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Joseph Peabody Family Papers, 1721-1938, undated

Identifier: MH 178

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the papers of Joseph Peabody, his son George, his grandson George Augustus, and his grandnephew William C. Endicott, Jr. It includes correspondence, financial and legal papers, diaries, speeches, scrapbooks, records for Fiske's wharf, photographs, and genealogy. It has been organized into six series. The material is arranged chronologically within subseries.

Series I. Joseph Peabody (1757-1844) Papers consist of five subseries. Subseries A. Business Papers contain receipts, correspondence, ships papers, crew lists, and other documentation of his life at sea. It also contains his "Guide through Life," a collection of sayings that he wrote down in his youth and referred to during his entire life. Subseries B. Legal Papers contain deeds, his Justice of the Peace certificate, and papers from a lawsuit. Subseries C. Personal Papers include diaries, invitations, and a recommendation for a domestic worker. Subseries D. Estate Papers contain wills, obituaries, trustees' papers, an account book, and statistics about Joseph Peabody's businesses. Three men were named trustee of Joseph Peabody's estate: his sons, Francis Peabody and George Peabody, and his son-in-law, John L. Gardner. Subseries E. Elizabeth Peabody (1767-1854) Papers contain correspondence, receipts, inventories, and Elizabeth's obituary.

Series II. George Peabody (1804-1892) Papers are arranged into five subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence includes family and business correspondence, invitations, and programs. Subseries B. Financial, Legal, and Other Papers contain bills, receipts, account books, ledgers, military commissions and discharges, passports, and legal papers. It also includes Eastern Railroad documents. Subseries C. Writings and Other Papers consist of journals that George Peabody kept while traveling, diaries, poems, hymns, other writings, and a sketchbook. Subseries D. Fiske's Wharf Records contains legal papers, correspondence, insurance policies, receipts, and rent accounts. George Peabody, John Eliot Thayer, and Nathaniel Thayer founded the Tremont Wharf Company which owned Fiske's Wharf. Subseries E. Clarissa (Clara) Peabody (1806-1892) Papers contain correspondence and checks of George's wife, Clara.

Series III. George Augustus Peabody (1831-1929) Papers have been arranged into four subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence consists of letters to and from him, two passports, and his university degrees. Subseries B. Financial Papers consists of income statements. Subseries C. Writings consist of school essays, journals, a scrapbook, hunting/fishing journals, a hand-drawn map, poetry, certificates, lists, and news clippings. Subseries D. Publications contain printed material from Harvard College, an article written about him, and two medals from college.

Series IV. William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. (1860-1936) Papers consist of genealogy and printed material. It has been organized into three subseries. Subseries A. Correspondence includes correspondence to and from Endicott, most of which concern family genealogy. Subseries B. Genealogical Research contains notes and information about various family members, including a blueprint of Burley Farm and Cherry Hill Farm. Subseries C. Manuscript Drafts consist of drafts of material about the Joseph Peabody family later published by the Peabody Museum. The material in the folders labeled Descendants of Joseph Peabody of Salem was published in 1962 as Captain Joseph Peabody, East India Merchant of Salem (1757-1844), A Record of his Ships and of his Family compiled by William Crowninshield Endicott (1860-1936), edited and completed with a Sketch of Joseph Peabody's Life by Walter Muir Whitehill.

Series V. Other Family Members' Papers contains deeds, account books, correspondence, sermons, and obituaries of other related family members.

Series VI. Photographic Images contain family photographs, daguerreotypes, glass plate negatives, and engraved plates for book illustrations.

Note: Original documents are listed with their creation date. Transcripts are mostly undated.


  • Creation: 1721-1938, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Joseph Peabody was born in Middleton, Massachusetts on December 12, 1757. His parents were Deacon Francis Peabody (1715-1797) and Margaret Knight (1722-1806). He was a farmer and one of the first settlers of Topsfield, Massachusetts. During the American Revolution he served on the privateers Bunker Hill and Pilgrim. He was captured on the privateer Fish Hawk and was imprisoned in St. John's, Newfoundland until he was exchanged. In 1781 he sailed on the letter of marque Ranger, was wounded in a skirmish with Loyalists, and became first mate.

After the war, he purchased a schooner, Three Friends, which he used for trading in Europe and the West Indies. In the eight years after the peace of 1783, Joseph Peabody was constantly at sea, on numerous voyages to Europe and the West Indies. By 1791, he had amassed a large fortune and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. He established himself as a merchant and carried on an extensive trade in the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, China, and India. He was captain of several merchant vessels and his company owned 63 ships. For several years Joseph Peabody competed in the China trade and continued the famous pepper trade between Salem, Massachusetts and Sumatra. He used his wealth for philanthropy.

In 1791 he married Catherine Smith (1760-1793). After her death he married her sister, Elizabeth (1767-1854), in 1795. They had seven children: Joseph Augustus (1796-1828); Charles (1797-1804); Francis (1799-1799); Francis (1801-1867); George (1804-1892); Charles Frederick (1806-1807); and Catherine Elizabeth (1808-1883). He died in Salem in 1844.

