1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Sullivan Dorr Papers

 Merchant, Providence, R.I.

 Papers, 1799-1852

 Size: .75 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 390

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, June 2001

 USE MICROFILM    HF3128 .D7 (part: Dorr’s 1801 Canton, China memo. book; Sullivan Dorr House, Prov., 1809-1812)

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Sullivan Dorr (1778-1858) was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Ebenezer (1739-1809) and Abigail (Cummingham) Dorr (1762-1796). Ebenezer was a leather dresser, owner of the schooner Dove, and a merchant with a store at No. 27 Long Wharf, Boston. During the Revolutionary War, while Paul Revere was warning those north of Boston of the coming of the British troops, Ebenezer was warning Roxbury and Boston Neck of the attack.

            Sullivan Dorr married Lydia Allen (1782-1859), daughter of Zachariah and Ann (Crawford) Allen, on October 14, 1804. They had four sons and three daughters: Thomas Wilson (1805-1854); Allen (1808-1889); Ann Allen (Dorr) Ives (1810-1884); Mary Throop (Dorr) Ames (1811-1869); Sullivan Jr. (1813-1884); Candace Crawford (Dorr) Carrington (1815-1886); and Henry Crawford (1820-1897).

            His son, Thomas Wilson Dorr, is well known as the leader of the Dorr Rebellion. Dorr had become the leader of the "Law and Order" Party that had a platform of suffrage reform. The party held a convention and adopted a "People's Constitution," in 1842, under which Dorr was elected Governor. However, the Rhode Island legislature did not recognized Dorr's legitimacy. Dorr made a failed attempt to take over the State Arsenal and failed in his attempt to convene a General Assembly. With these failures Dorr fled Rhode Island, only to turn himself in a year and a half later. He was tried in 1844 and sentenced to life in prison. Dorr was released in 1845 due to a legislative act that freed all prisoners sentenced for treason. In 1854, Dorr's record was expunged as some of those in power can to believe he had be wrongly convicted.

            Early in life Sullivan was engaged in the fur trade on the northwest coast of the United States and at the age of twenty, he went to Canton, China to follow mercantile pursuits. Much of his business was for the firm of J. & J. Dorr; based in Boston and owned by his brothers, Jonathan and Joseph. He stayed in Canton for five years (1799-1803) and upon returning to the States he settled in Providence and became a prosperous merchant. He resided in a home he built in 1811 on the northeast corner of Benefit and Bowen Streets.

            Sullivan served as a Brown University trustee (1813-1858) and was the second president of the Providence Washington Insurance Company (1838-1858). He died on March 3, 1858 and was buried at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.


Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island, 198, 328. Providence National Biographical Publishing Company, 1881.

Genealogies of Rhode Island Families from Rhode Island Periodicals, v. 1 p. 279; v. 2 p. 442. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 1983.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            This collection, ranging from 1799-1852, has been divided into two series. Series One contains personal papers, which include correspondence, a deed, a diary, and a memoranda book. The correspondence derives from his involvement in commerce in Canton, China, while the memoranda book details various events during a year (1801) in China. Very rarely Dorr will make a reference to the people of China. In 1799 he makes the comment, "being among a people between whom and ourselves there is such a dissimilarity of language, customs, etc. that your betrayer may be bargaining before your face." (Box 1, folder 1, page 27). In 1800 he goes on to say, the Chinese are "great sticklers to Religion if I may judge...vindictive, lascivious, roguish, revengeful...polygamy..." (Box 1, folder 1, page 53-59). In these several pages he describes the people and culture of the Chinese.

            Series Two contains the receipts related to the building and furnishing of the Sullivan Dorr House, 1809-1812.

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            The diary and accompanying loose papers appear to have been deposited as part of the Carrington Papers in 1960, and then made a gift in 1962. The three volumes of typescripts were apparently donated in 1956 or before. The original memoranda book was donated by Paul Nicholson in 1953. The 1841 papers dealing with the case of Star Manufacturing versus the Providence Washington Insurance Company were part of the Albert C. and Richard W. Greene Collection. The provenance of the 1836 letter/agreement and the 1824 deeds are unknown.

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Processing note:

            There is an inscription on the first page of the bound copy of Sullivan Dorr letters, 1799-1801 which states,"These letters were evidently transcribed by Howard Corning. Not all of these appear in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, v. 67, 1941-44, p. 178-364.

            There is a household account book and diary (1879-1883) of Sullivan Dorr Ames (grandson of Sullivan Dorr) in Mss 9001-A. There is also a letter to Richard K. Randolph, a prominent Newport lawyer, from Sullivan Dorr in Mss 452. This letter asks for clemency for his son, Thomas. There are also many other references to the Dorr Rebellion in other manuscript collections to be found in the card catalogue.

