Chapter 1 – “‘The Bigger of My New Ships is near Launching …’: The shipbuilders of Early Philadelphia , 1676-1772”



            Historians of early America have described shipbuilding as the most capital and labor intensive American industry, and several economic historians have investigated shipbuilding in colonial America, but they do so from the point of view of the numerous, well known merchants, great and small, for whom the shipbuilders and shipcarpenters built thousands of sailing vessels. Yet, for all of that, we know very little about shipbuilders, their craft, their communities, and their culture. First, this chapter identifies and gives names to those nameless shipwrights. Then, it continues as an introduction into the structure and culture, economically, socially, and geographically, of the shipbuilding communities of early Philadelphia. As with other eighteenth century crafts, shipbuilders functioned on numerous vertical levels. While attentive to those on the middling and lower levels of the craft, this chapter, constrictrd by available sources, focuses on several of those at the top, the elite master shipwrights and shipyard owners. It describes their construction tactics, especially through the negotiations with the merchants for whom they built so many ships and argues for a symbiotic but not sychopantic relationship between merchant and builder. It also notes their acquisition of property and the ways in which they used that property as economic security for themselves and their progeny. This chapter also examines the peculiar geography of individual shipyards, their dimensions and location and sets it within the greater geography of eighteenth century Philadelphia. Additionally, it also examines some aspects of the cultural of these artisanal communities their intermarriage and inheritence practices. This chapter begins the recovery of an important and long neglected part of the history of early Philadelphia.[1]

Shipbuilding – 1676-1720

            Thanks to records demanded by the British government in accordance with the Navigation Acts, we have extensive list of ships built, or at least registered in Philadelphia. We know ships by name, type, date of construction, and owner, “brig, Hannah … 1737 … John Stamper.” But even with these lists identification of shipbuilders is tenuous.[2]

Some sources hint at evidence that shipbuilding began in 1640 and preceded English acquisition of Pennsylvania. Without citation, Marion Brewington argues that Swedish settlers built two ships along the Delaware before the arrival of the Dutch and English to the great “South River.” However, the earliest surviving shipbuilding account book, which verifies shipbuilding on the DelwareRiver, later to be the waterfront of William Penn’s Philadelphia, dates from 1676.  “James West Account Book,”  is difficult to decipher: “mony [sic] recd for building Gregory and funds expended for purchase of supplies,” and “received from John Ringo 1/2 lb of Black Oakum 1300 trunnels,” as well as an account for the cost of labor, “{Mathon Barton 41 days 1/2} 000.06.00,” and other money paid to “John Martin, George Coole (sawyer) and Jacob Turner.” These vague details only hint at the existence of a complex shipbuilding business being pursued by the only easily identifible shipbuilder of earliest Philadelphia, James West.[3]

Other evidence adds more detail. It suggests that William Penn, the son of an admiral with some knowledge of ships, selected and understood the importance of his new colony as a center of commerce and shipbuilding. He chose the location of his city, “‘where most ships may best ride, and load and unload at a bank or key side without boating or lightering of it.’” Penn also limited land clearing by reserving “‘all good oak trees’” for shipbuilding. In his Some Accounts of the Province of Pennsylvania, Penn first enumerated the beneficial reasons for establishing colonies in American, then he listed the kind of emigrants most likely to thrive there. In this list he twice specified shipwrights and their dependent trades: “…carpenters, sawyers, hewers, trunnel-makers, joyners….”[4]

Different sources state that three master shipcarpenters lived and worked in Philadelphia in the 1680s and 1690s. Unfortunately, the lists from the four different sources do not correspond. One source cites a Richard Norris letter as listing, “3 master shipscarpenters + 1 rope maker,” but the source only identifies two by name: William West and Bartholomew Penrose. A second source also identifies “Three Master Ship Carpenters.” They are James West, Richard Russell, and Tenis Lynch, with the added notation that there are no records of Lynch or Russell after 1693. A third source identifies two ship builders, James West and James Parrock, while a fourth lists William West and Bartholomew Penrose.

The identifications of James West and William West are especially confusing. Evidence, including his account book and an archaeological excavation, certify the existence of James West. By 1683 James West’s Shipyard was located at “Penny Pot Free Landing,” at the foot of what is now Vine Street. The yard occupied sixty feet of river bank. By 1689 James West’s success enabled him to purchase the Penny Pot tavern, “where he now liveth,” and add an additional, adjacent forty feet of river bank to the north of Vine Street. If West’s shipyard extended westward to Front Street from the Delaware River, James West owned a considerable portion of riverfront property along the northern edge of the city of Philadelphia. Conflicting sources identify William West as the first shipwright who emigrated with William Penn, who built a ship for Penn, and whose yard was also located at the foot of Vine Street. Yet, no records identify William West and James West together either as neighbors or relatives. Unlike James West, William West appears only in later records as a merchant.  Even without being able to identify individual shipbuilders with certitude, one fact emerges. At the end of the seventeenth century shipbuilding flourished in Philadelphia, for, writing in 1710, Richard Castlemen counted “300 sailship” launched in Philadelphia in the past forty years.[5]


Merchants and Shipbuilders

            For Philadelphia, hard times marked the first two decades of the eighteenth century. The deprivation of Queen Anne’s War and the financial collapse of the South Sea Bubble affected Philadelphia trade and commerce-dependent shipbuilding. But by the 1720s, with the return of peace and financial stability in Europe, Philadelphia entered a prolonged period of economic growth and prosperity.

The Minutes of the Philadelphia Common Council, one of the surviving public records, enumerate twenty-seven shipwrights  admitted to freemanship in the city in April and May of 1717. Of the twenty-seven newly admitted shipwright-citizens, nine also later appear as property owners in the deedbooks of Philadelphia. (See: Appendix 1.) Of those nine, six or seven established shipyards both northward and southward from the commercial center of the city along the Delaware River and appear through the records of Philadelphia shipbuilding for the next fifty years.

With the flood of immigration, more and more of Philadelphia’s hinterland, fertile farmland within a hundred mile arc from the port of Philadelphia, fell with the touch of the ax and the plow. By 1730, the annual value of the effort of extractive and agricultural labors: animals skins, timber, wheat, and flaxseed reached £50,000. And with this increase in export commodities, the great Philadelphia mercantile houses and the shipbuilding industry jointly blossomed.[6]

Sheltered by this aegis of prosperity the great merchants and their mercantile houses evolved. These great, mostly Quaker, merchants, who traded safely within the Friendly credit network, dominated eighteenth century Philadelphia. These merchants developed a fundamental and reciprocal relationship with Philadelphia shipbuilders, and the records of these merchants – James and Isaac Pemberton, Isaac Norris, Jonathan Dickinson, Samuel Coates and John Reynell, Samuel McCall, Abel James and Henry Drinker, Daniel Clark, Thomas Wharton, Benjamin Fuller, William Allen, and others – are the best sources for identifying shipbuilders and illuminating some details of their craft.

Several historians have noted the early eighteenth century shipbuilding strategies pursued by American merchants and their British associates. A merchant might negotiate, either solely, with a partner or partners, or as an agent for another buyer, for the construction of a smaller ship of 40 to 150 tons, such as a sloop, schooner, shallop, or ketch. In this earliest period of Philadelphia’s commercial growth, these smaller ships served two purposes: first, the inter- coastal or riverine trade in the shallow bays, inlets, or landings of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or Virginia or, secondly, the Philadelphia to West Indies and return trade. In the Caribbean, shallow harbors and limited market capacity (the arrival of a large ship with a great cargo might glut the market, depress prices and leave the merchant’s local factor with unsaleable, spoiled goods) also necessitated a smaller ship.[7]

Isaac Norris Sr.’s Letterbook for the period 1716-1724 begins the intertwined story of mercantile strategy and the negotiations between Philadelphia merchants and shipbuilders. One of Norris’ earliest entries merely refers to two sloops, Betty James and Samuel. Then, a subsequent entry identifies another sloop that had just been sold but adds a price, “I bot [sic] this sloop cheap £114.”  A following entry requests that John Askew, an English marine insurance broker, insure the three sloops, including the Betty James; this entry also noted their destination – Jamaica.

This series of entries touches one of the fascinating features of eighteenth century mercantile strategy. A merchant such as Isaac Norris might load a cargo on a ship and send the ship on its way, then write an insurance broker requesting insurance on the ship and its cargo. By the time the letter requesting insurance reached the broker and the merchant received a response, the ship may have already arrived safely at its destination or, as the following entry describes, perished. On July 23, 1718 Norris wrote in his letterbook, “The Betty is not yet arrived nor do I expect it having reason to fear ye poor people are lost on the rocks of Bermuda.”[8]

Simeon Crowther gives evidence of the connection between merchants such as Isaac Norris, the expansion of Philadelphia’s economy, and the growth of its shipbuilding industry; he has calculated that during the 1720s and 1730s Philadelphia shipbuilders built 412 ships. In 1724 Isaac Norris joined that outburst of shipbuilding, for he decided to add another sloop to the fleet of five or six ships that he owned in whole or part. To one of his frequent correspondents (and perhaps partner) Richard Myles, Norris explained his intent to build a new ship and for the first time identified the shipwright by name. “The largest is built by the honest good & neat workman James Parrock & of the best timber.”

