John Wood Hall shipping papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

John Wood Hall (1817-1892) was a merchant shipowner and Governor of Delaware.

He was born in Frederica, Kent County, Delaware in 1817. After his father died when he was age nine, Hall lived with his uncle. At age 17 he apprenticed as a clerk at Clement Maston's store for eight months and then worked in Solomon Townsend's store until 1838, both in Frederica. Both men allowed Hall to carry on an independent confectionary business in the store as part of his work. While concurrently working for Townsend, Hall independently purchased the materials necessary to open a cabinetry shop and hired experienced journeymen to make the furniture. However, after turning twenty-one, Hall bought out Townsend and sold the cabinetry shop in order to concentrate on the mercantile business.

Hall specialized in lumber but also dealt in grains, produce, wood, lime, and fertilizer. In order to transport goods, he commissioned the building of a ship in 1838 and added a new ship to his fleet almost every year. The ships carried Hall's goods but also transported other goods. He took a partner, James B. Anderson, in 1861. In 1867, Wood retired and his son, John, took his place.

From 1861 to 1883, Hall served as a state director of Farmer's Bank. He was elected to the state senate in 1866 for a four-year term. He was governor of Delaware from 1878 through 1882.

Hall married Caroline Warren in 1842 and they had four children. He was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and died in Frederica in 1892.

Sources

Bevan, Wilson Lloyd (ed.). History of Delaware Past and Present. Vol IV. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1929. pp. 402-403

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware, 1609-1888. Vol I. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co, 1888. pp. 389-390.

Scope and Content Note

The Hall Papers contain approximately five hundred records from John W. Hall's merchant and shipping businesses, spanning 1860–1880 and 1887–1889. The bulk of the materials cover 1863–1866 and 1871–1879. Hall retired in 1867 and was succeeded by his son John Wood Hall, Jr.

The papers prior to 1871 are primarily receipts for materials purchased by Hall in Philadelphia, presumably for resale in Delaware. Some receipts include notes from merchants about problems with the order or general sales advice. Most receipts were partially pre-printed with the store's name, address, and specialty; and some include lithographs of the store's building. There are also letters from factors reporting sales. There are also some customers' notes about payment for and delivery of goods purchased from Hall. Included in this section are several bills from West River Classical Institute [Maryland?] for the younger Hall's schooling.

After 1871, the records are primarily statements from at least nine different schooners. As owner, Hall received a portion of voyage profits, with the remainder going to the vessel.

The collection will be of interest to those studying Delaware and East Coast shipping, 19th century business practices, and business-related ephemera.