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Benjamin Pickman Papers, 1679-1923

Identifier: MSS 5

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Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Papers, reflects the shipping and personal activities of Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843), a prosperous shipping merchant who traded with India, China, the East and West Indies, and Europe. The collection also contains shipping and business papers of Benjamin's father, Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819); real estate and business papers of his brother William Pickman (1774-1857); and shipping, business, and personal papers of other family members and relatives. The collection is divided into seven series.

Series I. Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Shipping Papers contain shipping papers from 1789 to 1857. The ships' papers, arranged alphabetically by name of vessel, contain records of ships that Benjamin owned or in which he consigned cargo. Included are papers of Benjamin's whaling vessels, the ships Bengal and Catherine. Of interest in the ships' papers is master's correspondence from the ship Martha that describes an 1800 plague in Turkey and Bonaparte's defeat in Italy that same year. Also of note are two Samuel McIntire receipts, signed by the son of the Salem architect, for the figureheads and decoration of the ship Asia (1803) and the ship Derby (1806). The general shipping papers contain a letterbook, account books, miscellaneous merchant correspondence, and shipping accounts. Included are Derby/Pickman receipts generated from Benjamin and William Pickman's work as agents for Elias Hasket and John Derby. Series II. Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Business and Personal Papers, 1784-1842, contains correspondence, legal, and financial papers reflecting Benjamin's political and domestic concerns. Of interest in the family correspondence are letters from the Routh family (Benjamin's British relatives by his cousin Abigail [Gardiner] Routh) that describe the general political situation in Great Britain as well as England's war with France; Benjamin's letters to his mother, Mary (Toppan) Pickman, written during his 1784 visit with his exiled father in London; Benjamin's eulogy composed upon the death of his mother in 1787; and his 1843 will. Of special note in the miscellaneous correspondence is a letter from Captain Baker concerning Napoleon's return from Elba (1815), an 1826 note from Lafayette thanking Benjamin for a copy of his oration given on George Washington's birthday in 1797, and correspondence with John Quincy Adams. The Adams/Pickman correspondence is comprised of certified copies of correspondence and original letters written in 1825, 1827, and 1834. The 1834 correspondence is of special note, discussing the death of Adams' son John, America's worsening relations with France over the spoliation claims made during the War of 1812, and the 1814 New England Federalist attempt to secede from the United States in order to unite with Great Britain. The civic papers include donations to charities, shares in town projects, and certificates for political and civic organizations. Accounts and legal papers for Temple Place document the house Benjamin bought in Boston in 1838. The 1807 travel journal records only a fragment of Benjamin's journey to New York.

Series III. Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) Papers, 1752-1820, contains correspondence, account books, and financial papers reflecting Benjamin's personal and shipping interests and his activities as Salem's treasurer. Of note is the family correspondence written during Benjamin's ten-year exile in England. These letters discuss the social and political climate in England during the Revolution and oftentimes advise his wife on domestic and business matters. Also of interest is a 1775 copy of a letter from Benjamin's mother, Love, describing the battle at Lexington and Concord, Benjamin's 1780 letter to his mother recounting the death of his sister Abigail Gardiner in England, and a 1783 letter from Benjamin's wife, Mary, written soon after peace had been declared, relating her hope for Benjamin's swift return home. The shipping account books record transactions of the family shipping business before the Revolution. Due to Benjamin's exile, there is a ten-year gap in these accounts. Upon his return, Benjamin used the volumes to record only non-shipping business transactions. The miscellaneous papers include a 1793 history of Salem written by Benjamin.

Series IV. William Pickman (1774-1857) Papers include business, legal, and estate papers from 1799 to 1864. The real estate papers contain rent receipts for William's houses and land, and accounts for the Pickman Farm in South Salem.