James Parrock was one of the most prominent shipbuilders of early Philadelphia. His career spanned almost fifty years and is detailed in both public and private records. Parrock first appeared in public records in the Minutes of the Common Council, but he held office as a member of the council, not as an admitted freeman. We have no record of Parrock before 1717, but, perhaps, with Bartholomew Penrose, was one of the cadre of British shipwrights who had emigrated to America with English-learned skills. We do know that by 1717 James Parrock, artisan, shipwright and shipyard owner, had joined Philadelphia’s ruling elite as a member of Philadelphia’s Common Council. No wonder that Norris knew Parrock and was able to describe him as an “honest good & neat workman.”[9]

Apparently, Norris and Parrock had agreed to a contract, for three months later Norris wrote, “The bigger of my new ships in near launching … pretty well built vessel … I hope she will be ready in March.” An entry written two years later added the details of the transaction, the price, “£400,” and the name, “Bonavista.” Several other letters written regarding the construction of the Bonavista provide details about the complex financial arrangements between merchant and shipbuilder. Parrock and Norris entered into a partnership that went beyond a contract for a construction of a ship. One entry in Norris’ letterbook states, “… myself and James Parrock consent to the sale”. In another letter to another correspondent, Norris added a detail about  insurance for the Bonavista, “1/8 to James Parrock.”

In his excellently detailed work on colonial shipbuilding, Joseph Goldenberg describes the financial provisions between merchant and shipbuilder in cash terms only: one-third down, one-third when the contractor completed the framing (the skeleton of the ship without exterior planking or decking), and the final third on the launching of the vessel. The Norris letterbook and others suggest alternatives to the cash-only terms. In currency strapped America, the shipbuilder might agree to partial ownership in lieu of all cash. In that case the shipbuilder gambled. If the ship lasted the expected ten or twelve years, or was later sold at a “good price,” he might profit. If, however, the ship was uninsured or underinsured and lost at sea like the Betty James, or, in wartime, captured by privateers, the shipbuilder-investor might lose a great sum. There was a second alternative. A shipbuilder might accept goods rather than cash as partial payment. For chronically cash-starved merchants, the advantage is obvious, but less so for the shipbuilder, unless the shipbuilder might, in turn, pay his laborers with portions of the goods which they themselves could retail.[10]

For the following decades, the 1730s and 1740s, other mercantile papers, letterbooks and account books, also attest to the extent and vigor of Philadelphia shipbuilding. In records, smaller ships of 40 to 100 tons, shallops, ketches, snows, and sloops appeared less frequently. Now, shipwrights constructed larger vessels, two or three masted, square-rigged ships. Ships and brigantines (later identified as a brig), with a cargo capacity of  150 to 500 or more tons and capable of extended trans-Atlantic voyages, replaced the older and smaller ones. Although larger, these newer ships could be sailed by a smaller crew at a reduced labor cost. A list of 68 ships registered in Philadelphia between 1735 and 1741 includes 22 ships that were also built in Philadelphia. Of the twenty-two, fifteen were larger ships identified as brigantines (brig’t) or brigs. Another Isaac Norris document, a list from 1734, reflected the same transformation. Of the ten vessels which accounts recorded, only three were small sloops and snows.[11]

Although the earliest mention of Charles West comes from an entry in the papers of Samuel Powel, The correspondence of other merchants,John Reynell and Samuel Coates, which date from 1729 to 1741, contain more numerous references to cargoes, destinations, profits, ships, and ship construction. In 1740, after several years of dickering, Reynells entered into a contract with another of Philadelphia’s great shipbuilders, Charles West. James West, whose career stretched back to 1676, had died in 1701. Charles West then followed his father’s footsteps. Together, the careers of the father and son, James and Charles, spanned more that sixty years of Philadelphia shipbuilding. Reynells’ agreement with Charles West is the most detailed evidence of 1740s shipbuilding in Philadelphia. In a June 1740 letter to Daniel Flexney, his major English financial associate, Reynell announced the construction of another ship to add to the firm’s growing commercial fleet. The contents of the letter are important for the negotiations between merchant and shipbuilder reveal several facets of eighteenth century ship construction. Reynell wrote, “Have agreed with Charles West to Build a Square Stern Vessell [sic] of 55 foot keel 21 foot beam 10 foot Hole [sic] 4 foot beetwixt Decks 11 Foot … 12 Foot Rake … to be launched here by by May next … could not get here [sic] done sooner by any good carpenter … besides I am informed it would be a great Disadvantage to the Vesell [sic] to plank here [sic] up in winter … am to give him £ 4–.”[12]

Reynell and West had negotiated the construction of a large square rigged, two or three masted sailing vessel, either a brig or a ship. Clearly, Reynell intended its capacious hold to carry bulky cargoes, to have the capability to sail on long voyages of six months or more, and to cross and recross the Atlantic Ocean. Reynell had been advised wisely. Since wood, even dense hardwoods such as white oak, swells and contracts with different climatic conditions, planking a ship in drier but colder winter courted disaster. Unfortunately, the last line of the letter, including the price of the newly constructed vessel, is almost illegible. Presumedly, the cost was £400, and there were good reasons why neither Reynell nor any other merchant could have ships constructed on demand. It had become a seller’s market.

Like other eighteenth century imperial wars, the War of Jenkin’s Ear stimulated shipbuilding. Seeking to reap a bonanza, some merchants hastened to outfit privateers. Others hoped that the British Navy, which paid in gold, might commandeer their vessels – especially if the ship were older and had declined in real value and seaworthiness – as a troop transport. Old, nearly derelict, hulks might return handsome profits. In the boom-or-bust times of the eighteenth century, periods encompassed by frequent European wars were generally times of great activity in Philadelphia shipyards. Little wonder that Reynell, “could not get here [sic] done any sooner by any good carpenter….”

By November of 1740 Reynell reported that, “The new ship is raised as had Agreeable to former Orders contracted for a Vesell [sic] to be 10 foot deep + 21 foot breadth which thought was deep enough in Warr Time. The Carpenter insisted on her being no deeper unless she were wider, so at last I was obliged to agree she should be 21 1/2 (feet) breadth, in order she might be 10 1/2 (feet) deep and believe she will be much better for it. I can’t conceive what makes the incline to build Vesells [sic] so narrow unless it be to lessen the Carpenter’s Bill, but what it will … besides she is much swifter + better for it.”[13]

John Reynell thought finance, but Charles West knew his craft. When an early eighteenth century master shipwright began the construction of a major sailing ship, he continued a craft steeped in ancient lore and guided by centuries old principles. To construct a specific type of vessel, whether it was a sloop, brig, or ship, a shipwright referred to a published construction manual. The manual listed and identified each piece of timber by name or by some alphabetical or numerical code that located it within the whole structure. An experienced shipbuilder such as Charles West probably knew each piece of timber by memory and knew how the entire structure fitted together like a giant three dimensional jigsaw puzzle. A customer, such as John Reynell might request alterations in decorative or finishing touches but not changes in the basic structure. Varying one dimension, breadth (beam or width) or length or depth of the hold, necessitated changing every other dimension or begged an alteration in the laws of flotation.

In April 1741 Reynell wrote that he expected the new ship to be launched at the end of August or the beginning of September. Yet as late as July, he and Charles West had just, “agreed to 4 thousand feet of four inch planks.” Unfortunately and exasperatingly, we have no knowledge of the outcome of the construction of this unnamed ship. John Reynell’s letterbook ends on October 15, 1741. Even so, the details culled from this set of mercantile accounts help to illuminate the craft of early Philadelphia shipbuilders.[14]

By the 1740s Penn’s “Greene Country town” had become a bustling city. With 5000 homes and commercial establishments and a population reaching 20,000 souls, Philadelphia boasted the appurtenances of a real city. With paved and lit streets, sidewalks, and an imposing skyline dotted with tall steeples, Penn’s city left behind its bucolic beginning. Yet, for all its cosmopolitan finery, Philadelphia remained a commercial outpost attached to its imperial umbilical cord, the Delaware River. Along its dense ten block mercantile waterfront, docks, wharves, warehouses, stores, and their attendant facilities crowded together. Every year more than 400 ships cleared the Port of Philadelphia bound for every corner of the expanding and pugnacious British Empire. As demand for ships grew so did the number of shipyards.[15]


Geography of Shipbuilding

            Combining information gleaned from the Philadelphia Deed Books with merchant’s accounts expands our knowledge of shipbuilding geography. Of the 103 shipwrights identified in either the Minutes of the Philadelphia Common Council or the Deed Books, at least 19 can be positively identified as owning property whose size and location fit the requirements for a shipyard. Although the total number was greater,  Nicholas Scull’s 1762 “Plan of the Improved part of the City …” maps seven shipbuilding yards. Descriptions such as, “… before the Bank of Delaware River … in breadth forty foot in length two hundred fifty foot. Bounded on the west with the great Road or front street ….” These dimensions clearly identify the size, ten thousand square feet of land or more, and partially identify the location of a shipyard. Before 1740 the increasing value of the commercial docks and wharfs that stretched from High (Market) Street to Dock Street (the area that now comprises Penn’s Landing) forced the land-hungry shipyards to the city’s extremities, to the Northern Liberties and Wiccacoe. To the north the great shipyards of competitors, neighbors, and sometimes friends and relatives – Charles West, James Parrock, Joseph Lynn, Nathaniel Poole, and others – extended to strange sounding places such as Shackamaxon and Kensington. In Wiccacoe to the south, above and below the Old Swedes Church stood the shipyards of Bartholomew Penrose,William Penn’s partner, William Hayes, Warwick Coates, and Richard Dennis. In some instances these shipyards were contigious, but in other cases they were interspersed with ropewalks, lesses boatyards, and even undeveloped lots.[16]

Construction of a major sailing ship required a large area of land. The dimensions of the ship that Charles West constructed for John Reynell were 55 feet by 20 feet or 1,100 sq. ft. Doubling that area to allow for scaffolding and other construction related activities – hauling and piling and joining timber – brings the total area closer to 2,000 sq. ft. per ship. Hanging in the card catalogue room of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a William Birch oil painting. The painting features the famous Treaty Tree, but the background of the south-facing view of the Delaware River includes a shipyard that shows several ships under construction simultaneously. Because it enabled them to maximize their labor and material resources, we know that ship builders often pursued this multiple ship strategy, For example, shipbuilders frequently hired teams of oxen to raise the huge, pre-assembled stern post into place while shipcarpenters bolted this member to the keel. Hiring one team of oxen to raise several stern posts consecutively, rather then hiring them on several different occasions saved money.

