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Mss:761 1754-1819 A122

Abbot, Samuel, 1732-1812. Samuel Abbot Business Papers, 1754-1819 (inclusive): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:761 1754-1819 A122
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Samuel Abbot business papers
Date(s): 1754-1819
Quantity: 16 linear feet (44 volumes, 38 boxes )
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Papers of Samuel Abbot (1732-1812), Boston merchant, who set up in the city in 1754, and went back to his home town of Andover at the time of the Revolution. The business was then carried on by his step-son, John Kneeland, whose letters descriptive of Boston during the War are in the collection. Bound volumes include account books and letter books (in incomplete series); unbound papers include domestic and foreign letters, invoices, accounts, and miscellany.


Source: Andover Newton Theological School, 1972, 1975.

Processing Information:

Processed: June 1998
By: Carole Foster

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Samuel Abbot Business Papers. Baker Library. Harvard Business School.

Related Materials

Woods, Leonard, 1774-1854. "A sermon delivered May 3, 1812, at the funeral of Samuel Abbot, one of the founders of the Theological Seminary in Andover." Attribution: by Leonard Woods ; published by request of the trustees and visitors. Published: Boston : Printed by Samuel T. Armstrong, 1812. HOLLIS No. 004254019
Thaler, Roderick Phillips. "Samuel Abbot" : the psychology of a colonial merchant. Published: Cambridge, MA : Harvard College, 1976. HOLLIS Number: 008315038

Biographical Note:

Samuel Abbot, son of George and Mary (Phillips) Abbot, was born February 25, 1732 in Andover, Massachusetts. At the age of fifteen, Samuel was apprenticed to his cousin, William White, who owned a retail store in Boston. George Abbot paid White almost L50 toward the cost of Samuel's apprenticeship. After spending the required seven years with his cousin, Samuel opened his own business in Boston in June 1754. By 1764, his store was located in Cambridge "at the house of Mr. Mansfield Tapley in Cambridge about a mile from the college on the road to Menotomy meeting house".
In 1771, Samuel Abbot entered into a partnership with his stepson, John Kneeland, doing business as Samuel Abbot & Company. However, the times were unsettled and Abbot chose to restrict his purchases of the English imports which made up the bulk of his sales. In January 1774, the partnership was dissolved the store closed, and the stock liquidated. Abbot retired permanently from active business and returned to live in Andover. Kneeland, however, remained in Boston and served as Abbot's agent. Kneeland's own business acumen and personal supervision of Abbot's investments allowed both men to increase their personal worth.
With a comfortable retirement assured, Abbot involved himself in civic and charitable work for the remainder of his life. He served Andover as its Justice of the Peace and Town Treasurer and generously provided for its citizens. Abbot gave freely of his time and money to a variety of religious institutions and was one of the founders of the Theological School at Andover in 1807. Initially, he gave $20,000 to support a professor of theology, and upon his death, the school received an additional $100,000. Abbot also invited the children of John Kneeland to Andover for extended visits. His stepson's children included Abbot's namesake, Samuel Abbot Kneeland, born January 18, 1777, and Nancy Kneeland, born December 20, 1778.
Abbot entered into a very advantageous marriage in 1761 when he wed the widowed Sarah (Mulberry) Kneeland. Sarah's first husband, John Kneeland, Jr., was a merchant and member of a long-established Boston family. Before Kneeland's death in 1754, he had been both landlord and friend to Abbot, and his will named Abbot guardian of the Kneeland children. These children included (1) John, b. January 14, 1748; (2) Sarah, b. March 18, 1750; and (3) Elizabeth, b. November 19, 1751. Marrying into the large Kneeland family provided an endless supply of well-connected business contacts, which Abbot cultivated energetically. Samuel and Sarah Abbot had no issue together, and Samuel died in Andover on April 12, 1812.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The papers of Samuel Abbot consist of 36 boxes and 46 volumes and contain daybooks, journals, ledgers, cash books, receipts books, accounts, notes, inventories, sales books, letterbooks, letters sent/letters received, invoices, agreements, bills of exchange, legal documents, deeds, bonds, and memorandum. The bulk of the collection relates to Abbot's twenty-year mercantile career; however, personal accounts from 1775 until his death in 1812 are included. Most of the documents pertain to Abbot's financial transactions, but the letters between Abbot and his step-son, John Kneeland, reveal much about family news in addition to business matters. Arranged in two series: Series I, Financial Papers, 1754-1819, Series II, Letters, 1754-1792. Arranged chronologically.

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