Series V. Pickman Family Papers, 1679-1923, contains legal papers and wills of Benjamin Pickman (1671-1718/9); shipping, real estate, and estate papers of Benjamin Pickman (1707/8-1773) and his wife, Love (1709-1786); and personal and business papers of Clark Gayton (1746-1781), William (1747/8-1815), Thomas (1773-1817), Dudley Leavitt (1779-1846), Sophia (Palmer) (1786-1862), Love Rawlins (1786-1863), and Benjamin (1827-1893) Pickman. Of interest in Clark Gayton Pickman's papers is a 1770 letter from Abigail Eppes to Mary Pickman describing Clark's marriage to Sarah Orne. Sophia (Palmer) Pickman's personal correspondence includes letters from her husband, Thomas, as well as his letter to her mother asking for her hand in marriage. Appended to this series are genealogical notes and letters kept by William C. Endicott.

Series VI. Relatives' Papers, 1704-1835, contain personal, business, and political papers of the Toppan, Palmer, and Osgood families. The bulk of the Toppan papers are comprised of deeds and receipts of Bezaleel and widow Mary Toppan. The Palmer family papers, which document the Palmer family of Quincy, Massachusetts, include correspondence between Joseph Pearse Palmer Sr. and Joseph Jr. discussing domestic, political, and salt business concerns. Of note is a 1784 letter from John Adams regarding Joseph Sr.'s oil and candle business. Also among the Palmer papers are a 1774 letter to Samuel Adams from Gen. James Warren, a list of the Committee of Safety (1774), a 1775 interrogation of a British deserter, a letter from Gen. Charles Lee (1775) (second in command under Washington), and 1776 orders to Gen. Washington. The Osgood family papers contain correspondence and legal papers of Isaac and Gayton Pickman Osgood. Isaac's papers include clerk's correspondence, written while he was employed in the Essex County courts, and estate and guardianship papers. Gayton Pickman Osgood's correspondence covers his years at Harvard College (1811-1815) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1833-1835). Of interest is an 1813 letter describing his cousin Gayton Pickman's derangement, and an 1833 letter from his father discussing the French spoliation claims and their effect on U.S. banks. Gayton's journal contains a record of his 1813 journey to New York.

Series VII. Miscellaneous Papers, 1734-1878, includes business correspondence, deeds, receipts, poetry, and store catalogs. Of interest is an essay describing the election of George Washington, and the 1837 diary of an unidentified Newburyport woman.


  • 1679-1923


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Benjamin Pickman (1707/8-1773) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin (1671/2-1719) and Abigail (Lindall) Pickman. After his marriage to Love Rawlins in 1731, Benjamin moved to Salem. He established a prosperous fishing and West Indian shipping business. Benjamin was also active in civic affairs, serving as Lieutenant of the Essex County Regiment (beginning in 1732), Salem selectman (1739, 1742-1745), Representative to the General Court (1744-1747), member of the French & Indian War Council (1745), Justice of the Inferior Court (1756), Essex County Regiment Colonel (beginning in 1762), and 1765 chairman of the Salem committee appointed to protest the Stamp Act. Benjamin lived in his father's house on Essex Street until 1750, when construction of his new home was finished. This new house, located on Essex Street opposite St. Peter Street, was known for its gilt codfish carved on the stairways.

Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) was the son of Benjamin (1707/8-1773) and Love (Rawlins) Pickman. He married Mary Toppan in 1762. After graduating simultaneously from Harvard College and Yale College in 1759, Benjamin joined his father's successful shipping business. Eventually, he left the mercantile business to his younger brothers, Clark Gayton and William Pickman, preferring to spend his time with friends in discussions of politics, science, religion, and literature. With the approach of the Revolution, Benjamin, a loyalist, sailed for England, leaving the management of his estate to his wife, Mary. Returning in 1785, Benjamin resumed his position in Salem society. He was elected Salem town treasurer (1788-1803), treasurer of the Salem Turnpike Corporation, and overseer of the poor (1793). He continued to maintain his farm and land in Salem, Massachusetts, until his death in 1819.

Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) was the son of Benjamin (1740-1819) and Mary (Toppan) Pickman. He attended Dummer Academy and, in 1784, graduated from Harvard College. In 1789, he married Anstiss Derby, daughter of Elias Hasket and Elizabeth (Crowninshield) Derby. Following his father's wishes, Benjamin studied law in the offices of William Pyncheon of Salem and Theophilus Parsons of Newburyport until 1787, when he abandoned law for commerce. From about 1790 to 1796, Benjamin and his brother William Pickman (1774-1857) acted as agents for Elias Hasket and John Derby. Benjamin also developed his own mercantile business. Between 1789 and 1822, he was the sole or partial owner of thirty-three mercantile vessels that voyaged to the West and East Indies, the Far East, India, and Europe. He was also partial owner of two whaling vessels, the ships Bengal and Catherine. Benjamin was prominent in political and civic affairs: Representative to the General Court (1797-1799), Massachusetts state senator (1802-1805), member of the Governor's Council (1805), first president of the Salem National Bank (1803), colonel in the Salem Regiment (by 1808), and Representative to Congress (1809). Benjamin was also president of the directors of the Theological School of Cambridge, and was a member of many local literary and historical societies. He welcomed and entertained President Monroe on his 1817 visit to Salem. In 1843, Benjamin died following an accident in which his carriage overturned.


9.5 linear feet (10 boxes; 36 volumes)

Language of Materials



The bulk of the Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Papers, reflects the shipping and personal activities of Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843), a prosperous shipping merchant who traded with India, China, the East and West Indies, and Europe.

Series List

SERIES I. Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Shipping Papers

  • A. Ships' Papers
  • B. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Business and Personal Papers

SERIES III. Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) Papers

SERIES IV. William Pickman (1774-1857) Papers

SERIES V. Pickman Family Papers

SERIES VI. Relatives' Papers

SERIES VII. Miscellaneous Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This collection is a reorganization, integration, and conservation of twelve scrapbook volumes, thirty-two account books, and several other items. One account book was placed in the Essex Bank Collections, 1792-1822. While the bulk of the collection is from an unknown source, many items were either donated or purchased. All of the papers of the related families in Box 10 were in the possession of William Crowninshield Endicott and donated by his wife, Louise, in 1939. Much of the Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) Family Correspondence in Box 7 was purchased in 1967 and is so marked on the back of each item. An 1810 letter from Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) to his wife, Anstiss, in Box 6, Folder 5 was a 1971 gift from N. David Scotti. Other items of the Benjamin Pickman (1763-1843) Family and Non-Family Correspondence, Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) Family Correspondence, and Nonshipping Miscellaneous items in Boxes 6 and 7 were purchased in 1973 and are marked accordingly. Three letters dated 1804-1805, and a bill from 1805, was donated by the Newport Historical Society on June 18, 1969 (accession #18,093).

Bibliography and Related Collections

Dow, George Francis. The Diary & Letters of Benjamin Pickman (1740-1819) of Salem, Mass. with a Biographical Sketch and Genealogy of the Pickman Family. Newport, R. I., 1928.

Pattee, William S. A History of Old Braintree and Quincy. Quincy, Mass.: Green & Prescott, 1878.

Putnam, George Granville. "Salem Vessels and Their Voyages," Vol. 4. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1930.

Shipton, Clifford K. Sibley's Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1968, 1975.

Texel (Brig) Logbook and Journal Abstract, 1820-1821, Log 943

Texel (Brig) Logbook, 1820-1821, Log 168

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

Barton Family Papers, 1677-1897, MSS 110

Rogers Family Papers, 1792-1901, MSS 87

Derby Family Papers, 1716-1921, MSS 37

Separated Materials

Volume 32 was removed from this collection, and added to MSS 37 Derby Family Papers, where it is now cataloged as Volume 23.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Nancy C. Barthelemy, December 1980. Retyped by Jane E. Ward October 2000. Updated by Catherine Robertson, July 2014. Updated by Hilary Streifer, March 2017.

Processed by: Nancy C. Barthelemy; Retyped by: Jane E. Ward; 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 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