University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

John Wood Hall
Shipping Papers

1860 - 1880, 1887 -1889
(bulk dates 1863 -1866, 1871 - 1879 )

Manuscript Collection Number: 116
Accessioned: Gift, Mrs. Samuel M. Sloan, 1963.
Extent: 1 linear ft.
Content: Statements, receipts, letters.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: July 1993 by Rhonda R. Newton.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

John Wood Hall (1817-1892) was a merchant shipowner and Governor of Delaware. He was born in Frederica, Kent County, Delaware in 1817. After his father died when he was age nine, Hall lived with his uncle. At age 17 he apprenticed as a clerk at Clement Maston's store for eight months and then worked in Solomon Townsend's store until 1838, both in Frederica. Both men allowed Hall to carry on an independent confectionary business in the store as part of his work. While concurrently working for Townsend, Hall independently purchased the materials necessary to open a cabinetry shop and hired experienced journeymen to make the furniture. However, after turning twenty-one, Hall bought out Townsend and sold the cabinetry shop in order to concentrate on the mercantile business.

Hall specialized in lumber but also dealt in grains, produce, wood, lime, and fertilizer. In order to transport goods, he commissioned the building of a ship in 1838 and added a new ship to his fleet almost every year. The ships carried Hall's goods but also transported other goods. He took a partner, James B. Anderson, in 1861. In 1867, Wood retired and his son, John, took his place.

From 1861 to 1883, Hall served as a state director of Farmer's Bank. He was elected to the state senate in 1866 for a four-year term. He was governor of Delaware from 1878 through 1882.

Hall married Caroline Warren in 1842 and they had four children. He was active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and died in Frederica in 1892.


Bevan, Wilson Lloyd (ed.). History of Delaware Past and Present. Vol IV. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1929. pp. 402-403.

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware, 1609-1888. Vol I. Philadelphia: L.J. Richards & Co, 1888. pp. 389-390.

Scope and Content Note

The Hall Papers contain approximately five hundred records from John W. Hall's merchant and shipping businesses, spanning 1860 - 1880 and 1887 - 1889. The bulk of the materials cover 1863 - 1866 and 1871 - 1879. Hall retired in 1867 and was succeeded by his son John Wood Hall, Jr.

The papers prior to 1871 are primarily receipts for materials purchased by Hall in Philadelphia, presumably for resale in Delaware. Some receipts include notes from merchants about problems with the order or general sales advice. Most receipts were partially pre-printed with the store's name, address, and specialty; and some include lithographs of the store's building. There are also letters from factors reporting sales. There are also some customers' notes about payment for and delivery of goods purchased from Hall. Included in this section are several bills from West River Classical Institute [Maryland?] for the younger Hall's schooling.

After 1871, the records are primarily statements from at least nine different schooners. As owner, Hall received a portion of voyage profits, with the remainder going to the vessel.

The collection will be of interest to those studying Delaware and East Coast shipping, 19th century business practices, and business-related ephemera.

The records are arranged by year.

Related Collection:

Ms 489 Virden family papers
John W. Hall, Jr. married Sarah Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Virden in 1877. Like the John Wood Hall papers, the Virden family papers came to the University in 1963 from Mrs. Samuel Sloan.

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1    F1        1860
     F2        1861
     F3        1862
     F4-5      1863
     F6-8      1864
     F9        1865
     F10       1866
     F11       1867
     F12       1868
     F13       1869
     F14       1870

2    F15       1871
     F16       1872
     F17       1873
     F18       1874
     F19       1875

3    F20       1876
     F21       1877
     F22       1878
     F23       1879
     F24       1880
     F25       1887
     F26       1888
     F27       1889

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