In addition to the area devoted directly to ship construction, shipyards also required four other large, adjacent areas: facilities for steaming planks, a pit for sawing wood, a timber stockpile of seasoned wood (English competitors accused Americans of building less expensive ships by using unseasoned wood.), and a mast pond or pen. (Mast ponds, used to soak and render pine masts and spars more flexible were more common in New England shipyards. More likely, Philadelphia shipyards, lacking handy ponds, used mast pens in the river.) A saw pit required room for two men working in tandem to saw planks as long as 20 feet by 4 inches by 4 inches, and shipbuilders wanted to minimize construction time by having as much pre-sawn timber available as possible. (See: Figure 4.)  If we add all of these discrete areas, a total of 20,000 square feet, seems reasonable for West’s shipyard. And, if we multiply that area by the estimated 12 to 16 shipbuilding yards, we begin to appreciate the geographic impact of eighteenth century Philadelphia shipbuilding on our visual picture of the city.

Philadelphia Shipbuilding: 1740 to 1770

            While Charles West constructed John Reynell’s ship, at almost the same time, another Philadelphia shipbuilder, West’s neighbor, John Parrott (Parrock?), surely the son of James Parrock, constructed a ship for another Philadelphia merchant, William Till. The negotiations between William Till, the Philadelphia merchant, Lawrence Williams, the London merchant, and John Parrott, the Philadelphia shipbuilder, stretched over months, from August to December 1740, and they add several more features of early Philadelphia shipbuilding: the hierarchy within the shipbuilding community and one of the criteria of a good builder. In the course of this wrangling the dimensions of the proposed vessel changed, but not the size. Till had decided on a ship of  160 tons with an additional unusual feature, “10 or 12 guns,” certainly for protection against privateers. One of the letters written in September connects Philadelphia shipbuilding, with Philadelphia mercantile strategy, with greater changes in the Pennsylvania hinterland. Till justified construction of the new ship by noting that, “vast numbers of People & a large tract of land employed in Tillage, so as the quantity of Grain greatly increase every year.”

Till also defended his choice of John Parrock as the builder of the new ship. Although Till admitted that Parrock, “ … does not come up to C.West…,” he explained, “… he being esteemed a good builder & the only one in town of the chief builders that is to be employed West, Huling & Wells have their hands full.” Obviously, the rapid spread of Pennsylvania agriculture and the attendant development of export commerce boded well for Philadelphia shipbuilding. Besides misspelling his name, and perhaps without realizing it, Till damned Parrock with faint praise. One wonders why Parrock was unemployed while the others were busy. Besides unconsciously denigrating Parrock, Till’s letter reveals that there was a clearly perceived hierarchy in Philadelphia shipbuilding; opinion “esteemed” Parrock as a “good builder.” This letter of Till’s also confirms, by name, the identity of several other shipbuilders working in Philadelphia in the 1740s: the well known Charles West, Michael Huling, who constructed  a privateer, the Penguin, for another merchant, Samuel McCall, and Thomas Wells. More will be written later of Michael Huling, another of the Northern Liberties’ shipwrights, but Thomas Wells remains a shadowy figure.

In the same letter Till revealed one of the criteria that marked a “good” shipbuilder. Examining Parrock’s shipyard, Till found it, “well stocked w’th a fine quantity of 2 1/2 Inch Plank as well as Pine well seasoned locust trunnels … a great quantity of exceeding good timber.”As any other construction trade, to meet the demands of customers such as William Till, shipbuilders walked a fine line. To speedily fulfill contracts, they needed to stockpile timber. Timber needed to be “seasoned,” left in the air so that sap hardened, retarding rot and decay. But, unused timber encumbered capital and eventually rotted anyway when exposed too long. A smart shipyard owner needed to gauge the fine line between a sufficient supply that would allow prompt completion of contracts and impress a potential customer, such as William Till, and too much timber or too little.

By March 1741, after nine months of bargaining, Till and Parrock agreed on dimensions: a ship sixty-three feet in length, twenty-three feet wide with a hold of ten feet and eight inches. The 160 ton hold was spacious enough to store barrels of flour funneling into Philadelphia from the rich and rapidly expanding agricultural hinterland. While the letters mention no price, John McCusker’s excellently meticulous calculations allow us to estimate one. McCusker calculated the cost of Philadelphia shipbuilding at £7 per ton. In this case the total cost would be £1,120.[17]

In the same March letter, Till enumerated some of the extensive list of materials required to outfit an armed ship, “six four pounders, twelve muskets, four blunderbusses, 38 bolts of sail clothe 350 fathoms of various sizes of rope, pumps, 1 speaking trumpet, 6 scrapers, 100 sail needles, etc.” Three other letters stretch the saga of the new ship. In the final letter written on March 4, 1742 Till informed Lawrence Williams that the Shippen was being loaded with pipe staves, not barrels of flour and bound for Lisbon. From conception to launch the construction of the Shippen had taken almost two years. Ship owners might want ships built in four months or a year, but slowness of transportation, the tardiness of deliveries of suppiles: timber, sails, cannons, and rope, as well as the unpredictability of Philadelphia weather made two years a more likely time frame for the construction of a major sailing ship[18]

Another prominent Philadelphia merchant, Samuel McCall, entered into contracts with two other local shipbuilders: Thomas Penrose and Benjamin Howell. Thomas Penrose came from a noted ancestry. He was the son and heir to Bartholomew Penrose, one of the first Philadelphia shipbuilders and partner in shipownership with William Penn. The Penrose family founded their shipyard in Wiccacoe at the southern edge of the city’s commercial nexus. Other than listing Penrose’s name, the journal tells us little. Whether Penrose had built the ship Hope or more probably just repaired it (Penrose’s name appears in an account billed to another merchant, “Messrs. William Gibbs + Co”) is uncertain.

Of the second shipbuilder, Benjamin Howell, McCall’s journal provides more details. McCall’s journal describes his business with Howell under the heading, “The Amount of Tradesmens Bills and other Disbursements in building & fitting out to Sea the Brig’t Prosperity.” For McCall and three partners, John Watts, almost certainly the ship’s master, and Nicholas and John Governeur, Howell had constructed the brig for the price of £418.13.[19]

            The brig Prosperity was ill-named. Immediately after her launch in the fall of 1747, the ship had run ashore at the entrance to Delaware Bay and required extensive repairs. McCall’s particular account of “Tradesmens Bill” allows us to see more deeply into the complex labor structure of early Philadelphia ship construction and repair. We know the names, location, and some of the work of the great master shipbuilders, the owners of the shipyards, but we know less of the artisans who labored in those places of work.[20]

A select handful of the early Philadelphia shipyard owners such as Charles West, James Parrock, and Thomas Penrose functioned as owner-managers. They negotiated contracts with merchant-customers, dealt with suppliers and subcontractors, and hired laborers. Other craftsmen of various levels of skills did the actual construction. Shipwrights, the older, still-used term, stood on the next level of the shipbuilding hierarchy just beneath the shipyard owners. They held a dual role: the actual hands-on construction and the supervision of other workers. In English shipyards the rigid, ancient guild structures – master, journeyman, apprentice – endured, but in labor-short America the lines blurred. These second level shipwrights might be masters who labored steadily in one yard or journeymen who labored on a daily basis and who might work concurrently in several different yards depending on their skill and the level of construction of various ships. They might also work directly for a merchant on a ship docked at a merchant’s pier. Of the 85 shipwrights who appear in the Deed Books of Philadelphia between 1684 and 1770, plus 25 admitted as freemen before the Common Council in 1717, most, 77 did not own shipyards. But the 85 recorded in the Deed Books all possessed property that usually included a lot and a building.

Next, a shipcarpenter, skilled at attaching knees (the member bolted to the ribbing that supported the deck beams) and the beams themselves, might work on one ship when construction had reached that stage, then move onto another ship or another yard, only to return when work had advanced to the next level of knees and beams and planking. For their labor these skilled artisans received three or four shillings per day.

On the descending strata beneath the shipcarpenters labored a host of differently skilled workers: sawyers, joiners, and caulkers. Sawyers sawed and hewed the rough timbers into specific architectural pieces, some with exotic nautical names: planks, knees, and futtooks. Joiners drove the trunnels (hardwood spikes) that fastened the exterior planking to the ribbing as the imposing structure rose on the blocks.

Beyond the gates of the shipyard a multitude of related craftsmen: sailmakers, mastmakers, ropemakers, boatmakers, and blacksmiths contributed to the construction. At the bottom of the pyramid the lowly, shilling-a-day laborers did the hauling and carrying needed to assemble the parts of a great sailing ship. Lacking specific statistics or dockyard books for this period, imagination forces us to make speculative guesses about numbers. Estimating twenty to forty workers per ship, depending on size, the stage of construction, and the number of ships under construction simultaneously in the same yard, and multiplying by the twelve or fifteen yards known to exist, gives us some indication of the numerical extent of the shipbuilding community in the economic and social fabric of early eighteenth century Philadelphia.

Samuel McCall’s account for the repairs to the Prosperity permits us to identify some of the pieces of this interwoven labor network and to fit them together. The same account that notes, “cash pd … to Robert Toms … for work done aboard Brig,” also accounts for another ship, the sloop Anne, and lists five men as “joiners”: William McCrea, William Clymers, John Winckles, Abraham Masons, and John Phillips, “cash paid to him in full.” The unusual and curiously unexplained notation, “cash pd his wife,” follows William Clymer’s name. Although McCall listed Abraham Mason among the “joiners” other reference in the journal suggest he was a sailmaker. A third account, “for fitting out ship Aurora,”  also identifies five other workers: Simon Sherlock (ship carpenter), John Little, Thomas Hurst (shipwright), Thomas Wells (shipwright), and Thomas Williams (boatbuilder/shipwright). These five received a total of £13.10. Samuel McCall paid these workers in cash, but other merchants used an alternative method, payment in goods. Samuel Coates, John Reynell’s partner, recorded a transaction of payment with a shipcarpenter, William Harris, “2yd gallon + silk.” In several entries Harris received other commodities, mostly sugar and molasses. Prosperity for both merchants and shipbuilders marked Philadelphia in the 1740s, but the following decades surpassed even that.[21]

If John McCusker and Simeon Crowther have calculated correctly, the 1750s and 1760s represented the apex of pre-Revolutionary eighteenth century shipbuilding in Philadelphia. From the Ship’s Registered List, Crowther extrapolated 319 ships built in Philadelphia during the  1750s and 315 during the 1760s. As well as calculating the number of ships, McCusker also argued for an increase in total annual tonnage from 1300 tons per year in 1726 to 4,400  tons per year in 1775 and an increase in cost of ship construction from a total of £6,999 to £32,600 over the same period.[22]

Existing mercantile record for the period from 1750 to 1770 confirms the vibrancy of Philadelphia shipbuilding. In great detail merchants described ships, cargoes, ship masters, partners, destinations, shipbuilding, and ship repairs. William Allen, the mayor of Philadelphia and the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, wrote to an English correspondent, Thomas Wade, that he was “inclined to have a vessel of about 110 tons built here on your account….”  Charles Willing, another of the great Philadelphia merchants, informed yet another English trade partner that he had, “contracted for a new Snow of 53 feet keel.” Able James, the senior partner in the mercantile house of Drinker & James, also referred to a new ship that the firm had built.[23]

Most of the records simply refer to building or repairing and generically to a “shipbuilder” or “shipcarpenter.” In one of the last letters, referring to his newly built snow, Homer, Charles Willing noted that the carpenter had installed three new beams. In the same letter to John Wade quoted above, William Allen simply assured Wade that he had employed the best builder. Abel James informed William Neate that a number of carpenters were at work on the Chippenham.  Even mercantile newcomer Daniel Clark, “ … I am but a beginner and not Bred to the Business,” quickly learned the ropes and wrote that, “ – We have agre’d w’th a Carpenter to build us a ship ….” Yet, with all of this building and repairing most individual shipwrights go unnamed.[24]

Even though a large number of merchant’s letterbooks and other records from the 1750s and 1760s have survived in various archives, they provide us with little detailed information about early Philadelphia shipbuilding. However, one source, the Drinker and James letterbooks, contain an exceptionally detailed story of one ship and its builder. The pages of the letterbook tell a story rich in details found nowhere else and continue the tale of the ship after its launch.

At mid-century the feverous commercial boom set merchants in search of ships and provided employment for shipyard workers. In 1756 the partners, Able James and Henry Drinker, responded to a query from Nehemiah Champion, a Bristol merchant. Champion had asked Drinker and James to negotiate a contract for the construction of a ship by one of Philadelphia’s many shipbuilders. Drinker and James assurred Champion that they had made themselves familiar with the city’s shipbuilders and knew those who were most reliable. Instead of Charles West, Drinker and James chose another shipbuilder whose name had not previously appeared in their records nor in those or any other firm. They selected William Rice, a shipbuilder at Kensington, just at the northern edge of Northern Liberties. Then, they added the reason for their selection of Rice. They had selected him because he was the only shipwright who would agree to the four months window which Champion had stipulated.

This contract reflects the hurried tenor of the times, the vagaries of Philadelphia shipbuilding, as well as unusual details. The contract began with the usual conditions. The partners contracted with Rice to build a brig: fifty-two feet in length, twenty-two feet in width, with a hold of ten feet and nine inches in depth. After having listed the dimension of the ship, the writer revealed the critical formula for calculating tonnage, “multiple the 52 by 22 + the product by 10 feet 9 and divide by 95 makes 129 tons.” After calculating the tonnage, the price followed, “… we are to pay him £425.” Then, the writer added the usual construction clauses with two exceptions. First, while Rice was to provide the white oak, Drinker and James were to find the  Locust treenails needed for planking. Secondly, having repeated all of the details which appear in almost all other recorded merchant-shipbuilder contracts, Drinker and James added a unique detail. Besides providing construction material the merchants were to provide, “a cask Barbados Rum 100ct muscovado Suger [sic] which is abut [sic] Six Punds [sic] for a launching dinner + other matters according to custom in which we shall take due care that everything is supply’d with all necessary Frugality + Oeconomy.” In a time of changes for shipbuilders, as old labor structures evolved and merchants demanded larger ships whose rigging and sail configuration reduced crew sizes, old custom, the launch dinner, persisted.[25]

Having contracted dimensions, price, date of completion, and the provisions for the launch celebration, the merchants added the standard weather clause. Rice had to launch the ship within four months, by April 10th. However, if the always unpredictable Philadelphia weather proved uncooperative, the contract gave Rice twenty extra working days. Naturally, Philadelphia weather being what it is, “For these past 4 Months we have had the most remarkable series of bad weather ever known here … thy new vessel is not so far forward as we could wish.” Not just nature but also the machination of man, the long arm of the Royal Navy, threatened the construction of the brig. The Drinker & James Letterbook added, “the Carpenter now goes on briskly … and hope it will continue and that none of His hands will be pressed to get Transport Ships in Readiness.”[26]

The Drinker and James letterbooks contain only outgoing letters, but the tone of the correspondence written during March 1757 suggests that the Philadelphia merchants had received dissatisfied missives from “Friend” Champion. This dissatisfaction led Drinker and James to expand on their reasons for the selection of William Rice, who had built for them on two previous occasions. They described Rice as, “…the best Draftsman in the place….” This phrase presents evidence of further evolution in ship design and construction. Not only had the size, masting, and rigging of ships changed, but also the methods of design and construction. Since late medieval times shipwrights had relied on construction manuals, but by the middle of the eighteenth century change had occurred. In their great Greenwich dockyards, the British Royal Navy pioneered innovations such as drafting and copper sheathing of ship’s hulls. (At times, the ultraconservative Royal Navy could be progressive. From their experience in the Caribbean, the Royal Navy had adopted copper sheathing on the hulls of ships to counteract destructive tropical marine parasites.) Drafting, architectural drawings which showed several precise views of the ship’s structure, enabled shipbuilders to construct individual ships rather than conform to rigid types such as sloops, brigs, frigates, battle-ships-of-the-line. The drawings also speeded construction. Using the measurements taken from the drawings, craftsmen worked simultaneously but separately. The drawings enabled them to construct major parts of a ship – the keel, the stern, and the stem – and then assemble them as construction advanced. It seems likely that William Rice, as many other American shipwrights, had learned his trade in a British shipyard.[27]

Somehow Rice overcame the obstacles: the weather and the ubiquitous British Navy. In June 1757 the letter book reported that Rice had launched the brig Swift and added a celebratory note, “she is allowed to be as fine a vessel as was ever built here.” Happily for us the story of the ship continues beyond its launch. The contentious Nehemiah Champion may have been satisfied with the ship but not with the final price, £507.13.7 (Some changes had been made of which Champion had approved.) Drinker and James argued that the price was ten or twelve pounds too high, but Rice refused to reduce it.  Rather than expensive and time consuming litigation, the opposing sides settled the issue by submitting it to arbitration. The referees, two esteemed members of Philadelphia’s shipping and shipbuilding community: Michael Huling, the shipyard owner, and Captain Oswald Eve, formerly a shipcarpenter who had clearly elevated his social status, found in favor of Rice and defended both the price and the quality of the ship.[28]

The story of the Swift concludes a year later. In May 1758, Drinker and James reported that the Swift, which had been captured by French privateers and taken into Port au Prince, was retaken by New York privateers. A final entry finishes the story. In June 1758 the letterbook mentions the sale of the Swift to be outfitted as a privateer. The price was £1360. If Nehemiah Champion had paid £507 for the ship and sold it at £1360, someone had made a handsome profit on “as fine a Vessel as ever was built.”[29]

             The 1750s and 1760s were a prosperous time for Philadelphia commerce and shipbuilding. But of the 800 or more ships built in Philadelphia during that period  economically-focused mercantile papers give us a glimpse of only a few. Fortunately, other records permit greater knowledge of Philadelphia shipbuilders and their community.


