The Winterthur Library

The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera

Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum

5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Delaware19735

302-888-4600 or 800-448-3883






Creator:†††††††† Abraham Bell and Co.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Title:†††††††††††††† Records

Dates:†††††††††††† 1821-1893

Call No.:†††††††† Col. 194†††††††††

Acc. No.:††††††† 58x5.2; 69x41.1, .4; 72x4.10, .15-.16, .18, .24-.25; 72x149.1; 75x238; 76x303; 76x461; 77x 528; 77x567; 77x583; 84x126; 84x127; 98x128; 00x32; 05x47; 10x35; 15x103.1-.4

Quantity:††††††† 7 boxes

Location:††††††† 14 C 2-3





Abraham Bell and Co. was a firm of Quaker shipping and commission merchants in New York City.It had trading contacts in Belfast and Dublin, Ireland, and Liverpool and London, England, as well as in the United States.Although the firm imported and exported a variety of commodities, cotton appears to have been its mainstay.During the potato famine of the 1840s, Bell transported thousands of immigrants from Ireland.In 1844, the company name changed to Abraham Bell and Son.


Initially, Abraham Bell was in partnership with Robert H. Bowne and Jacob Harvey.The earliest listing of Bell as a merchant occurs in the New York City directory of 1804-1805; in 1835 the company location moved to 117 Fulton, which was also Bell's home.In 1824, Abraham Bell purchased a farm in Bayside, New York, which was managed by one of his Bell nephews.Later Bells also resided in Yonkers, New York.


Abraham Bell (1778-1856) was married to Mary Christy (d.1832); both were born in Ireland.Their children were Rebecca Harvey (married Saunders Coates in Yonkers in 1845), James Christy (married Harriet Thomas), Thomas Christy, Mary, Ann, and William (married Ann Thomas).Thomas Christy Bell lived ca.1816-1864; he died in Yonkers.In 1840, Thomas married Eliza Hough Jackson (1813-1901).Eliza Jackson Bell made quilts, comforters, and pin cushions for family and friends.In 1890, she presented one of her comforters to Mrs. Benjamin Harrison while they were both visiting Cape May, New Jersey.Thomas and Eliza had several children, including a son named Abraham (1841-1914).In 1870, Abraham II married Melissa Rebecca Chambers (d.1927).





The material in this collection provides a record of vessels, customers, cargoes, shipments of goods, costs, and profits associated with Abraham Bell & Co. and its successor, Abraham Bell & Sons.Such products as cotton, potash, flaxseed, turpentine, tobacco, textiles, woolen goods, shawls, buttons, glassware, Irish whiskey, earthenware, sheathing cooper, and watches and watch glass are represented in three account books, one letter press book, correspondence, bills, receipts, and drafts.Three of the bound volumes contain the label of Prior and Dunning, stationers, New York, N.Y.The fourth contains the label of Prior and Browne.In addition, there are bankbooks, checks, deposit slips, and books of receipts for goods shipped.


Also included is material related to the Bell family, including eighteen diaries kept by unknown members of the family (the most probable authors being Saunders Coates and his wife Rebecca Bell); Eliza Hough Jackson Bell's account book (which includes information about the quilts, comforters, and pincushions which she made); and a memorandum book kept by Melissa Rebecca Chambers Bell.Documents pertaining to Bell family homes include a list of furniture burned in an 1835 fire and specifications for building a house in Bayside, Long Island, New York, in 1870.As well, the collection includes a little genealogical information.


††† †††††††



The collection is housed in seven boxes.Box 1 contains the Bell family diaries.Box 2 contains the letterpress book, account book, and an invoice book.Box 3 contains another invoice book, documents pertaining to houses (both the house in Bayside and the one on Fulton Street which burned), the books of Eliza and Melissa Bell, and genealogical information.†† Box 4 holds correspondence, mostly business letters, but a few contain personal news as well.Boxes 5-7 contain financial and shipping records, including receipts, bank books, checks, etc.Some of the receipts are for household expenses.The shipping records include charges for pilots, quarantine, wharfage, and bills for repairs and supplies.





The materials are in English.





Collection is open to the public.Copyright restrictions may apply.





Purchased from various sources.††††††††





††††††††††† People:

††††††††††††††††††††††† Bell, Abraham, 1778-1856.

††††††††††††††††††††††† Bell, Eliza Hough Jackson, 1813-1901.

††††††††††††††††††††††† Bell, Melissa Rebecca Chambers.

Coates, Rebecca Harvey Bell.

Coates, Saunders.

††††††††††††††††††††††† Dorr, James.

††††††††††††††††††††††† Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901.



††††††††††† Abraham Bell and Son.

††††††††††† J. T. Rockwood and Co.


Accounts current.

Business records - New York (State) - New York.

