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  • Notes on the Manuscript Collection: Ralph H. Bowles Papers

    John B. Carney

    Published Date : August 1986

    The Ralph H. Bowles Papers contain correspondence, documents, accounts and receipts pertaining to the business and public service of Ralph H. Bowles (1757-1813), a lumber merchant of Machias, Maine, who also served as postmaster and clerk of county courts.  Similar material is also included for two of his sons: Lucius Q. C. Bowles (1789-1843) who was a state senator, and Stephen J. Bowles (1794-1846) who carried on the family lumber business.  These papers appear to have been part of several large gifts to the Society from John W. Thornton (1818-1878) and his family between the years 1874 and 1942. They would be of special interest to students of Maine business and politics between 1718 and 1846.

    The material has been arranged in four subgroups. Sub-group I concerns Ralph H. Bowles, and is divided into two series.  Series A includes private papers, correspondence, accounts, receipts, and estate administrations, 1773-1816.  Series B contains correspondence, notices, intentions, commissions, etcs., concerning public activities, 1783-1813. 

    Sub-group II contains private and political correspondence of Lucius Q. C. Bowles as State Senator for Machias, Maine, 1829-1842.

    Sub-group III contains correspondence, lumber contracts, and an estate inventory concerning Stephen J. Bowles from 1834 to 1846.

    Sub-group IV contains miscellaneous family papers, depositions and receipts, 1718-1833.


    Mss 37, 132 items

    Joshua Coit, 1758-1798, was born at New London, Connecticut; graduated from Harvard College in 1776; studied law and was admitted to the bar.  He began his practice in New London in 1779.  He was a member of the state house of representatives in 1784, 1785, 1789, 1790, 1792, and 1793; he served as clerk for several terms and was speaker in 1793.  He was then elected as a Federalist to the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Congresses, serving from 4 March 1793 until his death at New London, 5 September 1798.  His letters to his brother Daniel Lathrop Coit, 1754-1833, a merchant of Norwich, Connecticut, were preserved by the family of Daniel’s daughter, and were donated to the Society in 1962 by Robert S. Coit.

    Nearly all the material in the collection consists of letters written by Joshua Coit to his brother Daniel between 1779 and 1798. They contain little material about personal activities, but do discus congressional activities and current measure which might affect Daniel’s mercantile interests.  The letters also describe United States relations with England and events surrounding Jay’s treaty, trade relations with France in anticipation o French spoliation claims, and the XYZ Affair.  The letters also comment on congressional actions on the Yazoo Land Company claims in 1795.  In addition, there are five family letters written between 1784 and 1854.

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