Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Bright Shipping Account Books, 1757-1809

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff and Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: Bright Shipping account books
Creator: Bright, Henry, 1715-1777, Bright, Richard, and Bright, Lowbridge
Inclusive dates: 1757-1809
Bulk dates: 1757-1780
Extent: 4 volumes
This collection contains financial records related to the mercantile interests of Henry, Richard, and Lowbridge Bright, who owned several ships that made trading voyages between Bristol, England, and the Caribbean in the late 18th century. Accounts cover prizes taken by the Tryall during the Seven Years' War, as well as transatlantic trade between Bristol and several Caribbean islands, primarily Jamaica.
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:

1982. M-2013.

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:

Bright Shipping Account Books, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Henry Bright was born to a wealthy family in Worcestershire, England, on March 21, 1715, and at the age of 15 moved to Bristol, where he completed a business apprenticeship with Richard Meyler. In the late 1730s, he and Meyler started a shipping business, focusing on trade with the Caribbean; during this time, he lived in Jamaica while working as an agent for the firm. In 1746, he returned to Bristol temporarily and married Sarah Meyler (1720-1769), with whom he had one son, Richard. After a brief return to Jamaica between 1748 and 1751, he remained in Bristol, where he continued to be active in the mercantile and slave trades between Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. He earned additional profits from investing in privateers during the Seven Years' War. Upon his retirement in 1775, he placed his son Richard and nephew Lowbridge in charge of the family's mercantile interests, which continued successfully into the 19th century. He died on November 25, 1777.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains financial records related to the mercantile interests of Henry, Richard, and Lowbridge Bright, who owned several ships trading between Bristol, England, and the Caribbean in the late 18th century. Volume 1 (approximately 88 pages) consists of accounts related to six prizes captured by the Tryall under Captains George Burford and James McTaggart between 1757 and 1758, including wages paid to the ship's crew and money received as the prizes' goods went to auction; along with the seamen, investors Henry Bright and Richard Meyler also received a share of the profit. In addition to wage payouts, the book notes the cargo of the captured ships, and lists buyers and prices for the goods, which included foodstuffs, soap, oil, clothing, and a variety of other items. Expenses are also occasionally recorded, such as the cost of housing prisoners.

The captured ships were as follows:

  • La Bellona , captured from France on April 28, 1757
  • Cockermouth , re-captured from France on May 24, 1757
  • La Mutine , captured from France on June 17, 1757
  • Middenhoek , captured from the Netherlands on September 20, 1758
  • Juffron Maria , captured from the Denmark on October 1758
  • [Swimmer] , captured from the Netherlands on October 21, 1758

Records for the final three ships are brief and do not make note of receipts from auction sales of individual items.

Volume 2 (approximately 112 pages) contains invoices for goods shipped onboard several of the Brights' sailing ships between Bristol, Nevis, St. Vincent, Jamaica, and Ireland. The accounts, compiled between October 8, 1772, and May 4, 1775, cover the final years of Henry Bright's operations, and additional later records (May 25, 1780-May 1, 1789) reflect the financial affairs of his heirs, Lowbridge & Richard Bright. Most of the records are invoices that primarily pertain to shipments from Bristol to the Caribbean, and include the names of agents who would sell the goods locally. The Brights sent a variety of nonperishable goods across the Atlantic, frequently consisting of items made of iron and other manufactures not yet prevalent in the Americas. Along with nails, pans, and other necessary items were less traditional items such as rat traps and parrot cages. Another common cargo load was limestone. Though several westward trips included shipments of cheese, most of the foodstuffs handled by the firm originated in the Caribbean and were sent to Europe; later records indicate that the company sent shipments of sugar and rum to Cork and Dublin, Ireland. The later records, belonging to Lowbridge & Richard Bright, are more general, and most frequently include a summary of the total value of goods shipped rather than the detailed invoices.

Volume 3 (approximately 124 pages) contains financial records and documents for Lowbridge & Richard Bright and for Bush & Elton, including correspondence with their captains regarding assignments. Limestone and other general provisions appear most frequently in the book's detailed outgoing invoices, and sugar, rum, and other local spices and products from various Caribbean islands appear on invoices for return ships. Additional invoices detail wages paid to laborers prior to each voyage, and several contain lists of provisions taken onboard in addition to cargo. Many of the accounts relate to the firm Bright, Milward & Duncomb.

This volume holds records for the following ships:

  • Kingston Packett , Captain William Mattocks, March 23, 1775-January 30, 1778
  • Industry , Captains Thomas Powell, William Ball, James Henderson, and John Honeywell, December 9, 1780-June 26, 1787
  • Severn , Captain James Henderson, March 5, 1777

Volume 4 (approximately 43 pages) consists of records for the Union , owned by Lowbridge & Richard Bright and by Davis & Protheroe, covering May 15, 1778-January 1, 1809. In addition to correspondence containing Captain John Henderson's orders, the ship's owners provided a list of friendly agents at a number of ports, to use in case of an emergency on the way to Jamaica. This volume also records wages paid to various laborers and sailors, as well as invoices and lists of provisions. Though the accounts cover only two voyages, undertaken in 1778 and 1779, financial settlements continued until 1809.

Subject Terms

    • Bristol (England)--Commerce.
    • Caribbean Area--Commerce--Great Britain.
    • Great Britain--Commerce--Caribbean Area.
    • Great Britain--Commerce--Early works to 1800.
    • Merchants--England--Bristol.
    • Merchant ships.
    • Prizes (Property captured at sea)--Great Britain.
    • Seven Years' War, 1756-1763--Prizes, etc.
    • Shipping--Great Britain.
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Tryall prize accounts,  April 28, 1757-October 21, 1758
    Volume   2  
    Henry Bright and Lowbridge & Richard Bright accounts,  October 8, 1772-May 1, 1789
    Volume   3  
    Lowbridge & Richard Bright accounts,  March 23, 1775-June 26, 1787
    Volume   4  
    Union records,  May 15, 1778-January 1, 1809
    Additional Descriptive Data

    List of ships and captains covered in Volume 2

    • Nevis Planter , Henry Webb
    • Ruby , James Henderson
    • Pembroke , Philip Steevens
    • William , John Loraine
    • William and Mary , John Veysey
    • Pitt , William Gardner
    • Neptune , Henry Forrest
    • Kingston Packett , William Mattocks
    • Ann , Robert Hutchins
    • Mercury , William Seaton
    • Commerce , Nathaniel Wilson
    • Hanover Planter , William Harris
    • John , Benjamin Stokes
    • Milford , Richard Shaw
    • Bristol Packet , John Forristal
    • Rebecca , George Stott
    • Campbell , John Sutherland
    • Success , William Batt
    • Brittania , John Shaw
    • Juno , Samuel Williams
    • Bella , John Baker

    Morgan, Kenneth. "Bright, Henry (1715-1777)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2008.