Shipbuilders & Land

            So far this study has identified some shipbuilders by name and described, to some extent, the craft of shipbuilding as detailed in the economic relationship between Philadelphia merchants and shipwrights. Other records, especially Deed Books, reveal another dimension of early Phialdelphia shipbuilder, their incessant acquisition and sale of land. In a recent work Donna Merwick describes the Dutch shipbuilders of seventeenth century New Netherlands as “alongshore” or on the “marge.” She poses them as myoptically focused on constructing ships to carry trade goods for the Dutch West Indies Company from one entrepot to another. Philadelphia shipbuilders certainly looked outward and down the Delaware River. They understood that their livelihood depended on the trade of the Atlantic World, but they gazed covetously inward as well.

The Philadelphia Deed Books list eighty-five shipwrights that either bought or sold property between 1684 and 1767. Of that number, sixty-one appear either once or twice. For example, on January 3, 1749, Francis Holhn, shipwright, and his wife, Rebecca, purchased a large lot from Joseph Cox, a merchant. For the lot Francis Holhn paid £500. The lot began on the bank of the Delaware River and ran 120 feet westward to Swanson St., “a new street.” From north to south the parcel of land was more than 105 feet in breadth. The southern boundary of Holhn’s land ran “upon the same street from the church ground.” The notation of the street, Swanson St., and the mention of “church ground” allows a fairly precise location of Holhn‘s lot. Francis Holhn had purchased land in Wiccacoe bounded by the Delaware River and the land of Old Swedes Church.

The record of Francis and Rebecca Holhn’s purchase of land in Wiccacoe did not use the term “shipyard.” The Deed Books almost never noted the land’s usage. However, the location of the lot on the bank of the Delaware River and its dimensions lead to the conclusion that Francis Holhn, shipwright, owned a shipyard. Since Holhn appears in the Deed Books only once and in no other record at all, we know nothing of the success of his craft or his connection with the shipbuilding community of Wiccacoe. As the deed included a “brick messuage,” we can assume that Francis Holhn’s household dwelled on shipyard land. While forty shipwrights, such as Francis Holhn, appear in the deed records only once, others appear more frequently.

Another shipwright, William Cunningham and his wife, Margaret, were neighbors of Francis and Rebecca Holhn. On July 13, 1747 Cunningham had purchased a lot from Joseph Wharton, one of the great landowners in this southeast section of the city. Cunningham hadn’t purchased a shipyard. For £80 Cunningham had bought a 18′ by 75′ lot on the south side of Lombard St., between 3rd and 4th Sts. Eight years later William and Margaret Cunningham sold the same lot and disappeared from the records. Since William Cunningham had not owned his own shipyard but possessed enough capital to buy an £80 lot, can we imagine him plying his craft in the shipyards of one of the great Wiccacoe shipbuilders, such as Warwick Coates, Richard Dennis, or Thomas Penrose? Or, perhaps, Cunningham labored as an independent contractor who worked for the great merchants on ships tied at their own wharf? In the examples of Francis Holhn, William Cunningham and the other shipwrights who appear only once or twice, records frustrate us and blunt our understanding of the early Philadelphia shipbuilding communities.[30]

Thankfully, other entries in the Deed Books provide richer details and permit a clearer picture of the landholding, the buying and selling, that joined shipbuilders with other Philadelphians. Not surprisingly, the major shipbuilders, including some of those already identified in merchant account books, appear over and over as insatiable dabblers in the DelawareValley real estate market. William Hayes and Nathaniel Poole, one of the earliest-identified shipwrights, each appear nine times. Poole even lent his name to one of the earliest maps of Philadelphia. Poole’s bridge crossed a stream, Pegg’s Run, that flowed into the Delaware River about a mile north of the city’s boundary. Henry Dennis and John Norris Sr. are both listed nine times. Dennis, a decendant of original Swedish settlers, was the proprietor of one of the Wiccacoe shipyards, but he also bought and sold lots and parcels of land in the other shipbuilding community, Northern Liberties. John Norris Sr., a Northern Liberties’ neighbor of Charles West and James Parrock was unusual. Unlike the other shipbuilders who mainly purchased land in either Wiccacoe or Northern Liberties, Norris bought land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and in Glouester, New Jersey, where he had originally practiced his craft. Joseph Lynn and Samuel Hastings took part in even more property transactions. Lynn appears fourteen times and Hastings fifteen times. But as a real estate tycoon, one shipbuilder, James Parrock, shipwright, shipyard owner, and member of the Common Council, out-bought and out-sold all the rest.[31]

The Philadelphia Deed Books contain at least thirty-three transactions made by James Parrock. Parrock bought and sold property in three discrete locations: along the Delaware River in the vicinity of his own shipyard, in the heart of Northern Liberties, and further north along the Delaware River, in undeveloped land stretching northward to the Frankford Creek towards the northern end of Philadelphia county. While Parrock’s investments became far-flung, Northern Liberties remained the center of his domain. From 1733 to 1753, the year before he wrote his will, Parrock continued to buy and sell land in Northern Liberties. By his death in 1759, Parrock owned most of the land along one street, Sassafras St.(today’s Arch St.) from Front St. to Third St. One wonders what this eighteenth century shipbuilder/real estate speculator would think of “OldCity” today.[32]

What does all this buying and selling of property reveal about the shipbuilders of early Philadelphia? It tells two things. First, at least fifty-eight shipbuilders, such as Francis Holhn and William Cunningham prospered from their skill, and they acquired sufficient property to be regarded as substantial members of their shipbuilding communities. Secondly, twelve to fifteen other shipwrights, who owned their own shipyards, also possessed sufficient property to be regarded as wealthy, on the same economic level, if not social level, as the merchants for whom they built, and assumedly influential and respected.

Shipbuilder – Families – Communities

            So far, this study has identified a large number of previously unknown seventeenth and eighteenth century Philadelphia shipbuilders. Then, mostly through the records of their merchant partners and customers, it has illuminated some facets of the craft of shipbuilding, especially the economic ties between shipbuilding and mercantile communities. Next, it demonstrates the degree to which shipbuilders acquired property and a stake in their communities. If this were all, we would be further than we had been, but another perusal of the Deed Books reveals more and takes us to a deeper level.

Sometimes, particularly in buying, selling, and leasing his Sassafras Street properties, James Parrock, eminent shipbuilder and real estate entreprneur, acted alone, but also, almost as frequently, he purchased properties with one or more partners. On at least three occasions Parrock and his neighbor, Joseph Lynn, another shipwright and shipyard owner, bought property jointly. In July 1740, Parrock and Lynn invested a great sum, £650, for 200 acres in an unspecified location. This unlikely partnership arouses our curiousity and engages our imagination. Why? Why would two rivals and competitors jointly purchase property? Is this some vestige of older artisanal comraderie before the advent of cut-throat capitalism? But besides Lynn, Parrock also acted with others.[33]

Of Parrock’s other partners, Jeremiah Elfreth was the most frequent. Jeremiah Elfreth was not a shipwright. He was a blacksmith, but his father, Henry Elfreth, of whom we know little, had been a shipwright. Parrock and Elfreth were neighbors. Both lived in and bought extensive properties in the same part of “OldCity,” bounded by Front, Fourth, Race, and Arch streets. Both bought, sold, leased, and rented properties, singley, jointly, and in combinations with others. In almost every case their partners were fellow artisans or shopkeepers – William Coates, brickmaker, Anthony Morris, hatter, and Michael Hillegas, German immigrant, potter and shopkeeper, and later Treasurer of both Pennsylvania and the United States. In 1733 Parrock, Lynn, Elfreth, along with another partner, Sarah Bowyer, widow of shipwright John Bowyer and later wife of Jeremiah Elfreth, collectively sold a number of properties, smaller building lots, in which the three men and a women had invested as partners. Clearly, this partnership endured. Seven years later, Parrock, Lynn, Elfreth, along with a new partner, Joseph Oldman, a merchant, bought forty acres “at Tacony Creek.” Since Tacony Creek ran into the Delaware River in a remote part of northeastern PhiladelphiaCounty, this purchase represented a speculative investment, perhaps the site of a future shipyard. These purchases in partnership demonstrate that Parrock, Lynn, Elfreth, and other artisans had developed an investment strategy to attempt to ensure continued profit and future security. Since the great political turmoil of the European powers often disrupted shipping and shipbuilding, this acquisition of property enabled Philadelphia shipbuilders to more safely invest their profits, to hopefully protect themselves against economic instability, to prosper on a level with the economic elite, such as William Allen, Richard Hill, and the Isaac Norrises, and to provide an inheritance for their children and grandchildren.[34]

