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John Quinby Papers



Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

General shipping business

Vessel related papers

Personal papers

Contact us about this collection

John Quinby Papers, 1724-1802 | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

By Tracy Lamaestra (assisted by intern Denise Fields, edited by Nathan Lipfert)

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Collection Overview

Title: John Quinby Papers, 1724-1802Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1782-1798

Primary Creator: Quinby, John (1758-1806)

Extent: 1.0

Arrangement: Papers arranged as follows: Series I. General shipping business, Series II. Vessel related papers, Series III. Personal papers.

Date Acquired: 01/20/1993

Subjects: Accounts, Advertise (Ship), Betsey (Schooner), Customs service, Dolliver, William, Captain, Eunice (Ship), Falmouth (Brig), Falmouth (ME), Freeman, Moses, Captain, Freight and freightage, Friendship (Schooner), Industry (Sloop), John (Bark, re-rigged as Ship), L'Amitie (Schooner), Letters, Lewis, Archelaus, Lumber-trade, Mary (Schooner), Mentor (Brig), Motley, Alexander, Captain, Nancy (Schooner), Partridge, Jesse, Captain, Pennock, William, Polly (Schooner), Portland (ME), Preble, Enoch, Quinby, John, Rainbow (Schooner), Rum industry, Seafaring, Seal, Thomas, Captain, Shipbuilders, Ship captains, Shipping, Sugar-trade, Superb (Brig), Titcomb (Brig), Voyages and travels, Wages, West Indies trade

Languages: English


Papers of John Quinby regarding shipping business. Includes correspondence is between Quinby and captains, ship agents or ship brokers. Vessel papers include correspondence and accounts for Advertise (Ship), Betsey (Schooner), Eunice (Ship), Falmouth (Brig), Friendship (Schooner), Industry (Sloop), John (Bark, re-rigged as Ship), L’Amitie (Schooner), Mary (Schooner), Mentor (Brig), Nancy (Schooner), Nancy (Sloop), Polly (Schooner), Rainbow (Schooner), Superb (Brig) and Titcomb (Brig). Personal papers include a receipt and deed.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The John Quinby papers consist of a single box of manuscript records pertaining to the  John Quinby shipping business in the eighteenth century. Quinby was a shop owner, merchant, ship builder and ship owner in Stroudwater a part of modern Portland, Maine.  The papers are primarily vessel records. There are some general shipping business and personal papers in the collection as well.

The collection records Quinby’s trade with local residents in merchandise and his involvement in the shipping industry. Papers capture shipbuilding activities, labor exchanges, purchases, repairs and shipping. A number of receipts show Quinby was also a surveyor of lumber. Some of the other receipts are handwritten by Portland Customs officials for clearance of vessels. In general shipping business correspondence, are proposals for the selling of a ship and the sale of the ship by Quinby. Moreover, there are letters from captains aboard vessels to Quinby concerning cargo, weather, damage, expenses, market trends and bills. There is also correspondence with ship brokers such as William Pennock of Norfolk, Virginia about the John (Bark/Ship) on March 31, 1798 (folder 14). The papers exhibit domestic and foreign trade, especially in the West Indies.

There is also a promissory note  (February 13, 1780) where Arthur McLellan and Moses Titcomb agree to pay for the recovery and salvage of the cartel schooner Nancy wreck in Cape Elizabeth (folder 22). The Nancy (Schooner) was a cartel from Halifax, Nova Scotia cast ashore on February 12, 1780 at Cape Elizabeth.1

There is a correspondence from Captain William Dolliver to John Quinby on August 5, 1797 reporting the seizure of the Eunice (Ship) with Thomas Seal as shipmaster by a French privateer. Josiah Parsons was recorded as mate in this letter as well (folder 7).

On the rear side of a freight and cargo account for the Rainbow (Schooner) is a general settlement account for the schooner Friendship (folder 25). In folder one, there is correspondence from Phineas Dana to John Quinby concerning the Northward. This vessel type could not be identified at this time. The bark John, in March of 1798, was re-rigged as a ship, so mentioned in one of the letters.

In personal papers, is a receipt for digging the grave and tending to the funeral of John Quinby’s wife on December 10, 1790 (folder 30). Lastly, there is a deed. This is an “Articles of Agreement” between merchant John Quinby and yeoman John Cobbe. Cobbe agrees to rent a 90 acre farm in Falmouth at Amminconging [Amerescoggin ?] for one year from Quinby. The document records this agreement took place in Falmouth, County Cumberland and Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April 1, 1795 (folder 31).


<ol> <li> Clifford, John Henry, Alexander Wheeler, et al. The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Vol. 21. Boston, MA: Wright & Potter, 1922. p. 400.  eBook.</li></ol>

Biographical Note

John Quinby was born on May 12, 1758 in Falmouth, Maine to Joseph II (b. 1715-d.1776) and Mary (Haskell) Quinby (b. 1722-d. 1815). His grandfather, Joseph Quinby I was a shipbuilder or shipwright in Falmouth, Maine.2 The Quinby family were quite prosperous and John inherited considerable property and a mill upon his father’s death.

