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James Henry Chaney Papers, 1848-1861, undated

Identifier: MSS 319

Scope and Content Note

The James Henry Chaney Papers contain personal, business, and ships' papers of this Salem, Massachusetts ship captain. The collection is divided into four series.

Series I. Family Correspondence is a collection of letters to and from James Henry Chaney; these include letters from his siblings and parents as well as letters written to them. These letters are of a personal nature and contain material related to his going to sea, present whereabouts, family acquaintances encountered, and when he might possibly return home. A single non-family letter contained in this collection is from William B. Ashton to Chaney who is about to go to sea for the first time, and is an exhortation for him to "resist temptation." Ashton was an employee or business associate of James Henry Chaney's father at this time.

Series II. Business Correspondence contains two 1861 letters from Henry O. Roberts to James Henry Chaney in which he discusses business conditions, as well as the prosecution of the Civil War.

Series III. Ships' Papers consist of a personal journal kept by James Henry Chaney while at sea aboard the ship Thomas Perkins, 1849, containing mostly weather observations, plus an undated list of cargo aboard the same ship. The other volume contains accounts kept by Chaney as master of the bark Manchester on a journey to the Cape Coast of Africa, 1857-1858. The accounts include crew accounts, cargoes landed, ship's disbursements, and palm oil loaded.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Material contains a series of writing exercises done by James Henry Chaney, 1848; a lithographic print of a vigilante hanging in San Francisco, undated; and material unrelated to James Henry Chaney that accompanied the collection, undated.


  • Creation: 1848-1861, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

James Henry Chaney was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on 2 June 1832, the son of James and Harriet Webb Chaney. He went to sea, signing on as a "boy," aboard the ship Thomas Perkins in 1849 for a journey around the world. Subsequently, he continued as a mariner, rising to the rank of master. He served as master of the barks Fire Fly and Manchester owned by Edward D. Kimball, Thomas P. Pingree, Charles H. Miller, and Nathaniel A. Kimball. In the early 1860s, Chaney served as a factor for Salem merchant Charles H. Miller in the West African palm oil trade. He died on 24 August 1862.

George Leonard Chaney was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on 24 December 1836 (also the son of James and Harriet Webb Chaney), graduated from Harvard College in 1859, and then from Meadville Theological School. He served as minister of the Hollis Street Church (Unitarian) in Boston from 1862 to 1878. During his stay in Boston he served as a member of the Boston School Committee. Subsequently, he was appointed southern superintendent of the American Unitarian Association and founded a number of churches in the south. The Reverend Mr. Chaney also wrote extensively, including several juvenile books. He died in Salem on 19 April 1922.

Harriet Webb Chaney was born in Salem on 25 August 1828 and died there on 18 November 1896. She appears to have never married. She and her sister, Mary Webb Chaney, were the daughters of James and Harriet Webb Chaney. Mary Webb Chaney was born in Salem on 26 March 1830; she married Edward Read on 16 June 1859. No further information has been found regarding her or her husband.

James Chaney (1797-1884) was active in business in Salem in 1820, first operating a general store selling dry goods, household items, etc., as well as other commodities such as meat and liquor. On 28 August 1823, he entered into a formal business relationship with Stephen Haraden, which was dissolved by mutual consent on 12 May 1824. They had used the firm name Haraden and Chaney for several months prior to the formal agreement as well as through the period of agreement. The firm dealt in general merchandise, including food, and participated in several small adventures on outward-bound vessels. Once separated from Haraden, Chaney continued to sell general merchandise and also appears to have regularly victualed outward-bound vessels. Gradually Chaney shifted from general merchandise to focus exclusively on the dry goods business. He conducted business at several locations in Salem, including 17 Central Street, 15 Fish Street, and 211 Essex Street. By the early 1850s the business was flourishing, as indicated by the volume of goods purchased. William B. Ashton succeeded Chaney in the business about 1853, having been employed by Chaney at his Essex Street location. After selling his business, Chaney continued to purchase dry goods at wholesale and appears to have continued conducting business in some form, but on a greatly reduced scale.

James Chaney married Harriet Webb (1803-1900), the daughter of Henry and Joanna (Burrill) Webb, on 5 August 1827. He was a member of both the First and Second Baptist Societies (which became the Central Baptist Society) in Salem at various times. Chaney was also a member of the Salem Charitable Mechanic Association. James and Harriet Chaney had four children: Harriet Webb Chaney (1828-1896), Mary Webb Chaney (b. 1830), James Henry Chaney (b. 1832), and George Leonard Chaney (1836-1922).

William B. Ashton was born in Salem on 18 June 1805 and was associated with James Chaney in the dry goods business in Salem. He succeeded Chaney in the business about 1853.


0.25 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



The James Henry Chaney Papers contain personal, business, and ships' papers of this Salem, Massachusetts ship captain.

Series List

SERIES I. Family Correspondence

  • A. Letters to Parents
  • B. Letters Received
SERIES II. Business Correspondence

SERIES III. Ships' Papers
  • A. Thomas Perkins (Ship)
  • B. Manchester (Bark)
SERIES IV. Miscellaneous Material

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material was purchased on July 9 and 10, 2001 (acc # 2001.023, 2002.001, 2002.006, 2002.011, and 2002.012).

Bibliography and Related Collections

Peters, Harry T., America in Stone. New York, 1931; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1976: 241.

Salem, Massachusetts, Directories, various years.

Salem, Massachusetts, Records of the City Clerk.

Vital Records of Salem, Massachusetts to the End of the Year 1849, 6 vols., (Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1916-1925).

Thomas Perkins (Ship) logbook, LOG 1206 [Chaney was keeper of the log]

Challenge (Clipper) logbook, LOG 1215 [Chaney was keeper of the log]

Manchester (Bark) logbook, LOG 1208 [Chaney was master and keeper of the log]

Captain James H. Chaney Papers, 1857-1862, Acc 26,564

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert F. Craig, February 2002.

JAMES HENRY CHANEY PAPERS, 1848-1861, undated
Processed by: Robert F. Craig; 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