Levi Hollingsworth papers  1803-1841 (bulk 1812-1815)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Levi Hollingsworth papers (64 items) consist of business letters and documents addressed to flour producer James Thompson of Thompsontown, Pennsylvania, from prominent Philadelphia merchant Levi Hollingsworth. The collection consists of 56 letters, 5 financial documents, and 3 newspaper clippings, and relates largely to trade in grains (wheat, rye, flaxseed, superfine flour, etc.), whiskey, sugar, coffee, butter, bees wax, and other staples, during the War of 1812.

The Correspondence series (56 items) is comprised of business letters from Hollingsworth to James Thompson relaying political and economic news concerning the War of 1812. Hollingsworth wrote 48 letters to James Thompson, three to Robert Thompson, and two to William Thompson. The remaining three letters, dated 1803, 1824, and 1841, include two addressed to James Thompson and one from Thompson to his brothers William and Robert.

Hollingsworth frequently discussed the war's effects on flour and food commerce. Because of war-time embargos to Europe and the British blockades along the Atlantic seaboard, American grain producers could only sell to domestic markets (bakers and retailers). The result was a prolonged period of low flour prices that resulted in much unsold and spoiled grain. Throughout the collection, Hollingsworth critiques the American government (both the President and Congress) for starting and perpetuating the war with England. Letters also document the changing price of flour, as well as methods for preserving wheat stores.

Below is a list of highlights and quotes from the collection regarding Hollingsworth's viewpoints on politics and the effect of the war on commerce. All letters are from Hollingsworth to James Thompson, unless otherwise noted:

  • September 29, 1812: "Should Mr. Madison's party prevail at the ensuing election it is believed they will stop our exports to Spain & Portugal agreeably to the Bonapartian system of destroying commerce…"
  • October 9, 1812: Letter concerning Congress' influence over the price of grain and flour.
  • March 2, 1813: Letter discussing President Madison's pressure on Congress to pass laws prohibiting exports, even to neutral countries in Europe; news that the British ( led by Sir George Rockburn) will soon blockade the port of Philadelphia
  • March 16, 1813: Letter criticizing the war and discussing the blockade: "Mr. Madison you found no difficulty in making War & we think without a just or sufficient cause…We hope you have little flour on the way"
  • March 23, 1813: "The British fleet in our Bay capture all our vessels they can catch. No sale for flour for exportation nor can we expect it while the blockade lasts and the war continues. We advise you to keep your wheat & rye in ground…"
  • August 3, 1813: "All hope of an armistice or commerce soon opening again is now vanished. Congress adjourns on the 2nd--nothing toward peace can take place at this time."
  • November 26, 1813: "The New York purchasers decline buying lest Congress should lay an Embargo before they can get the flour to New Haven & all trade be stopped"
  • December 23, 1813: "The Embargo was laid the 17th all River Bay Craft are stopped from Flying to their respective landing by an Order from the Secretary of War…all vessels are stopped. The law is for twelve months."
  • December 31, 1813: "This rash foolish war will make the United States poor, but inrich the enemy"
  • January 11, 1814: "The Presidents message to congress informing of his acceptance of the proposition to negotiate for Peace at Gottenburg was received on Saturday…uncertainty keeps everything dull…we cannot expect to enjoy trade before July even supposing no difficulty occurs in the negotiations…"
  • February 25, 1814: "Canada, if conquered, will not be worth the expense, & the Floridas [will] be a source of contest for years to come. We, however, seem determined to 'loose the horse or win the saddle'."
  • April 8, 1814: "A Bill for the repeal of the Embargo is now before Congress and expected to pass"
  • April 15, 1815: Letter containing news that Congress repealed the embargo on April 13th
  • May 2, 1815: "The price and demand for flour was greatly improved by the news of Bonaparte having taken possession of the government of France without bloodshed…"
  • July 27, 1822: James Thompson to William and Robert Thompson, concerning the bleak outlook for prices of New York wheat and corn because of additional supply from Virginia and North Carolina.
  • April 7, 1841: [H. Walters] to James Thompson describing mourning for President William Henry Harrison

The Financial Documents and Newspaper Clippings series (8 items) contains five accounts for flour trade between William and John Thompson, and Levi Hollingsworth (1810-1811).

The series also includes the following three newspaper clippings:

  • December 4, 1826: Review of the Baltimore Market
  • [1838]: Poems "From the Violet," such as The Grave of Franklin and The Dying Patriot
  • Undated: Reprint of a letter from George Washington to Lafayette on his returning from the Presidency on February 1, 1784
Show all series level scope and content notes