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Appleton Family Papers, 1780-1857

Identifier: MSS 216

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the collection concerns Henry Appleton's (1763-1823) mercantile activities in Salem from 1790-1823, and his management of the affairs of his orphaned niece and nephews. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Henry Appleton (1768-1823) Papers includes receipts, correspondence, and account books from 1786-1823. Business correspondence is almost exclusively comprised of market advice and account summaries from the Harrison Ansley Company of London. The wastebook contains accounts associated with Sally (Brig), George (Brig), and Betsy (Schooner) from 1795-1796. Also included are accounts related to the guardianship of Elizabeth Appleton, William Ward Appleton, and Henry Appleton. Volume 1 contains additional accounts related to the estate of Nathaniel Appleton and his children, as well as inventories of Henry Appleton's store and accounts for cargo consigned on seven Salem vessels that sailed for Canton, Calcutta and Sumatra. For more information on shipping activities, see Appendix I.

Series II. Appleton Family Papers includes materials relating to the family members of Henry Appleton. Henry's uncle, Nathaniel Appleton (1731-1798), was Commissioner of Loans in Boston. The bills of exchange and interest receipts exemplify his life's work.

Henry's brother, Nathaniel Appleton (1779-1818), was a Salem merchant who was part-owner of as many as nine vessels. Willard Peele, Henry's brother-in-law, of Salem was also a part owner of at least four of these ships, which sailed for Europe, Asia and the West Indies. For more information on shipping activities, see Appendix I.

The Alfred Greenleaf Appleton estate papers contain correspondence, accounts and receipts associated with the guardianship of the mentally infirm child of John Appleton (1739-1817). Though this responsibility passed from Henry Appleton to Willard Peele and then to Stephen C. Phillips, the available documentation is only related to the work of Peele and Phillips.

The miscellaneous family items include individual documents associated with Henry's father John Appleton, Henry's cousins Dr. Nathaniel Walker Appleton (1755-1795), who served as secretary for the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1788, and Thomas Appleton (died 1840) of Leghorn.


  • Creation: 1780-1857
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1790-1823


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Henry Appleton (1768-1823), son of John Appleton (1739-1817) and Jane Sparhawk Appleton, was a Salem merchant specializing in the sale of cloth and linen. Much of his merchandise was shipped from London, England, via the Harrison Ansley Company. Henry Appleton was unmarried, but became a guardian to his brother's three children, Elizabeth Appleton, William Ward Appleton, and Henry Appleton, in 1819. He was also responsible for his stepbrother, Alfred Greenleaf Appleton until his death in 1823.

Henry's uncle, Nathaniel Appleton (1731-1798), brother to John Appleton, graduated from Harvard in 1749 and became the Commissioner of Loans in Boston.

Henry's brother, Nathaniel Appleton (1779-1818), had three children with Elizabeth Ward Appleton. All three were warded to Henry Appleton upon their parent's death.

Henry's stepbrother, Alfred Greenleaf Appleton, was mentally disabled and was cared for by Henry Appleton, Willard Peele (married to Henry's sister Margaret), and Stephen C. Phillips (1801-1857).


1.75 linear feet (3 boxes; 1 volume)

Language of Materials



The bulk of the collection concerns Henry Appleton's (1763-1823) mercantile activities in Salem from 1790-1823, and his management of the affairs of his orphaned niece and nephews.

Series List

SERIES I. Henry Appleton (1768-1823) Papers

SERIES II. Appleton Family Papers

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


Four folders of correspondence, receipts, accounts and account books were received as a gift from the Stephen Phillips estate (acc #19,823). Six folders of material related to Henry Appleton were received as a gift from Mrs. Ebenezer Putnam on July 9, 1945. The origin of the other Appleton family material is unknown. In May 2014, MH 9 Appleton Family Papers, 1780-1857 was combined with MSS 216 Appleton Family Papers, 1780-1857 to form this comprehensive collection.

Bibliography and Related Collections

Appleton, John. Pedigree of Appleton. Boston: s.n., 1864.

Appleton, Nathaniel. "Nathaniel Appleton's Journal of the Voyage of the Ship Concord Around the World October 1799 to July 1802." ed. James Duncan Phillips. Essex Institute Historical Collections 83. 2 and 3 (1947): 146-161, 230-246.

Phillips Family Papers, 1794-1942, MSS 58

Willard Peele Papers, 1795-1871, MSS 66

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert P. Spindler, May 1987. Updated by: Catherine Robertson, May 2014, and Tamara Gaydos, June 2018.


Processed by: Robert P. Spindler; Updated by: Catherine Robertson and Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
Processing and conservation for this collection was funded in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA