1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Perry Greene Arnold Papers


Mariner of East Greenwich, Rhode Island

 Personal Papers, 1794-1819

 Size: .75 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 74

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, December 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Perry Greene Arnold (1772-1819) was one of ten children born in East Greenwich, Rhode Island to Colonel William and Alice (Wilcox) Arnold. He married Priscella Arnold (ca. 1782-1815) and they had four daughters: Alice, Priscilla, Patience, and Sarah. At the age of 25, he became a Master Mason in the Brooke Lodge of Alexandria, Virginia.

            Arnold spent his life as a mariner, in command of trading vessels co-owned by himself or owned by the firm of William Arnold & Son (his father and brother, Stephen). Most of his voyages were to Surinam, on the northern coast of South America. He also stopped at Cayenne in French Guiana. He made many stops in the Caribbean as well, at such places as Guadalupe, Martinique, St. Bartholomews, and the Turk Islands. Occasionally he stopped at ports along the eastern seaboard.

            He died at sea on June 25, 1819 on board the ship Commodore Perry in the Atlantic Ocean at "23' 9"N and 63'6"W". His brother, Stephen Arnold, was the executor of his estate and the guardian of his children.


Arnold, Elisha Stephen. The Arnold Memorial: William Arnold of Providence and Pawtuxet, 1587-1675: And a Genealogy of His Descendants, 147-148 and 191-192. The Tuttle Publishing Company, 1935.

Arnold, James. Vital Records of Rhode Island: 1636-1850 Volume 1, East Greenwich, 95-96. Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, 1891.

Kemble, Harold. Guide to the Perry Greene Arnold Papers, Rhode Island Historical Society Library, 1987.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            This collection, covering the years 1794 to 1819, is arranged into four series: correspondence, loose accounts, maritime documents, and miscellaneous. The miscellaneous series contains a legal claim, power of attorney and indentures. The maritime documents consist of articles of agreement, bills of lading, bills of sales, bonds for duties, a clearance certificate, and sailing orders. These papers also contain a log of the sloop Providence from 1798-1799. This sloop was built in 1795 in Freetown, Massachusetts, and was registered in Bristol by William and Stephen Arnold, with Perry Greene Arnold as co-owner and master. There is no connection to the famous Revolutionary War sloop of the same name. The ship apparently traded staple goods such as flour and beef for Surinam coffee. The ship hired on a few “Negroes” as laborers in Surinam. The entry on 12/25/1798 reads: "This day it being Christmas we have for dinner one duck roasted & three fowls & one duck made as a rigaud [ragout?] so as to have a general Christmas feast among our crew." The log is bound in burlap, and has suffered moderate to serious water damage (box 2, folder 7).

            Arnold's papers contain a 1796 deposition given by Jonathan Yates pertaining to an incident between Perry Arnold and William Boyd, a mate on the sloop Hawk. Yates said, "never saw or heard anything done or said against the said Boyd, but to the contrary the said Boyd did behave in a most scandalous and ridiculous manner...treating Capt. Arnold with the worst and most abusive language and threatening to leave the vessel and go a shore and refusing his duty that they then got hold of each other and in scuffling the said Boyd fell overboard and immediately go hold of the boat that was along side and got on board without any hurt whatever..." (box 1, folder 1). This account by Yates is disputed in the deposition given by Stephen Tripp. Tripp states, "said Arnold told said Boyd he was a liar...clenched hold of Boyd and threw him overboard and after he was overboard he threw or darted part of an oar at said Boyd...returned on board said sloop Hawk, Boyd went on the quarter deck, Arnold being below, then Arnold came up from below and kicked Boyd...threw him on the deck and kicked him and stomped on him several times," (Shepley Collection, vol. 14, p. 159).

            Letters that Arnold wrote at sea can be found in the William Arnold Papers (Mss 71) and in the Stephen Arnold Papers (Mss 75). Loose accounts that he had with his father and brother can also be found in their respective records. In the Ship's Log Collection (Mss 828) there are several logs kept by men on board two brigs, the Lydia & Margaret and the Betsy, of which Perry Greene Arnold was master.

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            These records, except for the log of the sloop Providence, are believed to have arrived as part of the "Albert C. and Richard W. Greene Collection." The actual date of the accession is not known for certain, but the collection was in hand by the late 1940s. Therefore, the date of 1948 was assigned to the collection.

            The log of the sloop Providence was purchased in 1999 from George B. Ellis Jr., a descendant of Arnold.

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Processing note:

            This collection was originally processed circa 1987 by Harold Kemble. It was reprocessed in 1999 by Lori Salotto. At that time, letters and maritime documents were separated from the financial accounts and put in separate folders. The collection was then arranged into four series.

            A loose 1804 receipt for Col. William Arnold and a loose 1815 account of William Arnold and Son was transferred to the William Arnold Papers (Mss 71).

            An 1818-1821 labor account book for the ship Commodore Perry and the brig Lydia & Margaret was transferred to the Stephen Arnold Papers (Mss 75). Perry died in 1819 and Stephen became responsible for the ship.

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Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1, folder 1: 1795-1804

Box 1, folder 2: 1805-1814

Box 1, folder 3: 1815-1819 and undated

Series 2: Loose Accounts

Box 1, folder 4: 1794-1799

Box 1, folder 5: 1800-1804

Box 1, folder 6: 1805-1809

Box 1, folder 7: 1810-1814

Box 1, folder 8: 1815-1816

Box 1, folder 9: 1817-1818

Box 2, folder 1: 1819 and undated 


Series 3: Maritime Documents

Box 2, folder 2: Articles of agreement, 1795 - 1816

Box 2, folder 3: Bills of lading, 1807, 1812

Box 2, folder 4: Bill of sales, 1805, 1807

Box 2, folder 5: Bonds for duties, 1795-1806, 1817 

Box 2, folder 6: Clearance certificates, 1818-1819

Box 2, folder 7: Log of the sloop Providence, 1798-1799, Perry G. Arnold, master.


                                    Fragment at sea, South America to R.I.    7/19/[1798?] - 7/24/[1798?]

                                    Rhode Island to Surinam                            9/30/1798 - 11/12/1798

                                    Up and down Surinam River                     11/13/1798 - 12/8/1798

                                    Surinam to Rhode Island                            12/9/1798 - 1/31/1799

                                    Letter to Greene & Lovett dated Surinam4/3/1799

Box 2, folder 8: Sailing orders, 1795 and undated

Box 2, folder 9: Seizure and petition to reclaim the Brig Harriot, 1812

Box 2, folder 10: Sloop Providence: two bill of sales, 1795 and one loose account, 1796

Series 4: Miscellaneous

Box 2, folder 11: Claim of Joseph Lyon against Perry Greene Arnold, 1797

Box 2, folder 12: Indentures, 1801-1804

Box 2, folder 13: Power of attorney, 1799

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African Americans

Angeronia (brig)

Arnold, Stephen (1765-1823)

Betsy (brig)

Brandywine (sloop)

Caribbean Area - Commerce

Christmas cookery

Commodore Perry (ship)


French Guiana - Commerce

Harriot (brig)

Hawk (sloop)

Huntress (sloop)

Indentured Servants

Log books (1798-1799)

Lydia & Margaret (schooner/brig)

Mariners - R.I. - East Greenwich

Orange (schooner)

Perseverance (ship)

Polly & Phebe (sloop)

Providence (sloop)

South America - Commerce

Surinam - Commerce

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