George Peabody, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Peabody, was born in Salem, Massachusetts on January 10, 1804. He graduated from Harvard College in 1823 and immediately enlisted in the Salem Light Infantry. In this organization he was commissioned a captain in 1828; in 1837 he was commissioned colonel of the artillery regiment. He served on the first Salem Board of Aldermen in 1836 and again in 1838. He helped to build the Salem City Hall and designed the Salem city seal. He was the third president of the Salem Bank, succeeding his father in 1833, remaining in that position until 1842; he was re-elected in 1847, and remained there until 1858. He was the first president of the Eastern Railroad. He was a Director of the Peabody Academy of Science. In 1827 he married Clarissa Endicott (1807-1892). They had seven children: Clara Endicott (1828-1856); George (1830-1832); George Augustus (1831-1929); Ellen (1833-1927); Eliza Endicott (1834-1876); Mary Crowninshield (1836-1929); and Fanny (1840-1895). He died of pneumonia on January 3, 1892 at age 87.

George Augustus Peabody, son of George and Clarissa (Clara) Peabody, was born in Salem, Massachusetts on August 23, 1831 and named Joseph Augustus Peabody. In 1845, his father petitioned the court and changed his name to George Augustus Peabody. He graduated from Harvard College in 1852. Although he studied law with N. J. Lord of Salem and was admitted to the bar, he did not become active as a lawyer. He married Augusta Balch Neilson (1839-1888) in 1881 in Holderness, New Hampshire. They had no children. For more than twenty years, he was a trustee of the Peabody Institute in Danvers, Massachusetts. He died in 1929.

William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. was born in Salem on September 28, 1860, the son of William C. and Ellen Peabody Endicott. He graduated from Harvard University in 1883 and attended Harvard Law School before beginning his own practice. In 1886 he accompanied his family to Washington, D. C. where he served as his father's private secretary. After leaving Washington at the close of the first Cleveland administration in 1889, he resumed his law practice in Danvers, Massachusetts until returning to Washington in 1893, first as an attorney specializing in pardons at the Department of Justice and later as private secretary to Attorney General Richard Olney. Upon leaving Washington he resumed his practice of law in Boston. His activities in Boston included terms as trustee of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1822-1936); member (1915-1936) and president (1927-1936) of the Massachusetts Historical Society; and treasurer of the Museum of Fine Arts (1920-1936). In 1889 he married Marie Louise Thoron (1864-1958). They had no children. He died on November 28, 1936. He was very interested in his family genealogy and transcribed many of his ancestors' papers in this collection. His papers were used extensively by Walter Muir Whitehill to write Captain Joseph Peabody, East India Merchant of Salem (1757-1844), A Record of his Ships and of his Family.


23.5 linear feet (39 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains the papers of Joseph Peabody, his son George, his grandson George Augustus, and his grandnephew William C. Endicott, Jr. It includes correspondence, financial and legal papers, diaries, speeches, scrapbooks, records for Fiske's wharf, photographs, and genealogy.

Series List

SERIES I. Joseph Peabody (1757-1844) Papers

  • A. Business Papers
  • B. Legal Papers
  • C. Personal Papers
  • D. Estate Papers
  • E. Elizabeth Peabody (1767-1854) Papers
SERIES II. George Peabody (1804-1892) Papers
  • A. Correspondence
  • B. Financial, Legal, and Other Papers
  • C. Writings
  • D. Fiske Wharf Records
  • E. Clarissa (Clara) Peabody (1806-1892) Papers
SERIES III. George Augustus Peabody (1831-1929) Papers
  • A. Correspondence
  • B. Financial Papers
  • C. Writings and Other Papers
  • D. Publications
SERIES IV. William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. (1860-1936) Papers
  • A. Correspondence
  • B. Genealogical Research
  • C. Manuscript Drafts
SERIES V. Other Family Members' Papers

SERIES VI. Photographic Images

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The bulk of this material was a gift from Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott in July 1939 (accessions 10,535, 10,540, and 10,541). Joseph Peabody's volume, "Crew lists of Peabody ships (1811-1839)", was donated by George Augustus Peabody. The collection formerly known as MSS 19, Joseph Peabody Papers, was merged with this one. Part of MSS 19's contents (the bulk of the ship China's papers) was donated by Miss Wilhelmina W. Phelps in 1904. The Joseph Peabody shipping invoice book (1828-1836) was purchased in 1907. The Joseph Peabody "Account with Benjamin Chamberlain (1801)" was purchased in 1947. The collection formerly known as NH 25 (George Augustus Peabody shooting journals, 1855-1903) was incorporated into this collection (accession 11,473 donated by John L. Saltonstall in 1945). Four letters to George Peabody were purchased in 1962 (accession 15,842). The Phippen genealogy was accession 15,876. Receipts for the furnishing of George Peabody's house were purchased in 1987 (accession 87038). Two promissory notes to Joseph dated 1814 and 1819 (B1 F11) were removed from MSS 664 Almy, Butler, and Robson Family Papers in 2017 and added to this collection.


Endicott, William Crowninshield, and Walter Muir Whitehill. Captain Joseph Peabody; East India Merchant of Salem (1757-1844). Salem, Mass.: Peabody Museum, 1962.

Peabody, Selim H., comp. Peabody (Paybody, Pabody, Pabodie) Genealogy. Ed. Charles Henry Pope. Boston, MA: Charles H. Pope, 1909.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Tamara Gaydos, March 2013. Updated September 2017.


Processed by: Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Tamara Gaydos.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA