Manuscript Collections

Since its founding, Baker Library has been collecting materials actually produced by firms in their daily operations, using them as sources to better understand the problems faced by contemporary businesses. Today Baker Library Historical Collections holds over 1,400 individual business manuscript collections spanning seven centuries. Collections include the operating records of specific companies and the personal papers of business leaders. Built over time, with a consistent focus on the evolution of business and industry, the depth and scope of the collections are exceptional. Manuscript collections documenting Latin American business include:

Brazil Railway Company Records

Mss:724 1914-1920
19 volumes, 8 boxes
Collection Guide

The records of the Brazil Railway Company include receivership journals, administrative records, financial material, reports and letters, 1914-1920. William Cameron Forbes served as receiver and Charles E. Perkins, co-receiver. Included are the receivership journal from 1914 to 1919, as well as additional reports, exhibits, memoranda, accounts, and unbound letters and papers representing companies such as the Madeira Mamora Railway, the Brazil Land, Cattle, and Packing Company and the Uruguay Railway Company.

Francis W. Brinley letter book, 1827-1828

Mss:766 1827-1828 B858
1 volume
Collection Record

Francis W. Brinley was a commercial agent and commission merchant working for an American firm in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela during the early half of the 19th century. His letter book, kept from 1827-1828, includes correspondence written to American commercial firms in Boston, New York, and Baltimore documenting information on trade between the United States and South America, difficulties with customs agents, exporting and importing materials and products, and the quality and price of goods he has for sale. The letter book highlights the intricacies of trade routes, American businessmen living and working foreign countries, and the effect of political situations on commercial enterprises in the region. At the time Brinley was in Venezuela, Simon Bolivar was trying to create a unified state, which impacted trade.

Comstock Family Business Records

Mss:766 1833-1876
119 volumes, 116 boxes
Collection Guide

The Comstock Collection consists of letter books, account books, and papers of Samuel W. Comstock and his younger brothers, William O. Comstock and Cornelius Van Ranst Comstock. Operating out of Boston and New York, the Comstock brothers were heavily involved in the export marketing and wholesale trade with China via countries in South America, particularly Peru and Chile, during the mid-nineteenth century. The correspondence and business papers illustrate the emerging market for a vast array of cargo, including linens, silks, tobacco, lead, raisins, wood, gunpowder, and soap. The collection documents the opening of a world marketplace, the demand for exotic goods, and the struggle to keep consumers well supplied.

Herman L. Dillingham Papers

Mss:881 1912-1915 D578
7 boxes
Collection Guide

Herman Louis Dillingham served as assistant secretary to the Boston Chamber of Commerce from 1912 to 1914. In 1913, he served as the secretary to a Boston Chamber of Commerce trade delegation made up of bankers, manufacturers, and academics which made a three-month voyage to South America. The delegation was the first group of American businessmen to officially tour South America. Dillingham collected these snapshots and souvenirs of the trip, which visited Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. The delegates met with local politicians, business leaders, and American diplomats; they toured mines, factories, farms, and other local sights. Upon their return to Boston, Dillingham also drafted a report outlining what the delegates had learned about specific business opportunities in South America.

Forbes Family Business Records

Mss:766 1803-1942
71 volumes, 5 boxes, 5 cartons
Collection Guide

The Forbes Collection contains materials related to the business activities of many members of the Forbes family, including those of William Cameron Forbes (1870-1959). The papers of William Cameron Forbes contain material on the Brazil Railway Company, 1914-1920, for which Forbes was receiver and Charles E. Perkins co-receiver. Included are the receivership journal from 1914 to 1919, as well as additional reports, exhibits, memoranda, accounts, and unbound letters and papers representing companies such as the Madeira Mamora Railway, the Brazil Land, Cattle, and Packing Company, and the Uruguay Railway Company. The collection also contains claims filed by the Perkins family and other Boston investors in the Macedonian, which was seized once in Peru in 1819, and again in Chile in 1821. The seizures were directed by Lord Cochrane as commander of the Chilean navy, allegedly due to an investor who was considered an enemy of Chile. Materials consist of documents filed by investors and their heirs seeking compensation from the Chilean government.

