Allaire-Gibbons papers (1822-1963, bulk 1822-1856)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Erin Platte and Meg Hixon, October 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Allaire-Gibbons papers
Creator: Allaire, James Peter, 1785-1858 and Gibbons, William, 1794-1852
Inclusive dates: 1822-1963
Bulk dates: 1822-1856
Extent: 28 items
The Allaire-Gibbons papers contain letters, receipts, and other material related to the early steamboat industry and, more specifically, to the 19th-century business affairs of James P. Allaire, Thomas Gibbons, and William Gibbons.
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

2001. M-4162.1.

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

Allaire-Gibbons papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection has been arranged into the following series:
  • Correspondence
  • Documents

Each series is arranged chronologically.


James Peter Allaire was born in 1785, and began his working career as a brass founder in New York City around 1813. In 1815, Allaire founded the Allaire Works, the first steam engine factory in New York, and in 1831 founded the Howell Works. He proved to be a successful engineer, and also owned several steamship lines. Among his other accomplishments are his production of the first marine compound engine and the design of New York City's first tenement building. Allaire had two wives: Frances Roe and Calicia Tompkins. Allaire died on May 20, 1858.

Thomas Gibbons was born in Savannah, Georgia, on December 15, 1757. Though many of his family members supported the American Revolution, Gibbons remained a Loyalist during the conflict and was imprisoned until 1787 for his wartime sympathies. Despite his imprisonment, he became a prominent citizen after his release. He won a seat on the Georgia State Assembly, assisted in the drafting of Georgia's 1789 state constitution, and served several terms as mayor of Savannah. In 1811, Gibbons moved to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, where he continued to pursue his business interests. In 1817, he formed a steamboat company in partnership with Aaron Ogden. The partnership proved a strained one, and an 1819 suit made by Ogden against Gibbons went to the United States Supreme Court; the ruling dissolved the Livingston-Fulton steamboat monopoly on the east coast and had lasting implications for the interpretation of the Untied States Constitution's interstate commerce clause. Gibbons died in New York City on May 16, 1826. His son, William Gibbons (b. 1794), inherited his father's money and property, and continued to manage his father's steamboat business until 1829. William Gibbons died on December 10, 1852, in New Jersey.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Allaire-Gibbons papers contain letters, receipts, and other material related to the early steamboat industry and, more specifically, to the 19th-century business affairs of James P. Allaire, Thomas Gibbons, and William Gibbons.

The Correspondence series (16 items) consists primarily of business correspondence addressed to Thomas Gibbons, William Gibbons, and James P. Allaire. The earlier material in the series (1822-1837) is related to the Gibbons family's business affairs and often pertains to the legal disputes between Thomas Gibbons and Aaron Ogden. These include several letters from William Gibbons to his father, in which he discusses the impending court case as well as his own personal affairs. The majority of the series consists of later material (1837-1849) related to James P. Allaire's business interests, including the manufacture of steamboat engines. Interspersed with these items are receipts for parts related to Allaire's industrial operations.

The Documents series (12 items) contains receipts related to steamboats owned by James P. Allaire as well as 20th-century material about the early steamboat industry and the town of Allaire, New Jersey. The series includes 5 receipts for steamboat supplies (1828; 1856), including material for the Swan , the Thistle , and the Emerald , all Gibbons-owned ships whose engines were supplied by Allaire. The series also includes a document signed by the crew of the Swan affirming the receipt of their wages for April 1828. Later material in the collection includes two postcards of watercolor pictures of Allaire, New Jersey, and two articles, from the Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (January 1949) and American Heritage (October 1963), respectively. These relate to the early steamboat business, and to the role of Thomas Gibbons in its development.

Subject Terms

  • Ogden, Aaron, 1756-1839.
  • Steamboats--History.
  • United States--History--1815-1861.
Subjects - Visual Materials:
  • Allaire State Park (N.J.)
  • Gibbons, Thomas, 1757-1826.
Genre Terms:
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Maps.
  • Postcards.
  • Receipts (financial records)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   10, Small Collections Folders   18-20
Allaire-Gibbons papers,  1822-1963 [series]

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Allaire papers contain material belonging originally to relatives of James Peter Allaire.

The William Gibbons papers include additional items regarding the business affairs of Thomas and William Gibbons.


"Allaire, James Peter." Who Was Who In America. Chicago: Marquis-Who's Who, 1963.

Ebel, Carol S. "Gibbons, Thomas." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.