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Hezekiah Spencer Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Spencer, Hezekiah.
Title: Hezekiah Spencer Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1777-1863
Quantity: 2.75 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the Connecticut fur trader. Collection includes correspondence (1817-1863), incoming, with some outgoing, encompasses over 1000 letters about the regional, national, and international fur trade; financial records (1777-1861), including account books, bills and receipts, and ledger sheets; and legal documents (1827-1861).
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Hezekiah Spencer (1794?-1864?) was a 19th century American fur dealer. He was located in Suffield, Connecticut, where he was active in the trade from the 1820s until about 1862. His practice was to buy from small dealers and peddlers, whom he engaged to travel into the hinterlands to buy pelts each year. He then sold large lots of fur to dealers in New York, who shipped directly to the markets of Europe and China.

Spencer was married and had three sons, Luther ("Lute"), Thaddeus, and Calvin; the latter helped him in the fur business in his later years. There is evidence that he was an active Whig, campaigning for Harrison in 1840.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Hezekiah Spencer Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, legal records, and miscellany.

Correspondence dates from 1817 to 1863 and includes incoming letters to Spencer, copies of some of his outgoing correspondence, and a few letters of others, principally Spencer's sons. Most of the correspondents are fur dealers, including larger agents to whom he sold, chiefly A. H. Center, John Wendel, and B. Hoote, as well as smaller entrepreneurs from whom he bought, including Socrates Nelson, A.E. Kent, B.D. Austin, and many others.

The letters detail fur prices and quantities of pelts for each season, problems of transport, marketing prospects, payment of notes and drafts, and arrangements for commissions and profits. A small number of letters relate to family matters and the purchase of land. Spencer was quite self-consciously a part of a world-wide fur market, one in which the dealings in Canton, London, and Leipzig crucially affected the prices he could pay to his traders out on the American frontiers. This correspondence was the vital link that kept him abreast of the fluctuating markets. Spencer sold his furs to A.H. Center of New York City in the 1820s and early 1830s. In a letter of March 31, 1828, Spencer writes to Center of having been outbid for some prime red fox by John Jacob Astor. Center himself had become an agent of Astor's American Fur Company by 1842, the year of that company's failure, though it is not known when Center formed that affiliation. Beginning in the mid-1830s and thereafter, Spencer took his business to the house of J.B. Hotte and Sons of Leipzig, Germany, operating chiefly through the agencies of John Wendell and B. Hotte in New York City. Spencer thus seems to have been in competition with Astor and the American Fur Company, at least during part of his career. Spencer's correspondence deals largely with business topics, yet the fur market was affected by a wide range of occurrences which he discusses, including a cholera epidemic in New York, hard times under Jackson in 1837, the death of the Turkish sultan in 1839, trapping of sea otter on the California coast in the 1850s, and the like.

Financial records include several small account books, a large body of bills and receipts, several ledger sheets, and some fragments. These date from 1777-1860.

Legal records consists of eight items, including agreements, probate proceedings, birth and death certificates, a notice of co-partnership, and a memorandum.

One folder of Miscellany contains business cards, envelopes, fragments, and some genealogical information for a family named Cleveland.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. All remaining series are arranged alphabetically by subject or type of material.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Spencer, Hezekiah -- Archives.


Fur trade -- Connecticut.
Fur trade -- United States.
Fur traders -- Connecticut.
Fur traders -- United States.


United States -- Economic conditions -- To 1865.
United States -- History -- 1783-1865.

Genres and Forms

Account books.
Bills of sale.
Receipts (financial records)


Fur traders.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Hezekiah Spencer Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information


Finding Aid Information

Created by: FED
Date: May 1971
Revision history: 8 Oct 2008 - converted to EAD (MRC)

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Box 1 1817
Box 1 1820-1822
Box 1 1824
Box 1 1826-1830 (4 folders)
Box 1 1831, Jan-Sep
Box 2 1831, Oct-Dec
Box 2 1832-1833 (2 folders)
Box 2 1835-1839 (4 folders)
Box 2 1840, Jan-Sep
Box 3 1840, Oct-Dec
Box 3 1841-1843
Box 3 1844, Jan-Mar
Box 4 1844, Apr-Sep
Box 4 1846
Box 4 1852-1857 (6 folders)
Box 4 1859, Jan
Box 5 1859, Feb-Dec
Box 5 1860-1863
Financial records
Box 5 Account books
Bills and receipts
Box 5 Undated
Box 5 1777-1832 (22 folders)
Box 6 1834-1861 (17 folders)
Box 6 Fragments
Ledger sheets
Box 6 Undated
Box 6 1822-1857
Legal records
Box 6 Butler, A. and H. Spencer 1827 - agreement
Box 6 Chester, R. 1856 - birth certificate
Box 6 Merriman, L. and H. Spencer 1837 - agreement
Box 6 Oatman, A. and H. Spencer 1859 - notice of co-partnership
Box 6 Pomeroy, B. 1830 - probate proceedings
Box 6 Walden, D. and H. Spencer 1855 - agreement
Box 6 Woodworth, — 1856 - birth and death certificates
Box 6 Memorandum regarding sale of furs 1861
Box 6 Miscellaneous 1856

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