James Cheston papers

About the Digital Collection

Collection comprises a letter book, account book, license, legal document, and letter related to Cheston's work. The letter book (23 April 1771-29 April 1773) recorded Cheston's regular letters to the Stevenson, Randolph & Cheston firm in England, which averaged three to five days apart. The main topics were shipments to and from Baltimore, Md., as well as current prices for incoming and outgoing cargo, including convict servants and products arriving from England; slaves from the West Indies and Africa; and tobacco, corn, wheat requisitioned locally to be sold in England. Upon their arrival, Cheston noted the state of each ship and its passengers. He commented in several letters that recent changes in shipbuilding decreased ventilation below deck; he believed this resulted in more rapid spread of illness or disease aboard, as well as more deaths, and urged a return to former building practices. Several letters go on to document ships that were quarantined as a result of disease and deaths aboard. He also made regular notes of debits and credits to various accounts for the firm, and defended his purchases and business decisions to his partners. The account book (29 March 1784-27 May 1784) documented Cheston's warehouse accounts, including those with the Galloway & Cheston firm he set up with his father-in-law, Samuel Galloway. Entries tracked a wide range of items sold, including rum, corn, butter, and sugar. The license (27 June 1772) was probably drafted on the order of Maryland's governor, and permitted Captain Simon Breffitt (of the ship Elizabeth) to unload cargo and passengers that had been quarantined because typhus aboard had killed 18 servants and the boatswain. In his letter book, Cheston followed the situation, and noted his lobbying for the license. The legal document (14 March 1785) was drafted by George Buck in Devon, Eng., and appointed Cheston his representative in Maryland to handle the debt of Emory Sudder, Joseph Earle, and Thomas Smith. It made clear that the Revolutionary War and interfered with the settlement of the debt. The letter (21 June [1780?]) was written by Cheston to "Jack" in reference to local distillery accounts.

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