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Sydney V. James and Gail Fowler Mohanty

Brown, Moses (12 September 1738–06 September 1836), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of James Brown, merchant, and Hope Power. The father died the next year, leaving a variety of properties and businesses, which indicates that his family was far from poor. Moses Brown had a few years of formal schooling before being apprenticed to his merchant uncle, Obadiah, to learn the intricacies of eighteenth-century commerce and to be adopted as a son and partner. After Obadiah died in 1762, Moses managed the business, and in 1774 married Obadiah’s daughter Anna, who bore three children, two of whom lived to maturity. Moses joined his three surviving brothers in the firm of Nicholas Brown & Co. to operate the family businesses. The profits of trade were diversified by manufacturing and money-lending. The Brown brothers inherited profitable candle and chocolate works and started a plant to smelt and work iron. They also tried at least one ill-fated slaving voyage....

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Brown, Obadiah (15 July 1771–15 October 1822), merchant and manufacturer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Moses Brown, a merchant, and Anna Brown. He sometimes used the name Obadiah M. Brown to distinguish himself from other Browns with the same first name. Sickly as a child, he initially was educated at home and then attended the Friends New England Yearly Meeting School in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, between 1784 and 1788. This was followed by an informal apprenticeship with Almy and Brown, a Providence cotton textile manufactory established by his father, one of four brothers who were successful Providence merchants and manufacturers. The manufactory was initially managed by Obadiah’s brother-in-law, William Almy, and a cousin, Smith Brown, although under the watchful eye of Moses Brown....

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Evans, William (05 October 1787–12 May 1867), merchant and Quaker leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan Evans, a house builder and Quaker elder, and Hannah Bacon, a Quaker minister. Nurtured in an influential family in the Religious Society of Friends, Evans was educated in Quaker primary schools and in 1799 enrolled in the new Westtown school, just outside Philadelphia. At age fourteen, he went to a countinghouse to learn bookkeeping but, finding himself unchallenged, was apprenticed to another Friend to master the drug business. In 1808 he opened his own small drug and paint store, which he owned if not operated the rest of his life. Though serious of mien and adust in personality, Evans found a wife in Deborah Musgrave on 11 December 1811; the union produced two children before her early death in 1815. Summoned to militia duty during the War of 1812, he refused to appear but escaped further proceedings. The cautious Evans waited nine years before getting married again, this time to Elizabeth Barton on 23 December 1824, when he was thirty-seven and she thirty. In the Quaker fashion their local meeting recognized them both as ministers, he in 1822. When he rose to speak in a meeting, he could be pointed in his criticism of those who disagreed with him on some practice or point of doctrine. His tart-tongued contemporary ...

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Maule, Thomas (1645–1724), Quaker polemicist and merchant, was born near Coventry, England. Little is known of his family background. At age twelve, he emigrated to Barbados, where he apparently learned tailoring. One of the many poor settlers uprooted by the sugar revolution that was transforming the island’s economy, in 1666 he moved to New England. After a brief stay in Boston he settled in Salem among the town’s Quaker minority, in his words, “a people of few words and good works.”...

Article

Samuel Willard Crompton

Murray, John (1737–11 October 1808), Quaker merchant, was born on Swatara Creek, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of John Murray, who had emigrated from Scotland in 1732. His mother’s name is unknown. Murray worked with his older brother Robert Murray in the operation of a flour mill on Swatara Creek. In 1753 the two brothers moved together to New York City, where they formed a mercantile partnership. Within fifteen years, the Murray brothers had become the largest shipowners in the thirteen colonies, and their enterprise had become the largest import-export business in New York City, bolstered by the contract demands of provisioning soldiers and sailors during the Seven Years’ War in North America. In 1766 Murray married Hannah Lindley....

Article

Samuel Willard Crompton

Murray, Robert (1721–22 July 1786), Quaker merchant, was born in Scotland, the son of John Murray. His mother’s name is unknown. He immigrated with his father to the colony of Pennsylvania in 1732. As he grew to adulthood, he operated a small flour mill on Swatara Creek, in present-day Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. In 1744 he married Mary Lindley, with whom he had twelve children. He went on trading voyages to the West Indies and lived in North Carolina from 1750 to 1753. During these early years, he refined his merchant skills. In 1753 he and his younger brother ...

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Nicholson, Timothy (02 November 1828–15 September 1924), Quaker reformer and printer, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the son of Josiah Nicholson, a teacher and farmer, and Anna White. Both parents came from families long prominent in Quaker affairs in North Carolina, and by Timothy Nicholson’s own account, their influence and that of Quaker neighbors was such that he never questioned Quaker teachings. He was educated in the Quaker Belvidere Academy in Perquimans County and at the Friends Boarding School (now Moses Brown School) in Providence, Rhode Island. He married twice, first in 1853 to Sarah N. White, who died in 1865, and then in 1868 to her sister, Mary White. There were six children by the first marriage and two by the second....

