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Nesmith and Sons records

Identifier: 00078

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of accounts, contracts, legal depositions, miscellaneous business documents (promissory notes, checks, receipts, transfer notes, etc.), sea vessel charters, business correspondence, deeds, official statements and logbooks of merchant vessels, and other papers and volumes related to business of Nesmith and Sons, Shipbrokers.

Of special interest are a series of letters and documents (November 15 - December 14, 1850) regarding the disposal of the unclaimed cargo of the Ship Massachusetts in San Francisco. Correspondence from the ship's captain, legal deposition notices, and other papers concerning this affair relate many procedures involved in merchant shipping of the era.

The logbooks give detailed accounts of journeys of various vessels; and the statements relate narrative summaries of voyages, followed by financial accounts of losses, charges, expenses, proceeds, etc. Of special interest here is the Statement of Ship Ironsides (vol. 9) which describes how this ship caught on fire and was eventually salvaged while in the port of New Orleans. Other volumes, such as the Statements of Ship Ellen Hood (vols. 12, 13, 14) and of Ship Henry S. Sanford (vol. 23) tell of damages and various problems incurred during hurricanes at sea. The Logbook of Nemquam Dormio (vol. 22) contains printed matter regarding such things as signal systems, "restoration of the apparently dead from drowning", use of barometers, copies of the Passenger's Act of 1855 and its amendment of 1863; international steering and sailing regulations; and lime and lemon juice regulations.

Finally, the 1896 Record of American and Foreign Shipping (vol. 24) is a printed publication containing much data such as: standards of vessel classification, rules for construction for the various types of merchant vessels, and a detailed register of ships affiliated with the American Shipmasters Association in 1896, listing ships' masters, rig classification, nation, hailing port, dimensions, tonnage, date and place built, owners, and miscellaneous information, all of which is listed according to ship's name.

In all, this collection gives a colorful picture of nineteenth century American shipping.


  • Creation: 1825 - 1896

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Historical Note

The company, which was originally founded by James Nesmith and Henry Leeds in the 1820s, became (circa 1845) better known as Nesmith and Walsh, and in 1850, changed to Nesmith and Sons. Located in New York City, the company commissioned merchant vessels carrying cargoes to such ports as New York; New Orleans; San Francisco; Newport, England; Liverpool, England; Havre, France; Japan; Australia; and Calcutta, India.


1.33 Cubic Feet (, 7 volumes on shelf)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Mrs. Metta Nesmith, Howell, Michigan, 1966-02-24.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University Property Rights: Michigan State University


Nesmith and Sons Records
4 Published And Cataloged
M. Hobson
April 1969
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US