John Kingsbury Pimer Collection (Coll. 26)


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Overview of the Collection

Biography of John Kingsbury Pimer

Scope and Content

Restrictions

Index Terms

Administrative Information

Detailed Description of the Collection

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Pimer, John Kingsbury, 1807-1884
Title: John Kingsbury Pimer Collection
Dates: 1828-1882
Extent: 1841 items
Abstract: The John Kingsbury Pimer Collection consists of letters, household accounts, bills, receipts, daybooks, duck books, spar dimension books, and yearly summaries of receipts, disbursements and accounts with New London whaling agents. It includes some papers relating to Pimer's partnership with James Morris (Morris & Pimer), which was dissolved in 1832. Correspondents include whaling merchants Thomas W. Williams, Williams & Barnes, and Williams & Haven.
Identification: Coll. 26

Biography of John Kingsbury Pimer

John Kingsbury Pimer (1807-1884) was born in England and moved to the United States in 1826. After spending a brief time in New York City, he migrated to New London, Connecticut, during the winter of 1827-1828. He quite possibly had learned the sailmaker's trade in England and appears to have been employed by Jacob Holmes, a New London sailmaker, immediately upon arriving in New London. Before long however, Pimer and James Morris formed a partnership and engaged in sailmaking. In 1832 that partnership was dissolved and from that time until his retirement, some time around 1880, Pimer seems to have operated his own sailmaking business. Pimer's customers included Thomas W. Williams, Williams & H Barnes, and Williams & Haven, all of whom were managing owners or agents for whaling vessels. Like many sailmakers of his time, Pimer seems to have accepted shares in vessels as part or complete payment for his services. Unlike the others however, he did not retain these shares for any length of time, choosing instead railroad and insurance securities, and real estate for long term investments.

John K. Pimer and Ann Thompson were married in Norwich, Connecticut, on November 18, 1827. Their children included John, born August 25, 1828, and died Sept. 10, 1828; Susan Jesse, born July 29, 1829, and married Carlos L. Beckwith, November 26, 1851; John, born November 11, 1831; George Triby, born June 10, 1838; Mary Ann, born October 21, 1841; and Thomas Kingsbury, born July 10, 1844. Ann Thompson Pimer died August 30, 1856. On March 15, 1857, John K. Pimer married the widow Nancy Lewis. He died on January 12, 1884, in New London at the age of 77.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of five boxes containing 1,841 pieces including 31 volumes. Of the total number of papers, 1549 deal primarily with household expenses and include accounts, bills, and receipts from a large number of artisans and shop keepers in New London for a period of slightly over fifty years.

The remaining 292 pieces deal primarily with Pimer's sailmaking business. Most of the items are general accounts, bills, and receipts. Also included is one draft of a letter by Pimer and three letters to Pimer. Among the individual items of interest are the notice of the dissolution of the partnership of Pimer and James Morris, June 30, 1832; the settlement of the account between Morris and Pimer, July 7, 1832; a copy, possibly in Pimer's hand, of the will of Lyman Allyn, Nov. 4, 1854; and a letter of S.H. Gardiner of Lynn, Mass., with a brochure about his "Improved method of making and working the 'courses' of square-rigged vessels," April 30, 1863.

Among the most significant items in the Pimer papers are two daybooks covering the period 1831-1859; sixteen small ledgers containing labor accounts with employees and labor and materials accounts with vessels or their owners, 1831-1876; four duck books, 1834-1874; six spar dimension books, 1834-1867; Pimer's own annual summaries of receipts and disbursements for both business and household, 1863-1877; and accounts with various New London whaling firms and suppliers of materials used by sailmakers, 1835-1881.

The daybooks and labor and materials ledgers reveal a considerable amount of information about the costs involved in making sails. Contrary to modern-day practices, Pimer generally paid his employees exactly what he charged his customers for straight labor by the day or the hour. In 1831, Pimer charged his customers $1.25 per day for labor and paid most of his employees $1.25 per day for a 10 hour day. By January 10, 1834, the price had risen to $1.50 per day. One entry on December 18, 1835, revealed a charge of 16*** per hour. During March, 1836, the daily rate had risen to $1.75 per day. Six months later the rates rose to $2.00 per day or 20*** per hour. From this time until mid-April, 1853, the daily rate remained about the same although there was some fluctuation between $2.00 and $1.75 per day. Occasionally Pimer gave lower prices to vessels in which he was part owner and quite regularly charged $1.75 per day for ships, brigs, and some schooners and $2.00 per day for sloops, smacks, and some schooners. From mid-April, 1853, until 1859, when the daybooks cease, labor charges were generally $2.50 per day for the smaller vessels and $2.25 per day for the larger ones. During the Civil War labor charges dropped from 25*** per hour to 22 1/2*** and finally to 20*** per hour. Shortly after the war they rose again and eventually reached 30*** per hour by 1870. In addition to the daily and hourly rates paid his employees, Pimer hired men for sewing duck. The price paid for this was 1 to 1 1/4 cents per yard in the early 1830's and rose eventually to 2*** per yard by 1870. In view of the fact that the labor charges made a steady rise during the late 1830's and early 1840's one might assume that the general economic recessions of that period did not effect sailmakers as it did other fields of endeavor.

