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

 John Banister Account Books

 Merchant, of Newport, R.I.

 Papers, 1742-1762. Bulk, 1746-1753.

 Size: 1.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 919

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, May 2001

 USE MICROFILM    HF5686 P25 A17 NEG (volume 3 only,

 Daybook of Robert Jenkins Jr., May 29 1747 to January 5 1753)

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            John Banister (1707-1767) was the oldest surviving child of Boston merchant Thomas Banister (c1683-1716). By 1728, he joined the mercantile partnership of Minot & Banister in Boston. Circa 1736, he left this firm and moved to Newport, R.I. There in 1737 he married Hermoine Pelham (1718-1765), a granddaughter of Gov. Benedict Arnold. They had three children: Pelham (1739-), John (1744/5-1807), and Thomas.

            Banister quickly established himself as a leading Newport merchant, trading with England, the West Indies (particularly the Bay of Honduras) and elsewhere. He also engaged in privateering and the slave trade. In 1752, he held one of the last public slave auctions in Rhode Island at his store, describing them in advertisements as "the finest cargo of slaves ever brought into New England (see Coughtry). Toward the end of his life, he moved to Middletown, R.I., where he died in 1767.


Appleton, William S. Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978 (Jenkins).

Baker, Darius. "The Newport Banisters," in Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society 43 (January 1923), 1-20.

Coughtry, Jay. Notorious Triangle, 169. Philadelphia: Temple University, 1981.

Index of Obituaries in Boston Newspapers, 1704-1795. Boston: Hall & Co., 1968 (Jenkins).

Moriarty, G. Andrews. "The Will of John Banister of Newport, R.I.," in Gary Boyd Roberts, ed., Genealogies of Rhode Island Families from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1:16. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Inc., 1989

Return to top

Scope and content:

            The core of this collection is Banister's ledger from 1746 to 1750, which provides a detailed look at his diverse business dealings. In terms of sheer physical bulk, it is perhaps the largest volume in the Historical Society's collection. His daybook covers the same period and complements the ledger, although the page numbers do not cross-reference because of the absence of the corresponding journal.

            Both volumes include some documentation of Banister's dealings in slaves. No explicit reference was found to an entire shipload of slaves being imported from Africa, although ships named the Affrican and the Angola suggest that Banister was interested in the cross-Atlantic slave trade. However, Banister sometimes purchased one or two slaves at a time in the West Indies and sold them in New England. The master key to these entries is the "Account of Negroes" on ledger page 331. The following appear to be all of the relevant entries in the daybook, which gives more details:


Page   Date               Transaction  

479      Aug 9 1747    Purchase of "Negro boy named Fortune" from owners of the schooner Success, who had purchased him in Surinam. Purchased for £300.


493      Sept 25 1747  Sale of "Negro boy named Fortune" in Connecticut by Samuel Aborn. Sold for £350, including £10 commission paid to Aborn.


512      Dec 15 1747   Purchase of "a Negro man named Cesar" from Capt. Charles Bardin, £340.


516      Jan 24 1749/0Purchase of "2 Negro men" in the Bay of Honduras via Capt. William Warner of the brigantine Abigail for £400.

Banister also detailed the expenses he incurred in maintaining his personal slaves, and the profits he gained from loaning out their labor, in an account entitled "Expence on Negroes" (ledger page 264). The details can again be found in the daybook:


Page   Date               Transaction

20        Jan 13 1746/7Purchase of stockings, breeches and two jackets

21        Jan 22 1746/7Purchase of one cap

111      June 23 1747  Revenue from labor of slaves on outfitting the snow Swan: six days by "Negro Tony" and three days by "Negro Mingo."

157      Sep 22 1747   Revenue from three days of labor of "Negro Anthony" on outfitting of settee Eagle.

374      Dec 31 1748   Revenue from five days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of snow American.

387      Jan 23 1748/9Revenue from six days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of ship African.

472      July 24 1749   Revenue from two days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of brigantine Hannah.

474      July 29 1749   Purchase of "cloathing" for "negroes," £65.

475      Aug 7 1749    Revenue from eight days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of sloop Little Jack.

485      Aug 23 1749  Revenue from one day of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of snow William.

499      Oct 10 1749   Purchase of "4 ½ yds Blue Bayes for Tonys jacket."

527      Feb 22 49/50 Revenue from twenty days of labor by ""Negro Anthony" on outfitting of ship Honduras Galley, including "sett'g masts, clearing out chips and paying the sides."

528      Feb 28 49/50 Purchase of pair of breeches and stockings for Cato.

            Other Banister ledger accounts with prominent Newporters which may be of interest include Moses Lopez (page 28), "son John Banister" (41), Godfrey Malbone (115), Richard Ward (136), Matthew Robinson (146), Joseph Whipple (153), Thomas Hazard (158), and Robert Jenkins (303). There are also general accounts for "Cannon and warlike stores" (235), an "Account of foreign wood" (245), "household furniture" (318), and rum (321). The daybook shows purchases of desks from famous furniture-makers Christopher Townsend (page 270) and John Goddard (288).