††††††††††† Coastwise shipping.

††††††††††† Commerce - History - 19th century

Commercial correspondence.

Commercial products.

††††††††††† Commission merchants.

††††††††††† Consignment sales - History - 19th century.

Cotton - Commerce.

††††††††††† Croquet.

Dwellings - New York (State) - Bayside (New York)

Export sales contracts - History - 19th century.

††††††††††† Flaxseed - Commerce.

Furniture - New York (State) - New York.

House construction - Specifications.

††††††††††† House furnishings - New York (State) - New York.

††††††††††† Inventories.

Men - Diaries.





††††††††††† Shipping - Finance.

Ships - Cargo.

††††††††††† Textile fabrics - Commerce.

Tobacco - Commerce.

††††††††††† Voyages and travels.

††††††††††† Women - Diaries


††††††††††† England - Commerce.

††††††††††† Ireland - Commerce.

Ireland - Emigration and immigration.

New York (N.Y.) - Social life and customs.


††††††††††† Accounts.

††††††††††† Bills (financial).

††††††††††† Checks.

††††††††††† Clippings.




††††††††††† Memorandum books.

††††††††††† Poems.



††††††††††† Merchants.

††††††††††††††††††††††† Quiltmakers.







Location: 14 C 2-3



Box 1: Diaries


77x583.1-18††† Diaries of the Bell/Coates family for 1867, 1869, 1872-1873, 1876-1878, 1880-1884, 1886-1889, 1891-1892.


††††††††††† These pocket diaries were kept by unknown members of the Bell family living in Yonkers to briefly record their daily activities.The diaries for 1867-1883 were kept by a man; although once attributed to Abraham Bell, he had died before these diaries were started.The most likely candidate for diarist for this period is Saunders Coates, husband of Rebecca Harvey Bell. The diaries for 1884-1892 were kept by a woman, most probably Rebecca Bell Coates.(Eliza Jackson Bell has been suggested as the diarist as she and the diarist were born in the same year, but other evidence more strongly supports Rebecca.) The woman diarist records activities such as sewing, going with friends to the dressmakerís, making and receiving visits, writing letters, etc.She spent her winters in Florida, summers in Rhode Island, visited family in Bayside, and lived part of the year in Yonkers.


††††††††††† The male diarist noted such things as the weather, taking drives, often with a woman named Rebecca; calling on neighbors and relatives; purchasing items for his home; and receiving letters from friends and business associates.†††† The diarist was mostly retired and led a fairly routine life.He frequently traveled between his homes in Yonkers and Narragansett, Rhode Island.He visited various offices, perhaps to attend to some business.He notes gardening chores and mentions planting vegetables at his Rhode Island abode.He mentions holiday celebrations (Independence Day, Christmas, New Year) and seeing a yacht race around Block Island.During the winter months, he regularly visited Green Cove Springs, Florida, along the St. Johns River.He spent many hours playing quoits and ten pins, fishing, walking, and taking part in croquet matches.He took croquet very seriously, even supervising the rolling of the grounds by local workmen.


††††††††††† The diarist was acquainted with several political figures.For instance, in 1872, he visited with his friend, Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, and was called on by Horace Greeley.He also met Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase on a boat bound for Newport, Rhode Island.He wrote about driving out of Newport in the company of General Sherman.He attended the Presidential inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant in March of 1869, but instead of commenting about the significance of the event, complained about the conditions:"The streets were so wet & muddy that we did not get out of the carriage, returned to Alexa. about 3 pm. tired and hungry."His comments about the Centennial exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 were similarly focused: "The roads were so muddy in the neighborhood of the Centennial grounds that it was rather unpleasant walking about there."His last diary entry was April 11, 1883.In 1897, Eliza H. Bell summarized the Biblical story of Joseph in the 1883 diary.




Box 2


Folder 1: Correspondence

77x528.4†††††††† Letterpress Copybook, 1833.

Contains 1000 letterpress pages of correspondence sent to Bell & Co. customers concerning bills, cargo, ships' schedules, and other business matters.Several of the letters pertain to immigration from Ireland.A number were addressed to merchants in Liverpool, England.The volume includes a name index.


Folder 2: Financial documents


77x528.1†††††††† Accounts current, 1821-1839.

††††††††††† Records debits, credits, and interest accrued by firms that did business with Abraham Bell & Co.Only a few products are mentioned specifically, including cotton, linen, and whiskey.Many of the entries are for insurance, postage, and freight charges.Firms were also billed for portions of ships, presumably owned by Bell, carrying their goods.The volume also contains a few accounting rules and an index of the firms represented.


Folder 3: Financial documents


77x528.2†††††††† Invoice book, 1822-1834.

