Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Joseph Titcomb Papers, 1861-1863, bulk 1862-1863

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, June 2011

Summary Information
Title: Joseph Titcomb papers
Creator: Titcomb, Joseph, 1822-1891
Inclusive dates: 1861-1869
Bulk dates: 1862-1869
Extent: 330 items (0.5 linear feet)
The Joseph Titcomb papers contain the business correspondence of a Maine shipping merchant during the first years of the Civil War and a letterbook of his outgoing correspondence dated 1863-1869. The collection includes three letters from C. Lee Moses, a naval officer, who describes his experiences around Virginia in 1862 and 1863.
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:

1986, 2012. M-2279.2, M-4939.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Joseph Titcomb Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in two series:

  • Correspondence
  • Letterbook

The correspondence series is arranged chronologically, with undated items and the cover, under which the items were once bound, placed at the end.


Joseph Titcomb was born on June 8, 1822, in Kennebunk, Maine, the son of James and Abigail Titcomb. Little is known of his childhood, but Titcomb attended Bowdoin College from 1839 to 1843, after which he briefly studied law. Rather than pursue law, he decided instead to enter the shipping business, wherein he was quite successful. He married Mary Wise in December 1852.

Titcomb took an interest in public affairs and service, serving as a member of the Maine state Senate (1849-1852), state House of Representatives (1852), and trustee of Bowdoin College (1868-1891). Joseph Titcomb died on December 26, 1891. Joseph and Mary had two surviving children, Agnes (b. ca. 1860) and William (b. ca. 1863).

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Joseph Titcomb papers contain 329 business letters of a Maine shipping merchant during the first years of the Civil War, plus a letterbook of Titcomb's outgoing correspondence (729 pages) dating from late December 1863 to March 1869. Most of the letters in the collection relate to business matters, including ship charters, insurance policies, and trade. Though many of the letters come from New York, Boston, and other northern ports, much of Titcomb's trade was also carried out internationally; the collection includes notes on trade from various ports throughout Europe, including Le Havre, France, and Swansea, Wales. Several items in the collection are written by George Nowell, who was in charge of the Tropic and who provided periodic updates on the ship's progress and business affairs. Others concern the sale of the Nathaniel Thompson in July 1862, and various business concerns of Titcomb's other ships, including the Golden Eagle , Atlas , and Greenwood .

A series of three letters from C. Lee Moses, a sailing master aboard the Mahaska , concern different engagements of the Union Navy during the Civil War. Moses was often outspoken; for example, "The Galena built at Mystic Conn. is a perfect failure, her sides fall in to such an extent that the batteries have thrown their balls completely through her" (May 23, 1862). He discussed fighting on the James River near Fort Powhatan (May 29, 1862), and his resignation at the prospect of facing a court martial "for striking [a] negro" (September 20, 1862).

Subject Terms

    • Antwerp (Belgium)
    • Armored vessels.
    • Atlas (Brig)
    • Galena (Steamer)
    • Insurance--United States.
    • Kennebunk (Me.)
    • Le Havre (France)
    • Mahaska (Side wheel steamer)
    • Shipping--Finance.
    • Shipping--United States--History.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Economic aspects.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Naval operations.
    • United States. Navy--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Moses, C. Lee.
    • Nowell, George.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letter books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Telegrams.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence,  1861-1863 [series]
    Volume   1  
    Letterbook,  1863-1869 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Bowdoin College. Library. Bowdoin College Library bulletin including the obituary record and the reports of the librarian: No. 1-4. June 1891-June 1895. Brunswick, Maine, 1895.