Among the other charges involved in sailmaking illustrated in the account books of Pimer are "working duck," "middle stitching," "side stitching," and "making extra bonnet to jib." During the period 1831-1859 there was considerable fluctuation and apparently some discrimination in the charges for those operations. The earliest entry for "working duck" is April 19, 1831, at $2.50 per bolt, a bolt being approximately 38 yards. The next example of a charge for "working duck" appears on September 1, 1832, at $5.25 per bolt. The first charge was against a ship, the second against a smack. Basically the same charges are maintained until early 1836 when the charge for "working duck" for a small vessel (sloop, smack, and some schooners) was raised to $5.75 per bolt, and for a large vessel (ship, brig, and some schooners) was raised to $2.83 per bolt. By mid-December, 1836, Pimer was charging $6.OO per bolt for small and slightly between $3.13 and $3.17 1/2 per bolt for large vessels. During June, 1837, the charges were lowered again to $5.75 and $3.00. From this time until 1859, the price for large vessels remained constant whereas that for small vessels fluctuated between $5.75 and $3.50 per bolt for "working duck."

From 1831-1839 charges for "middle stitching" appear to have remained constant at 75*** per bolt. During 1840 there were only two such entries both at 92*** per bolt. During 1841 and 1842 the price was 87 1/2*** per bolt. In 1843 the charge fell to 75*** per bolt and presumably remained at that level until 1851 when it rose to 87*** per bolt. The last rise noted was in 1854 when $1.00 per bolt was charged for "middle stitching."

"Side stitching" seems to have been an infrequent operation and was noted only between 1833 and 1838. The cost for "side stitching" was $1.50 per bolt until late January, 1834, when it was increased to $1.58. During October, 1834, it was raised again to $1.62 1/2 per bolt. The charge was lowered again in January, 1835, to $1.58. The last entry for "side stitching" is in July, 1838, at $1.50 per bolt.

Nearly all the entries for "making extra bonnet to jib" are for smacks. The price begins at $3.00 in February, 1836, but by April of the same year it had increased to $3.50. During March, 1837, it was increased to $3.87, only to be lowered to $3.50 again in January, 1838. The price was increased to $3.75 and in March, 1840, and again to $4.00 in August, 1840, reveals a charge of $3.75, "Making extra bonnet to jib" for a ship was $2.50 until 1845 when it rose to $3.87.

These, of course, are only a few of the charges involved in sailmaking, among the others are beeswax, bolt rope, "double stitching," small rope, spun yarn, twine, "Wipping & sewing in reef nettles," thimbles, and the various kinds of duck used for sails.

A thorough examination of Pimer's daybooks seems to indicate that the people for whom the sails were made supplied the duck. Most of the duck Pimer sold was small scraps. Only once in the twenty-nine years covered by the two daybooks does it appear that Pimer bought several bolts of duck. In that case he apparently sold the same duck to another firm on the same day at an increase of 50*** per bolt.

Explaining what one might find by searching the "duck books" and the spar dimension books hardly seems necessary, but it does seem worth mentioning that Pimer's spar dimension books do record alterations in the superstructure of a considerable number of vessels. In some such instances, dates of the alterations are given, as are dates for the original dimensions.

Whether most sailmakers owned their sail loft or whether they rented one has not been definitely established, but Pimer seems to have always rented his place of business. Between about 1830 and 1875, Pimer's papers contain one or two receipts each year for payment of rent for his sail loft.

Pimer seems to have worked most often for Thomas W. Williams, Williams & Barnes, and Williams & Haven, all of whom were managing owners or agents for whaling vessels.

Pimer's annual summaries of receipts and disbursements for household and business, 1863-1877, indicate that he owned stocks or bonds of the New London Northern and the Cleveland, Plainsville, and Ashtabula railroad companies and the Norwich Insurance Company, and at least two pieces of real estate which he rented. In addition to these, of course, he was still making sails through 1877. The firm of Williams & Barnes seems to have been considerably in debt to Pimer during the late 1870's and early 1880's, and they made annual payments on the principal and of interest to Pimer.

