Elias Bland, 1750

Letters from the Past

Elias Bland, London to Samuel & Wm Vernon,
Newport, Rhode Island, 1750

Addressed in amazingly fancy penmanship Samuel & Wm Vernon, Merchants Newport Rhode Island Via New York.

I can see what is represented by the flourish above the names Samuel & Wm Vernon, in the middle of the flourish, is the word To . There are no postal markings, so no evidence of the actual despatch or receipt of the letter, perhaps it would have been carried by the Captain on a previous voyage. The watermark is a posthorn with the initials WR.

There are 3 other things to note on the outside of this letter: the writer has inscribed 3 very fancy letters E E B which are his initials, then a set of figures and finally the receiver of the letter has noted the date and writer in the bottom right hand corner.

Elias Bland was a London ship owner and merchant but I can find very little information available on the internet up to this time.

The appearance of the letter has to be seen to be believed. Because the letter is almost 270 years old, language and writing has changed, and at that time many words were given a capital letter, and the ‘long S ’ is used so that it looks like a letter f , e.g. Afsured for Assured. There are a few words which are hard to decipher, so they are put inside brackets (Hussey)

London, 28th July 1750
Respected Friends,

I have to acknowledge your several favours 24th Feby, 18, 24 & 28th April & 30th May. Your Remittance of £270 on Nicholas Tuite(?) is noted & believe will not be paid, Shall observe your directions on the same. That & £60 on Eliakim Palmer Esqr you have returned Protested Charges.

The Newport Packet is up your Port to Sail in about four Weeks Intend your Order by her cou’d not Pofsibly send on before.

Am much obliged for your afsistance in the Affair of Richards & Marsh have noted the Contents & shall make proper use of the Same. Your Account is Debited for Prem of £90 on money in the Newport Packet at 2/- Pr Ct with Commission & Port Policy £2.7.0. I believe sales of the above Money Producing £88.18.10 noted to your Credit. Have received the Parcel of Capt. Stoddard & shall do the Needful therewith.
I am with much Esteem
Your most Afsur’d Friend
Elias Bland.

P.S. have forwarded your Mr Vernon letter
Origl & Capt Hussey(?)
Saml & William Vernons

Then along the side of the letter he has continued

Yours of 4th May came duly to Hand. The Contents shall observe & inform more fully my next. Copy

Then the letter is continued on the inside, giving details of the cargo to be shipped on the vessel from Newport and the value of each item I have transcribed this list with OED definitions where the item was recognisable. The weights of course are all in Imperial measurements.

  • Logwood (American Tree used in dyeing)
  • Nicorago (a hardwood timber from Nicaragua)
  • Fustick (American and West Indian tree yielding yellow dye)
  • Lignum Vitae ( Guaiacum Latin meaning Wood of Life)
  • Braziletto (Camphorwood used for dyeing )
  • Oyl
  • (this is possibly the alternative spelling for OIL)
    All of these above items are listed as being priced per the ton weight.

    The next items are priced by the Cwt which is the hundredweight.
  • Cocoa
  • Beeswax
  • Rice
  • sugars moses (molasses?)
  • Turpentine
  • Pitch
  • The next items are priced per lb (pound)


    The last items are a puzzle
    Sum(?) Per Barrel uncertain
    Mahogany Jamn
    (Abbreviation for Jamaican) Rattan
    Plum(?) ditto

    So that is the letter, and one of our pleasures with our old letters is finding out the background. We know nothing about America in the 18th century, and the information available on the internet now is astonishing. The Vernons were merchants in Newport Rhode Island and a very influential family. This is a picture of their home Vernon House, which is now a National Historic Landmark.

    There is a long entry on Wikipedia about the brothers.

    William and his older brother Samuel (September 6, 1711 - 1792) entered into business together, eventually establishing themselves as prominent merchants in Newport. Another brother, Thomas, did not enter into trade with his other siblings.

    There is much more about William Vernon, and it includes this paragraph.

    William Vernon (January 17, 1719 to December 22, 1806), of Newport, Rhode Island, was a New England trader who played a leading role in the Continental Congress' maritime activities during the American Revolution. As president of the Eastern Navy Board during the Revolution, he was responsible for building and outfitting the ships of the Continental Navy.

    This letter is evidence of the trade going on between England and America in 1750.

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