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Guide to the William S. Wetmore Papers

MSN/EA 0509

 

Collection Summary

Title: William S. Wetmore Papers
Dates: 1819-1837
Collection No.: MSN/EA 0509
Creator: Wetmore, William S. (William Shepard), 1801-1862
Extent: About 450 manuscripts; 2 containers; 1 linear foot
Language: Collection material in English and Spanish
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: The greater part of this collection consists of business and some personal correspondence of the American mercantile trader William S. Wetmore (1801-1862). Many of the 360-odd manuscript letters date from the 1820s, when Wetmore was establishing himself in trade on the west coast of South America.

Selected Search Terms

New York (N.Y.)--Commerce--History
Providence (R.I.)--Commerce
United States--Commerce--South America
United States--Commerce--East Asia
United States--Commerce--History--19th century
Shipping--Chile--Valparaíso
Shipping--United States--History
Merchant ships--United States--History--19th century--Sources

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], William S. Wetmore Papers, [Collection and folder no.], Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Wetmore Papers were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2014, from Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia (List 125, Item 15). The items in folders 44 and 45 were acquired from Michael Brown with the Graves Family Shipping Papers, in 2011. Arranged and described 2014, by Lauren Golden. Finding aid 2015, by Lauren Golden and George Rugg.

Biographical Note

William Shepard Wetmore was born on 26 January 1801 in St. Albans, Vermont, the son of Seth and Nancy Shepard Wetmore. He was raised by relatives in Middletown, Connecticut, and at the age of fourteen went to work for Edward Carrington & Co., a Providence, Rhode Island mercantile trading firm which William's uncle, Samuel Wetmore, had recently joined as partner. Carrington & Co. invested in trading voyages to ports in China, the East Indies, South America, and elsewhere. In 1821 the house was reorganized to allow for the addition of a second uncle, William Willard Wetmore, as partner. William S. Wetmore embarked on his first voyage in 1815, and by the age of 20 was serving as Carrington's supercargo officer aboard the ship Fame, running between Providence and the East Indies. In 1823 Wetmore struck out on his own, partnering with the Valparaíso (Chile) import merchant Richard Alsop to create the firm Alsop & Wetmore (later Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder). The company traded between the west coast of South America, the U.S. and England with conspicuous success. In 1829 Wetmore retired from the firm, and after concluding his affairs in South America returned to the U.S. with considerable capital. Over the next several years he engaged in mercantile pursuits and sought investment opportunities in Providence and New York City. In 1833 he entered the China Trade, moving to Canton to establish Wetmore & Co. with partner Joseph Archer. He remained in China until 1839, trading tea, silks, opium and other goods to merchants in East Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Wetmore stayed active in the trade until 1847, when he withdrew his interests from his Canton and New York firms and retired to his Newport, Rhode Island mansion, Chateau-sur-Mer. He was married twice, in 1837 to his cousin Esther Phillips Wetmore (d. 1838) and in 1843 to Anstiss Derby Rogers. Wetmore died on 16 June 1862.

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes around 360 letters retained by William S. Wetmore, dating from June 1819 to December 1832. These span the later years of his employment by Carrington & Co., in Batavia and other East Indian ports (1819-1823); his time in Valparaíso and Lima as partner in the firm Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder (1823-1830); and years spent in New York prior to his departure for Canton (1830-1832). The greater number are letters directed to Wetmore, but there are many retained copies of letters written by him. A few of the items are accompanied by enclosures, printed or partly-printed. The correspondence treats general business matters, commodity prices, and the quest for reliable trade information. Letters written in South America in the 1820s sometimes address local political and military events, and their potential impact on business. There is also a good deal of personal content in the letters, in those written between Wetmore and his father and siblings in Vermont and in those of family members and friends with whom Wetmore was commercially involved. In addition to the correspondence, the collection includes a manuscript map of San Blas on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and 95 miscellaneous business and personal records of William S. Wetmore and other family members, 1823-1837.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in two series: 1) William S. Wetmore, Correspondence (folders 1-42), and 2) Miscellaneous Manuscripts (folders 43-45). Correspondence is arranged in chronological order.

Related Material

Wetmore's correspondence from his years in China in the 1830s is included in the William Shepard Wetmore Papers at the Baker Library, Harvard Business School (Mss:766 1821-1846 W541).