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division. See also: Mystic Seaport's copyright notice.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Morris, James, Sailmaker

Corporate Bodies (Including Vessels):

Morris & Pimer (New London, Conn.)
Thomas W. Williams (Firm)
Williams & Barnes (New London, Conn.)
Williams & Havens (New London, Conn.)

Subjects:

Partnerships
Sailing ships
Sails
Whaling--Connecticut--New London

Document Types:

Daybooks

Occupations:

Sailmakers--Connecticut--New London

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 26, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1828-1882
Box Folder
1 1 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1828-1832
2 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1833
3 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1834
4 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1835
5 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1836
6 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1837
7 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1838
8 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1839 Jan-Jun
9 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1839 Jul-Dec
10 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1840
11 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1841
12 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1842
13 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1843
14 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1844
15 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1845
16 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1846
17 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1847
18 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1848
Box Folder
2 1 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1849
2 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1850
3 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1851 Jan-Jul
4 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1851 Aug-Dec
5 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1850
6 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1853
7 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1854
8 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1855
9 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1856
10 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1857
11 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1858
12 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1859
13 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1860
14 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1861
15 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1862
16 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1863
17 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1864-1865
18 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1866-1867
19 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1868-1869
20 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1870-1872
Box Folder
3 1 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1873-1874
2 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1875-1876
3 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1877-1878
4 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1879
5 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1880
6 Household accounts, bills and receipts; 1881-1882
Sailmaking accounts and other papers; 1831-1881
Box Folder
3 7 Fire insurance policies and receipts for payment of premiums; 1837-1866
8 Annual statements of receipts and disbursements for business and household; 1863-1877
9 Papers regarding ownership of the bark CONNECTICUT, and the ships INDIA, ANN MARIA, and PERUVIAN; 1836-1848
10 Miscellaneous sailmaking accounts, bills and receipts; 1831-1835
11 Miscellaneous sailmaking accounts, bills and receipts; 1836-1840
12 Miscellaneous sailmaking accounts, bills and receipts; 1841-1868
13 Sailmaking accounts with N. & W.W. Billings; 1835-1841
14 Sailmaking accounts with Butler, Hurlbut & Co.; 1837-1839
15 Sailmaking accounts with Frink, Chew & Co. and Frink & Prentis; 1841-1860
16 Sailmaking accounts with Havens & Smith; 1845-1846
17 Sailmaking accounts with Joseph Lawrence; 1837-1842
18 Sailmaking accounts with Weaver & Rogers; 1836-1862
19 Sailmaking accounts with Williams & Barns; 1836-1855
20 Sailmaking accounts with Williams & Barns; 1856-1881
21 Sailmaking accounts with Williams & Haven; 1848-1858
22 Sailmaking account with Thomas W. Williams; 1835
23 Papers regarding sails for the barks ACORS BARNS, J.D. THOMPSON, GEORGE & MARY, and PERRY and the schooners EZRA and QUICKSTEP; 1863-1872
24 Genealogy notes
Volumes; 1831-1877
Volume
1 Ledger, of labor accounts with employees and record of cash received; 1831 Mar 29-1832 Apr 9
2 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1833-1835
3 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1835-1837
4 Ledger, labor and materials accounts with employees and vessels; 1835-1841
5 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1838-1842
6 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1842-1844
7 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1843-1847
8 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1848-1851
9 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1851-1856
10 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1856-1862
11 Ledger, labor accounts with employees; 1862-1873
12 Record of hours worked by employees; 1856-1858
13 Ledger, labor and materials accounts with vessels; 1854-1862
14 Ledger, labor and materials accounts with vessels; 1862-1866
15 Ledger, labor and materials accounts with vessels; 1866-1877
16 Ledger, labor and materials accounts with vessels; 1871-1876
17 Personal petty cash book; 1856-1859
18 Household account; sail loft inventory; and labor and materials accounts; 1857-1858; 1859 Oct 18; 1862
19 Record of hours worked; labor and materials accounts for "Roping materials account with a vessel; 1866; 1876
20 Duck book, record of materials used for vessels; 1834-1841
21 Duck book, record of materials used for vessels; 1841-1850
22 Duck book, record of materials used for vessels; 1851-1857
23 Duck book, record of materials used for vessels; 1857-1874
24 Spar dimension book; 1834-1845
25 Spar dimension book; 1837-1843
26 Spar dimension book; 1842-1854
27 Spar dimension book; 1849-1852
28 Spar dimension book; 1855-1867
29 Spar dimension book; undated
30 Daybook, sailmaking accounts; 1831 Mar 18-1838 Apr 25
31 Daybook, sailmaking accounts; 1838 Apr 30-1859 Mar 5

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