1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

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 Joshua Rathbone Family Papers

 Merchants and sailors of Providence, RI

 1752-1877 (bulk 1803-1877)

 Size: .5 ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 1131

 Processed by: Karen Eberhart, January 2004

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Joshua Rathbone (1767-1844) was born in Westerly, RI the son of Joshua and Sarah (Borden) Rathbone. He married Waite Kilton (1771-1840) who was born in South Kingstown the daughter of Stephen and Waite (Greene) Kilton. He began his working life as an apprentice to a hatter, Thomas Hazard, and then became a merchant. He was successful in his business dealings and secured a post as a supercargo for the firm Brown and Ives, sailing to many ports during 1803-1810. He continued in maritime pursuits until at least 1824. After retiring from the sea he focused on his investments, worked as a clerk of the Providence Market and as an overseer of the poor for Providence. Joshua became a member of the Providence Marine Society in 1808 and a member of the Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers in 1830. Joshua and Waite had four children: Stephen Kilton (1796-1871), William Penn (1798-1877), Joshua Henry (1801-1834), and Cornelia (1804-1889) who married Thomas Coles Hartshorn.

            Before the Civil War, William Penn Rathbone divided his time between Augusta, GA and Providence, RI to facilitate his work as a cotton merchant. He also invested in ships and shipping adventures and had personal knowledge of the somewhat precarious nature of those investments. He was a passenger returning to New York from Liverpool, England onboard the steamship Arctic when it collided with the steamer Vesta in October 1854 near Newfoundland. William was one of 87 men (no women or children lived) who survived out of the 408 people onboard.

            He was a successful businessman but was unable to avoid heavy financial losses during the Civil War. After this setback, he settled in Providence and was able to recoup much of his fortune and left his family in comfortable circumstances. William married three times and had ten children, four of whom survived to adulthood.

            Ruth Ann Leonard (1803-1848)

                        Leonard (1829-1846)

                        William Leonard (1830-1830)

                        Joshua Henry (1832-1858)

                        unnamed infant (1834-1834)

                        Anna (1836-1836)

                        William Penn (1841-1845)

            Frances Amelia Leonard (1827-1852)

                        Francis Leonard (1852-1852)

            Ruth Ellen Hall (1830-1880)

                        Waite (1859-1931)

                        Julian C. (1863-1918)

                        Josephine (1868-1913)



Wilkins, Richard L., and Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. "A Line of Descent from Joshua Rathbone," unpublished article, 2003.

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            These papers were apparently passed on to William Penn's son Julian C. Rathbone (1863-1918), his daughter Cornelia E. (Rathbone) Wilkins (1903-1980), and her son Richard L. Wilkins. Shortly before his death in 2003, Richard Wilkins gave the papers to his cousin Cherry Fletcher Bamberg. She donated them to the Rhode Island Historical Society shortly after his death, in accordance with his wishes.


William Kilton

B.1, F.1           Bill of lading for goods shipped by Esek Hopkins aboard Sloop Charleston with

                                    Kilton as master, 1752.

Joshua Rathbone

B.2, V.1          Journal of voyages aboard:

                                    Ann and Hope (Ship) Thomas Laing, Master

                                                Providence to Batavia to Providence

                                                Nov 6, 1803 - Aug 16, 1804

                                    Ann and Hope (Ship) Thomas Laing, Master

                                                Providence to Lisbon, Isle of France, Cowes, Table Bay and

back to Providence, shipwrecked off Block Island

                                                Nov 4, 1804 - Jan 11, 1806

                                    Isis (Ship)

                                                Providence to Batavia to Providence

                                                May 16, 1806 - Mar 17, 1807

                                    Isis (Ship)

                                                Providence to Batavia to Providence

                                                May 15, 1807 - Apr 15, 1808

                                    Arthur (Ship)

Providence to "Heppens upon the River Jade" but they were taken a prize and ended their journey at Yarmouth Roads

                                                Nov 8, 1809 - Jan 22, 1810

B.1, F.2           Photocopy of journal p.1-129 

B.1, F.3           Photocopy of journal p. 130-301

William Penn Rathbone

B.1, F.4           Banking and insurance documents, 1871-1876

B.1, F.5           Correspondence, 1823, 1867-1877

                        see also: Ledger for copy of letter from WPR to his son Henry dated 3/18/1872

B.1, F.6           Female education

                                    Miss Abbott's School for Young Ladies, 1877

                                    Miss Selma Wesselhoeft's School for Girls, 1877

B.2, V.2          Ledger including copies of business correspondence and listings of his investments,


B.1, F.7           Memorandum book / day book / index to Ledger, 1842-1877

B.1, F.8           Newspaper articles

                                    Sinking of the Ship Arctic, 1854

                                    Rathbone Family, 1864

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Ann and Hope (Ship)

Arthur (Ship)

Brown & Ives.

Cotton trade - Rhode Island.

Isis (Ship)

Logbooks, 1803-1810.

Rathbone, Joshua, 1767-1844.

Rathbone, William Penn, 1798-1877.

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