A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part I-Chapter 3 : Shipping Merchants  > Index and Introduction  :   Previous  1 - 2   Next

   Shipping merchants  

Brahmin families from Salem to Boston
Salem shipping merchants
                 Boston merchant dynasties

The China traders
The House of Perkins 1 : J & T.H. Perkins
The House of Perkins 2 : the Cushing and Sturgis branches
The House of Perkins 3 : the Forbes clan
Merchants of New York City
The Costers and the Griswolds
Howland & Aspinwall

Unlike the Southern colonies and the vast woodlands of New York, wealth concentration in New England was not primarily built on land ownership and agriculture. On the rough cliffs of Plymouth and Cape Cod, the enterprising merchants turned to the sea and international commerce to prosper. In the puritan environment of 17th century Boston, the mercantile career was not favored. But necessity finally had its way and successful merchants like Philip English of Salem and Andrew Faneuil of Boston acquired respectable wealth and prominence. 

During the 18th century, both Salem and Boston became important seaports and their economy increasingly turned towards international trade, with England and the West Indies being the most important trading partners. New England merchants participated in such lucrative commerce as the triangular trade, where molasses from the West Indies were distilled to rum in New England, the latter traded against slaves in Africa which were brought back to the West Indies, where they worked in sugar cane plantations. 

While New England merchants prospered throughout colonial times, the rise of the truly large shipping merchant fortunes came with the American revolutionary war and the vast opportunities to get rich through privateering, essentially a legal form of piracy. Among the most successful in this risky but profitable enterprise were the Cabots of Beverly Massachusetts, who would gender one of the most famous dynasties of Boston Brahmins. John Lowell, a lawyer who moved to Boston from Newburyport and a Cabot in-law by his second marriage, likewise built the foundation of his family fortune on the proceeds of privateering, as he was a chief factor in disposing of the said proceeds.

With Independence gained, American merchants saw the restrictions to international trade, which had been decreed by the British government, lifted. Salem, which is well remembered for its witch trials, became a large harbor city turned towards international trade. Its extensive shipping merchants, the Crowninshields, Derbys and Peabodys sent their ships to destinations they had never seen before, including Scandinavia, Russia and China.

Shipping Merchants  > Index and Introduction  :   Previous  1 - 2   Next

Patroons and Manor Lords

Planter  Aristocrats

Shipping Merchants

The Landlords of New YorkCity

Bankers I

Early American Industrialists


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