            The collection also includes a daybook of Newport merchant Robert Jenkins Jr. (?1725-1766), whose relationship to Banister is unclear. The volume covers much of the same period, with a similar variety of transactions. Jenkins was born in Boston to Robert Jenkins Sr. and became a merchant there, and moved to Newport in 1748. His death in Newport was reported in the Boston News Letter on May 27, 1766. Perhaps the most unusual entry in this otherwise normal daybook is a tirade against high Newport taxes that appears among the June 6 1751 accounts.

            Rounding out the collection are five loose documents relating to Banister, including two legal cases, a deed, a ship registration, and a receipt.

            The library also has three letters addressed to Banister's son (also named John Banister), dated 1791-1796 and filed in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection.

            Baker's article, cited above, suggests that the Newport Historical Society has a substantial collection of Bannister's correspondence and account books that may compliment the volumes described here.

Return to top


            The provenance of these records is unknown. The Jenkins daybook has a different book tag than the Banister daybook, while the ledger has no tags at all. The three volumes may have arrived at separate times. All three volumes seem to have been first cataloged in the 1950s or 1960s.

            The loose papers were found scattered in various collections as of 2001, except for the Manesty letter and the Joseph Whipple account, both of which were found inserted in the ledger. The only item with known provenance is the Matthew Robinson assault complaint, which was purchased as part of the large miscellaneous Shepley Collection in 1938.

Return to top

Processing note:

Return to top


Volume 1. Daybook ("Wast Book B"), December 1 1746 to February 27 1749/50

This volume records Banister's financial dealings in detail, chronologically. By standard accounting practice, each entry was probably broken down into debits and credits in a separate volume called a journal. As each entry was copied into the journal, a large "X" was written to the left of the transaction.

Volume 2. "Ledger B," August 1746 to January 1749/50. A few entries through 1757.

This ledger records the same financial transactions as the daybook, but is arranged by individual or account. It is not arranged chronologically or alphabetically, and there is no index. Each account has a list of debits on the left side of the page, and credits on the opposite side. Each entry in these ledger accounts will have five pieces of information, from left to right:

1) The date. These volumes use the pre-Gregorian system, in which the new year began on March 25.

2) The journal page. This would lead back to the entry in the journal that would explain how the account was allocated. The journal is unfortunately not available. However, the transaction should appear in chronological order in the daybook.

3) A short description of the nature of the transaction. More detail can be found in the daybook.

4) The page of the balancing ledger entry. Under standard accounting, each sum must be entered somewhere as both a debit and a credit. This page number will lead to a related entry in the same volume.

5) Amount. Listed in pounds, shillings and pence.

Many long-running accounts were brought over from "Ledger A" (not available) or carried over to "Ledger C" (also not available). Some accounts which outgrew their space on the page are carried over to another "Folio," which simply refers to a page number within the same ledger. The ledger also includes many cash transactions, which are listed only by month with no exact date. These were never recorded in the daybook, and were presumably entered in a separate volume.

Volume 3. Daybook of Robert Jenkins Jr., May 29 1747 to January 5 1753


This volume was known as the Robert Jenkins account book when it was microfilmed in 1964. In the 1970s, it was re-cataloged as a John Banister account book. Internal evidence strongly suggests that the first guess was correct. None of the entries match up with Banister's daybook or ledger, although they cover the same time period. This volume has a September 30 1749 transaction for £1085-4 with "John Banister, Dr." (debit), to be paid in three months. Banister's daybook has a transaction for £1085-4 on the same date, but for "sundry accts dr. to Robert Jenkins Jr."

Folder 1. Miscellaneous:

            Receipt from John Clarke for money due from Edward Pelham estate, April 6 1742

            Ownership certificate of ship Three Sisters, March 25 1743

            Copy of letter from J. Manesty to William Handley re Banister account, July 3 1747

            Complaint of Matthew Robinson against Banister for assault and battery, 1750

            Account with Joseph Whipple, 1739-1753.

            Legal case file, John Bannister vs. John Brown of Newport, 1762-1765. 104 pages.

Triple-oversized folder. Deed, Joseph Whipple to Banister for Middletown land, June 10 1754

            (copy can be found in the regular folder).

Return to top


African-Americans - Rhode Island - Newport

x Bannister, John

Brown, John (1696-1764) (of Newport)

x Cannons

Clarke, John

Furniture, Early American - Rhode Island - Newport

Goddard, John

Hazard, Thomas

Jenkins, Robert (1725-1766)

Lopez, Moses

Malbone, Godfrey (1695-1768)

Manesty, Joseph

Massachusetts - Commerce

Merchants - Rhode Island - Newport

Newport, R.I. - Commerce

Ordnance - Manufacture - Rhode Island

Pelham, Edward

Robinson, Matthew

Rum industry - Rhode Island - Newport

Slave trade - Rhode Island - Newport

Taxation - Public opinion - Rhode Island

Three Sisters (ship)

Townsend, Christopher

Ward, Richard (1689-1763)

West Indies - Commerce

Whipple, Joseph

End of finding aid - return to top