Merchants of Providence, R.I.
Accounts, correspondence, etc., 1847-1885
Size: 1 linear foot
Catalog number: MSS 234
Processed by: Rick Stattler, March 1997
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Brothers Amos D. and James Y. Smith were among the leading textile investors in mid-nineteenth century Rhode Island. They and their descendants provided the capital behind several mills, and were active in a wide variety of other activities in the state.
The Smith family originated in Groton, Connecticut, where they had lived on the same homestead lot since 1652. Our subjects were both sons of sea captain Amos D. Smith Sr. (1778-1826) of Groton and his wife Priscilla Mitchell Smith (1781-1866). Amos Denison Smith 2nd (1805-1877) and his younger brother James Young Smith (1809-1876) arrived in Providence in 1826, working in the lumber trade for James Aborn. Soon afterward, the brothers started in the grocery trade, and also began investing in the textile industry. They acquired textile mills independently, and pooled their holdings in 1843 as A.D. & J.Y. Smith, which also continued to engage in the wholesale grocery trade. In the 1840s, the two brothers built adjoining houses on Hope Street on the east side of Providence, bounded by George, Cooke and Manning streets. Two of Amos' sons joined the business partnership in 1856, and it became A.D. & J.Y. Smith & Co. In 1862, James left the partnership, which then became A.D. Smith & Co. The company's holdings included the Franklin Manufacturing Co., which owned the Franklin and Merino mills in Johnston; the Providence Steam Milling Co., which owned the Durfee Mill and Steam Mill in Providence; the Smithville Manufacturing Company in Willimantic, Connecticut; and the Groton Manufacturing Company, which owned several mills in Woonsocket.
James Young Smith was also active politically, most notably serving as Mayor of Providence from 1855 to 1857, and as Governor of Rhode Island from 1863 to 1866. Immediately after leaving partnership with his brother in 1862, founded the James Y. Smith Manufacturing Company. Its name was later changed to the Elmwood Manufacturing Company in 1880. Smith's two sons-in-law, Charles A. Nichols and Horatio Rogers Jr., were both partners in the firm, which was liquidated in 1885.
As the two brothers were connected in business for much of their lives, and built houses on adjoining lots on Hope Street in Providence, their records are kept together here.
Smith, Walter Burges II. The Descendants to the Fourth Generation of Amos Denison Smith (Chevy Chase, MD, 1986).
The Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island (Providence, 1881).
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Scope and content:
The bulk of this collection consists of records of A.D. & J.Y. Smith in partnership; the records were apparently kept in bundles by year, and we have received the contents of the bundles for 1849, 1856, 1857, 1858 and 1867. The records include letters received and bills paid. They include little information on the specific textile mills that the Smiths owned; presumably, the mills kept their own records. The records in this collection deal mainly with their broader mercantile activities.
The bills paid represent a bewildering variety of activity, ranging from textiles to molasses to personal accounts. There are records for the construction of homes for various family members, and among the various bills paid during 1856 is one made to J.Y. Smith from Gorham & Company, the famed silverware shop, for four silver goblets.
There is also a "bundle" of material dated 1873, all relating to the Groton Manufacturing Company of Woonsocket, with Charles M. and William S. Smith, agents. This company was wholly owned by A.D. Smith & Co. at the time.
There are also a few more personal items from both of the Smith brothers. From Amos, we have a deed, and two volumes of records kept for U.S. Treasury notes issued in his name from 1861. From James, we have a handful of letters and proclamations from his period as Governor, and a minute book from the James Y. Smith Manufacturing Company. There are also several letters he received while working as an agent for the Hartford Insurance Company, mostly dated 1840 and 1844. These letters sometimes give detailed descriptions of textile mills in Rhode Island and elsewhere. The following are extracts of letters containing significant architectural information.
5/26/1840 Plans to enlarge J. Dunnell & Co. of Pawtucket
5/26/1840 Changes at mill of Holden & Anthony, agents, in Providence
6/11/1840 Fraudulent claims of Elisha A. Smith at Walcott Mill. Also 5/26, etc.
8/31/1840 Destruction of Tiverton Print Works by fire. Also 9/3/1840.
9/16/1840 Detailed description of William Goff estate in Newport
2/1/1844 New building at Sayles, Merriam & Co. in Boston
3/8/1844 Changes at J.Y. Smith's mill at Willimantic, Conn.
3/15/1844 Improvements at Hale Remington shop in Fall River
6/27/1844 H.L. Kendall & Co., candle shop on Fox Point in Providence, destroyed by fire.
9/23/1844 Changes at J. Dunnell & Co.'s mill in Providence.
10/24/1844 New building at Richmond & Case in Providence
11/4/1844 Franklin Foundry & Machine Co. builds new machine shop.
2/12/1849 Detailed account of small fire at Shannock Mills in Richmond, R.I.
