The Samson Adams papers are comprised of over one hundred items that offer a rare glimpse into the economic and personal life of a free African-American resident of the mid-Atlantic states during the last quarter of the 18th century. The collection is divided into two series, the first consisting mainly of materials dating between 1780 and 1792, with a few earlier items, and the second containing all materials specifically related to the settlement of Adams' estate. The first series is arranged chronologically, but the second is arranged with the intention of representing the progression of the estate settlement, in an attempt to reconstitute the order placed on the materials by the executors.
The first series of Adams' papers (folders 1-36) contains bills and receipts issued by and to Adams for items ranging from milk and soap to building materials. Also included in this series are a work pass for his sister, Violet, and two important and highly unusual subscription letters seeking assistance for Adams in completing the building of his house. The second series (folders 37-108) includes Adams' will, an inventory and a complete breakdown of the distribution of his estate, bills submitted to the estate with numbered receipts showing their payment, and numerous other estate-related items. This series appears to contain nearly complete documentation of the progress of the estate, and the inventories, evaluations, and itemized list of the distribution of the estate offer an extremely detailed portrait of Adams' financial holdings and personal and business relationships