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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 Providence Marine Society Records

 Mutual aid society, Providence, R.I.

 Records, 1798-1951

 Size: 1 foot

 Catalog number: MSS 647

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, September 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Providence Marine Society was founded in 1798 as a mutual aid society for sea captains. Its by-laws state that it was “established by commanders of vessels for their relief in distress, and for the relief of their widows and children.” Members were also strongly encouraged to attend funerals of their brethren. The Society continued holding meetings through 1933, but its aging dispersed membership and declining interest made gathering a quorum impossible until one final meeting in 1951 to formally disband the Society. At that time, its stocks and bonds were sold, and its records, memorabilia and ship models were given to the Rhode Island Historical Society.

            The Providence Marine Society was probably best known for founding the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery in 1801. This independent militia unit was chartered as part of the Rhode Island State Militia. See the “Guide to the Records of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery” for more information. In 1827, the Society helped found the Providence Marine Hospital.

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Scope and content:

            This is not a complete collection of the Providence Marine Society records. There are no minute books prior to 1886, few membership records, and nothing from the Relief Committee mentioned in the by-laws. The financial records are fairly comprehensive for the early years, however. Two folders of correspondence contain mostly routine correspondence from the twentieth century regarding ailing or deceased members. One earlier letter survives, dated 1828 and addressed to Providence treasurer John Howland regarding the Marine Hospital. A particularly interesting letter dated 1926 is from the daughter of deceased captain Richard M. Smith of Warwick, and discusses his final days. There are also a series of bills dated 1895 and 1896 from successful African-American caterer William H. Williams, who catered several Marine Society events.

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            The bulk of these records were placed at the Library by a vote taken at the final meeting of the Providence Marine Society in 1951. The minutes specified that the Library was to "keep and preserve same till called for by, or upon the order of, any officer or officers of the Providence Marine Society." As the Marine Society is defunct, this collection can be considered a gift. This 1951 accession also included the Society's seal, and the plate for creating membership forms, both of which may now be in the Museum Collection.

            The accession book lists the items included in this deposit, but does not mention the three ledgers dated 1798 to 1849, the three volumes of treasurer's accounts dated 1800-1899, or the lecture delivered by L. Earle Rowe. It can be assumed these items arrived in an unknown different accession. The two folders of paid bills and donation receipts, and the folder of miscellany dated 1898-1906, were donated in 2000 by Maj. Gen. Harold N. Read of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery.

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Processing note:

            These records were interfiled with the records of the Providence Marine Artillery Company until 1997, when they were separated out and reorganized.

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Box 1:

Annual meeting minutes, 1886-1951

Board of Trustees minutes, 1899-1933, 1951

Treasurer’s receipt book, 1849-1852

Ledger, 1823-1849

Oversized volumes:

Ledger, 1798-1812

Ledger 1812-1822

Box 2:

Treasurer’s accounts, 1800-1808

Treasurer’s accounts, 1807-1840

Treasurer’s accounts, 1841-1899

Folder 1. Member’s accounts ledger, 1908-1936

Folder 2. Active and honorary members (undated, circa 1900?)

Folder 3. Correspondence, 1828, 1926-1936

Folder 4. Correspondence, 1937-1951

Folder 5. “Material related to the Providence Marine Society and some of its members”, an undated lecture delivered to the Rhode Island Historical Society by L. Earle Rowe

Folder 6. Miscellaneous:

            2 stock certificates, presumably worthless, 1916 [see trustees minutes, 1951].

            Printed charter, by-laws and historical notes, 1892

            Printed list of members, undated, circa 1900.

Folder 7. Paid bills and donation receipts, 1824-1825

Folder 8. Paid bills and donation receipts, 1895-1897

Folder 9. Miscellaneous:

            Stock correspondence, 1904-1906

            Boston Marine Society resolution re breakwater at Sandy Bay, circa 1899

            Treasurer's reports, 1903-1904

            Programs, 1898 and undated

            Blank forms, undated

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Howland, John (1757-1854)

Providence Marine Corps of Artillery

Providence Marine Hospital

Rowe, L. Earle

Seamen - Rhode Island - Providence

Smith, Richard M.

Williams, William H. (1843-1902)

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