1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

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 Henry B. Dexter Papers

 Machinist and cardboard manufacturer, of Pawtucket, R.I.

 Family papers, 1841-1957

 Size: 3 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 384

 Processed by: Nathaniel N. Shipton, circa 1973

 Finding aid and additions by Rick Stattler, December 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Henry Bowers Dexter (1827-1907) was born in Pawtucket, R.I., the son of Waterman T.

and Fanny (Orne) Dexter. He attended the public schools in Pawtucket for several years before apprenticing as a machinist with the Pawtucket firm of Brown & Clark. He managed a machine shop owned by John H. Potter for several years, and later operated his own machine shops in the partnerships of Pimbley, Dexter & Co. and Dexter & Cole. He left the machine tool industry to purchase a cardboard and glazed paper factory in Pawtucket from his brother-in-law Ray Potter (1795-1858) in 1858. This was operated as the Pawtucket Cardboard Company, and pioneered the manufacture of paper collars and hair-lined cardboard.

            George Howard Clark (1828-1891) was taken in as partner by 1871, and the company then became the Rhode Island Cardboard Company. Its billheads advertised "Printers', Engravers' and Photographers' Cards and Stereoscopic Mounts, Also, Stock For Tag Manufacturers." In 1889 Dexter sold out his interests in the company and traveled extensively in Europe. He was an active Universalist and temperance advocate. He served in the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1885.

            Dexter married Emily (Campbell) Dexter (1833-1883), and never remarried after her early death. They had only one child: Katie B. (Dexter) Stearns (1859-), who married Albert H. Stearns (1844-) of Boston. Albert's family owned the Cypress Lumber Company, which had offices in Boston and mills in Florida. Albert and Katie Stearns had four children: Albert Maynard Stearns (1886-), Henry D. Stearns (1888-), Albert T. Stearns (1890-), and Katherine (Stearns) (Haven) Fuller (1892-1967).

            Dexter's business partner George H. Clark fell ill in 1890 and left for a final tour of Europe with his second wife. He wrote his will in Italy in December of 1890, and arrived in Paris in May of 1891. At that point his appetite had almost entirely disappeared, and he had wasted away to less than 130 pounds. He died in Paris on June 25, 1891. Dexter served as executor of his estate.


Grieve, Robert. Illustrated History of Pawtucket (Pawtucket, R.I.: Pawtucket Gazette & Chronicle, 1897), 297-298.

National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections, 1973:227.

Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island (Chicago: J.H. Beers &Co., 1908), 2:682.

Van Wagenen, Avis Stearns. Genealogy and Memoirs of Isaac Stearns and His Descendants (Syracuse, N.Y.: Courier Printing, 1901), 551.

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists of personal and business correspondence and other papers of Henry B. Dexter, his partner and friend George H. Clark, and members of the extended Dexter family. It includes Clark's diary kept from 1845 to 1855, which contains descriptions of his social and cultural life and travels in Europe and elsewhere; records of the Pawtucket Cardboard Company which became the Rhode Island Cardboard Company; correspondence and business records of Ray Potter, former owner of the Pawtucket Cardboard Company; material related to the Pennsylvania oil wells and attached machine shop operated by Clark and Dexter (known as Central Petroleum Company and Central Machine Works), and to their interests in Nevada mining; letters dated 1916 and 1917 of Dexter's grandson Albert Stearns, describing his work as an engineer at E.I. du Pont de Nemours; and other papers of the children of Katie (Dexter) Stearns.

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            The bulk of these papers were donated by the heirs of Henry B. Dexter in 1972. Additional papers were donated by descendant Dexter Stearns Haven in 2001, including: four letters from George H. Clark to Henry B. Dexter, 1891; 1865 receipt from William Metcalf to H.B. Dexter; 1876 phrenological report on H.B. Dexter by O.S. Fowler; 1898 account of the A.T. Stearns Lumber Co.; 1910 letter from A.T. Stearns to son A.H. Stearns; 1928 letter from F.R. Mosely to Mrs. Horace Fuller; and 1928 inventory of Albert H. Stearns estate; and 88 documents re the estate of his business partner George H. Clark, 1886-1892. Haven donated three additional items in 2003: a 1884-1885 R.I. House of Representatives book embossed with name; a pocket diary used to record notes paid, 1862; and Rhode Island Cardboard Company price card, 1870.

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Processing note:

            This collection was processed by Nathaniel Shipton in 1973, who submitted a scope and content note to the National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections. In 2001, additional papers were integrated into the collection, and this inventory was written.

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Box 1. Correspondence, 1841-1856

Box 2. Correspondence, 1857-1860

Box 3. Correspondence, 1861-1867

Box 4. Correspondence, 1868-1874

Box 5. Correspondence, 1875-1895

Box 6. Correspondence, 1896-1915

Box 7. Correspondence, 1916-1957 and undated

Box 8.

            Diaries of Albert H. Stearns of Boston and Dorchester, Mass. (15 volumes):

1877; 12/1892 - 3/1893 in Europe (2 copies); 1906; 1907; 1908; 1909; 1910; 1911; 1912; 1913; 1914; 1916; 1917; 1918

            Diaries of George H. Clark of Pawtucket (2 volumes): 1845-1855; 1883


Box 9. Small account books:

            Albert Stearns accounts with grocers. Four volumes, c.1900-1902.

            Albert Stearns family cash book, 1886-1905, small with maroon cover.

                        Headed "Maynard," details clothing bought for A. Maynard Stearns b.1886.

            [Albert Stearns family?] Undated book embossed "shopping lists"

            Central Machine Works (Penn.) wages book, 1865

            Central Machine Works blotter, undated. Hard blue marbled cover with maroon binding.

                        Features an original pencil sketch titled "U.S. Grant, next president."

            Dexter & Cole memorandum books, 1857 and undated. Both small and leather bound.

            Henry B. Dexter "Journeyman Mechanic's Account Books" (5 volumes)

                        Printed forms used by H.B. Dexter to record his wages as a machinist, 1846-1853

            Henry B. Dexter Pawtucket tenement construction account books, 1886-1893

Including two kept in old penmanship books; and one in hard brown marbled cover. The latter also includes a few pages of Dexter's accounts re Sons of Temperance and Masonic dues, 1848-1849.

            Henry B. Dexter income book, 1893-1905. Green hard cover. Includes tenement rents.

            Henry B. Dexter cash book, 1886-1889. Mottled yellow and brown hard cover.

                        Includes some tenement construction accounts.

            Henry B. Dexter black pocket diaries used to record notes paid, 1859, 1861, 1862, 1863.

            Henry B. Dexter memorandum book, 1862-1864. Brown leather cover.

            Henry B. Dexter deed memorandum book, 1875-1880. Very small, black cover.

            Henry B. Dexter memorandum book, 1890. In thin brown notebook.

                        Book printed by Dr. Seth Arnold Medical Co. of Woonsocket, offers testimonials.

            Henry B. Dexter phrenological report by O.S. Fowler, 1876. Orange book.

            Henry B. Dexter 1884-1885 R.I. House of Representatives book. Embossed with name.

            Pawtucket Cardboard Co. notes due book, 1858-1860. Long thin book with no cover.

            Pimbley, Dexter & Co. cash book, undated. Small brown book, leather cover.

            [Ray Potter] "Assetts of Scott Smith, March 6 1858" Large blue marbled soft cover.

Smith was listed as an employee of Ray Potter in the payroll book, and presumably took the paper factory inventory in preparation for the sale to Dexter.

            Folder of business memorabilia:

                        Cypress Lumber Company notebook cover

                        W.W. Dexter Insurance envelope, 1897

                        "S. Ahrweiler Fresco & Decorative artist" card

                        Dexter & Cole card

                        Rhode Island Cardboard Company envelope

                        Rhode Island Cardboard Company price card, 1870

                        Dexter & Brother cotton envelope

                        Denison & Brown Electricians card

                        Reliance Steam & Fire Regular circular, 1858

Box 10.

            Account book as guardian of Herbert R. Clewley, 1871-1877

            Certificates, 1863-1912

            Taxes, 1867-1895

            Loose accounts, some from both Pimbley & Dexter and Ray Potter






            Loose accounts, Pawtucket Cardboard Company


            Loose accounts, Central Machine Works


            Loose accounts, Rhode Island Cardboard Company


            Loose accounts, Rhode Island Cardboard, H.B. Dexter, and Cypress Lumber








            Contracts and deeds







                        1903 (Coleman Nail Company)

Box 11. Wills, inventories and administration

            Alfred W. Aldrich estate:

                        Will, 1880

            Annie M. Clark estate:

                        Papers of George H. Clark as administrator, 1886-1887 (2 folders)

            George H. Clark estate:

                        Clark's personal papers and correspondence, 1886-1891

                        Henry B. Dexter correspondence, 1891-1892

                        Henry B. Dexter bills and legal papers, 1891-1892

                        Two account books, 1891-1894

            Cornelius J. Cronin estate:

                        Writ against Dexter as trustee, 1888

            Henry B. Dexter estate:

                        Will, 1904 and assignation of mortgage, 1908

                        Kate Dexter Stearns memorandum book as executrix, 1907

                        Kate Dexter Stearns letter books, 1907-1914 and 1907-1917

            Albert H. Stearns estate:

                        Affidavit and inventory, 1928

Oversized volumes:

Volume 1. Central Petroleum Company ledger, 1865

Volume 2. Cypress Lumber Company Mills cash book A, 1888-1889

Volume 3. Henry B. Dexter personal daybook, 1858-1864, 1897

Volume 4. Henry B. Dexter personal journal, 1903-1907

Volume 5. Henry B. Dexter personal ledger, 1903-1907

Volume 6. Pawtucket Cardboard Company bill book, 1858-1864

Volume 7. Pawtucket Cardboard Company ledger A, 1858-1861

Volume 8. Ray Potter cardboard factory discharge book #1, 1854-1855

Volume 9. Ray Potter cardboard factory discharge book #2, 1856-1858

Volume 10. Ray Potter cardboard factory payroll, 1855-1858

Volume 11. Ray Potter cardboard factory invoice book, 1856-1857

            (includes one page of grocery wholesaler accounts, 1858)

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Central Machine Works

Central Petroleum Company (Penn.)

Children's clothing - Massachusetts - Boston

Clark, George H., 1828-1891

Clewley, Herbert R.

Cypress Lumber Company (Boston, Mass.)

Dexter & Cole

Diaries - 1845-1855

Diaries - 1883

Diaries - 1877-1918

Europe - Description and travel

Machinists - Rhode Island - Pawtucket

Paper industry - Rhode Island - Pawtucket

Pawtucket, R.I. - Social life and customs

Pawtucket Cardboard Company

Petroleum industry and trade - Pennsylvania

Pimbley & Dexter

Potter, John H.

Potter, Ray, 1795-1858

Rhode Island Cardboard Company (Pawtucket, R.I.)

Stearns, Albert H., 1844-

Stearns, Katie B. (Dexter), 1859-

Stearns Family

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