and legal papers associated with this successful Salem merchant and ship master. The majority of the ships papers are related to the voyage of ship George in 1795. This vessel sailed from Boston on a voyage to the East Indies, arriving in Djakarta (Batacia) in 1796. There he sold his outward cargo and sent the vessel home under Ebenezer Slocum. Crowninshield then purchased the ship West Chapelle from the Dutch East India Company and renamed her George. This ship George was captured by the British ship L'Oiseau and taken to the Cape of Good Hope and later London. Crowninshield was soon set free, but the ship, its crew and its cargo were held in London.

The papers of ship George include the outward voyage of the Boston vessel and the inward voyage of the former Dutch East India Company ship. A wide variety of depositions, transcripts, and legal papers document the intense negotiations regarding the release of the vessel and damages for stolen cargo. A series of letters from Job W. Hall (left in command of the ship) describe the tribulations of the crew until their release in the spring of 1798. The ship's account book (1795-1796) is almost entirely made up of accounts from the crew's wages. The balance of the ships' papers contains little evidence of Crowninshield's shipping career. However, the various account books, ledgers and day books provide more detail on his shipping activities, as well as information on personal and business affairs.

Correspondence includes a large group of letters from John Murphy regarding the George/West Chappelle incident. A letter from John Ives in Senegal (September 25, 1807) contains a brief reference to the arrivals of slave ships at that port. The invoice/account book contains instructions and accounts for schooners St. John, Molly, and Eagle, and ship Ceres. A day book (1784-1789) mostly concerns personal matters but also holds some accounts for Clifford Crowninshield's (1699-1776) estates. Another day book (1795-1799, 1821-1831) contains accounts for ship Osprey, apparently kept by Nicholas Devereux.

Clifford Crowninshield's (1762-1809) estate papers include correspondence with executors James Devereux and John Moriarty, and deeds that also concern the estates of Crowninshield's forebears. Ships papers dated after 1809 (see Appendix I) relate to spoliation claims settled posthumously and therefore should be consulted in relation to Crowninshield's estate.

Series II. Family Papers are almost entirely comprised of papers from the estates of Clifford's father and grandparents. However, Clifford Crowninshield's (1699-1776) ships papers (see Adventure, brigantine) include an interesting memorandum/account book regarding mid-eighteenth century voyages to Europe (see Appendix II).


  • Creation: 1692-1861


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Clifford Crowninshield (1762-1809) was the son of John and Mary (Ives) Crowninshield, grandson of Clifford Crowninshield (1699-1776), and great-grandson of John Casper Richter von Kronensheldt (1644-1711). Crowninshield was a successful Salem merchant and ship master who built the house later occupied first by Captain James Devereux and then William D. Waters. Crowninshield married Eliza Fisher, the daughter of Reverend Nathaniel Fisher of the Episcopal Church. He died in June of 1809, leaving no children.


3 linear feet (6 boxes; 3 volumes)

Language of Materials


Dutch; Flemish


The Clifford Crowninshield (1762-1809) papers are comprised of the business and personal papers of Clifford Crowninshield and his family from 1692-1861.

Series List

SERIES I. Clifford Crowninshield (1762-1809) Papers

SERIES II. Family Papers

  • A. Clifford Crowninshield (1699-1776) Papers
  • B. John Crowninshield (1728-1777) Estate Papers
  • C. Margaret and John Murphy Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The Clifford Crowninshield papers are a reorganization of 8 boxes of manuscripts and 11 volumes of account books and letter books. Seven boxes of ships papers, one box of family papers and eleven volumes were the gift of William C. Waters (acc #10,654, #11,824, and #13,190). One folder of sloop Alert papers were donated by Paul Stevens interfiled with others in the Devereux Family Papers (MH 1). One folder of William Wilson Estate Papers (Nicholas Devereux, executor) was also placed in the Devereux Family Papers. A document in Dutch, related to a 1789-1790 passage, dated 1790 (box 6, folder 10), was purchased from John McInnis Auctioneers on August 4, 2022 (Acc 2022.019) with the John Robinson Fund.

Related Collections

Clifford Crowninshield Papers, 1750-1811, MSS 97

Crowninshield Family Papers, 1697-1909, MSS 4, MH 15

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, January 1988. Updated by Catherine Robertson, June 2014.


Processed by: Robert P. Spindler; Updated by: Catherine Robertson; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation of this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA