Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Wilson Ledger, 1794-1816

Finding aid created by
Kate Silbert and Meg Hixon, May 2012

Summary Information
Title: John Wilson ledger
Creator: Wilson, John
Inclusive dates: 1794-1816
Extent: 1 volume, with enclosures
Abstract:
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.
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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2670.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

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 Wilson Ledger, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged into the following series:

  • Series I: Ledger
  • Series II: Enclosures

Biography

John Wilson was a merchant operating in Lebanon, New Jersey, in the 1790s and early 1800s. The earliest accounts in the ledger show Wilson trading mostly in wine and spirits, but by around 1800, sales of household goods, fabric, and clothing appear more frequently. Additional entries suggest that Wilson engaged in land speculation and that his daughter, Margaret, married in 1809.


Collection Scope and Content Note

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.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • African Americans--New Jersey.
    • Alcohol.
    • Barter.
    • Bethlehem (N.J.)
    • Dry-goods.
    • Textile fabrics.
    • Hunterdon County (N.J.)
    • Kingwood (N.J. : Township)
    • Lebanon (N.J.)
    • Liquors.
    • Merchants--New Jersey.
    • New Jersey--Commerce.
    • New Jersey--Economic conditions.
    • New Jersey--History--1775-1865.
    Contributors:
    • Coxe, Theodosia.
    Genre Terms:
    • Contracts.
    • Ledgers (account books)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts.
    • Sketches.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    John Wilson ledger,  1794-1816 [series]
    Box   1  
    Enclosures [series]
     
    Correspondence and contracts
    Folder   1  
     26 April 1807-2 May 1814, and  undated (4 items)
     
    Receipts
    Folder   2  
     13 June 1799-September 1811 (11 items)
    Folder   3  
     1811-29 December 1816 (13 items)
    Folder   4  
     Undated (15 items)
    Folder   5  
     Undated (10 items)