Henry Lee Higginson Business Records

Mss:783 1870-1919 H637
30 volumes, 49 boxes, 23 cartons

The Henry Lee Higginson Collection contains the business papers of Boston philanthropist, banker, and investor Henry Lee Higginson. He was a partner in the banking firm Lee, Higginson, and Company and invested in numerous companies throughout the United States and South America, including the Ecuador Coal Company and the Ecuador Trading Company. Records of the Ecuador Coal Company and Ecuador Trading Company kept during the early twentieth century document negotiations between Higginson’s company and the Ecuadorian government for land control, coal rights, and the exportation of rubber, ivory, and tagua.

Loring Family Business Records

Mss:766 1833-1925 L873
24 volumes, 3 boxes
Collection Guide

The Loring Family business records contain correspondence, accounts current, and financial records relating to the business interests of Elisha T. Loring and his family. Loring was the head of the Loring Brothers Company, a merchant firm located in Boston, Massachusetts with a satellite office in Valparaiso, Chile. The business records and correspondence highlight trade and commerce in South American markets and Boston merchants role a global economy.

Thatcher Magoun Business

Mss:733 1816-1885
40 volumes, 11 cases, 2 boxes
Collection Guide

The Magoun Collection consists of the business papers of Medford, Massachusetts merchants and shipbuilders Thatcher Magoun, Sr. and his son Thatcher Magoun, Jr. The Magoun family established their shipbuilding empire on the banks of the Mystic River and specialized in the construction of big ships, including brigs and clipper ships, which were ideal for long voyages because they were fast and held a large amount of cargo. Magoun’s merchant firm made voyages to Brazil, Chile, and Peru carrying a variety of dry goods for trade. The collection includes account books, waste books, ledgers, correspondence, and ship’s papers documenting the shipbuilding merchant industries of the mid-nineteenth century.

Henry W. Peabody & Co. Records

Mss: 766 1867-1957 P352
94 volumes
Collection Guide

The Henry W. Peabody & Co. Collection contains ledgers, journals, letters, and miscellaneous accounts of this Boston import-export and commission merchant firm during the late nineteenth century. With his brother Alfred, Henry formed a partnership establishing the firm bearing his name. The firm specialized in the importation of hemp and materials used in the agricultural packing industries. The company’s trade was focused in Central and South America, with the bulk coming from the Yucatan region of Mexico. The collection is an important source of information about the importation of raw textile materials to the United States.

Edmund Pike Graves Papers

Mss:761 1865-1919 G776
4 volumes, 3 boxes, 1 carton
Collection Guide

The Edmund Pike Graves family papers consist of personal and business papers of Argentinean wool buyer Edmund Pike Graves, Sr. Mr. Graves moved from Newburyport, Massachusetts to Buenos Aires, Argentina with his family in 1898 to buy wool for prominent companies, including the Atlantic Company, Bigelow Carpet Company, and George Willcomb and Company. The collection includes invoices for wool, business correspondence, and telegrams that provide insight into the South American wool trade. In addition, records of household expenses and personal papers concerning involvement in various social clubs shed light on the life of an American family living in Argentina.

Wilder & Estabrook Records

Mss:761 1852-1879
15 volumes, 47 boxes, 2 cartons
Collection Guide

The Wilder & Estabrook Collection contains records of this Boston-based cigar and tobacco leaf importing firm during the mid-nineteenth century. Much of the tobacco imported by the firm came from Havana, Cuba. The company was established by Charles W. Wilder and Rufus Estabrook in 1853. Letters in the collection depict quality, quantity, and cost of domestic leaf tobacco purchased, reliable markets, labor problems, and economic and political conditions affecting sales. The collection offers an inside look at American consumers demand for tobacco, labor issues in Cuba, and trade in the international market place.