Skip to main content

Nathaniel B. Mansfield Papers, 1808, 1831-1907, undated

Identifier: MH 156

Scope and Content Note

The Nathaniel B. Mansfield papers reflect two generations of the Mansfields' merchant and shipping business ventures—from Nathaniel Mansfield's (1796-1863) ice business to his son's shipping and merchant business ventures. There are also some personal papers within this collection. It should be noted that the use of the word "ship" in this scope and content note is used as a generic word to refer to various types of vessels, not just those officially classified as a ship.

Series I. Correspondence contains business correspondence and has been divided into four subseries. Subseries A. General Business Correspondence contains correspondence to Nathaniel Mansfield (1796-1863) (who was often addressed as Captain N. B. Mansfield), Nathaniel B. Mansfield (1834-1889), Henry O. Roberts, Justin Rideout, Mansfield and Roberts, and Rideout and Roberts. This subseries also contains correspondence sent, including telegrams. It should be noted that some of the correspondence is illegible due to the fading of the ink. Subseries B. Captains' Letters contains correspondence to and from captains. This subseries also contains letters from captains' wives to Mansfield, Mansfield and Roberts, and Rideout and Roberts, asking either for money or for information about when their husbands are expected back. Subseries C. Other contains correspondence written by other individuals and not addressed to Mansfield or his firm(s). This subseries also contains cable code books which contain the various codes and shorthand used when sending cables, and the keys to understanding them. This subseries also contains a letter book from Long Wharf in Boston, the dates of the book extend beyond Mansfield's death.

Series II. Financial Papers contains financial papers from the running of Nathaniel B. Mansfield's merchant business. Researchers should also consult the individual ships' papers for additional financial and account documentation. Subseries A. Bills, Invoices, and Receipts contains bills, invoices, and receipts issued by or to Mansfield and his various business partners, in addition to promissory notes. The items in this subseries have been filed according to the date they were paid if that date has been written on the item, otherwise they are arranged according to the date they were issued. Some items have been grouped together by account name or location; these items have been left together as it was unclear who originally grouped them together. Subseries B. Accounts Current contains account invoices and receipts, and accounts current from or to Mansfield and his various business partners. Subseries C. Returned Checks contains checks that were returned from financial institutions. Some of the returned checks were written by the firm of Rideout and Roberts. There are also some returned checks that were written by C. B. Stevens; it is unclear who that was. Of interest is that the signature has been torn out from a significant number of items. Subseries D. Account Books contains account books kept by Nathaniel B. Mansfield (1796-1863) and his son Nathaniel B. Mansfield (1834-1889). This subseries includes day books, ledgers, journals, account books, cargo books, sales books, cash books, and account books for specific ships.

Series III. Shipping Papers contains insurance papers, bills of sale, and ships' papers relating to the individual ships' everyday activities. Subseries A. Insurance Papers contains insurance documentation related to the shipping and merchant activities of Mansfield and his associates. This subseries contains two sub-subseries. Sub-subseries 1. Insurance Policies contains insurance policies that were taken out by H. O. Roberts and N. B. Mansfield. The insurance policies cover individual vessels, as well as office space, merchandise in storage, docks, and cargo. Some of the insurance policies appear to cover personal items, such as homes and furniture in the homes. This sub-subseries also contains account books filled with insurance information. Invoices and receipts for the various insurance policies can be found with the bills, invoices, and receipts. Sub-subseries 2. Insurance Claims contains insurance claims filed, statements of general average, statements of partial loss, statements of salvage loss, and protests.

Subseries B. Bills of Sale contains bills of sale for entire ships or for fractional parts of ships. The sale of fractional parts refers to the sale of a percentage of ownership, not the sale of physical pieces of the ships. This subseries includes declarations of ownership, bills of sale, and mortgages of vessels. Subseries C. Ships' Papers contains bills of lading, disbursements, cargo lists, crew lists, shipping articles of agreement, various certificates, invoices, instructions, inventories, charter party agreements, correspondence, bills of health, bills, receipts, some correspondence, and more. This subseries has been organized alphabetically by ship name.

Subseries D. Other contains materials related to Mansfield's shipping business ventures that do not fall into the other subseries. Included in this subseries are cargo receipts, disbursements, and log books. A number of the receipts for cargo have holes in them where they were either sewn together or were stacked with a piece of wire through them. Also included in this subseries are the papers of Captain Joseph Upton.

Series IV. Other Business Papers contains materials that are not ships' papers, but do relate to Mansfield's shipping and merchant business, as well as his other ventures. Items in this series include: stocks and bonds, contracts, patents, and stock holder reports from railroad companies.

Series V. Personal Papers contains papers not related to Mansfield's shipping and merchant activities, and includes correspondence, financial records, and other miscellaneous items. This series contains two subseries. Some of the correspondence and bills appear to have been in a two ring binder at some point, as they have two uniform holes in them. Subseries A. Financial Papers contains bills, invoices, receipts, accounts, and taxes not related to Mansfield's shipping and merchant business. The items in this subseries have been filed according to the date they were paid if that date has been written on the item; otherwise they are arranged according to the date they were issued. Subseries B. Correspondence contains personal correspondence. Subseries C. Other miscellaneous items such as land deeds and maps, Nathan Burrill's (1786-1866) papers (a possible relative), Nathaniel Mansfield's (1796-1863) estate, and other similar materials.


