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

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Samuel Dunster Records

 Pattern-maker and textile manufacturer of Rhode Island and N.H.

 Records, 1830-1859

 Size: 1 linear foot

 Catalog number: MSS 393

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, July 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Samuel Dunster was born in Mason, N.H. in 1803. He was the son of Jason and Mary (Meriam) Dunster. His father was a Revolutionary War veteran who farmed and operated a saw and grist mill. Samuel attended small district school for four months a year through age 16, and then spent six weeks at the Appleton Academy. From 1819 to 1821, he worked on his father's farm and taught school in the winters. He briefly worked as a house carpenter, and then apprenticed as a machinist.

            In 1826, Dunster settled in Dover, N.H. and became a skilled calico pattern maker at the Cocheco Manufacturing Company. In 1832, he became a partner in a textile print factory near Philadelphia, then sold out in 1834 and formed the Franklin Manufacturing Company in Springvale, Maine. After the collapse of this firm in 1838, Dunster farmed briefly in Durham, N.H., and then moved to Providence as a machine printer for Phillip Allen. From 1842 to 1848 he superintended Clay's Print Works in Coventry and Johnston, R.I., and then returned to work for Philip Allen from 1848 to 1852. From 1852 to 1859, he served as assistant manager of the Cocheco Print Works, and then briefly served as a cloth agent in Rhode Island.

            Dunster retired to a farm in Attleboro, Massachusetts circa 1863. There he became an avid genealogist, and published a history of the Dunster family in 1876. His date of death is unknown; he is not listed in the Attleboro death index through 1904.

            In 1828, Dunster married Susan P. Low (b.1806). They had five children, as follows:

1) Mary S. Dunster (1830-1832).

2) Mary S. Dunster (1833-), m. Joseph E. Smith. Two children, both died young.

3) Edward S. Dunster (1834-1888). Physician. Had four children. Of New York and Michigan.

4) Caleb E. Dunster (1836-1836).

5) Eliza E. Dunster (1838-1873), m. William T. Baker. Six children. Of Chicago.


Dunster, Samuel. Henry Dunster and His Descendants, 258-267, 312-327. Central Falls, R.I.: E.L. Freeman & Co., 1876.

1850 U.S. Census, Providence Ward 1, page 5.

Return to top

Scope and content:

            This collection consists entirely of eleven sample books compiled by Dunster between 1830 and 1859. The books contain swatches of printed cloth, accompanying notes and recipes on dyes, and related memorandum on machinery and mechanical processes used by Dunster in his work. These books have been used extensively by textile historians.

Return to top


            The provenance of this collection is unknown. Judging by the catalog tags, it was donated no later than 1965. The medical lectures of Dunster's son, Dr. Edward S. Dunster, are available at the University of Michigan.

Return to top

Processing note:

Return to top


Box 1.

            Volume 1. 1830, Dover, N.H.

            Volume 2. 1832, Lagrange, Penn.

            Volume 3. 1832, Lagrange, Penn., and 1843, Coventry, R.I.

            Volume 4. 1844, Johnston, R.I.

            Volume 5. 1846, Johnston, R.I.

            Volume 6. 1846, Johnston, R.I.


Box 2.

            Volume 7. 1847-1848, Johnston, R.I. No text, only samples.

            Volume 8. 1848-1852, Providence, R.I.

            Volume 9. 1852, Dover, N.H.

            Volume 10. 1855, Dover, N.H.

            Volume 11. 1858-1859, Dover, N.H.

Return to top


Allen Print Works (Providence, R.I.)

Clay's Print Works (Johnston, R.I.)

Coventry, R.I. - Commerce


Johnston, R.I. - Commerce

New Hampshire - Commerce

Pennsylvania - Commerce

Providence, R.I. - Commerce

Textile fabrics - Sample books

Textile printing - Rhode Island

End of finding aid - return to top