Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Nicholas Low Collection, 1776-1863

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff and Meg Hixon, November 2012

Summary Information
Title: Nicholas Low collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1776-1863
Bulk dates: 1776-1820
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
This collection mostly consists of correspondence and documents related to Nicholas Low, a merchant who lived in New York City during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Much of the material concerns Low's financial interests. A small group of letters pertains to General Rufus King.
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:

1948-2006. M-692, M-763, M-1862, M-1932, M-1984, M-2012, M-2330.1, M-2387, M-2419, M-2731.3, M-3130.1, M-3383.1, M-4082.1, M-4408, M-4434.1.

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:

Nicholas Low Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents

Each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Nicholas Low was born in Raritan Landing, New Jersey, on March 30, 1739, the son of Cornelius Low, Jr., and Johanna Gouverneur. He later lived in New York City, where he established a mercantile firm in 1774. His brother, the Loyalist Isaac Low, moved to Great Britain after the Revolution, as did his brothers-in-law Hugh and Alexander Wallace. His nephew William, Alexander Wallace's son, moved to New York in the 1790s, and they formed the firm Low & Wallace in 1796. Nicholas Low held stock in the Bank of New York and the Bank of the United States, successfully speculated in the country's postwar debts, and owned significant tracts of land in northern New York. He was a director of the Bank of New York (1784-1792), a member of the New York State Assembly (1788-1789), and a director of the Society for Useful Manufactures (1792-1796). Low and his wife, Alice Fleming, had three children, including Henrietta Liston Low.

Henrietta Liston Low (1799-1882) married Charles King (1789-1867), the son of Revolutionary-era politician Rufus King (1755-1827), in 1826. Charles King was president of Columbia College (now Columbia University) from 1849-1864 and a founding editor of the New York American. He and his first wife, Eliza Gracie, had eight children, including Rufus King (1814-1876), who attended the United States Military Academy and became a Union Army general during the Civil War. Charles King and Henrietta Low had six children: Anne Johnstone (1827-1891), Cornelius Low (1829-1893), Henrietta Low (b. 1833), Gertrude Wallace (b. 1836), Mary Alsop (b. 1839), and Augustus Fleming (1841-1862).

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (199 items) primarily consists of correspondence and documents related to Nicholas Low, a merchant who lived in New York City during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Most of the material concerns Low's financial interests. A small group of letters pertains to General Rufus King.

The Correspondence series (152 items) contains Low's business letters, which concern his relationships with merchants in the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. Low's correspondents reported on subjects such as local prices, shipments of goods, and trade between Europe and North America. A few writers mentioned political issues, such as Low's participation in the Poughkeepsie Convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution (March 15, 1788), and the Embargo Act (December 28, 1807). Some of the letters are addressed to the firm Low & Wallace. Other letters pertain to Isaac Low's finances, the Society of Useful Manufactures, and Nicholas Low's real property. The series also includes a draft of a letter to the editor of the Commercial Advertiser, written by Nicholas Low in response to an editorial about lottery drawings in Paterson, New Jersey (July 21, 1798). Personal letters include Lewis Littlepage's account of his dispute with John Jay (December 5, 1785) and Henrietta Low's statement of her intention to marry Charles King, written in response to her father's objections [July 1826].

Four letters relate to Rufus King, Henrietta Low's stepson. Willie Fisher, an acquaintance, wrote 2 letters to King about his social life and leisure activities, including a trip to a brothel that resulted in a riot (January 9, 1859). Charles Rebello wrote a personal letter to King in January 1863. Rufus King wrote a letter to an unidentified general in the Union Army about his frustration with a Times article that had criticized officers' conduct during the war (July 22, 1862).

The Documents series (47 items) is comprised of receipts, accounts, contracts, price lists, and other legal and financial records, mainly related to Nicholas Low. Some indentures pertain to land in New York, and at least one legal document concerns the Bank of the United States.

Subject Terms

    • Merchants.
    • New York (State)--Commerce.
    • Real property--New York (State)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Fisher, Willie.
    • Jay, John, 1745-1829.
    • King, Rufus, 1755-1827.
    • King, Rufus, 1814-1876.
    • Littlepage, Lewis, 1762-1802.
    • Low, Isaac, 1735-1791.
    • Rebello, Charles.
    • Wallace, Alexander.
    • Wallace, Sarah.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Contracts.
    • Indentures.
    • Invoices.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Price lists.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-18
     November 1, 1783-January 30, 1863, and  undated
    Documents [series]
    Box   1 Folders   19-24
     January 6, 1776-April 7, 1818
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Postal History collection contains a letter from James Heron to Nicholas Low (September 4, 1795).


    "King, Rufus." The Cyclopædia of American Biographies. Volume 4. James H. Lamb Company, 1901. 555-556.

    Patrick, Sue C. "Low, Nicholas." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Spooner, W. W. "The King Family." American Historical Magazine 2.5 (September 1907): 392-410.

    The Underhill Society of America Annual Report.