Quincy, Massachusetts and Exeter, New Hampshire: 1841-1845. Envelope or Cover. This archive consists of nine stampless folded letters between Nathaniel White at Quincy, Massachusetts, and his son, George, who attended Philips Exeter Academy and later Yale. The letters were written between 1841 and 1845; eight were written by Nathaniel and one by George. The letters bear a variety of manuscript and handstamped postal markings. In nice shape. Transcripts provided.
The archive also contains two anti-Democrat “Hard Times” tokens, ridiculing Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren whose fiscal policies caused the American economy to crash and enter a depression as least as deep and catastrophic as that of the 1930s.Nathaniel White was a prominent and extremely wealthy Democratic politician who had amassed a “fortune” in the shoemaking industry after it changed from a piece-work process into to a central shop system that allowed for much greater production.
In the letters, without mentioning Jackson or Van Buren, Nathaniel (a staunch Democrat) describes the collapse of his shoemaking business, continued funding of George’s education, his opposition to the Cold Water Party (a temperance faction of the Democrats associated with the Know-Nothings, and the mid-term election of 1842 which turned out the Quincy Democrats replacing them with Whigs.
A few excerpts include:
12 July 1841 – “I have sold about 2000 pr of the Brogans (that is rather slow,) . . . well I am in hopes that the Boot trade will be full middling this next fall. . .. If you are in want of any money to pay your Board, or other neccessarys you will just write say when you want it. . ....”
30 July 1841 – “You ought not give your self any uneasiness on my account for I should not of undertaken [your enrollment at Exeter] had I not ment to go with you in all things necessary for your progression. . .. A. Wood &c has cum in & ordered 60 cases of Boots of different kinds and I must attend to my Business. . .. If I do not cum up you will hear from me in season to pay your board. . ..
5 November 1841 – (From George) “We are examined by the Teachers at the close of the 1 & 2 terms, and by the Trustees at the close of the 3d term. . .. Those who have not ambition enough to go ahead with their studies are those who have parts in the exhibition at the end of the. . .. Without your sustaining arm in pecuniary affairs my desires for a liberal education would come to naught. . .. My board will amount to $38. . ..I dont know about my wood but I think it will be about $5, and lights $1.25 and there are several books that is necessary that I should have one is Webster’s Dictionary came to about $3.50 and Anthon’s Classical Dictionary . . . costs about $5. and I shall have to purchase several Greek books. . ..
17 February 1842 – From Nathaniel: “I made a good years work last year nominally but how it will prove before I get my pay I know not, but think I shall loose 8 or 10 hundred dollers and the old debts I think much of it will go by the Bankrupt Law. . .. I can calculate rather over $3,000 loss in all . . . when I get rid of the old debts . . . I shall feel more comfortable. . ..
6 November 1842 – From Nathaniel: “Mr Gregory [the Universalist minister and leader of the Cold Water Party] has undertaken to drive every body to act & do as he does . . . and that makes a great deal of trouble. . .. At any rate . . . He will be arrested . . . for haveing 2 wifes and I do not see any thing to save him from the states prison. . .. My business it is not worth having. . .. I am [now] dismissing my thick shoe makers for I have no orders nor do I expect to have any and I have amost all my shoes on hand that I had made, several thousand pr at any rate, I have sold about 2200 pr of boots but sold low for the sake of selling. . .. Our election cums of now in about a weak. . .. There is so many parties I cannot give any gess how it will go in Quincy, about all they talk about is Gregory [who] I am afrade will throw us off the track. . .. I wish for you to keep along as tho you were sure of Receiving my aid . . . I shall not forsake you [unless] compelled to by poverty. . ..
27 November 1842 – Nathaniel: “You had better cum home . . . on account of expence in these hard times, your Board will cum to more than the expence home & back and your lights [and} fewell &c must cost more than in warm weather. . .. I should rather send less money now [just] what is necessary for the present term and then more when you want it. . ..
3 April 1843 – Nathaniel: “We 7 men by we [I mean] prety much all the old leading democrats were unsuccessful [at our town’s] Citizens Meeting, which was on account of being split up by Gregory last fall at that meeting. . .. The result was all the Whigs were elected. . .. Having the Democrat Party Broken Up in such a maner is I think two bad after we have ben [working] so hard & long, to have sutch a man as John Gregory cum in without the shadow of good principle. . .. There is a man . . . a violent whig but Gregory tickled him up so he voted for him last Fall, and this spring . . . he signed the temperance Pledge in hopes by so doing he should get employ as keepr of the Alms House . . . but he was disappointed in that and he took it in his head every body were enemys to him and I suppose a little deranged went down to the alms house kicked in one window. . .. [He] met Mr Gregory went at him saying the world id on fier & cuming to an end [and] kicked him in the belly [and] grabbed him by the hair struck him several times saying you are the d--d Rascal that has caused all this trouble &c &c. . ..
9 August 1844 – Nathaniel: “Now as for what Coledge you go to you must Loock out for your self about I have asked several persons about it and each one have theyer Favorite Place so that I can not judge for you. . ..
Justly or not, Presidents Jackson and Van Buren were blamed by the vast majority of the population for the Panic of 1837 and its follow-on depression, and both of these “Hard Times” tokens were issued both to serve as replacement coinage and humorously vent the country's anger.
The obverse of one of the tokens in this archive features Jackson as a pirate raiding a strong box, brandishing a sword, and clutching a bag of money while proclaiming, “I take the responsibility. The reverse features a Democratic donkey along with his oft ridiculed statement, “The Constitution as I understand it.”
The obverse of the other features a ship crashing into a rocky coast with the legend “Van Buren / Metallici Current.” The reverse shows a ship, the Constitution, racing at full speed under blossoming sails with the U.S. flag unfurled and the legend “Webster / Credit Current.” Daniel Webster, of course, was the leader of the Whigs.. Very good. Item #009960
George White, Nathaniel’s son, became one of the most prominent men in 19th century Massachusetts. After graduating from both Harvard and Yale, he practiced law and served in numerous judicial positions in the state and on the state’s Constitutional Convention Committee. He founded the Chauncey School in Boston and later purchased the Quincy Patriot which he then edited.
(For more information, see Hazard’s “The Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry in Massachusetts Before 1875” in The Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol 27 No 2, “George White” in Reno and Jones’s Biographical: Massachusetts, Campbell’s “Panic of 1837” at The Economical Historia website, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams comprising portions of his Diary from 1795 to 1848 edited by Charles Francis Adams, “Massachusetts Convention” in Universalist Union 3 July 1841, and Schwager’s “Hard Times Tokens” at the Coinage website.)
Rather scarce. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade, and Rare Book Hub reports nothing similar has appeared at auction. OCLC notes several institutions hold single letters mentioning the impact of the Panic of 1837 and the Hard Times depression that followed, and the University of Michigan has a similar archive however it doesn’t contain any reports about any of the subsequent 1840s elections. Various Hard Times tokens can be found for sale at coin shows and on eBay..