Skip to main content

Cabot Family Papers, 1712-1862

Identifier: MSS 161

Scope and Content Note

The Cabot Family Papers illuminate the prosperous shipping activities of this wealthy Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts family. The collection contains only a small portion of the shipping papers amassed by Francis (1717-1786) and Joseph Cabot (1720-1767), and Joseph's sons, John (1744-1821), Joseph (1745-1774), George (1752-1823), and Andrew (1750-1791). Also included are personal and miscellaneous business papers of these and other family members. The papers have been divided into two series.

Series I. Shipping Papers documents the mercantile activities of two generations of the Cabot family. The ships' papers (see Appendix I for a listing) contain vessels owned and mastered by Francis, Joseph Sr., John, George, Andrew, and Joseph Cabot Jr. Of interest are the stores inventory of the brig Gipsy's voyage to India, and tallies of fish caught on board the fishing and trading schooner Sally. The bulk of the shipping correspondence consists of letters to Joseph Jr., John, and Andrew from foreign and domestic merchants in Kittery, Maine, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Barcelona, London, Bilbao, and Philadelphia. Also included is master's correspondence from Josiah Orne aboard an anonymous vessel (1767-1768) and letters from John Jr. (1782-1855) regarding a French spoliation claim on the brig Welcome Return. The ledger and waste book, which belonged to Joseph Cabot Jr., include distillery accounts, as well as accounts of the schooner Tryall, schooner Sally, brig Union, and schooner George. The miscellaneous shipping papers contain cargo, outfitting, and insurance accounts for miscellaneous or multiple vessels. The last folder in this series contains restricted material.

Series II. Family Papers contains two notebooks and correspondence reflecting Joseph S. Cabot's work on Neopolitan claims cases circa 1833. Also included is correspondence, financial, and legal papers of a personal or business nature of many family members: John (1680-1742), Dr. John (1704-1749), Francis (1717-1786), Joseph (1720-1767), Joseph (1745-1774), Elizabeth (Higginson) (1722-1781), Susanna, Andrew (1750-1791), Deborah (Higginson) (1754-1820), William, Rebecca (Orne) (1748-1818), George (1752-1823), John (1744-1821), John (1782-1855), Sally, Lucy (1785-1848), Henry (1783-1864), William P., Hannah, and Lydia (Dodge). This series also includes an account book for a distillery house belonging to John and Andrew Cabot. Of interest is a 1744 Isle of Jersey deed of sale from Marston Cabot and an 1810 copy of the New England Palladium.


  • Creation: 1712-1862


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use. One item from the shipping papers (box 1 folder 1) has been restricted due to its fragility. A surrogate has been put in its place and the original has been placed in box 2 folder 5.

Biographical Sketches

The Cabot family was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous shipping merchant families in 18th-century Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts. John Cabot (1680-1742) emigrated from the Isle of Jersey to Salem in 1700. His sons, Francis (1717-1786) and Joseph (1720-1767), followed him into the shipping business, developing trade with the West Indies, England, and coastwise United States ports. Upon Joseph's death in 1767, his widow Elizabeth (Higginson) Cabot moved their family to Beverly, beginning the Cabot family's association with that town.

Many of Joseph and Elizabeth's children continued the family's prosperous shipping activities. Three of the sons, Joseph (1745-1774), John (1744-1821), and George (1752-1823), developed their mercantile acumen while serving as supercargo and masters. George, John, and Andrew (1750-1791) also formed the merchant house of J. & A. Cabot in association with their brother-in-law, Joseph Lee. They were owners, in whole or part, of at least 41 vessels, specializing in the Spanish trade, most notably with Bilbao. They also had interests in fishing and during the American Revolution amassed a considerable amount of wealth through privateering.

Several Cabot family members held important positions in government and business. John (1744-1821) was a Representative in the Massachusetts legislature in 1792. George (1752-1823) was a delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1779, a close friend and advisor of Washington and Hamilton, Massachusetts Senator (1791-1796), president of the Boston branch of the United States Bank (1803-1811), and president of the Boston Marine Insurance Co. from 1809 until his death in 1823. Samuel (1758-1819) served as a British spoliation claims commissioner in London (1796-1800), and was president and director of the Boston Marine Insurance Co. from 1805 to 1809. Joseph Sebastian (1796-1874), Joseph's (1745-1774) grandson, turned to banking and civic duties after a brief career in the East India trade. He was president of the Asiatic National Bank and the Salem Savings Bank, president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, a Neopolitan claims commissioner circa 1833, and mayor of Salem (1845-1848).


2.75 linear feet (4 boxes; 1 volume; 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The Cabot Family Papers illuminate the prosperous shipping activities of this wealthy Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts family.

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers

SERIES II. Family Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The Cabot Family Papers are a reintegration and reorganization of 4 account books, 2 notebooks, one scrapbook, and one envelope of manuscript material. The bulk of the collection was donated by Mrs. Joseph S. Cabot in 1879. The inventory book of the Brig Gipsy was the 1915 gift of Mrs. Francis H. Lee. Removed from the collection are correspondence and financial papers of Orne family members (see Separation Sheet for exact listing).

Related Collections

Account book of the Horton family, 1781-1828, MSS 517.

George Bailey Loring Papers, 1831-1904, MSS 183.

Salem Insurance Companies Records, 1779-1893, MSS 139.

Susan Marsh Emerson Diary, 1859-1860, Fam. Mss. 283.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, December 1984. Updated by Catherine Robertson, March 2015. Updated by Hilary Streifer, January 2019.

Processed by: Sylvia B. Kennick; Updated by: Catherine Robertson; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan; finding aid and machine-readable finding aid updated by: Hilary Streifer.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation of this collection was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA