Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John A. Winston and Company Papers, 1846-1871

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: John A. Winston and Company papers
Creator: John A. Winston and Company
Inclusive dates: 1846-1871
Bulk dates: 1852-1854
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
The John A. Winston and Company papers consist of incoming business correspondence pertaining to Winston's cotton-growing operation in Alabama.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1977. M-1763, M-1767, M-1779.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John A. Winston and Company Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


John Anthony Winston was born on September 4, 1812, in what is now Alabama. After attending college at La Grange College and Cumberland College, Winston began a cotton farm in Sumner County, Alabama. After the 1842 death of his first wife, Mary Agnes Walker, Winston married Mary Longwood. The marriage, however, was a troubled one, and Winston shot and killed Mary's lover in 1847. Winston escaped punishment on claims of self defense, but his marriage never healed and the couple divorced in 1850. Winston's business affairs were far more successful, however, and in 1844 he founded John A. Winston and Company, a cotton trading business; Winston eventually owned extensive property throughout the South, farmed by slave labor. With financial success, Winston enjoyed a long political career in Alabama. Winston, a Jacksonian Democrat, was elected to the Alabama State House of Representatives in 1840, to the Alabama State Senate in 1843, and to the governorship of Alabama in 1853. Though he was unable to secure a United States Senate seat after the expiration of his governorship in 1857, Winston remained active in state and local politics, most notably as a participant in the 1860 Democratic National Convention. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Winston joined the 8th Alabama Infantry as a colonel, though he resigned in 1862. His political career not yet over, Winston participated in the Alabama constitutional convention in 1865 and was finally elected to the Senate, though Congress denied him this office because of his previous support of the Confederacy. Winston died on December 21, 1871.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John A. Winston and Company papers consist of incoming business correspondence pertaining to Winston's cotton-growing operation in Alabama. Letters were written to John A. Winston and Company in both Mobile, Alabama, and Gainesville, Alabama, and primarily concerned the trade of cotton. Correspondents in the collection represented a number of different business interests throughout the South, and often requested payment for or shipment of the raw materials. Occasionally, the clients discussed the success or failure of a certain crop, and asked for reasonable adjustments to be made to the financial agreements. The company's correspondents represented a number of business interests throughout the South, mainly in Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana. In 1854, S. O. Nelson & Co. and Rich[ard] Reynolds wrote five letters, on unused printed leaves of the New Orleans Price-Current. Commercial Intellingencer and Merchants' Transcript. This publication listed the amount of goods shipped to international and domestic ports, wholesale prices in New Orleans, and current rates of exchange for specie. Also, each copy included an additional prose-based newsletter printed on the reverse side of the financial charts.

The letters contain a few topics not related to the cotton business. Of note is a letter from J. Binns, written on April 13, 1852, wherein Binns reported, "The Negro Boy Sam I succee'd [sic] in getting on Tuesday morning- he believes that I own Him & is satisfied I have put him to work at Mr. Littles, untill [sic] I come down- at which time I will bring him as requested- should he get intimation of the Hoax played on him I assure you that you will be troubled to get him again. Sam is a shrewd rascal & has white friends." The collection also contains two post-Civil War items: a brief business note from G. Watson & Co. and a bill of lading for bales of cotton shipped aboard the Lotus on February 2, 1871.

Subject Terms

    • Cotton farmers.
    • Cotton growing--Southern States.
    • Cotton trade--United States.
    • Lotus (ship)
    • Mobile (Ala.)--History.
    • Slaves--United States.
    • Southern States--Economic conditions.
    • Winston, John Anthony, 1812-1871.
    Genre Terms:
    • Bills of lading.
    • Letters (correspondence.
    • Newspapers.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    John A. Winston and Company papers [series]
    Box   1 Folder   1
     May 13, 1846-January 1, 1852
    Box   1 Folder   2
     January 7, 1852-March 16, 1852
    Box   1 Folder   3
     March 26, 1852-July 1, 1852
    Box   1 Folder   4
     August 11, 1852-October 25, 1853
    Box   1 Folder   5
     November 14, 1853-Janary 4, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   6
     January 6, 1854-January 30, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   7
     February 1, 1854-February 20, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   8
     February 23, 1854-March 7, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   9
     March [11], 1854-April 19, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   10
     April 27, 1854-June 5, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   11
     June 6, 1854-July 9, 1854
    Box   1 Folder   12
     July 11, 1854-February 2, 1871
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Philena Kendall papers contain a letter mentioning Kendall's acquaintance with Winston.

    The Duke University Special Collections Library holds a collection of John A. Winston and Company letters

    The Alabama Department of Archives and History holds many records related to John A. Winston, including his official papers.


    Owen, Thomas McAdory. "Winston, John Anthony." History and Dictionary of Alabama Biography . Vol. 4. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921.

    Williams, Patrick G. "Winston, John Anthony." American National Biography Online. 2000.