John Holker papers  1770-1872
full text File Size: 25 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of the official and private correspondence of John Holker, merchant, speculator, and French consul general to the United States during the American Revolution. Included are 301 letters and 35 financial records. The documents from 1825 to 1872 concern Holker's third wife Nancy Davis Holker and her business with her husband's estate after his death.

The Correspondence series contains approximately 85 items relating to Holker's official consular duties and his efforts to supply the French fleet in American waters from 1778-1781. These items, which include both letters addressed to Holker in Philadelphia and copies of letters he wrote to France, offer information on the contracts and accounts of the French Royal Marines.

The bulk of the collection, however, concerns Holker's private business interests, primarily his partnership with Turnbull in supplying the Continental Army. Also notable are letters between Holker and his associate John Barclay, 1807-1816, that address national politics and foreign affairs as well as business interests such as the building of a distillery in Poughkeepsie, New York; his import business in Virginia; and land speculation in Illinois and Indiana. Other items document various lawsuits pertaining to Holker's business ventures, especially with Daniel Parker and William Duer. Many of the documents are in French, including all dated before 1779.

The papers from 1825 to 1872 concern Nancy Davis Holker and relate to the management of Holker's Virginia farm after his death and to the settlement of his estate. One "Article of Agreement" from March 1, 1832, details the renting out of the Springbury estate for agricultural use. The lease includes the farm, tools, buildings, and at least 13 slaves (all named). The document specified that at the end of a 3-year lease all of the property had to be returned, including the slaves who should be "clothed in the manner that the custom of the country requires[.] hired slaves to be returned clothed." This portion of the collection also contains 13 personal letters to Nancy from her daughter Anna Maria Adelaide which discuss family and personal matters. One particularly interesting letter from Anna Maria Adelaide contains a defense of slavery in the South (February 1, 1839). She argued that her father bought and sold slaves and suggested that her mother was only uncomfortable with the practice because she disliked Anna's husband, Hugh Nelson. "[G]et over this prejudice and not allow those around you to influence you." While she acknowledged that slavery was a regrettable practice, to her it seemed "impossible to live above the world."

The Documents and Financial Records series (35 items) consists of two Revolutionary war era receipts for flour and beef, and later receipts from farmers, merchants, and baker's (with many items from Peter Royston) for food stuffs, cloth, and other goods (1812-1822). Of note are two receipts for slaves (1818). Later items include Nancy Holker's annual food and supply receipts from 1848 and 1857.

Show all series level scope and content notes