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Series 1: Personal Papers


Box 1, folder 1. Correspondence: bound volume of transcribed letters Dorr sent to various individuals from China, 1799-1801

Box 1, folder 2. Correspondence, bound volume transcribed letters Dorr sent to various individuals from China 1801-1803

Box 1, folder 3. Correspondence: single letter / agreement re Woonsocket Company, 1836

Box 1, folder 4. Correspondence: pertaining to the case between the Star Manufacturing Company and the Providence Washington Insurance Company, 1841

Box 1, folder 5. Deed (2) from Sullivan Dorr to Cooke & Brown re: Crawford Estate, 1824

Box 1, folder 6. Diary, 1843-1844

Box 1, folder 7. Diary: removals from, 1845-1852 and undated

Box 1, folder 8. Memoranda book, 1801 (original and transcription)

            Expenses for furniture and other goods (1-7)

            Description of various kinds of tea (p. 7-10)

            Ship Compedore (p.10-16)

            Servant wages (p. 16-17)

            Ship Neptune (p. 18-19)

            List of ships and value of cargo (p.20-21)

            Memos (p.22-25)

Series 2: Receipts related to the building and furnishing of the Sullivan Dorr House

Box 2, folder 1. Bricks and tile, 1809-1810

Box 2, folder 2. Drawing of chandelier, undated (original in oversized storage)

Box 2, folder 3. Fireplaces and Stoves, 1810

Box 2, folder 4. Front door and portico, 1810-1811

Box 2, folder 5. Greene, John Holden and Russell Potter, 1809-1811

Box 2, folder 6. Gravel, sand, lime, and wood for plaster of paris, 1809-1811

Box 2, folder 7. Hardware purchased from Boston, 1809-1811

Box 2, folder 8. Hardware purchased from Providence, 1809-1811

Box 2, folder 9. House plan, c. 1809

Box 2, folder 10. Labor: general miscellaneous, 1809-1812

Box 2, folder 11. Marble mantle, 1810

Box 2, folder 12. Masonry, 1809-1812

Box 2, folder 13. Miscellaneous: house reaccepts, 1809-1810

Box 2, folder 14. Miscellaneous: other, 1817-1830

            Stock certificate for shares in the Providence bank, 1817

            Letter from H. Hildrith concerning one of Sullivan Dorr's sons, 1822

            Letter from Benjamin Abbott concerning one of Sullivan Dorr's sons, 1818

            Stock certificate for shares in the Roger Williams Bank, 1817

Box 2, folder 15. Oil, 1809-1810

Box 2, folder 16. Painting, 1809-1812

Box 2, folder 17. Plastering, 1809

Box 2, folder 18. Pump and pump well, 1809

Box 2, folder 19. Rum and molasses for the workmen, 1809

Box 2, folder 20. Silver and glass

Box 2, folder 21. Stone brick, 1809-1812

Box 2, folder 22. Stone walls, steps, and yard paving, 1809-1811

Box 2, folder 23. Timber and lumber, 1809-1812

Box 2, folder 24. Windows and doors: glazing and leading, 1809-1810

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Adams, Seth

Alexander (ship)

Alert (ship)

America (ship)

Amethyst (ship)

Ann & Hope (ship)

Arab (ship)

Ariel (ship)

Barclay (ship)

Betsy (ship)

Bosworth, Asa

Bosworth, Smith

Brown, Isaac

Brown & Ives

Burt, David

Camilla (ship)

Carrington, Edward (1775-1843)

China - commerce

China - description and travel

Clothier (ship)

Commerce - Asia

Compedore (ship)

Concord (ship)

Cooke, Benoni

Dale (ship)

Diaries, 1843-1844

Dispatch (ship)

Dorr, Andrew

Dorr, Ebenezer (1739-1809)

Dorr, Jonathan

Dorr, Joseph

Eliza (ship)

Enterprise (ship)

Fame (ship)

Frances (ship)

Francis, Abigail (Brown), 1766-1821

Ganges (ship)

George Barclay (ship)


Globe (ship)

Great Britain - foreign relations

Greene, John Holden

Hancock (ship)

Heard, Daniels

Hibernia (ship)

Hides and skins

Hope (ship)

Industry (ship)


Jane (ship)

Jeans (ship)

Jenny (ship)

John Jay (ship)


Magee, Barney

Martin, Joseph

Mary (ship)


Minerva (ship)

Mount Vernon (ship)

Neptune (ship)

Nancy (ship)

New Jersey (ship)

Odell (ship)

Oneida (ship)

Pallas (ship)

Perseverance (ship)

Pope, West

Potter, Russell

Providence Washington Insurance Company

Rebecca (ship)

Rise States (ship)

x Rumford, Count

Severn (ship)



Snow, Samuel

Star Manufacturing Company

Syren (brig)


Thompson, Benjamin, 1753-1814

Thurber, William

Walcott, Palemon

Wales, H.N.

Washington (ship)

Wheeler, Simeon

Woonsocket Company

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