1856 Series of detailed letters from S.G. Allen of South Scituate, R.I., re a mill apparently belonging to the Smiths.
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The bulk of this collection was purchased in 1997 from dealer Charles Apfelbaum. A March 9 1846 letter was donated in 2003 by the Torrington Historical Society, who had received it from Earle Jarvis. The remainder was gathered together in 1994, from miscellaneous holdings at the library. The A.D. & J.Y. Smith account books were received in 1980 as a gift of Mary Elizabeth Matteson. The James Y. Smith Manufacturing Company record book was purchased for a grand total of $1.50 from J.G. Padden in 1913. Foldered with this book were three uncataloged Smith documents (one signed proclamation, and two incoming letters) from his years as Governor. A note on the folder suggests they were taken from the Caroline Hazard Papers. The other papers have no accession information. The Mary Todd Lincoln receipt was found in the old "Miscellaneous Manuscripts" series, as were the 1841 and 1847 deeds and the speech to the city council of 1856. Inside the speech was the letter from Charles Bailey to Mrs. Rogers (Smith's daughter), with the manuscript note from Smith as governor. No accession information can be found on the Amos D. Smith treasury books, but they were first catalogued circa 1975. Two letters from the H.B. Anthony collection, addressed to J.Y. Smith, were photocopied and the copies placed in this collection.
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Series 1: A.D. & J.Y. Smith & Co. (and related firms)
Box 1, folder 1. Deed to Cranston School District #10, 1847
Box 1, folder 2. Labor books for construction of houses at 169 Hope Street, 1848-1849
Box 1, folder 2a. Letter sent, 1846 (re construction of mill in Willimantic, probably Smithville Co.)
Box 1, folder 3. Letters received, 1849
Box 1, folder 4. Letters received, 1856
Box 1, folder 5. Letters received, 1857
Box 1, folder 6. Letters received, 1858
Box 1, folder 7. Letters received, 1867
Box 1, folder 8. Bills paid, 1849
Box 1, folder 9. Bills paid, 1853-1855, insurance
Box 1, folder 10. Bills paid, 1856
Box 1, folder 11. Bills paid, 1857
Box 1, folder 12. Bills paid, 1857, Smithville Mfg. Co.
Box 1, folder 13. Bills paid, 1858
Box 1, folder 14. Bills paid, 1867
Box 1, folder 15. Bills paid, 1867, Providence Steam Mill Co.
Box 2, folder 1. Groton Manufacturing Co. letters received, Feb. 1873
Box 2, folder 2. Groton Manufacturing Co. letters received, Jan. 1874
Box 2, folder 3. Groton Manufacturing Co. bills paid, Feb. 1873
Box 2, folder 4. Groton Manufacturing Co. bills paid, Jan. 1874
Box 2, folder 5. Groton Manufacturing Co. bills paid, 1873, R.I. Bleach & Dye Works
Series 2: Amos D. Smith (personal)
Box 2, folder 6. Deed to Thaddeus Curtis, 1841
Oversized volumes 1 and 2. Accounts re U.S. Treasury notes, 1861
Series 3: James Y. Smith (personal)
Box 2, folder 7. Letters received as agent for Hartford Fire Insurance Co., 1840
Box 2, folder 8. Letters received as agent for Hartford Fire Insurance Co., 1844
Box 2, folder 9. Letters received as agent for Hartford Fire Insurance Co., 1849 and 1856
Box 2, folder 10. James Y. Smith Manufacturing Company - Director's Minutes, 1866-1885
Box 2, folder 11. Correspondence and proclamations, etc., 1847-1865:
Speech to Providence City Council, ca. 1856?, 27pp.
Photocopies of two letters from Henry B. Anthony, 2/19 and 3/17, 1862
Letter from Edwin M. Stanton, 6/18/1863
Draft of a proclamation, AD, ca. 1864
(With ALS, Charles Bailey to Mrs. Horatio Rogers, 9/15 [ca. 1880?])
Letter from Richard Arnold, 8/26/1864, regarding 3rd R.I. Cavalry Regiment.
Receipt for $3,000 sent to Mary Todd Lincoln
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A.D. & J.Y. Smith & Co.
Arnold, Richard (1828-1882)
Cranston, R.I. - Schools
Dunnell (J. & Co.)
Elmwood Manufacturing Co.
Groton Manufacturing Company
Hartford Fire Insurance Co.
Insurance, Fire - Rhode Island
James Y. Smith Manufacturing Co.
Kendall (H.G. & Co.)
Lincoln, Mary Todd (1818-1882)
Merchants - Rhode Island - Providence
Nichols, Charles A.
Richmond & Case
Rogers, Horatio (1836-
Smith, Amos Denison (1805-1877)
Smith, James Y. (1809-1876)
Smithville Manufacturing Co. (Willimantic, Conn.)
Stanton, Edwin M. (1814-1869)
Textile industry - Rhode Island - Providence
Third Regiment, R.I. Cavalry
Tiverton Print Works
Treasury bills - United States
United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865
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