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Norris, Isaac (26 July 1671–04 June 1735), Quaker politician, provincial Pennsylvania officeholder, and merchant, was born in Southwark, London, England, the son of Thomas Norris, a Quaker carpenter, and Mary Moore. About 1678 his family immigrated to Port Royal, Jamaica. The extent of his formal education is unknown, but in adulthood he was well read in both classical Latin authors and the best of contemporary English literature. He first visited Philadelphia on a trading voyage in 1692; during his absence his father was killed in the earthquake that destroyed Port Royal on 7 June 1692, and his brother and sister died shortly thereafter. Norris settled permanently in Philadelphia about 1693. He gained important political and commercial connections through his marriage in 1694 to Mary Lloyd, a daughter of ...

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Norris, Isaac (23 October 1701–13 July 1766), Quaker political leader and Philadelphia merchant, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Isaac Norris and Mary Lloyd, who as members of the Society of Friends joined in William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” and settled in Philadelphia in 1694. The junior Isaac Norris was educated at the Friends’ School. In adulthood he was, like his father, devoted to books; as his biographer George Washington Norris wrote, Norris “might indeed be called learned; for, in addition to a knowledge of Hebrew, he wrote in Latin and French with ease, and his reading was extensive.” By the time Norris came of age, his father had been for many years one of Philadelphia’s most successful merchants. The family was prosperous enough to send Norris to England in 1722 for several months; he returned to England for a longer visit in 1734–1735, at which time he also traveled on the Continent. He managed the family firm, Norris and Company, during his father’s later years and became the senior partner after his father died in 1735. Norris married Sarah Logan, ...

Article

Pemberton, Israel (19 May 1715–22 April 1779), Quaker merchant and philanthropist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Israel Pemberton, a merchant and religious leader, and Rachel Read of Burlington, New Jersey. He attended the Friends Public School and then entered his father’s mercantile trade. In 1737 he married Sarah Kirkbride of Bucks County, who died in 1746; they had seven children. A year later, Pemberton married Mary Jordan. His younger brothers, James Pemberton and ...

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Penington, Edward (04 December 1726–30 September 1796), Quaker merchant, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Penington and Ann Biles, farmers. The Penington family was related by marriage to William Penn and Edward’s grandfather had accompanied Penn on his second voyage to America in 1698. The Peningtons received land grants from Penn and were a wealthy family by the time Edward was born. In 1754 Penington married Sarah Shoemaker, the daughter of Benjamin Shoemaker of Germantown, a provincial councilor. Six of their ten children survived to adulthood....

Article

Rodman, Samuel (11 November 1753–24 December 1835), whaling merchant and Quaker leader, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Thomas Rodman, a ship captain, and Mary Borden. Samuel was apprenticed at the age of thirteen after the death of his father at sea. Remarkably for a young Quaker, whose denomination was attempting at this time to remain apart from other groups, he served his apprenticeship with Abraham Riveira, one of a number of successful Jewish merchants in Newport before independence. There Rodman learned the shipping trade and came into contact with Nantucket whaling merchants ...

Article

Rotch, William (04 December 1734–16 May 1828), whaling merchant and New England Quaker, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Rotch, a whaling merchant, and Love Macy. William served his apprenticeship with his father’s firm between 1748 and 1755, learning skills that included ship construction, accounting, pricing of products, and competing for new markets. He acquired an intimate knowledge of local, provincial, and international trade in these years during which his father became New England’s leading whaling merchant. In 1754 Rotch married Elizabeth Barney, also of Nantucket. They had six children....

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Rotch, William, Jr. (29 November 1759–17 April 1850), whaling merchant and New England Quaker leader, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the son of William Rotch, a whaling merchant, and Elizabeth Barney. William Rotch, Jr., belonged to the third generation of the whaling dynasty founded by his grandfather ...

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Shippen, Edward (1639– August 1712), merchant, religious martyr, and political leader, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of William Shippen, a prominent landholder, and Mary Nunnes (or Nuns). Although his older brother earned degrees at Oxford and became an Anglican clergyman, Edward in 1668 emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, a wilderness town of about 3,500. In 1671 he married Elizabeth Lybrand; they had eight children during their seventeen years together. Not long after he joined an artillery company, Shippen converted to his wife’s faith and became a member of the Society of Friends....