Robert Oliver Papers, 1759?-1834, MS 626

Robert Oliver Papers, 1759?-1834

Maryland Historical Society


(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

Robert Oliver Papers, 1759?-1834
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105

Descriptive Summary


MS 626

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674

by Cynthia H. Requardt


Scope and Content Note

These papers are divided into three collections: Robert Oliver Papers MS 626, Oliver Record Books MS. 626.1, and Oliver Family Estate Papers MS 626.2. These collections are related to Robert Oliver's financially successful mercantile career in Baltimore. The Robert Oliver Papers are incoming letters from business associates and friends. The Oliver Record Books are the financial accounts of the various mercantile firms Robert Oliver formed. The Oliver Family Estate Papers are a minute accounting of the distribution of Robert Oliver's wealth after his death.

The principal people in the collection are:


John Oliver (c. 1763-1823)


Robert Oliver (c. 1759-1834) m Elizabeth Craig Thomas Oliver (d. 1823)


Margaret (1790-1856) m. Roswell L. Colt (d. 1856)


James C. Colt (b. 1815)


John O. Colt (b. 1813)


Charles Thomas (1792-1858)


Thomas (1802-1848) m. Mary C.


Harrison Emily (1805-1870) m. Robert M. Gibbes (d.1864


Margaret m. Edwin A. Po






Thomas Oliver (1765-1803)





This is an artificial collection of Robert Oliver's business and personal papers. Some appear to have been collected for the administration of his estate and others retained for their research value. The papers are largely in-coming letters with some copies of replies and some financial and legal papers. There are about 400 items which span the years 1789 to 1835.

The papers fall roughly into three categories: business, national politics and foreign affairs, and personal finance. Up until 1810, when Oliver curtailed his mercantile activities, the papers deal with his foreign trade. The letters are mainly from Oliver's London banker Baring Brothers and Co. and an associate in the Vera Cruz trade David Parish. Along with financial topics these letters deal with Oliver's claim against Great Britain for the capture (1806, 1807) of three of his ships. The letters also mention the difficulties imposed on merchants by the Embargo (December 1807-February 1809) and the Non-Intercourse Act which followed.

Oliver was a Federalist. As relations worsened with Great Britain, his Federalist friends wrote him letters critical of the U.S. administration and predicted war. Among the most detailed were two letters (1812, 1813) from former Secretary of the Navy and staunch Federalist Benjamin Stoddert. There are also letters (1812) from James McHenry and Nicholas Biddle. V. Moreau wrote apprising Oliver of Napoleon's activities in Spain (1809) and in Russia (1812) and of the possibilities of the U.S. entering the European hostilities. Oliver was a financial supporter of Federalist newspapers, and there are letters soliciting financial aid: J.E. Hall (1814, 1815) of the Law Journal and Chronicle and the Portfolio (Philadelphia); William Magruder (1816) for a federalist newspaper in Cumberland, Maryland; and Frederick G. Schaeffer,

Jr. (1821) of the Federal Republican. Oliver also received letters (1819-1825) from Robert H. Goldsborough, founder of the Easton (Md.) Gazette, about the state of Federalism in Maryland.

Oliver received letters from various U.S. consular officials relating to the state of affairs in the countries in which they were stationed. The most frequent of Oliver's correspondents was Christopher Hughes (1786-1849) who was in the foreign service for 30 years in Stockholm and the Netherlands. Hughes' lengthy letters (1818-1834) detail European affairs. Oliver also received several letters (1816-1818) from William Pinkney who mentioned his mission to Naples (1816) and Russia (1817-1818). Other consular correspondents were Alexander Hammett (Naples, 1825-1829) and William Stirling (Barcelona, 1826-1827).

Letters from relatives and friends, including Richard Caton and Michael Hogan, concerning financial matters are scattered throughout this collection of letters. Other material pertaining to Robert Oliver's family financial settlements are found among his estate papers (MS. 626.2). These family letters begin before Robert Oliver's death but because the financial matters discussed in the letters were not settled until after his death, the material is filed with his estate papers.

Other correspondents include Paul Bentalou, Robert Goodloe Harper, John Hoffman, Benjamin Chew Howard, Thomas Law, William Lorman, John Mercer, James Orr, Edward C. Pinkney, Joel R. Poinsett, J.W. Pomeroy, John Randolph of Roanoke, John S. Skinner, Roger B. Taney, L.W. Tazewell, Hugh Thompson, T. Tilghman, Charles B. Vaughn, John Campbell White, and William Wirt.



The papers that comprise the three collections in the Oliver Papers came to the Maryland Historical Society at various times.

The first part of the collection received was the record books of Robert Oliver's

mercantile firms. These were given by H. Oliver Thompson in June 1934 (no accession number) and are now MS 626.1 Mr. Thompson may also have been the donor of the material on Meta [Oliver] Thompson and her father-in-law Henry A. Thompson that is now part of MS. 626.2.

Washington Perine gave the Society the papers of his grandfather David M. Perine in 1944 (accession number 49629). The Perine papers included the printed copies of the Mexican claims cases of Robert Oliver's Estate and the papers of Charles Oliver's and R.M. Gibbes' estates. These papers are now part of 626.2.

The bulk of the Oliver papers came to the Society in October 1944 as the gift of Robert Oliver's great-great-granddaughter Mary Josephs Fowler. The Robert Oliver letters that are now MS. 626 and the bulk of the Oliver Family Estate Papers now 626.2 were part of Mrs. Fowler's gift. A group of Robert Oliver's cancelled checks (1833-1834, Bank of the United States) were purchased at auction in 1957 (accession number 55644).

To pursue her own research Mrs. Fowler removed some of the papers concerning her great-great-grandfather Robert Oliver and her great-grandmother Margaret O. Colt that she had given in 1944. When these papers were returned in 1972, they were assigned a new accession number 64574 and given a new manuscript number MS. 1940. This material has been re-placed into the Robert Oliver Papers MS. 626 and the Oliver Family Estate Papers MS. 626.2.

Container List

Box 1

Robert Oliver Papers, 1789-1810




Box 2

Robert Oliver Papers, 1811-1835, n.d.





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