The James Wilson ledger is a volume of approximately 660 pages, made up of accounts for individuals and corporations, mostly in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, between 1794 and 1816. The collection also includes about 50 small items, mostly receipts relating to Wilson's business, that were originally enclosed in the ledger.
Wilson divided the ledger into three sections, for which he hand-numbered the pages. In the third section, beginning around 1802, he not only listed the names of his customers, but also frequently recorded their residences or occupations. Women tended to be identified as "daughter of," "wife of," or "widow of" a male relative.
Wilson's customers occupied a spectrum of social statuses. Many of the patrons were listed as farmers or artisans, but the ledger also includes accounts for professionals and gentleman as well as newly freed African Americans, household servants, and apprentices. Most of these customers seemed to reside in the towns of Lebanon, Bethlehem, and Kingwood, in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, but Wilson also traded with merchants from Trenton and Philadelphia.
In the earliest entries, dating from 1794, Wilson seems to have traded mostly in wines and spirits, including whisky, spruce beer, port, sherry, rum, cider, and claret. Most of his early customers paid in cash or "bottles returned." Further in the ledger, Wilson's sales broaden to include household goods (chiefly tea, coffee, and sugar), fabric, and clothing. In return, he received services and goods, as well as cash.
This collection also consists of approximately 50 small items, mostly receipts, at one time enclosed in the ledger. Items of note include 2 contracts, dated 1807, for schoolmaster James Hill, an undated note addressed to "Mrs. Wilson" from Theodosia Coxe about household goods, and some basic sketches in the front and end papers of the ledger. An index of the approximately 100 accounts listed under women's names may be found in the control file.