††††††††††† Records merchandise shipped to Abraham Bell and Co. from England and Ireland on consignment, along with the name of the ship on which the items arrived in New York.The name of the merchant sending the goods and the shipper is included with many of the entries.Such products as hosiery, whiskey, muslin, linen, satin, and other textiles predominate.




Box 3


Folder 1: Financial documents††††††††


77x528.3†††††††† Invoices outward, 1823-1841

††††††††††† Records items shipped to England and Ireland by Abraham Bell and Company to its consignors, along with the name of the vessel used for transporting the designated items.Such products as cotton, potash, flaxseed, turpentine, tobacco, and flour are mentioned.Entries also include lists of charges associated with exporting the goods, including fees for bills of lading and clearance, brokerage, insurance, commission, inspection, cartage, storage, and wharfage.


Folder 2: Items related to houses


58x5.2†††††††††††† List of furniture burned in Abraham Bell's house at 113 Fulton St. in 1835 and presented to the City Fire Insurance Co.

††††††††††† Listing includes mahogany furniture, 900 books, carpets, china, cooking utensils, linens, fire irons, bedding, quilts, silver, writing desks, 18 dozen cotton shirts, a cabinet containing shells and mineral specimens, East India feather fans, etc.The document was dated in Liverpool on September 24, 1835.(The inventory includes prices.)


77x567.1†††††††† Specification of carpenterís work to be performed in building, erecting, and finishing a two story and attic dwelling house to be situated at [Bayside, Queens Co., N.Y.] for Abraham Bell by Robert Mook.March 1870.

††††††††††† The document contains sections on materials and workmanship, framing, beams, partitions, sashes and frames, roofs and roofing, cornices, external finishing, porch and verandas, cellar doors, flooring, staircases, and inside finishings.††

††††††††††† [Note: this house was at the southwest corner of Bell Blvd. and 38th Ave., was built for Abraham Bell II, who married in 1870, and was torn down in the early 1970s.]


77x567.2†††††††† Specification of the mason work and materials for a frame dwelling house, situated at Bayside.March 1870.

††††††††††† ††††††††††† Describes brickwork and plastering to be done on the house.


[no acc. no.]††† receipted bill from William Allen to Mr. Bell for materials and masonry work, Bayside, Long Island, Dec. 19, 1832(?)


[no acc. no.]††† bill, to Mr. A. Bell from Carr & Fletcher, for window sashes and tinnerís bill, work done at farm in Bayside, January 11, 1841.



Folder 3: Miscellaneous volumes


77x583.19†††††† Account book of Eliza H. Bell with Abraham Bell, 1864-1893.

††††††††††† Entries record money received by Abraham Bell and John Bell and expenses.Eliza paid for such things as gloves, fabrics, a carriage, a clothesbasket, a gold watch and chain for her daughter, someone to weave carpet, and a trip to Philadelphia.The volume also contains a record of quilts made by Eliza, including one for President Benjamin Harrison, and copies of letters received thanking her for quilts given as presents.There are also several newspaper clippings that refer to Eliza and her quilt making.One highlights a quilt she made for the Worldís Columbian Exposition, which she also visited.(see also folder 4 below)


77x583.20†††††† Memorandum book of Melissa R. Bell.

††††††††††† Consists primarily of poems and sayings copied into the volume or on loose pages.There are also some clippings that contain poems or famous sayings.Religious and historical themes predominate. (see also folder 5 below)


Folder 4: items from Eliza Bellís book (77x583.19, in folder 3 above)


††††††††††† letter from her friend S. E. Labatret, 461 West 22nd St., New York, February 28, 1895;

††††††††††† receipt for subscription to the Daily Tribune, for one year beginning Dec. 29, 1892


Folder 5: items from Melissa Bellís memorandum book (77x583.20, in folder 3 above)


††††††††††† poems and stories, mostly anonymous, some printed, some handwritten or typed;

††††††††††† also one page that lists a few expenses for Nov. 1906, expenses for travel, Jan. 1907, brief notations about the travels of Edgar, Ella, Thomas, and Lawrence, 1907-1910, and a mention that a telephone was installed in the house on Dec. 16, 1907


Folder 6: genealogical information about Bell family (acc. 05x47)


††††††††††† Articles about the Bells of Bayside, New York, copies of letters containing genealogical information, and a chart of the descendants of Archibald Bell



Box 4: Letters


Folder 1:††††††††† Letters, March 1827-May 1839


Folder 2:††††††††† Letters, July-December 1839


Folder 3:††††††††† Letters, May 1840-October 1846


Folder 4:††††††††† Letters, January 1847-November 1850


Folder 5:††††††††† Letters, January, July-December 1851


Folder 6:††††††††† Letters, 1852


Folder 7:††††††††† Letters, 1853


Folder 8:††††††††† Letters, January-March 1854


Folder 9:††††††††† Letters, April-July 14, 1854


Folder 10:††††††† Letters, July 15-November 1854, August 1858, February 1859, n.d.