He married Eunice Freeman (b. 1762-d. 1790) on October 31, 1782, daughter of Joshua Freeman of Portland, Maine. Eunice Freeman was a descendent of renowned colonial families:  Elder William Brewster (who came over on the Mayflower), Reverend John Rogers (President of Harvard College), Governor Thomas Prence of Plymouth Colony and Governor Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts Bay Colony.3

John Quinby had a nephew, Thomas Seal, who was brought up in his household. Seal was the illegitimate son of Quinby’s sister Rebecca and an English captain.2 Thomas Seal became a captain and was shipmaster aboard the vessel Eunice (Ship).

John Quinby was commissioned as Lieutenant of the Sixth Company, First Regiment in the County of Cumberland in the Sixth Division of the Militia in 1787. He was also commissioned as Captain in the First Regiment of the Second Brigade, Sixth Division, Militia of Massachusetts, counties of York and Cumberland, in the District of Maine, 1794. He resigned from this position on June 1, 1796 at Boston.3

John Quinby, with his partner Archelaus Lewis, bought a parcel of land and mill rights from Enoch Freeman in Stroudwater, Maine in 1783. They constructed a shop on the waterfront for the building and outfitting of ships.  Quinby and Lewis built dwellings next to each other at this same location as well. By 1796, they had constructed a two-story shop on Town Landing near the wharf. Store merchandise was brought in by sailing vessels or gundalows (flat bottom cargo vessels) up the Fore River via Portland. This merchandise included cigars, indago [indigo], flour, corn, coffee, molasses, rum, brandy, gin, chocolate, sugar, shoes and fish. This list comes from the review of invoices and receipts in the collection.        

John Quinby was also a ship owner, loader of ships, surveyor of lumber and merchant. He was involved in domestic and foreign trade via his shipping business.  Quinby exported lumber, shingles, staves and fish, then in turn imported rum, molasses, sugar, rice and coffee. Repairs of vessels were conducted at his shipping business as well. Quinby also bought shares in the new Union Wharf in Portland about 1800. He owned Store #10 of general merchandise on the wharf.2

Quinby was either full or part owner of a number of vessels including Friendly (Brig), Falmouth (Brig), Maine (Brigantine), John (Bark/Ship), Almira (Brig),  Diamond (Brig), Mentor (Brig), Mary (Schooner), Eunice (Ship), Dispatch (Sloop), Superb (Brig), Good Intent (Brig) and Industry (Sloop). These merchant vessels traded to Europe, South America and the West Indies.

On July 7, 1797 bound from Liverpool to Philadelphia, the ship Eunice was seized by the French privateer L’Intrepide. John Quinby’s nephew, Thomas Seal, was shipmaster aboard the Eunice at the time.  The event is mentioned in a letter from Capt. William Dolliver to John Quinby on August 5, 1797:

“ ... to inform you that on the 9 of July in Longitude 28 I was boarded by a French Privateer who had your ship [E]unice. Capt. Thomas Leaf in possession were sending her to France as a Lawful Prise. She was from Liverpool bound to Philadelphia.” (folder 7)

Concerns with war between the French and the English continued as is evident in Captain Moses Freeman’s letter to John Quinby on July 7, 1797:

“ ... Americans taken lately by the English going from this [port] to America and carried in to Jameca [Jamaica]. I under stand it is owing to them having French people and property on board.” (folder 14)

and again on April 15 [1798]:

“I was verry luckky last voyage as I went and came with out a convoy as the French take all American Vessels bound from Jameca [Jamaica], their is grate talks of war hear.” (folder 14)

John and Eunice Quinby had 6 children—daughter Eunice (b. March 16, 1783 – d. 1862) and five sons—Thomas (b. Sept. 18, 1784 - d. Oct. 22, 1802), Moses (b.1786-d.1857), Levi (b.1787-d.1829, George (b.1789-d.1790) and an infant son born around September 1790. Sadly, Eunice Quincy died September 12, 1790 leaving John with the care of his children and newborn son. His son, George, died 10 days later after the death of Eunice in a drowning accident and his newborn son died that same year in December.1

In 1804, John Quinby contracted what was then called “consumption” and what is now known as tuberculosis. He was still very active in his merchant and shipbuilding ventures. In fact, he was building a new brig in 1804. Two years later on September 27, 1806 John Quinby died.

The Maine Historical Society holds an account and day book (1795-1798) of John Quinby (Collection 1081).

Subject/Index Terms

Advertise (Ship)
Betsey (Schooner)
Customs service
Dolliver, William, Captain
Eunice (Ship)
Falmouth (Brig)
Falmouth (ME)
Freeman, Moses, Captain
Freight and freightage
Friendship (Schooner)
Industry (Sloop)
John (Bark, re-rigged as Ship)
L'Amitie (Schooner)
Lewis, Archelaus
Mary (Schooner)
Mentor (Brig)
Motley, Alexander, Captain
Nancy (Schooner)
Partridge, Jesse, Captain
Pennock, William
Polly (Schooner)
Portland (ME)
Preble, Enoch
Quinby, John
Rainbow (Schooner)
Rum industry
Seal, Thomas, Captain
Ship captains
Superb (Brig)
Titcomb (Brig)
Voyages and travels
West Indies trade

Administrative Information

Repository: Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on the use of these materials for study or research.