  • Creation: 1808, 1831-1907, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Nathaniel Burrill Mansfield was born on October 20, 1796 to Benjamin and Mary (Brookhouse) Mansfield, in Salem, Massachusetts. Benjamin Mansfield died three months before Nathaniel was born, leaving Mary to raise two sons and two daughters alone. At a young age Nathaniel became a sailor, worked his way up to becoming an officer, and later a ship master. He was part owner of the bark Statesman and the ship Newburyport, and conducted business between Havana and Russia for many years. At the age of 45, Nathaniel switched his profession from master mariner to shipping, becoming involved with many merchant houses. In the last years of his life he became involved in the ice business in Panama, and established a line of packets to Australia with Samuel Stevens and Company. Nathaniel was a member of the Marine Society of Salem, in addition to having an interest in politics. He was an old-line Whig, a member of the city government, and of the state legislature (Hurd 248).

Nathaniel married Harriet Fabens (1806-1849), the daughter of William (1759-1828) and Sarah Brown Fabens (1788-1840) on March 26, 1823. William Fabens was a successful Salem merchant who established trade between Salem, and Cayenne, French Guiana, in South America, in 1816. Nathaniel and Harriet had two children together: Harriet (born 1831) and Nathaniel Brookhouse (1834-1889). Nathaniel died on September 24, 1863 ("The Fabens Family" 60).

Nathaniel Brookhouse Mansfield was born to Nathaniel (1796-1863) and Harriet Fabens Mansfield (1806-1849) in August 1834. Mansfield had a merchant and shipping business out of Salem, which appears to have been involved in trade with Africa. While it appears that he had a merchant and shipping business of his own, he was also a partner in the merchant/shipping firm, Roberts and Mansfield, with Henry Osborne Roberts (Genealogy of Back Bay Houses); the firm appears to have conducted business in West Africa, particularly in Sierra Leone. Henry Roberts had another firm with Justin Rideout called Rideout and Roberts, which also did business with Mansfield. In the beginning of 1860 there was an increasing number of American commercial vessels that traveled directly to Sierra Leone, or vessels that went to Liverpool, Bristol, and London to transport their cargoes to British and other foreign vessels bound for Sierra Leone, and it appears as though Mansfield, Roberts, and Rideout were very involved in this trade. Like many merchants in the United States, Mansfield's imports from Sierra Leone included hides and palm oil (Jalloh and Falola 40-42). Nathaniel also had a partnership with Thomas H. Armable of Chicago, under the name of Mansfield and Armable; this partnership was dissolved in 1857.

Nathaniel married Mary H. Wood in December 1863, and they had six children together, four who lived to adulthood: Mary W. (born 1864), Alice B. (born 1870), Harriet F. (born 1873), Elizabeth B. (born 1880), Nathaniel, and Edward. Nathaniel and Mary lived in Boston and Manchester, but owned land in Illinois and Iowa. Nathaniel died on April 4, 1889 ("The Fabens Family").


51.25 linear feet (78 boxes; 2 flat files; volumes)

Language of Materials



The Nathaniel B. Mansfield papers reflect two generations of the Mansfields' merchant and shipping business ventures—from Nathaniel Mansfield's (1796-1863) ice business to his son's shipping and merchant business ventures.

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence

  • A. General Business Correspondence
  • B. Captains' Letters
  • C. Other
SERIES II. Financial Papers
  • A. Bills, Invoices, and Receipts
  • B. Accounts Current
  • C. Returned Checks
  • D. Account Books
SERIES III. Shipping Papers
  • A. Insurance Papers
    • 1. Policies
    • 2. Claims
  • B. Bills of Sale
  • C. Ships' Papers
  • D. Other
SERIES IV. Other Business Papers

SERIES V. Personal Papers
  • A. Financial Papers
  • B. Correspondence
  • C. Other

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material is a combination of the Nathaniel B. Mansfield Papers (MH 156) and the Mansfield Family Papers (MH 157). These materials were donated to the Peabody Museum by Albert and Nathaniel Goodhue on December 18, 1958 (accession #14,650). An account book of oil and gum, dated 1881 to 1884, was donated by Mr. Goodhue on April 6, 1954. A statement of salvage for the bark General Sedgwick was donated by Jessica Farrelly in memory of Nathaniel Mansfield Goodhue Sr. on July 8, 2021 (Acc 2021.024).

Bibliography and Related Collections Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Genealogy of Back Bay Houses. "253 Commonwealth." Accessed July 7, 2016.

Hurd, D. Hamilton, ed. History of Essex County, Massachusetts, With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Vol. 1. J. W. Lewis andCo.: Philadelphia, 1888.

Jalloh, Alusine and Toyin Falola, eds. The United States and West Africa: Interactions and Relations. University of Rochester Press: Rochester, NY, 2008.

"The Fabens Family." in Essex Institute Historical Collections. Vol. XVIII. Essex Institute: Salem, MA, 1881.

Charles C. Currier Papers, 1826-1855. MH 73.

Fabens Family Papers, 1706, 1797-1912, 1947, 1978, 1989. MH 94.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, October 2016.


NATHANIEL B. MANSFIELD PAPERS, 1808, 1831-1907, undated
Processed by: Hilary Streifer; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA