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Flahavan and Willcox letterbook

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0211

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of one letterbook (1784-1792) of the Philadelphia merchant company of Flahavan and Willcox. The letters cover the period April 14, 1784 to November 16, 1792. The letters are in the handwriting of G. Lawson, Thomas Flahavan, and Roger Flahavan. The volume is labelled B, and it is likely that it was preceded by a volume of letters whose location is unknown.The letters describe establishing accounts with European suppliers - Charles Eddy of London, Daniel Delaney of Dublin and Roquette and Roquette of Rotterdam. In Jamaica, the firm dealt with Thompson, Cambpell [sic.] and MacNeal. The letters include price structures for buying and selling merchandise and inquiries to ships' captains to secure ships outfitted to accomodate the bulk and weight of cargo. The letterbook also contains correspondence with American retailers - John Dysart of Petersburg, Virginia and John Mahon in Wilmington, North Carolina - regarding ordering and purchasing of goods and repeated attempts to collect debts owed to the firm.

Several letters refer to the political and social conditions of the period. A letter dated April 24, 1786 asks that a Rotterdam firm attempt to sell lands in the vicinity of those owned by General Washington on the Potomac River. General Washington had been put in charge of a government project to clear the area for settlement. A letter dated September 12, 1788 to Thomas Newman of New York refers to the argument over paper money and the slowness of the New York legislature to adopt the Constitution. A letter of August 14, 1789 by Thomas Flahavan gives instructions for purchasing individuals who were enslaved.


  • Creation: 1784-1792


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Administrative History

Flahavan and Willcox was a Philadelphia firm established for the import/export trade in 1784. The firm consisted of Thomas Flahavan and Mark Willcox who formed a co-partnership in 1784. Formerly, it was named John Flahavan and Co. but was renamed when John Flahavan was lost at sea in 1783.

Flahavan and Willcox established credit on a 12 month basis with European suppliers for the purchase of dry goods and hardware. Trade was also established in the West Indies for the import of coffee and rum. Flahavan and Willcox sold merchandise to retailers in Virginia, New York and North Carolina. At the same time, the firm bought country produce such as tobacco, corn, mustard seed, and animal skins and exported those products from the port of Philadelphia.

Flahavan and Willcox were dependent on securing able ships and sloops for transporting merchandise and correspondence. As merchants, Flahavan and Willcox gave considerable attention to collecting debts and the management of lands and other property. Apparently, the firm remained successful until 1792 or later.


0.86 Cubic Feet (1 oversize box (19 x 13 x 6 inches))

Language of Materials



Flahavan & Willcox was a Philadelphia firm established for the import/export trade in 1784. The collection consists of one letterbook of the company containing letters over the period April 14, 1784 to November 16, 1792.


The provenance of this collection is unknown. It was found in Special Collections.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in February 1989. Kristen Diehl revised the Scope and Content note in this finding aid in February 2024 to bring it into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

A legacy index has been adapted from a previous version of this guide: Constitution P. 2; Delaney, Daniel P. 2; Dysart, John P. 2; Eddy, Charles P. 2; Flahavan, John P. 1; Flahavan, Roger P. 1; Flahavan, Thomas P. 1, 2; Lawson, G. P. 1; Mahon, John P. 2; Merchants--Philadelphia (Pa.) P. 1,2; Newman, Thomas P. 2; Paper money P. 2; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Commerce--History--18th Century. P. 1,2; Slaveholders P. 2; Thompson, Cambpell [sic.] & MacNeal P. 2; Washington, George P. 2; Willcox, Mark P. 1
Flahavan and Willcox letterbook
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA