Personal and business correspondence of William Patterson Smith (1796-1878), merchant and planter of Gloucester County, Virginia; and of his son-in-law Isaac Howell Carrington (1827-1887), provost marshal at Richmond (1862-1865) and attorney in Pittsylvania County and Richmond, Va.
Approximately one-half of the collection consists of the business papers and correspondence of Thomas and William P. Smith in conducting their mercantile firm in Gloucester and a grain trade throughout the Chesapeake area, with connections in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, London, and the West Indies. The nature of these records is: bills, notes, receipts, bills of lading, orders, sales accounts, chancery court records, writs, estate papers, account books, indentures, wills, stock certificates, inventories, bank books, bonds, etc. The papers prior to 1800 are those of Warner Lewis, John Lewis, John Powell, William Armistead, and William Taliaferro, and deal largely with the administration of estates. Around 1810, Thomas Smith and John Tabb formed a mercantile firm which lasted until 1826, when Tabb withdrew. The Smiths continued this firm until the Civil War. The store was general in nature, handling groceries, clothing, machinery, furniture, etc; while the firm also carried on an extensive trade in grain. William P. Smith was also a partner with Thomas T. Wiatt in a mercantile firm located in Weldon, N.C., 1818-circa 1860. The Smiths were men of broad commercial interests and were quite interested in land speculation in Texas, Arkansas, and West Virginia, internal improvements in Virginia and North Carolina, stocks and bonds, banks and banking, property and fire insurance, improvements in agricultural machinery, fertilizers, and farming methods. Abundant price data on slaves, horses, clothing, dry goods, all grains, drugs, farm implements, groceries, whiskeys, cotton, tobacco, and lands is found between 1815 and 1860.
The combined personal and business papers give a broad view of life in Tidewater Virginia from 1800-1875, and throw light on Richmond, Va., 1850-1865; Goochland Co., Va., 1850-1870; and Charlotte, Halifax, and Pittsylvania counties, Va., 1845-1880. Besides the subjects already mentioned, information can be found on social life and customs, recreations and amusements; religious life; slavery in all its aspects; free African Americans; the county militia system; Virginia and U.S. politics, 1820-1880; the Hussey and McCormick reapers; agricultural societies; the panics of 1819 and 1837; cotton, corn, wheat, barley, oats, and sugar cane cultivation; secondary (various academies) and higher (Yale University, University of Virginia, University of N.C., College of William and Mary, Virginia Military Institute, Washington College, U.S. Military Academy); the Seminole War; Mexican War and annexation of Texas; Thomas S. Dabney in Mississippi; California gold rush; trips to Philadelphia, New York, the Virginia Springs; Virginia Constitutional Conventions of 1829 and 1850; abolition and secession sentiments; iron, cotton, and wool manufacture; military and civilian life during the Civil War, especially Richmond 1861-1865, and Gloucester County under Union occupation; "contrabands"; Confederate military hospitals; taxation by Confederate government; freedmen raids; confiscation of property; Union blockade of Chesapeake Bay; the U.S. military prison at Newport News; freedmen; Reconstruction; coal lands in the Kanawha Valley; and phosphate mining in Tennessee.
Correspondents include: Joseph R. Anderson, Thomas August, John Strode Barbour, George William Booker, Alexander Brown, Charles Bruce, Philip Alexander Bruce, William Jennings Bryan, Allen Taylor Caperton, Jacob D. Cox, William W. Crump, Edward Cross, Thomas S. Dabney, John Reeves Jones Daniel, John Warwick Daniel, Beverley Browne Douglass, Tazewell Ellett, Benjamin Stoddard Ewell, William Stephen Field, Henry D. Flood, Thomas Frank Gailor, William B. Giles, William Wirt Henry, Johns Hopkins, Maria Mason (Tabb) Hubbard, William J. Hubbard, Obed Hussey, Edward Southey Joynes, John Pendleton Kennedy, John Lamb, John Lewis, Warner Lewis, John B. Lightfoot, Harriet (Field) Lightfoot, William Gordon McCabe, Alfred Thayer Mahan, C. Harrison Mann, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Mays, William G. Minor, Richard Channing Moore, Samuel Mordecai, Richard Morton, Philip N. Nicholas, John Patterson, Samuel Finley Patterson, Thomas Lewis Preston, William Cabell Rives, Theodore Roosevelt, John Roy, Winfield Scott, John Seddon, Francis Henney Smith, Gustavus Woodson Smith, William Alexander Smith, William Nathan Harrell Smith, George E. Tabb, Henrietta A. Tabb, Henry W. Tabb, John Henry Tabb, John Prosser Tabb, Philip M. Tabb, Philip A. Taliaferro, William Booth Taliaferro, Christopher Tompkins, Christopher Quarles Tompkins, Harriet P. Tompkins, Maria B. Tompkins, Theodore Gaillard Thomas, John Randolph Tucker, James Hoge Tyler, John Tyler, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Abel Parker Upshur, Henry P. Van Bibber, Charles Scott Venable, James A. Walker, Benjamin R. Wellford, Henry Horatio Wells, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, William L. Wilson, William L. Wilson, and Levi Woodbury.