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Morton, Samuel C., (1808-1867)
Samuel C. Morton, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Manuscript Letter Copy Book, 1858-1865

Quarto, bound in cloth, boards detached, very worn and chipped, spine lacking, first signature (unused index) loose, as is first page. Volume comprises 239 mss copied letters on 263 pre-numbered pages, all dated between January 26th, 1858 to October 25th, 1865. Blotter paper and four soiled sheets still present, chipped. Text in very good legible condition.

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Samuel C. Morton was a Philadelphia based merchant. He was the son of John Morton, Jr. and his wife Margaret Canby. Born in 1808 in Wilmington, Delaware, Samuel upon arriving in Philadelphia, served an apprenticeship with Bunker & Straw, flour merchants, on the river front, near Walnut Street. He afterward became one of the proprietors of the store, the firm being named "Samuel C. Morton & Co."  He was a merchant in the West Indian trade, exporting flour and importing sugar and molasses. His parents families were intertwined by marriage with a number of old prominent Philadelphia families, such as the Biddle, Clement, Coates, Drinker, Lea, Paxson and Shipley families, all old Philadelphia (PA) and Wilmington (DE) area Quaker families.

From 1847 to 1857, Morton was president of the American Fire Insurance Company of Philadelphia. He became the president of the Philadelphia Board of Trade in 1857, replacing Thomas P. Hoopes.  He resigned the presidency of the Board of Trade in 1865, and in February of 1866, was succeeded by John Welsh, one time United States minister to Great Britain.

Other business interests of Morton included his service as a director of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Philadelphia, and as a director of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay Canal. He was also a director of the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia. He maintained an office at 310 Walnut Street and resided at 220 South Broad Street, both in Philadelphia.

Morton's death was reported in the "Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Volume 19, 1867." This journal reports that Morton was a member of the society and that he had died on April 23rd, 1867.

Samuel C. Morton's letter copy book consists mostly of correspondence dealing with his  business affairs and in particular, concerns his land investments in various towns in Illinois, namely Monticello and Savanna.  Personal matters are also dealt with, such as the settlement of his uncle's estate (Samuel Canby Paxson), of which he and William Biddle were executors. The estate was a complicated one and was owed monies from various individuals. Samuel Canby Paxson married Elizabeth Drinker.

Besides his land ventures, the letters discuss railroads in Illinois, as well as Morton's investments in other railroad lines as a way to help promote commerce between his city and other parts of the county.  Morton was a consultant on rail issues and keenly interested in them both as investment vehicles, and in their promotion as a means of improving trade and commerce. For instance he was involved in their promotion on the Philadelphia Board of Trade: "Report of the Philadelphia Board of Trade, in relation to the Delaware Rail Road, and its connection the commercial interests of Philadelphia,... April 3rd, 1856," which was written up by the Philadelphia Board of Trade's Committee on Inland Transportation, a committee that Morton sat on.

Much of Morton's correspondence is with individuals in Illinois. One such person is Dr. E. Woodruff, a druggist, of Savanna, Illinois, who is overseeing Morton's land and real estate interests at Savanna. In 1857, Savanna, Illinois, was designated as the terminus of the Racine and Mississippi Railroad, as a result there was a boom and the town flourished. Morton invested in lots in Savanna near the railroad. Morton writes about the lots he owns, what to do with them, when to sell, at what prices, and matters concerning paying taxes and monies owed him, some debts were long overdue.

Another correspondent is James F. Outten, Esq, of Monticello, Illinois, the town recorder, and one time court clerk. Morton writes discussing his properties in that area, i.e. taxes due, overdue payments from a Mr. William Rea. Morton also writes Rea, who is a year behind in settling his accounts.

William J. Black, of Springfield, Illinois, was written to on a number of occasions by Morton, as was William E. Lodge, a Monticello, Illinois, based lawyer for the Wabash & Illinois Central Railroad. John H. Rauch, of Chicago, Illinois, received several letters from Morton. Morton discusses his land investments, properties, and monies owed him, the sale of lots, laying out streets, etc.

The correspondence also inevitably touches upon the larger issues of the day, the impending sectional struggle and the American Civil War, such as this first mention in a letter of April 15, 1861:

"Our community is much excited at the surrender of Fort Sumpter [sic], and a Civil War seems now inevitable, as we have at the north, lone enough, tolerant."

A second letter the same day expands:

"We are under much excitement today, owing to the surrender of Fort Sumpter [sic], the President has issued a Proclamation calling for 75,000 troops, other contest has now fairly begun as to the result I have no doubt."

On December 20, 1861 he writes to Woodruff:

"The weather is undually [sic] mild and I never remember such a December. Our canals are as open as mid-summer, and fortunate it is, that it is so, for all avenues to market are needed - matters looked a little warlike with England two days ago, but private letters intimate that the difficulty may be addressed, with proper degree of prudence on the part of the U. States. When we get through with the Rebellion, we can then take the hypocritical knaves of the British nation in hand & settle accounts."

There are a number of mentions of the war's intrusion on the business affairs of Morton. Although he doesn't address the Battle of Gettysburg, he does mention on July 10, 1863 the following:

"...'ere this you will have heard of the fall of Vicksburg - the rebels are not yet driven over the Potomac, hard fighting may be looked for."

Philadelphia, and many large cities, feared the kind of riots that were triggered by word of the draft in New York. Pennsylvania apparently learned from New York's experience, and squelched any discontent before it could erupt into violence. On July 31st, 1863, Morton writes:

"I expect to leave home this day week for a residence of two months in Montrose, Susquehanna County, Penna. The drafting has been going on for some days, very quickly in this City, and the worst Wards have been gone through without disturbance."