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Mss:731 1803-1862 G441

Gibbons, Thomas, 1757-1826. Thomas Gibbons Business Papers, 1803-1862 (inclusive), 1803-1852 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University

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Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:731 1803-1862 G441
Repository: Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: Thomas Gibbons, 1757-1826
Title: Thomas Gibbons business papers
Date(s): 1803-1862
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet (1 box)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The Thomas Gibbons business papers document his steam ferry business and personal life in New Jersey and New York, 1803-1862.

Provenance:

Purchase, 2012.

Processing Information:

Processed: March 2013
By: Timothy Walsh

Conditions Governing Access:

Some material may be stored offsite. Please contact histcollref@hbs.edu for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Thomas Gibbons Business Papers. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Related Material

Allaire-Gibbons papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.
Gibbons Family Papers, 1767-1897. Special Collections and University Archives. Rutgers University Libraries.
Thomas Gibbons Papers, 1821-1829. Manuscripts and Special Collections. New York State Library.

Historical Note:

Thomas Gibbons was born at Mulberry Hill, his father's plantation outside of Savannah, Georgia, in 1757. In 1810, Thomas Gibbons moved north and purchased property in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. He purchased a large private dock facility in Elizabethtown a few years later. After a failed partnership with Col. Aaron Ogden, Thomas Gibbons purchased the steam ferry Stoudinger in 1817 and began to operate a ferry business between Elizabethtown and New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1818, Thomas Gibbons purchased another steam ferry, the Bellona, and hired young Cornelius Vanderbilt to captain the ship. Impressed with the young captain, Gibbons in time let Vanderbilt manage much of the enterprise's day-to-day operation. Several other steam ferries, including the Thistle, Swan, and Emerald, were purchased by Thomas Gibbons over the next few years.
When Thomas Gibbons began running ferries between New Jersey and New York, legal disputes arose with Aaron Ogden. In order to operate steam ferries on the same route, Ogden purchased a license from the heirs of Robert Livingston, who had with Robert Fulton been granted a monopoly on all steam travel in the area by the state legislature of New York. Thomas Gibbons refused to acknowledge the monopoly. The case eventually made it to the United States Supreme Court, where Thomas Gibbons was represented by Congressman Daniel Webster and Attorney General William Wirt. The ruling of Gibbons v. Ogden came in 1824, with Chief Justice John Marshall declaring the New York monopoly and all such monopolies on interstate waters unconstitutional. Thomas Gibbons passed away on May 15, 1826 in New York. After his death his son William Gibbons managed the company's affairs. William Gibbons was aided in this task by Cornelius Vanderbilt until 1829, when Vanderbilt left to pursue his own interests.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The Thomas Gibbons business papers relate to his New Jersey-based steam ferry company, managed in part by a young Cornelius Vanderbilt and run after Gibbons's death by his son William Gibbons. The bulk of the papers consist of financial records, correspondence, published materials, and contracts pertaining to his steam ferry enterprise, 1803-1862. The collection also contains a few papers related to Thomas Gibbons's personal life, 1803-1834.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Business enterprises--New Jersey--Elizabethtown
Ferries--United States.
Ferries--New York (State)
Steamboats--Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)
Gibbons, Thomas, 1757-1826
Gibbons, William, d. 1852
Vanderbilt, Cornelius, 1794-1877
Bellona (Steamboat)
Swan (Steamboat)
Thistle (Steamboat)

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