Neither William Coats nor John Coats (sometimes spelled “Coates”) were shipwrights. The Deed Books identify them as brickmakers and/or bricklayers. Although the sources do not specify their relationship (brothers or cousins?), they were certainly related and lived on adjoining land in Northern Liberites, with a street named after them. Even if John Coats were not a shipwright, his son, Warwick Coates, was. The younger Coates had surely learned his craft in Joseph Lynn’s shipyard. Warwick Coates was both a shipwright and a shipyard owner. Warwick Coates was also the brother-in law to another shipwright, Richard Dennis. While Dennis lived and had a shipyard in Wiccacoe, he had also purchased parcels of land in Northern Liberties. To further extrude this geneological chart, Richard Dennis’ brother, Henry Dennis, also a shipwright, had married Martha Lynn, one of Joseph Lynn’s six daughters. To further the interwoven relationships of these artisanal communities, Peter Brown, shipwright, and father of William Brown, shipwright, has married one of William Coats’ daughters. And just to prove that the Coates-Dennis-Brown family did not hold a monopoly on artisanal clannishness, Willam Rice, who first appeared in 1747 and persisted to near the end of the 18th century, wedded Rebecca Norris, daughter of John, a shipwright, and Sarah Norris. When the Norrises conveyed a large waterfront lot on their daughter and new husband, the deed read, “… and of natural love and affection … and their better advancement.” Mindboggling in its complexity, these examples of multiple intermarriage among craft families attest to the bond that held these communities together. The economic and familial interrelationships, especially from one generation to another, assured a measure of stability in the face of political unrest, economic uncertainty, and life’s ordinary changes, such as births and deaths.[35]

Michael Huling has already appeared twice in this study, once as the builder of the Pengiun, and then as the arbitrator between William Rice and the dissatisified Nehemiah Champion. Now Huling reappears in another context. On May 16, 1751 Michael Huling along with a group of men, of whom only three are initially listed by name, followed by the notation “et ala.,” negotiated a deed transferring a large parcel of land, about six acres, to another large group of men. In most of the recorded deeds, one or two people, most often a husband and wife, conveyed land to another couple. On some occasions the transfer of land involved several persons, perhaps a tripartite agreement. But land transactions involving large numbers are almost never recorded in the Philadelphia Deed Books. The first deed involving the Huling group lists a few of the grantors and grantees by name. It also describes the location, in Wiccacoe, along Passyunk Road and the size, but nothing else. However, the suceeding entry, which almost duplicates the first, adds another phrase that gives both dimension and context to the transaction. The second entry states that the land “shall for ever here after continue to and for the use of the SwedesChurch … and the support and manitainence there of a Swedes Lutheran Minister.”

What are we to make of this transfer of property in which two groups of men took pains to assure the continued existence of a Swedish Lutheran church on the shore of the Delaware River? Were these men looking backward to a past that was rapidly disappearing?  Or were they men of deep faith who held their religion dearly? Perhaps, in the uncertain and changing 1750s men such as Michael Huling, Andrew Bankson, Andrew Toy, and Peter Keen (all first or second generation Swedish immigrants) sought solice in their faith?  It is easy to think of  Huling as a successful, callous-handed shipwright and respected member of the larger community, but this set of entries invites us to see him and other people of eighteenth century Philadelphia in another light, a people of abiding faith in God. Sometimes our academic craft leads historians to treat people simply as either, economic, intellectual, social, or political creatures. To forget that human beings are wonderfully complex, many-faceted with a spiritual dimension tempts a distorted view of the past.[36]


Shipbuilders – Continuity & Change


            Not surprisingly, eighteenth century fathers passed their skill onto their sons. Bartholomew Penrose built a ship for William Penn. Of his three sons, one, Thomas, followed his footsteps. John Norris Jr. succeeded his father. Both James and Thomas Wells took up their father’s trade. Father and son, Jacob and Henry Casdorf built ships in Philadelphia for eight decades of the eighteenth century. Tradition persists, but change intrudes, and some of the changes present us with evidence of eighteenth century social evolution and fathers’ hopes and dreams for their sons and grandsons.

Charles West had dominated Philadelphia shipbuilding in the 1740s, but his name does not appear in merchant records in relation to shipbuilding in the 1750s or 1760s. Instead other records – the Philadelphia Deed Books and The Tax List for 1772 – identify two other members of the West family, Sarah West and Charles West Jr. Sarah, the widow of Charles West Sr., the shipbuilder and shipyard owner, held taxable property of  £136.13.6, the second highest assessment in Northern Liberties. That tax assessment provides some proof of the wealth that Charles West’s skill and business acumen had amassed. But the identification of Charles West Jr. addresses the different issue – the issue of continuity and change. The tax assessment lists Charles West Jr. as a “merchant,” while the deedbook identifies him as both the executor of his father’s estate and as a “cooper.” We have no evidence that Charles West Jr. ever practiced his father’s trade, yet the label “cooper”suggests that the son, Charles West Jr., had engaged in a manual trade.  In any case, and presumedly the dual identifications of “merchant” and “cooper” are possible. Charles West Jr. had rejected the occupation that had made his father so wealthy and so respected. The question is why, and we have no answer. Had the son, for some unknown reason, turned his back on his father’s skilled craft? Is it possible that the appellation “merchant” even in association with “cooper” raised Charles West Jr.’s status in this status-conscious society? Was the son, a merchant, who did not work with his hands as had his father, entitled to be called “gentlemen?” We would like to know the answers to these questions. They would inform us about wealth and status in eighteenth century Philadelphia, but we have no way of knowing.[37]

As with Charles West, some confusions marks the end of James Parrock, but again his demise allows an examination of the issue of the continuity of occupation from father to son or in this case from grandfather to grandson. From 1717 to 1757 James Parrock had appeared in both public and private records. As a member of the city’s Common Council, Parrock had held a position of power and influence. He had negotiated shipbuilding contracts and constructed ships for the great merchants. He had engaged in numerous real estate transactions that give evidence to his wealth and respected status in the artisanal community. Yet, for all that, uncertainity clouds his demise.

Even though he may have been misindentified as “John Parrot,” both the deed books and mercantile records list another Parrock, John Parrock, as a Philadelphia shipwright. The Deed Book also lists him as the proprietor of a shipyard in Northern Liberties, in the vicinity of, if not adjacent to the shipyard of James Parrock. Yet, for their chronological and geographic proximity and their identical surnames, no records mention them together in any context. The deed books eumerate James Parrock with a large number of different individuals, especially Jeremiah Elfreth and Joseph Lynn, but never with John Parrock. But certainly, they must have been related, for other evidence attests to that. When James Parrock wrote his will, he named John Parrock Jr., his grandson, as executor of his estate.[38]

The same records include John Parrock Jr.’s occupation. Unlike his father(?) and his grandfather, John Parrock Jr. had escaped manual labor. As his neighbor and contemporary, Charles West Jr., the youngest Parrock, son and grandson of shipwrights, had become a merchant. Since he did not work with his hands, was he too a “gentleman?” Was John Parrock the younger’s elevated status a result of a grandfather’s conscious effort to provide a better life for his posterity?

The discrepancies and inconsistency of records prevents certainity, but, perhaps, James Parrock and Charles West had found ways for their son and grandson to partake of early America’s vaunted social mobility. Whether or not Charles West and James Parrock bequeathed respectability to their respective sons and grandson, we cannot assuredly ascertain, but they did leave substantial wealth. The wills of Charles West and James Parrock read similarly. First, they bestowed the silver: silver teapots, silver tongs, spoons, and tankards. Then, they gave land. To his widow Hannah, “for her natural life,” James Parrock granted their dwelling on Sassafras St. and the annual ground rents, with a total of £53.10s. 7d. For ten properties on either 2nd St. or Sassafras St., to his granddaughter Sarah, he left those actual properties on her grandmother’s death. While the will does not mention a son, James Parrock passed on the bulk of his real estate holdings to his grandson John, the merchant. John received his grandfather’s shipyard, an additional fifty-six acres of land, a lot of Sassafras St., and another river bank lot.

Beyond the disposal of real and personal property, James Parrock’s will also allows a rare glimpse into the affectionate relationships within this artisanal family. Upon his wife, Hannah, James Parrock bestowed treasured items: “my largest bible” and “my best chest of drawers.” While John Parrock Jr. received only “my thinest bible,” his grandfather awarded him with “my large silver tankard, two large silver spoons, and my walnut cabinet.” But Sarah was clearly the apple of her grandfather’s eye. By giving Sarah properties on which her grandmother collected ground rents for the remainder of her life, the will, in an uncertain world, tried to assure Sarah’s economic future. But Sarah also received tokens of the old man’s affection. James Parrock gave his beloved granddaughter, “my thickest bible, my small tankard, a silver porringer, a silver pepper box, two large silver spoons, and a chest of drawers that had belonged to her grandmother.” As men do, James Parrock tried to use his last will and testament to guarantee both the happiness and welfare of his progeny.

By contrast with James Parrock, Charles West left behind a larger extended family. It included his widow Sarah and five children: sons, James and Charles Jr., and three daughters, Sarah, Prudence, and Mary, and Mary’s husband, Daniel Cooper. Generally, Charles West’s will mirrored that of James Parrock. To his widow and children, West distributed silver and land, but, in one tiny but meaningful way, the wills of the two great shipbuilders differ. Charles West’s will lacks the affectionate touches that marked the will of James Parrock. Instead, as with other powerful men, Charles West tried to control his wealth beyond the grave. To his wife Sarah, West granted £100, “unless she remarries.” In the event of her remarriage, Sarah kept the “three Negroes,” the dwelling, the furniture, and the horse and carriage but not the cash; the two unmarried daughters, Sarah and Prudence, divided that equally.[39]

By the 1770s James Parrock, Charles West, Joseph Lynn, Nathaniel Poole, and the cadre of early Philadelphia shipbuilders were gone. A few, William Rice, Henry Casdorf, and Warwick Coates remained. Here our story, or at least this portion of it, ends. The deteriorating relationship between those who governed the British Empire and the American people, who found that governing less and less acceptable, disrupted trade and the shipbuilding which attended that trade. One public document attests to that disruption.  In an undated, probably from the early 1770s, petition of “the Subcribers Tradesmen employed in the various Arts of constructing, repairing, fitting, equipping + furnishing ships in + near the Port of Philadelphia” seventy-four shipbuilders begged the “Honorable representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general assembly met” for relief. The scarcity of hard currency made it difficult to collect payment for construction or repairs done on ships. None of the names, West, Huling, or Parrock, that marked Philadelphia shipbuilding in the first six decades of the eighteenth century, appear on the petition. The several non-importation agreements inflicted on British merchants by the American radicals and the Sons of Liberty severely restrained trade and shipping. With the outbreak of fighting and the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, many of the merchant journals and account book, our main entrance into shipbuilding, disappear. The list of ships registered, begun in 1762, ends in March 1776.

