J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Mrs. Russell: paper customer

[This posting was updated to reflect newer research on Ezekiel Russell and his wife.]

Last week I posted a couple of entries about Sarah Russell, wife of Boston printer Ezekiel Russell. Boston 1775 reader Peter Hopkins, unofficial chronicler of the Crane Paper Company, sent me additional information:

The Crane & Co. founder’s father—Stephen Crane—was a partner in The Liberty Paper Mill in Milton with Daniel Vose and (we believe) John Lewis. The Liberty Paper Mill operated from 1770 to 1793, and the Crane Museum of Papermaking holds the mill’s ledger book. . . .

In addition to Paul Revere, Isaiah Thomas, Henry Knox, etc., there is an entry on April 26, 1771, that shows that Mrs. Russell purchased 2 double reams of crown printing paper for 15 pounds.

On another page is the account for Ezekiel Russell, who bought paper from time to time from that date to March 3, 1779.
The “Mrs. Russell” noted in April 1771 was probably not Ezekiel Russell’s wife and successor Sarah since they didn’t marry until 1773. But it could have been the wife of his older brother John, who had trained Ezekiel in printing. Such a large purchase of paper strongly suggests that this Mrs. Russell was conducting business, not just buying a personal supply.

Hopkins offers a look at the signatures of Revere, Thomas, and Knox from that ledger. Each of those men needed paper for a different reason. Knox was a young bookseller, Thomas a young printer, and Revere printer of engraved banknotes for Massachusetts.

When Vose, Crane, and Lewis named their business the Liberty Paper Mill, they were acknowledging their product’s political side. Manufacturing paper within the colony meant people could import less, and the Whigs were trying to get people to boycott goods from Britain until Parliament repealed the Townshend duties.

The Liberty Mill’s senior partner, Daniel Vose, hosted the final session of the Suffolk County Convention on 9 Sept 1774, at which town delegates adopted the Suffolk Resolves. He was also a captain in the Milton militia on 19 Apr 1775, though as best I can tell his company was too far south to see any fighting. Instead, their big accomplishment was to deliver bread and chocolate (milled in a subleased part of the paper manufactory) to the troops who camped around Boston.

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