The James A. Whipple papers contain correspondence, documents, and drawings related to Whipple's career as an engineer during the mid-19th century. Whipple's interests in submarines and naval engineering are documented throughout the collection, which includes correspondence, documents, drawings, and patents.
The Correspondence series contains incoming items to Whipple. Most pertain to business affairs and to Whipple's family and acquaintances. Letters often pertain to submarines, Whipple's salvage business, and Whipple's trips abroad. A few items originally belonged to George L. P. Taylor, a United States consular agent.
The Financial Records series consists of receipts, accounts, and other documents concerning Whipple's business dealings, which reflect his interest in submarines and naval affairs. Many documents relate to his schooner Arcade . The series includes a pocket diary of financial notes and figures for 1855.
The Documents series contains a variety of items related to Whipple's business affairs, personal life, and interests in submarines and naval engineering.
- An explanation of an illustration (not present) showing improvements in submarine armor (March 2, 1848)
- A document from the council of Charleston, South Carolina, thanking Whipple and his associates for salvaging a statue of John C. Calhoun (November 19, 1850)
- A passport from the Republic of Venezuela (13 December 1852)
- Documents authorizing several journeys of James A. Whipple and his associates
- A receipt from the United States Patent Office for Whipple's application for "pumps for forcing water" (January 18, 1854)
- "Result of experiments on dissolving Scale in Boilers made at Beyrout" (March 31, 1855)
- A patent application for a submarine trumpet, made jointly by William H. James and James A. Whipple (April 30, 1855)
- "Report on the efficiency of the [submarine] armour for the U. S. Navy"
- Documents regarding "Whipple's patent double acting momentum pump," including advertisements, diagrams, and Whipple's patent application (October 21, 1859)
- Diagrams for a "process for driving Piles Posts or Timbers in Earth or other yielding Material" (May 25, 1859)
- 22 contracts made between James A. Whipple and other parties
- Several drawings of mid-19th-century underwater diving suits
- James A. Whipple's United States passport (May 30, 1849)
Two Journals include an "Extract from the Journal of J[eremiah] Murphy whilst working in the Liberty Banks" (April 21-May 24, ) and a journal kept by William A. Dodge, J. R. Wheeler, and James A. Whipple during their time salvaging wrecks off Santo Domingo.
The Essays series contains 2 unattributed items: "Sub Marine Work" and "My Brother Capt. James A. Whipple…"
The Drawings and Sketches series has schematic figures for various inventions, such as a device consisting of a large wheel powered by a horse and a device for making cigars. Several other drawings show views of unlabeled inventions.
Printed Material includes 8 Newspaper Clippings and 6 Other Printed Materials. Newspapers include a full issue of Boston's Evening Gazette (July 2, 1859), as well as several short articles regarding trials for steam-driven fire engines. Other items include Whipple's business card, a "Circular of James A. Whipple. Submarine Engineer, Boston, Mass" (1857), printed descriptions of naval-related inventions, and printed drawings of mechanical inventions.