The William Gibbons papers are comprised of 264 items, dated from June 16, 1804, to March 3, 1857, but most were written between February 21, 1828, and September 14, 1845. The collection contains 172 letters, two documents, and 90 receipts. Of the correspondence, 84 letters are from William Dunham to William Gibbons, 12 are from William Trotter Porter to William Gibbons, and 20 are from Hannah Wheelwright to her uncle, William Gibbons, nine which regard legal matters with the Ogden family. Forty-seven letters are from other correspondents, primarily to William Gibbons and Thomas Gibbons.
William Dunham's letters consist exclusively of matters pertaining to the operation of a plantation in Georgia. His letters include detailed information about crop yields, management, slave labor, and the treatment of slaves. Notable topics represented in the Dunham letters include financial details about the purchase of goods and the sale of crops Rice, potatoes, cotton, and corn; specifics regarding Gibbons' slaves, such as finances pertaining to their sustenance e.g. October 1832, November 1832; the death of slaves from illness e.g. June 22, 1829 and September 15, 1834; and the marriage prospects for slaves September 14, 1832. Dunham also writes about the purchase and sale of cattle and sheep. Of note are a description of the branding of a murderer apparently a man known to both Dunham and Gibbons, May 3 and 24, 1830, a reference to the Nat Turner rebellion letter dated September 22, 1831, a mention of a local woman assaulting a "negro" July 18, 1832, and several letters regarding an outbreak of cholera at Gibbons' and nearby plantations September 1 to September 22, 1834. .
William Porter was the editor of the newspaper The Spirit of the Times, and the letters written by him primarily concern financial matters that is, asking William Gibbons for monetary support. In addition to his financial affairs, Porter writes about speculating on horseracing. The nine E.B.D. Ogden letters regard the purchase of land at Elizabeth Town Point, New York. Two notable items in the Ogden letters are letters from E. van Ansdall regarding the judgment in Aaron Ogden vs. Thomas Gibbons September 22, 1835, and regarding the Elizabeth Town Point land purchase, including limitations on the use of the river for steamboat operation November 13, 1833.
The letters written to Thomas Gibbons pertain to plantation affairs and the shipment of goods mostly casks of rice. One letter of particular interest was written by Adam Newall for the Crawford Davison Co. from Liverpool regarding the trade of cotton between the United States and Great Britain November 28, 1812.
The 90 receipts are from various businesses including the Union Line, the New Jersey Hotel, and various grocers and merchants. Two of the prominent sellers were J.D. Wyckoff and A.H. Osborn. The receipts were for the purchase of groceries, hay, and household goods, and services such as furniture repair, work done on Gibbons' house, and other labor. Most of the wares/services are paid for by William Gibbons, Jedediah Dayman, John Baldwin, Daniel McCalley, Henry Signer, and Cornelius Vanderbilt Oct. 20, 1827. Each of the various buyers named on the receipts made their purchases on behalf of William Gibbons. Four of the receipts regard purchases made for the Steam Boat Thistle and the Steam Boat Bellona Laundry, August 31, 1821; Oysters, August 1823 and March 2, 1825; and Lobsters, August 2, 1828.
Five miscellaneous letters include three letters from Gibbons' son, William H., a letter from William Gale and a letter from C.J. Luster. The two documents regard financial matters and the hiring of a female servant, named Margaret Glen. The receipts are all for the purchase of various goods.