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Guide to the William Patterson Smith papers, 1791-1943

Collection Overview

Personal and business correspondence of William Patterson Smith (1796-1878), merchant and planter of Gloucester County, Virginia; and of his son-in-law Isaac Howell Carrington (1827-1887), provost marshal at Richmond (1862-1865) and attorney in Pittsylvania County and Richmond, Va.

Approximately one-half of the collection consists of the business papers and correspondence of Thomas and William P. Smith in conducting their mercantile firm in Gloucester and a grain trade throughout the Chesapeake area, with connections in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, London, and the West Indies. The nature of these records is: bills, notes, receipts, bills of lading, orders, sales accounts, chancery court records, writs, estate papers, account books, indentures, wills, stock certificates, inventories, bank books, bonds, etc. The papers prior to 1800 are those of Warner Lewis, John Lewis, John Powell, William Armistead, and William Taliaferro, and deal largely with the administration of estates. Around 1810, Thomas Smith and John Tabb formed a mercantile firm which lasted until 1826, when Tabb withdrew. The Smiths continued this firm until the Civil War. The store was general in nature, handling groceries, clothing, machinery, furniture, etc; while the firm also carried on an extensive trade in grain. William P. Smith was also a partner with Thomas T. Wiatt in a mercantile firm located in Weldon, N.C., 1818-circa 1860. The Smiths were men of broad commercial interests and were quite interested in land speculation in Texas, Arkansas, and West Virginia, internal improvements in Virginia and North Carolina, stocks and bonds, banks and banking, property and fire insurance, improvements in agricultural machinery, fertilizers, and farming methods. Abundant price data on slaves, horses, clothing, dry goods, all grains, drugs, farm implements, groceries, whiskeys, cotton, tobacco, and lands is found between 1815 and 1860.

The combined personal and business papers give a broad view of life in Tidewater Virginia from 1800-1875, and throw light on Richmond, Va., 1850-1865; Goochland Co., Va., 1850-1870; and Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania counties, Va., 1845-1880. Besides the subjects already mentioned, information can be found on social life and customs, recreations and amusements; religious life; slavery in all its aspects; free African Americans; the county militia system; Virginia and U.S. politics, 1820-1880; the Hussey and McCormick reapers; agricultural societies; the panics of 1819 and 1837; cotton, corn, wheat, barley, oats, and sugar cane cultivation; secondary (various academies) and higher (Yale University, University of Virginia, University of N.C., College of William and Mary, Virginia Military Institute, Washington College, U.S. Military Academy); the Seminole War; Mexican War and annexation of Texas; Thomas S. Dabney in Mississippi; California gold rush; trips to Philadelphia, New York, the Virginia Springs; Virginia Constitutional Conventions of 1829 and 1850; abolition and secession sentiments; iron, cotton, and wool manufacture; military and civilian life during the Civil War, especially Richmond 1861-1865, and Gloucester County under Union occupation; "contrabands"; Confederate military hospitals; taxation by Confederate government; freedmen raids; confiscation of property; Union blockade of Chesapeake Bay; the U.S. military prison at Newport News; freedmen; Reconstruction; coal lands in the Kanawha Valley; and phosphate mining in Tennessee.

Correspondents include: Joseph R. Anderson, Thomas August, John Strode Barbour, George William Booker, Alexander Brown, Charles Bruce, Philip Alexander Bruce, William Jennings Bryan, Allen Taylor Caperton, Jacob D. Cox, William W. Crump, Edward Cross, Thomas S. Dabney, John Reeves Jones Daniel, John Warwick Daniel, Beverley Browne Douglass, Tazewell Ellett, Benjamin Stoddard Ewell, William Stephen Field, Henry D. Flood, Thomas Frank Gailor, William B. Giles, William Wirt Henry, Johns Hopkins, Maria Mason (Tabb) Hubbard, William J. Hubbard, Obed Hussey, Edward Southey Joynes, John Pendleton Kennedy, John Lamb, John Lewis, Warner Lewis, John B. Lightfoot, Harriet (Field) Lightfoot, William Gordon McCabe, Alfred Thayer Mahan, C. Harrison Mann, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Mays, William G. Minor, Richard Channing Moore, Samuel Mordecai, Richard Morton, Philip N. Nicholas, John Patterson, Samuel Finley Patterson, Thomas Lewis Preston, William Cabell Rives, Theodore Roosevelt, John Roy, Winfield Scott, John Seddon, Francis Henney Smith, Gustavus Woodson Smith, William Alexander Smith, William Nathan Harrell Smith, George E. Tabb, Henrietta A. Tabb, Henry W. Tabb, John Henry Tabb, John Prosser Tabb, Philip M. Tabb, Philip A. Taliaferro, William Booth Taliaferro, Christopher Tompkins, Christopher Quarles Tompkins, Harriet P. Tompkins, Maria B. Tompkins, Theodore Gaillard Thomas, John Randolph Tucker, James Hoge Tyler, John Tyler, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Abel Parker Upshur, Henry P. Van Bibber, Charles Scott Venable, James A. Walker, Benjamin R. Wellford, Henry Horatio Wells, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, William L. Wilson, William L. Wilson, and Levi Woodbury.

Descriptive Summary

Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Creator
Smith, William Patterson, 1796-1878.
Title
William Patterson Smith papers 1791-1943
Language of Material
English
Extent
26.4 Linear Feet, 22,305 Items
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

1804-1825
Box 1
1826-1830
Box 2
1831-1834
Box 3
1835-1837
Box 4
1838-1840
Box 5
1841-1843
Box 6
1844-1846
Box 7
1847-1851
Box 8
1852-1855
Box 9
1856-1862
Box 10
1863-1869
Box 11
1870-1875
Box 12
1876-1879, undated
Box 13
Legal Papers, 1780-1841
Box 14
Legal Papers, 1842-1877, undated
Box 15

Miscellaneous

(1.5 boxes)
Genealogy
Box 15
Pictures
Box 15
John and Warner Lewis Estate, 1828
Box 16
1797-1826
Box 17
1827-1833
Box 18
1834-1837
Box 19
1838-1840
Box 20
1841-1843
Box 21
1844-1845
Box 22
1846-1849
Box 23
1850-1853
Box 24
1854-1858
Box 25
1859-1869
Box 26
1870-1878, undated
Box 27

Historical Note

William Patterson Smith was the second son of the Reverend Armistead Smith (1756-1817) and Martha Tabb (1757-1821), of Mathews County, Virginia. Other children of this union were Thomas Smith, merchant and politician (1785-1841), Lucy (Smith) Tabb, Harriet (Smith) Todd, Leah (Smith) Taliaferro, and Elizabeth (Smith) Tompkins. About one-third of the collection consists of W.P. Smith's personal correspondence with his brothers and sisters; his wife Marion (Seddon) Smith, his children Martha (Smith) Robins, Ann (Smith) Carrington, Thomas A. Smith, William A. Smith, Marion Smith, and Sarah (Smith) Mann; his numerous Tabb, Todd, Hubbard, Lightfoot, Taliaferro, Tompkins, Field, and Seddon nieces, nephews, and cousins; and his Robins, Carrington, and Mann grandchildren.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Patterson Smith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Provenance

The William Patterson Smith papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 1950.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library staff

Encoded by Kimberly Sims, March 2011; updated by Meghan Lyon, August 2011

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.