Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Henry Carey Letter Book, 1815-1835

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

Summary Information
Title: Henry Carey letter book
Creator: Carey, Mathew, 1760-1839
Inclusive dates: 1815-1835
Bulk dates: 1830-1835
Extent: 1 volume
The Henry Carey letter book contains approximately 130 letters that Carey wrote to his father, Mathew Carey, about the family's finances following Mathew's retirement from his publishing firm. The letters primarily concern a dispute over Mathew's expenses, and their effects on the firm's profits.
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:

1946. M-627.

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:

Henry Carey Letter Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Henry Charles Carey was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1793. His father, Mathew Carey, owned the prominent publishing house Carey & Lea, and Henry joined him there in 1802 as a partner with his brother-in-law, Isaac Lea. Following his father's retirement in 1822, he inherited the company, which as Carey, Lea & Carey became the country's largest publishing house. After leaving the book business, Henry Carey emerged as a political writer who frequently commented on economic affairs; his major works were Principles of Political Economy and Principles of Social Science. He and his wife had no children, and he died on October 13, 1879.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Henry Carey letter book contains approximately 130 letters (536 pages) that Carey wrote to his father, Mathew Carey, about finances. Many letters pertain to the financial effects of Mathew Carey's retirement from his publishing firm. The volume consists of loose letters, many accompanied by their original coversheets, which were bound together at a later date.

After Henry Carey and his brother-in-law, Isaac Lea, took over the publishing firm, they and Mathew Carey drafted a contract specifying Mathew's proceeds from the sale of his firm to his son, though his cost of living quickly exceeded his annual allowance and led to a dispute over the amount of money he should receive. The first few pages of letters mainly document Mathew's financial affairs during the 1820s, with a few items dated as early as 1815. Most of the remaining correspondence dates between 1830 and 1835, as Mathew and Henry Carey attempted to reconcile their monetary differences. Henry's formal letters to this father focus on financial affairs, such as the costs of running a household ([March 16, 1830]). In 1835, the matter was handed to Philadelphia lawyer Horace Binney, who successfully arbitrated a satisfactory resolution.

Subject Terms

    • Budgets, Personal.
    • Business enterprises--Finance.
    • Carey & Lea.
    • Carey, Lea & Carey.
    • Family-owned business enterprises.
    • Fathers and sons.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--History--19th century.
    • Publishers and publishing--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
    • Carey, Henry Charles, 1793-1879.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letter books.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Henry Carey letter book,  1815-1835 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Single Items collection has a letter from M. Weems to Henry Charles Carey, dated March 2, 1824.

    The Binney family papers contain material related to Horace Binney, who later arbitrated the Careys' financial dispute.


    Kaser, David. "The Retirement Income of Mathew Carey." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 58.4 (October 1956).

    Nepa, Francesco L. "Carey, Henry Charles." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press: 2000.