Use Restrictions: The material described herein is the physical property of the Maine Maritime Museum Library.  Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the various items, or to their legal representatives, or to Maine Maritime Museum.  For further information, consult the library staff.

Physical Access Note: Many of the papers are discolored and/or stained. Other papers have creases with holes, minor tears or missing fragments. Ask librarian for assistance.

Acquisition Source: Purchased by Maine Maritime Museum from Daniel Casavant on January 29, 1993 (acc. no.  93.11.2). Remaining papers donated by Rolf Hedemann (acc. # 96.42) on June 2, 1996 and C. E. Burden on 12/20/2010

Acquisition Method:

The John Quinby papers purchased by Maine Maritime Museum from Daniel Casavant on January 29, 1993 (acc. no.  93.11.2). The rest of the Quinby papers were donated to the Maine Maritime Museum by Rolf Hedemann (acc. no. 96.42) on June 2, 1996 and Charles E. Burden (acc. nos. 2009.057.109 and 2010.067.75) on December 18, 2009 and December 20, 2010, respectively.

It is unknown how Daniel Casavant (a manuscript collector) acquired the papers of John Quinby. The John Quinby papers donated by Rolf Hedemann were handed down through the Hedemann family. Most likely, Charles Burden acquired the John Quinby papers from auction or collectors.

Preferred Citation: John Quinby Papers, MS-186, Research Library, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, Maine.

Processing Information: The papers were organized into three series: Series I relate to John Quinby’s shipping business, Series II are all vessel related papers and Series III are personal papers. Business correspondence is both incoming and outgoing in chronological order by creation date. All business related receipts are organized in the same manner. Vessel papers are organized alphabetically by name and then chronologically by creation date. The organization of the collection follows a standardized sequence to simplify access.

Other Note: An index of Captain’s name is included with the finding aids. Ask librarian for assistance.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: General shipping business, n.d., 1724-1799],
[Series II: Vessel related papers, 1780-1802],
[Series III: Personal papers, 1790, 1795],

Series II: Vessel related papers, 1780-1802Add to your cart.
Vessel papers are correspondence (incoming, outgoing), account summaries, accounts general, charter party, freight and cargo, and articles of agreement. Many receipts are from the Portland Custom House.
Folder 4: Betsey (Schooner) — Account summaries, 1797-1798Add to your cart.
Folder 5: —  Accounts general, Portland, May 1798, 1799Add to your cart.
Folder 6: —  Charter party, 1798Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Eunice (Ship) — Correspondence, incoming, 1796-97Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Falmouth (Brig) — Account summaries, 1787-1791Add to your cart.
Folder 9: —  Acct. summaries, Captain Alex Motley, 1787-1788Add to your cart.
Folder 10: —  Accounts general, 1790-1791Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Friendship (Schooner) — Accounts general, Portland, Jan. 1793Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Industry (Sloop) — Account summaries, 1785-87Add to your cart.
[see folder 26 for schooner Friendship general settlement account]
Folder 13: Accounts general, receipts, 1784-1789Add to your cart.
Folder 14: John (Bark/Ship), re-rigged — Correspondence-incoming, 1797-1799Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Account summaries, 1796-1799Add to your cart.
Folder 16: —  Acct. summaries, Capt. Moses Freeman, 1796-1798Add to your cart.
Folder 17: —  Accounts, general, Portland, 1797-1800Add to your cart.
Folder 18: —  Bills of lading, 1797Add to your cart.
Folder 19: L’Amitie (Schooner) —  Accounts general, Port-au-Prince (HAI), July 1791Add to your cart.
Folder 20: Mary (Schooner) —  Accounts, general, Portland, 1796-1798Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Mentor (Brig) — Accounts, geneal, Portland, May 1802Add to your cart.
Folder 22: Nancy (Schooner) — Accounts general, promissory note, 1780Add to your cart.
Folder 23: Nancy (Sloop) — Accounts general, Norfolk, April 1798Add to your cart.
Folder 24: Polly (Schooner) — Accounts general, Portland, Nov.-Dec. 1793Add to your cart.
Folder 25: Rainbow (Schooner) — Accounts, freight and cargo, 1793Add to your cart.
[reverse side general settlement account with schooner Friendship]
Folder 26: —  Articles of agreement, 1793Add to your cart.
Folder 27: Superb (Brig) — Correspondence, incoming, 1795Add to your cart.
Folder 28: —  Accounts, general, Portland, 1790-1793Add to your cart.
Folder 29: Titcomb (Brig) — Accounts general, April-May, 1785Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series I: General shipping business, n.d., 1724-1799],
[Series II: Vessel related papers, 1780-1802],
[Series III: Personal papers, 1790, 1795],

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