We know so little. This chapter begins to assemble pieces of a puzzle where only blanks existed. This chapter identifies some of the master shipbuilders and shipyard owners of early Philadelphia, and it describes the complex financial and contractual arrangements between shipbuilders and merchants. In several richly detailed anecdotal incidents, this work allows us to see the craft of shipbuilding as skilled craftsmen and unskilled workers labored for as long as two years to construct, launch, and celebrate the completion of one ship, only to move onto another and repeat the cycle. In a few instances, we glimpse the lesser craftsmen, the caulkers and joiners, and we know their names but little else. We know nothing of their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. How did they perceive themselves and their craft? Certainly, they took pride in their work. When challenged William Rice stoutly defended his price and his craftsmanship. Yet, some aspired for better things: Charles West Jr., “merchant,” John Parrock Jr., “merchant”, and Oswald Eve, “captain.” Did leaving the shipyard behind, no longer working with one’s hands transform a worker into a socially superior gentleman? Did accepting part ownership in a ship allow a shipbuilder to prosper? Did accepting payment in goods rather than suspect currency permit a common laborer and his wife to set up as retailers?

The numerous transactions in the Deed Books prove the economic prosperity of shipbuilding for some. They also suggest the existence of financial strategies to provide skilled craftsmen with wealth for the future and security against economic instability. These records also demonstrate the interrelationships between shipwrights and other members of their artisanal communities. Also, this chapter offers evidence of complex familial networks and parental strategy for social mobility for their offsprings. It also hints at the ways in which these people perceived, or at least reacted to, the great political and economic changes encompassing their world. Did they see these great changes as a threats or as opportunities? Or did they simply react and devise pragmatic strategies to cope? We know so little. But fortunately, at the end of the century, after the Revolutionary War, these same men or their successors strove to re-establish political and economic order and their public and private records allow us to peer more deeply into the shipbuilding community of Philadelphia that reappeared.

Notes on Chapter 1

          [1]Bernard Bailyn, The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge:Belnap Press, 1955), 44, 86, 90, and 100-101, and Carl Bridenbaugh, The Colonial Craftsman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950, Phoenix edition, 1961), 92-94, 109-110, and 113.

            A word about sources. With one very early and almost useless exception, no first person sources of Philadelphia shipbuilders have been found. As shipbuilding became a complex business, certainly shipwrights must have kept account books, but none have survived. Perhaps shipbuilders wrote letters, diaries, or penned personal journals, if so none exist. Instead what we know of these early skilled craftsmen and their communities comes from two sources: private or public records. Most often these private records are letterbooks, journals, and account books of merchants. Usually, these describe, and even name a ship, which they have had constructed without identifying the ship’s builder. Sometimes, these account books mention names but little else. Only a few rare examples both identify the shipbuilder by name and describe the ship’s construction and the relationship between the merchant and builder in detail. Scarce and scattered public records: deed books, tax lists, and minute books occasionally identify individuals by name, occupation, property owned or bought or sold, taxes paid, or other trivial bureaucratic details.

            [2] For lists of ships registered see: Simeon J. Crowther, “The Shipbuilding Output of the Delaware Valley, 1722-1776,” A PSPs, Vol. 117 (1973), 90-104, and Harold E. Gillingham, “Some Colonial Ships Built in Philadelphia,” PMHB Vol. LVI (1933), 156-186.

For economic historians who correlate shipbuilding with mercantile strategy see: John J. McCusker, “The Pennsylvania Shipping Industry in the Eighteenth Century,” unpublished typed manuscript in HSP, (1973), and Joseph A. Goldenberg, Shipbuilding in Colonial America, (Charlottsville: University of Virginia Press, 1976).

[3]Marion V. Brewington, “Maritime Philadelphia (1609-1837)” PMHB, Vol. LXIII (April 1939), 93-117. “James West Account Book,” is in the collection at HSP.

“Trunnels” is a corruption of “Treenails,” locust or hickory spikes used in the planking or decking of wooden sailing ships. Oakum was a caulking material, a combination of plant or animals fibers and resin.

            [4]The source for Penn’s site selection is Edward Potts Cheney, Commerce, Navigation and Ship-Building on the Delaware River, ( Harrisburg: State Printer 1892), 1. Cheney only identifies his source as “William Penn Letter.” The reference to land reservation is: Gillingham, “Some Colonial,” 156. Gillingham cites and quotes: William Penn, Some Account of the  Province of Pennsylvania In America. Lately Granted under the Great Seal of England to William Penn,&C. Together with Priviledges and Powers necessary to the well-governing thereof. Made Publick for the Information of such as are or maybe disposed to Transport themselves or Servants into those Parts.London, 1681, 2-6.

The term “shipwright” is an older one. By the end of the eighteenth century the terms: “shipwright,” “shipcarpenter,” and “shipbuilder” often appear interchangeably without differentiation.

The term “lightering” refers to the method of unloading a cargo from a ship anchored in a harbor without a dock or pier. The cargo was lowered into smaller boats and rowed to shore, an arduous and dangerous process.

            [5]Charles Lyons Chandler, “Early Shipbuilding in Pennsylvania, 1683-1812,” in Philadelphia, Port of History, 1609-1837 (Philadelphia, 1979), 1-7; Hannah Benner Roach, “Philadelphia, 1690,” The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, 122-123; Gillingham, “Some Colonial,” 156-157, and Chandler, “Early Shipbuilding,” 12-15.

James West is traced in his own account book, “James West Account Book” HSP; Gregory Marlow Account Book, 1676-1703,” HSP; Roach, “Philadelphia,” 122-123, and Gillingham, “Some Colonial,” 156-157. The information for William West is from: Chandler, “Early Shipbuilding,” 12-15, and Scharf and Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884  (Philadelphia, 1884), Vol. III, 2336. Richard Castlemen is cited in Chandler, “Early Shipbuilding,” 7.

            [6]Russell F. Weigley (ed.) Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982), 36-170. Minutes of the Common Council of Philadelphia, 1704-1776 (Philadelphia: Crissy – Markley Printers, 1847), 118-135. For a superlative discussion of immigration into eighteenth century Philadelphia see: Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America (University Park: Penn State press, 1999.) For an extensive discussion of the relationship of the hinterland timber trade with Philadelphia see: Donna Rilling, “Sylvan Enterprise and the Philadelphia Hinterland, 1790-1860,” Pennsylvania History, Vol. 76, Number 2 (Spring 2000), 197-217. For an extended discussion of the agricultural development of southeastern Pennsylvaina see: James T. Lemon, Best Poor Man’s Country: A Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972). On page 11, Table 1, Lemon statistically notes the rapid growth of Chester and Lancaster counties; see also 219-224.

            [7]McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 111-117; Crowther, “Shipbuilding,” 95-98, and Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, 5-6. The argument about the relationship between the tonnage of a ship’s cargo and its effect on market price is: McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 117.

   8Entires: Nov. 30, 1716, Feb. 16, 1717, May 10, 1717, and July 23, 1718, “Issac Norris Sr. Letterbook,” 64-146, HSP.

            [9]Crowthers, “Shipbuilding,” p. 93. Entries: July 4, 1724, August 8, 1724, Sept. 30, 1724, Nov. (no date) 1724, Aug. 19, 1726, and Dec. 23, 1726, “Isaac Norris Jr. Letterbook,” pp. 390-484, HSP. For James Parrock’s membership on the Philadelphia Common Council see: Minutes, 118.

            [10]For details of the merchant-shipbuilder contracts see: Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, 57-58 and 85. Goldenberg also argues that while Philadelphia and other American ships were more expensive, the quality of the work and the speed of construction, four months, rather than a year for an English shipyard, made them cost effective for merchants. But, for the ships indentified as built for merchants in Philadelphia shipyards, the length of construction was almost always longer, often a whole year. Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, .71, and McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 127. For an especially lucid explanantion of the term “tonnage” see; Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, 1-5.

            11For a discussion of the evolution of ship size and capacity during the eighteenth century see: McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 129, and Crowther, “Shipbuilding,” 95-97.

The term “ship” is confusing. In the eighteenth century, it might be used to designate any larger wooden sailing ship, or it might be used more specifically to identify the largest category of three-masted, square-rigged wooden sailing ships. A brig is two-masted, square- rigged ship.

The list of Norris’ ships is found in: Norris papers, Case #36, Unidentified Account Book, HSP.

            [12] Letter, Charles West to Clemant plumstead [sic],  August 14, 1730. Joseph Downs Collection, Powel Family Business Papers, Collection #232, Box 1, Folder 3, Doc. #54.83.16, Winterthur Museum Archives. Letter, John Reynell to Daniel Flexney, June 19, 1740, “John Reynell Letterbook, 1738-1741,” Coates -Reynell Papers, HSP.