Box 5: Financial documents


Folder 1:††††††††† Accounts current, 1829-1838


Folder 2:††††††††† Accounts current, 1839-1842


Folder 3:††††††††† Bank books: Bank of the State of New York (1836) and City Bank (1837-1839)


Folder 4:††††††††† Checks and deposits, 1837- 1854


Folder5:†††††††† Checks and deposits, 1854


Folder 6:††††††††† Deposit slips, 1853-1854, n.d.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


Folder 7:††††††††† Duties, receipts, and miscellaneous materials, 1854, n.d.


Folder 8:††††††††† Financial, miscellaneous, 1835-1854 (mostly dealing with drafts and exchanges)


Folder 9:††††††††† Financial, miscellaneous, 1835-1854 (mostly protests of non-payment)


Folder 10:††††††† House and personal expenses, 1835-1854 (includes acc. 15x103.3)


Folder 11:††††††† Legal documents, 1837-1854


Folder 12:††††††† Memorandum of bills, 1835-1839


Folder 13:††††††† Prices Current, Liverpool, July 5, 1839-February 25, 1854


Folder 14:††††††† Promissory notes and sight drafts, 1834-1854, n.d. (includes acc. 15x103.4)




Box 6: financial and shipping records


Folder 1:††††††††† Receipts, 1826-1842

††††††††††††††††††††††† [note: some of these could be for personal expenses, not business expenses]


Folder 2:††††††††† Receipts, 1852-1856, n.d.

††††††††††††††††††††††† [note: some of these could be for personal expenses, not business expenses]


Folder 3:††††††††† Receipts for goods shipped, February-November 1848


Folder 4:††††††††† Receipts for goods shipped, May 1850-November 1852


Folder 5:††††††††† Clover seed, 1836, 1841


Folder 6:††††††††† Coal, 1839-1854


Folder 7:††††††††† Coal: Trans-Atlantic Coal Yard, January-July 1839


Folder 8:††††††††† Cotton, 1833-1839


Folder 9:††††††††† Cotton, 1841, 1853-1854, n.d.


Folder 10:††††††† Diaper, 1832-1834


Folder 11:††††††† Flaxseed, 1834, 1839, 1841


Folder 12:††††††† Flour, 1839, 1841, 1854


Folder 13:††††††† Food, foodstuff, and drink, 1835-1854, n.d.


Folder 14:††††††† Fur, 1839


Folder 15:††††††† Linen, 1839-1840


Folder 16:††††††† Metalware, 1841


Folder 17:††††††† Oil, 1841


Folder 18:††††† Sailcloth, 1840


Folder 19:††††††† Seeds, 1839


Folder 20:††††††† Wood, 1841, 1854


Folder 21:††††††† Wool, 1841



Box 7: Ships


Folder 1:††††††††† Ship Andover, Ship Andromeda, Ship August, Steamer City of Glasgow, Ship Clifton


Folder 2:††††††††† Ship Constitution, Ship Cornelia, Ship Cumberland


Folder 3:††††††††† Ship Emerald


Folder 4: †††††††† Ship Emily, Ship Eutaw, Ship Fabius


Folder 5:††††††††† Ship Fidelia, Ship Flora, Ship Garrick, Ship Geneva


Folder 6:††††††††† Ship Hannibal, Ship Isaac Webb, Ship Joseph Porter


Folder 7:††††††††† Ship Josephine, no date and 1829-1837 (includes acc. 15x103.2)


Folder 8:††††††††† Ship Josephine, 1838-1841 (includes acc. 15x103.1, which is a fire insurance policy on the ship as it is being repaired)


Folder 9:††††††††† Ship Julia, Ship Kensington, Ship Liberty


Folder 10:††††††† Ship Liverpool, Ship Marion, Ship Montreal


Folder 11:††††††† Ship Niagara, Brig Oceanus, Ship Oscar, Ship Pacific


Folder 12:††††††† Ship Pons Aelii, Ship Richard Anderson, Ship Richmond


Folder 13:††††††† Ship Robert Bowne, Ship Rowena


Folder 14:††††††† Ship Sarah Sheafe, 1834-1835


Folder 15:††††††† Ship Sarah Sheafe, 1837-1838


Folder 16:††††††† Ship Sarah Sheafe, 1839-1841


Folder 17:††††††† Ship Shakespeare, Ship Sheridan


Folder 18:††††††† Ship Splendid, Ship St.(?) Leon(?), Ship Toronto


Folder 19:††††††† Ship United States, Ship Vandalia, Ship Westchester, Ship Western Continent