Container List

  • Series 1: William S. Wetmore Correspondence 
    • Folder 1 (MSN/EA 0509-1) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1819 June-1820 June. 7 Letters (11 Pages).
      • Folder 2 (MSN/EA 0509-2) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1820 June-December. 10 Letters (15 Pages).
        • Folder 3 (MSN/EA 0509-3) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1821 January-February. 9 Letters (22 Pages).
          • Folder 4 (MSN/EA 0509-4) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1821 March-October. 9 Letters (14 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
            • Folder 5 (MSN/EA 0509-5) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1822 January-June. 8 Letters (15 Pages); 2 Enclosures.
              • Folder 6 (MSN/EA 0509-6) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1822 July-December. 13 Letters (25 Pages); 2 Enclosures.
                • Folder 7 (MSN/EA 0509-7) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1823 September-November 9. 9 Letters (19 Pages).
                  • Folder 8 (MSN/EA 0509-8) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1823 November 24-December. 6 Letters (20 Pages).
                    • Folder 9 (MSN/EA 0509-9) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1824 January-March. 8 Letters (15 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                      • Folder 10 (MSN/EA 0509-10) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1824 April. 12 Letters (28 Pages).
                        • Folder 11 (MSN/EA 0509-11) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1824 May-November. 12 Letters (24 Pages).
                          • Folder 12 (MSN/EA 0509-12) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1825 March-September. 11 Letters (24 Pages).
                            • Folder 13 (MSN/EA 0509-13) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1825 October-December. 9 Letters (18 Pages).
                              • Folder 14 (MSN/EA 0509-14) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1826 February-July. 5 Letters (15 Pages).
                                • Folder 15 (MSN/EA 0509-15) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1826 August-December. 10 Letters (28 Pages).
                                  • Folder 16 (MSN/EA 0509-16) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1827 April-July 20. 9 Letters (18 Pages).
                                    • Folder 17 (MSN/EA 0509-17) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1827 July 21-September. 8 Letters (18 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                      • Folder 18 (MSN/EA 0509-18) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1828. 8 Letters (21 Pages).
                                        • Folder 19 (MSN/EA 0509-19) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1829 January. 10 Letters (23 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                          • Folder 20 (MSN/EA 0509-20) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1829 February-May. 7 Letters (15 Pages).
                                            • Folder 21 (MSN/EA 0509-21) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1829 June-September. 8 Letters (18 Pages).
                                              • Folder 22 (MSN/EA 0509-22) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1829 October-December. 9 Letters (24 Pages); 3 Enclosures.
                                                • Folder 23 (MSN/EA 0509-23) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1830 February-March. 9 Letters (28 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                  • Folder 24 (MSN/EA 0509-24) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1830 April. 9 Letters (16 Pages).
                                                    • Folder 25 (MSN/EA 0509-25) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1830 May-June. 8 Letters (16 Pages).
                                                      • Folder 26 (MSN/EA 0509-26) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1830 July-September. 9 Letters (25 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                        • Folder 27 (MSN/EA 0509-27) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1830 October-December. 10 Letters (19 Pages); 2 Enclosures (17 Pages).
                                                          • Folder 28 (MSN/EA 0509-28) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 January-February. 8 Letters (18 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                            • Folder 29 (MSN/EA 0509-29) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 March-April. 7 Letters (21 Pages).
                                                              • Folder 30 (MSN/EA 0509-30) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 May. 7 Letters (22 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                • Folder 31 (MSN/EA 0509-31) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 June. 9 Letters (20 Pages).
                                                                  • Folder 32 (MSN/EA 0509-32) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 July. 6 Letters (13 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                    • Folder 33 (MSN/EA 0509-33) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 August. 9 Letters (23 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                      • Folder 34 (MSN/EA 0509-34) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 September. 6 Letters (14 Pages).
                                                                        • Folder 35 (MSN/EA 0509-35) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 October. 9 Letters (21 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                          • Folder 36 (MSN/EA 0509-36) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 November. 7 Letters (18 Pages).
                                                                            • Folder 37 (MSN/EA 0509-37) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1831 December. 8 Letters (16 Pages).
                                                                              • Folder 38 (MSN/EA 0509-38) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1832 January-February. 8 Letters (13 Pages).
                                                                                • Folder 39 (MSN/EA 0509-39) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1832 March-April. 9 Letters (12 Pages).
                                                                                  • Folder 40 (MSN/EA 0509-40) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1832 May-June. 10 Letters (14 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                                    • Folder 41 (MSN/EA 0509-41) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1832 July-November. 7 Letters (12 Pages); 1 Enclosure.
                                                                                      • Folder 42 (MSN/EA 0509-42) William S. Wetmore: Correspondence, 1832 December. 5 Letters (8 Pages).
                                                                                      • Series 2: Miscellaneous Manuscripts 
                                                                                        • Folder 43 (MSN/EA 0509-43) Manuscript map of the area of San Blas, Mexico, n.d. 1 Item.
                                                                                          • Folder 44 (MSN/EA 0509-44) [William S. Wetmore]: Miscelaneous records, 1823-1832. 52 Items.
                                                                                            • Folder 45 (MSN/EA 0509-45) [William S. Wetmore]: Miscellaneous records, 1833-1837. 43 Items.