            [13]Letter, John Reynell to Daniel Flexney, Nov. 4, 1740, John Reynell Letterbook

1738-1741, Coates-Reynell Papers, HSP. For examples of shipbuidling manuals see: Shipbuilders Repository, Appendix 4, The Principal Dimensions and Scantlings, (1789 Edition), ISM Rarebooks, and “Carpenter’s book, Frigate, United States”, HSP. For a more complete description of the construction of an eighteenth century sailing ship see: James J. Farley, “‘To Commit Ourselves to Our Own Ingenuity and Industry:’ Joshua Humphreys and the Construction of the U.S. United States, 1794-1799.” Explorations in Early American Culture, Vol. 5 (2001), 288-327.

            [14]Letters, John Reynell to Daniel Flexney, April 5, 1741, and  July 16, 1741, “John Reynell Letterbook, 1737-1741,” Coates-Reynell Papers, HSP.

            15Weigley, Philadelphia, 69-75; Crowther, “Shipbuilding,” 92; McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 144, and Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, 51.

            [16]The Deed Books of Philadelphia are most helpful in identifying early Philadelphians by occupation. When a deed was recorded, the indenture usually identified all the participants in the transaction by name and occupation. Using the deed books allowed identification of 103 shipwrights in Philadelphia between 1684 and 1767. Although labeled as Philadelphia Deed Books, they are recorded deeds for parts of Pennsylvania as far west as Lancaster, as well as Delaware and New Jersey. The deed books do not contain all deeds, only those recorded. Some deeds were recorded forty years after the original transaction.The original deed books often ran to 500 pages and were lableled alphabetically and then subnumbered, for example, Book H-2. In 1949 the books were microfilmed. The books used for this project are housed in HSP. For the 17th and 18th centuries there are 22 reels of microfilm. They are hereafter cited as: Deed Book, volume, and, where possible, page number. Some of the earliest volumes were microfilmed without page numbers. The quotation is from: Deed Book, E-5.

            [17]Letters: William Till to Lawrence Williams, undate, Aug. 30, 1740, Nov. 12, 1740, Dec. 2, 1740, March 13, 1741, “William Till Letters, 1735-1745,” HSP.

For the calculations of cost of construction per ton see: McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” 129. The actual price negotiated by Parrock and Till was ₤ 1,141. The additional ₤21might represent modifications, such as decorations, requested by Till.

            [18] Letters: William Till to Lawrence Williams, Oct. 26, 1741, Nov. 14, 1741, and March 4, 1742, “William Till Letters, 1735-1745,” HSP.

            [19]Entries: June 4, 1744, June 7, 1746, and Sept. 19, 1747, “Samuel McCall Journal, 1743-1749,” HSP.

20Entry, Sept. 9, 1747, “Samuel McCall Journal, 1743-1749,” HSP.

From existing early eighteenth century records, it is not possible to tell whether these shipwright/shipyard owners had become divorced from actual construction and were totally relegated to the role of owner/manager. For the late eighteenth century the picture is clearer. See Chapter 3.

            [21]Goldenberg, Shipbuilding, 54-57; Letter, (unnamed correspondent), Oct. 25, 1754, “Charles Willing Letterbook, 1754-1761,” HSP, and entries: March 5, 1745 and June 2, 1743, “Samuel McCall Journal, 1743-1749,” HSP.

            [22]McCusker, “Pennsylvania Shipping,” p. 145, and Crowther, “Shipbuilding,” p. 93.

            [23]Letter, William Allen to Thomas Wade, May 24, 1754 (The letter is dated as “1755”), but falls among letters for May 1754.), “William Allen Letterbook, 1753-1770,” Burd – Shippen – Hubley Family Papers, HSP; Letter, Charles Willing to John Perks, Oct. 2, 1754, “Charles Willing Letterbook, 1754-1761,” HSP, and Letter, Able James to Neate & Pigou, March 1, 1762, “Drinker & James Letterbook Vol. II, 1759-1762,” HSP.

            [24]Letter, Charles Willing to Messers. Codrington & Covington, Nov. 5, 1754, “Charles Willing Letterbook, 1754-1761, HSP; William Allen to Thomas Wade, May 24, 1754, “William Allen Letterbook, 1753-1770,” Burd – Shippen – Hubley Family Papers, HSP; Letter, Able James to William Neate, Sept. 1, 1759, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. II,” HSP, and Daniel Clark to Thomas Dromgoole, May 20, 1761, “Daniel Clark Letter and Invoice Book, 1759-1763,” 941, HSP. Three weeks after Charles Willing wrote to Messers. Codrington & Covington, Robert Morris, Willing’s young partner wrote, “… MR. C.W. will be no more he now lyes [sic] in the agony of death. The letterbook, “Orr, Dunlope, & Glenholme Letterbook, 1767-1769,” HSP, has numerous refernces to shipbuilding, but there are no identifications of shipbuilders, and it is doubtful that the ships were built in Philadelphia.

            [25]Letter, Drinker and James to Nehemiah Champion, Dec. 20, 1756, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. I,” 63, HSP. The identification of the location of Rice’s shipyard gives more evidence of the changes in Philadelphia’s economic geography. By 1757 the rapid development of the Philadelphia waterfront had pushed land-consuming shipyards further north, to Kensington, and south, to Southwark, along the Delaware River.

                      [26]Letter, Drinker and James to Nehemiah Champion,, Dec. 20, 1756, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. I,” 63, HSP, and letter, Henry Drinker to Nehemiah Champion, March 5, 1757, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. I,” 99, HSP.

                  27Letter, Henry Drinker to Nehemiah Champion, Dec. 20, 1756, “Drinker & James Letterbook,Vol.I,” 63, HSP.

            [28]Letter, Henry Drinker, to Nehemiah Champion, Sept. 13, 1757, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. I,” 158, HSP.“Captain” Oswald Eve reappears later in revolutionary Philadelphia. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Eve was the owner of a gunpowder mill in the village of Frankford in the northern reaches of PhiladelphiaCounty. Unfortunately for Eve, his loyalist tendencies resulted in the confiscation of the mill by the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety during the Revolutionary War.

            [29]Letter, Henry Drinker, to Nehemiah Champion, Sept. 13, 1757, “Drinker & James Letterbook, Vol. I,” 158, HSP.

            [30]Deed Book, G-11, 139 and H-14, 139-141.

            [31]Deeds recorded for each of the following shipwrights :Thomas Penrose , N: F-7, G-12, and  H-5, 368-371; Samuel Hastings: F-1,  F-2,  F-5, G-4, and G-7, and Henry Dennis: H-10, 502(?) and H-11, 128-131.Nathaniel Poole: Deed Book, E-6, vol.1 and ff.; Joseph Lynn: Deed Book, F-1, vol. 1 and ff.; John Norris: G-3, G-9, G-12, H-1, 112-118, and H-2, 233 -238, and William Hayes.

32James Parrock appears from Deed Book, F-1 (April 3, 1718) until after his death when  his executor and grandson, John Parrock sold parcels of his estate, to Deed Book, H-10, pp. 194-196 (Sept. 29, 1759).

            [33]For James Parrock’s real estate transactions with Joseph Lynn see: Deed Book, F-6 and G-2, 274-278.

            [34]For real estate transactions with James Parrock and Jeremiah Elfreth as partners see: Deed Book, G-2, G-3, and H-5, 92-94.

            [35]Deed Books: I-2, 579-582, H-21, 312-316, H-14, 128-131, and G-12.

  [36]Deed Book, I-2, 429-434.

In 1762 the city fathers reorganized Wiccacoe as a separate district within PhiladelphiaCounty and anglicized its name as “Southwark” after the Thames shipbuilding community.

  [37]For the death of Charles West Sr. see: Letter, Henry Drinker  to William Neate, July 21, 1759, “Drinker and James Letterbook, Vol. II, 1759-1762,” 45, HSP; letter, Henry Drinker to Neate & Pigou, Aug. 24, 1761, “Drinker and James Letterbook, Vol. II, 1759-1762,“ 269, HSP; letter, Henry Drinker to Neate & Pigou, March 3, 1762, “Drinker and James Letterbook, Vol. II, 1759-1762,” HSP. “Tax List for the city and county of Philadelphia, 1772.” microfilm, HSP. Deed Book, H-6, 505-508, H-11, 145-147, and  I-4,  334-337.

  [38]Letters: William Till to Lawrence Williams, undated, August 30, 1740, Nov. 12, 1740, Dec. 2, 1740, and March 13, 1741, “William Till Letters, 1735-1745,” HSP. Deed Book, G-6, G-9, G-12, H-10, 194-196, and H-13, 79-83.

  [39]As with the Deed Books, the wills and administrations for Philadelphia from 1682 -1782 are housed in the microfilm collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. James Parrock’s will is File #159, Book K, 247-252 and Charles West’s is File #97, Book M, 177-186.

One thought on “Chapter 1 – “‘The Bigger of My New Ships is near Launching …’: The shipbuilders of Early Philadelphia , 1676-1772”

  1. Carol Coates

    I’d like to begin to cite this work in my family tree. Most of the names I’ve found here in this book, so far, are already in my family tree. I’d post a short quote from the book with a relative’s profile, with a full citation, and a link to the online version of the book. Please let me know if you’d have any objection to this. Thanks!

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