Merchant, of Newport, R.I.
Papers, 1742-1762. Bulk, 1746-1753.
Size: 1.5 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 919
Processed by: Rick Stattler, May 2001
USE MICROFILM HF5686 P25 A17 NEG (volume 3 only,
Daybook of Robert Jenkins Jr., May 29 1747 to January 5 1753)
©Rhode Island Historical Society
John Banister (1707-1767) was the oldest surviving child of Boston merchant Thomas Banister (c1683-1716). By 1728, he joined the mercantile partnership of Minot & Banister in Boston. Circa 1736, he left this firm and moved to Newport, R.I. There in 1737 he married Hermoine Pelham (1718-1765), a granddaughter of Gov. Benedict Arnold. They had three children: Pelham (1739-), John (1744/5-1807), and Thomas.
Banister quickly established himself as a leading Newport merchant, trading with England, the West Indies (particularly the Bay of Honduras) and elsewhere. He also engaged in privateering and the slave trade. In 1752, he held one of the last public slave auctions in Rhode Island at his store, describing them in advertisements as "the finest cargo of slaves ever brought into New England (see Coughtry). Toward the end of his life, he moved to Middletown, R.I., where he died in 1767.
Appleton, William S. Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978 (Jenkins).
Baker, Darius. "The Newport Banisters," in Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society 43 (January 1923), 1-20.
Coughtry, Jay. Notorious Triangle, 169. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1981.
Index of Obituaries in Boston Newspapers, 1704-1795. Boston: Hall & Co., 1968 (Jenkins).
Moriarty, G. Andrews. "The Will of John Banister of Newport, R.I.," in Gary Boyd Roberts, ed., Genealogies of Rhode Island Families from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1:16. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Inc., 1989
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Scope and content:
The core of this collection is Banister's ledger from 1746 to 1750, which provides a detailed look at his diverse business dealings. In terms of sheer physical bulk, it is perhaps the largest volume in the Historical Society's collection. His daybook covers the same period and complements the ledger, although the page numbers do not cross-reference because of the absence of the corresponding journal.
Both volumes include some documentation of Banister's dealings in slaves. No explicit reference was found to an entire shipload of slaves being imported from Africa, although ships named the Affrican and the Angola suggest that Banister was interested in the cross-Atlantic slave trade. However, Banister sometimes purchased one or two slaves at a time in the West Indies and sold them in New England. The master key to these entries is the "Account of Negroes" on ledger page 331. The following appear to be all of the relevant entries in the daybook, which gives more details:
Page Date Transaction
479 Aug 9 1747 Purchase of "Negro boy named Fortune" from owners of the schooner Success, who had purchased him in Surinam. Purchased for £300.
493 Sept 25 1747 Sale of "Negro boy named Fortune" in Connecticut by Samuel Aborn. Sold for £350, including £10 commission paid to Aborn.
512 Dec 15 1747 Purchase of "a Negro man named Cesar" from Capt. Charles Bardin, £340.
516 Jan 24 1749/0Purchase of "2 Negro men" in the Bay of Honduras via Capt. William Warner of the brigantine Abigail for £400.
Banister also detailed the expenses he incurred in maintaining his personal slaves, and the profits he gained from loaning out their labor, in an account entitled "Expence on Negroes" (ledger page 264). The details can again be found in the daybook:
Page Date Transaction
20 Jan 13 1746/7Purchase of stockings, breeches and two jackets
21 Jan 22 1746/7Purchase of one cap
111 June 23 1747 Revenue from labor of slaves on outfitting the snow Swan: six days by "Negro Tony" and three days by "Negro Mingo."
157 Sep 22 1747 Revenue from three days of labor of "Negro Anthony" on outfitting of settee Eagle.
374 Dec 31 1748 Revenue from five days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of snow American.
387 Jan 23 1748/9Revenue from six days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of ship African.
472 July 24 1749 Revenue from two days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of brigantine Hannah.
474 July 29 1749 Purchase of "cloathing" for "negroes," £65.
475 Aug 7 1749 Revenue from eight days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of sloop Little Jack.
485 Aug 23 1749 Revenue from one day of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of snow William.
499 Oct 10 1749 Purchase of "4 ½ yds Blue Bayes for Tonys jacket."
527 Feb 22 49/50 Revenue from twenty days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of ship Honduras Galley, including "sett'g masts, clearing out chips and paying the sides."
528 Feb 28 49/50 Purchase of pair of breeches and stockings for Cato.
Other Banister ledger accounts with prominent Newporters which may be of interest include Moses Lopez (page 28), "son John Banister" (41), Godfrey Malbone (115), Richard Ward (136), Matthew Robinson (146), Joseph Whipple (153), Thomas Hazard (158), and Robert Jenkins (303). There are also general accounts for "Cannon and warlike stores" (235), an "Account of foreign wood" (245), "household furniture" (318), and rum (321). The daybook shows purchases of desks from famous furniture-makers Christopher Townsend (page 270) and John Goddard (288).
The collection also includes a daybook of Newport merchant Robert Jenkins Jr. (?1725-1766), whose relationship to Banister is unclear. The volume covers much of the same period, with a similar variety of transactions. Jenkins was born in Boston to Robert Jenkins Sr. and became a merchant there, and moved to Newport in 1748. His death in Newport was reported in the Boston News Letter on May 27, 1766. Perhaps the most unusual entry in this otherwise normal daybook is a tirade against high Newport taxes that appears among the June 6 1751 accounts.
Rounding out the collection are five loose documents relating to Banister, including two legal cases, a deed, a ship registration, and a receipt.
The library also has three letters addressed to Banister's son (also named John Banister), dated 1791-1796 and filed in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection.
Baker's article, cited above, suggests that the Newport Historical Society has a substantial collection of Bannister's correspondence and account books that may compliment the volumes described here.
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The provenance of these records is unknown. The Jenkins daybook has a different book tag than the Banister daybook, while the ledger has no tags at all. The three volumes may have arrived at separate times. All three volumes seem to have been first cataloged in the 1950s or 1960s.
The loose papers were found scattered in various collections as of 2001, except for the Manesty letter and the Joseph Whipple account, both of which were found inserted in the ledger. The only item with known provenance is the Matthew Robinson assault complaint, which was purchased as part of the large miscellaneous Shepley Collection in 1938.
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Volume 1. Daybook ("Wast Book B"), December 1 1746 to February 27 1749/50
This volume records Banister's financial dealings in detail, chronologically. By standard accounting practice, each entry was probably broken down into debits and credits in a separate volume called a journal. As each entry was copied into the journal, a large "X" was written to the left of the transaction.
Volume 2. "Ledger B," August 1746 to January 1749/50. A few entries through 1757.
This ledger records the same financial transactions as the daybook, but is arranged by individual or account. It is not arranged chronologically or alphabetically, and there is no index. Each account has a list of debits on the left side of the page, and credits on the opposite side. Each entry in these ledger accounts will have five pieces of information, from left to right:
1) The date. These volumes use the pre-Gregorian system, in which the new year began on March 25.
2) The journal page. This would lead back to the entry in the journal that would explain how the account was allocated. The journal is unfortunately not available. However, the transaction should appear in chronological order in the daybook.
3) A short description of the nature of the transaction. More detail can be found in the daybook.
4) The page of the balancing ledger entry. Under standard accounting, each sum must be entered somewhere as both a debit and a credit. This page number will lead to a related entry in the same volume.
5) Amount. Listed in pounds, shillings and pence.
Many long-running accounts were brought over from "Ledger A" (not available) or carried over to "Ledger C" (also not available). Some accounts which outgrew their space on the page are carried over to another "Folio," which simply refers to a page number within the same ledger. The ledger also includes many cash transactions, which are listed only by month with no exact date. These were never recorded in the daybook, and were presumably entered in a separate volume.
Volume 3. Daybook of Robert Jenkins Jr., May 29 1747 to January 5 1753
AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM
This volume was known as the Robert Jenkins account book when it was microfilmed in 1964. In the 1970s, it was re-cataloged as a John Banister account book. Internal evidence strongly suggests that the first guess was correct. None of the entries match up with Banister's daybook or ledger, although they cover the same time period. This volume has a September 30 1749 transaction for £1085-4 with "John Banister, Dr." (debit), to be paid in three months. Banister's daybook has a transaction for £1085-4 on the same date, but for "sundry accts dr. to Robert Jenkins Jr."
Folder 1. Miscellaneous:
Receipt from John Clarke for money due from Edward Pelham estate, April 6 1742
Ownership certificate of ship Three Sisters, March 25 1743
Copy of letter from J. Manesty to William Handley re Banister account, July 3 1747
Complaint of Matthew Robinson against Banister for assault and battery, 1750
Account with Joseph Whipple, 1739-1753.
Legal case file, John Bannister vs. John Brown of Newport, 1762-1765. 104 pages.
Triple-oversized folder. Deed, Joseph Whipple to Banister for Middletown land, June 10 1754
(copy can be found in the regular folder).
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African-Americans - Rhode Island - Newport
x Bannister, John
Brown, John (1696-1764) (of Newport)
Furniture, Early American - Rhode Island - Newport
Jenkins, Robert (1725-1766)
Malbone, Godfrey (1695-1768)
Massachusetts - Commerce
Merchants - Rhode Island - Newport
Newport, R.I. - Commerce
Ordnance - Manufacture - Rhode Island
Rum industry - Rhode Island - Newport
Slave trade - Rhode Island - Newport
Taxation - Public opinion - Rhode Island
Three Sisters (ship)
Ward, Richard (1689-1763)
West Indies - Commerce
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