Prominent Philadelphia merchant Levi Hollingsworth (1739-1824) was born to Zebulon Hollingsworth and Anne Maulden, in Head of Elk, Maryland. Like his father, Levi Hollingsworth was heavily involved in the flour trade. He first partnered with George Adams in 1759. Other Hollingsworth firm and partnership names include Hollingsworth and Rudulph (1770), Levi Hollingsworth (1772), Levi Hollingsworth and Son (1793), Paschall Hollingsworth and Company (1824), and Morris, Tasker and Morris (1837). His business supplied the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and Hollingsworth himself served as a member of the First Troop Philadelphia Cavalry. After the war, Hollingsworth became one of the most important Philadelphia merchants and a powerful figure in local Federalist circles. He was an outspoken opponent of the War of 1812, during which Congress-initiated embargos and British blockades devastated the domestic flour trade. At the time of his death in 1824, the Pennsylvanian flour industry had diminished, largely because of cheap flour production in the South and West.
James Thompson (1782-1847), the main recipient of this collection's letters, was a miller from Thompsontown, Pennsylvania. Born to William Thompson and Jane Mitchell, James, along with his brothers William and Richard, became a successful flour producer. He married Martha Porter Allen (1788-1855) in 1810; they had six children. In 1813, Thompson opened a flour mill in Mexico, Pennsylvania, and in 1815 he became the town's postmaster, an office he held until his death in 1847.