Cushing & White
3 boxes (1 partial)
This collection is stored at Firestone Library.
Requests will be delivered to Manuscripts Division, RBSC Reading Room
Collection Creator: De Coppet, Andre,
Extent: 3 boxes (1 partial)
Collection is open for research use. Researchers may be required to use surrogates of
collection items stored in special vault facilities.
This series consists of the papers of business partners Samuel White and John
Cushing (1743-1822), merchants and privateers during the American Revolution.
Cushing & White operated out of Boston and acted as administrative agents and
part-owners in multiple vessels that sailed along the North American coast and to
the West Indies. John Cushing appears to have been the leader in the partnership
as the bulk of papers bear his name. Cushing was a native of Massachusetts, born
in Scituate, Plymouth County in 1743 to John and Deborah Barker Cushing. In 1773
he married Olive Wallingford, daughter of Colonel Thomas and Elizabeth
Wallingford. He was chosen Colonel, 2nd Plymouth County Regiment in 1776 but
resigned the commission in 1779 citing ill health. By that time, he had already
started his merchant and privateering partnership with Samuel White. By
definition, privateers were privately funded but government sanctioned vessels
that preyed on enemy ships. Captured ships were known as “prizes,” and the goods
and cargo on board were sold to the profit of the owners and crewmembers.
Privateers played a significant role in the American Revolutionary War,
outnumbering government-owned vessels by more than ten to one and capturing nearly
600 British ships over the course of the war. Cushing & White acted as agents
and owners of various ships outfitted for privateering, most prominently from
1777-1780. They experienced both successes and failures but by 1784 seemed to have
fallen into serious financial difficulties. A letter dated 1787 to “John
Cushing—Supervising partner of the late House of Messrs. Cushing & White”
suggests by then the partnership dissolved—either due to bankruptcy or the death
of Samuel White. Papers dating from 1784 onward suggest Cushing continued to earn
his living as a merchant. The papers in the series are largely focused on the
privateering years, and include correspondence, financial records, and official
documents often signed by captains and crewmembers. Subject matter is focused on
investments, prizes, the sale of captured goods, and the threat of the enemy. Of
note is a printed license to arm issued by the Continental Congress and signed by
president John Hancock. The papers are arranged alphabetically by name of ship,
with miscellaneous material at the end. Known information about the ship is given
in the description. Within the ship folders, the papers are arranged
chronologically unless otherwise noted.
Cushing & White; 1767-1795; Andre De Coppet Collection, Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.