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William Pickering Papers

Identifier: MSN/COL 0500

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of sixteen documents—eleven letters and five business records—retained by Pickering in the course of his commercial career. Nine of these items pertain specifically to Pickering's dealings with Samuel Lillie. The earlier of these (1703-1706) relate to the Newfoundland trade (Pickering appears to have served as a kind of agent for Lillie's interests there); the later items (1706/7-1708) relate to Lillie's debts. There are a total of six letters written by Lilly to Pickering. The Pickering letters in the collection are retained copies, in his hand.


  • Creation: 1703-1713


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

William Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts on 11 January 1670/1, the son of John Pickering (1637-1694) and Alice Flint. On 19 June 1695 he married Hannah Browne, with whom he had six children. For much or most of his adult life, Pickering was engaged in the fishing and coasting industries of New England, as shipmaster and trader. A group of his account books (1695-1718), now at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, cover voyages of two fishing sloops (Speedwell and Content), as well as the activities of the brig Hope, trading in the fishing settlements of the Newfoundland coast. In the first decade of the eighteenth century, at least, Pickering appears to have made frequent voyages between Massachusetts and Newfoundland, carrying cargo and fishing for cod off the Grand Banks. Petitions survive acknowledging Hope's delivery of critical supplies to the fishing harbor of Ferryland, on Newfoundland, during the harsh winter of 1708-9. Pickering died around 1723, at Salem.

Many of the documents in the collection relate to Pickering's work for Samuel Lillie of Boston. From the 1680s to 1707 Lillie was extensively engaged in commerce between North America, the Caribbean, and Europe. He owned or had interests in at least a dozen vessels; he also fitted out privateers. But Lillie's commercial career ended in ruin. By March 1707 he was unable to meet his obligations, and his ships and real estate were seized. Relatively little is known of the final decades of his life; he appears to have spent much of his time in England, seldom returning to Boston. He died after 1730.


16 folders.

Language of Materials



A collection of documents relating to the commercial interests of William Pickering, a Salem, Massachusetts shipmaster and trader of the early eighteenth century.


The collection is arranged chronologically, one item per folder.

Related Materials

Other papers of William Pickering are held by the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, and by the Boston Public Library.

William Pickering Papers
Jacob Baska
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556