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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Saturday, December 29, 2018

“Brown Paper made at Mr. Fry’s Mill”

In 1734 Richard Fry finally set about making paper at the mill built for him in Stroudwater outside Falmouth (now Portland), Maine, by real-estate developers Samuel Waldo and Thomas Westbrook. Fry sublet some of that facility to another English papermaker named John Collier.

On 14 October, Fry addressed his old neighbors in yet another hortatory advertisement in the New-England Weekly Journal:

It is now almost Three Years, since I Published an Advertisement, to shew you the excellent OEconomy of the Dutch, in the Paper Manufactory, in order to induce you to follow so laudable an Example; but I am sorry to say, I have had but small Effects of it as yet; when Gentlemen have been at great Expence to serve the Public, as well as their own Private Interest, it is the Duty of every Person, as much as in them lies, to help forward so useful a Manufactory; Therefore I intreat all those that are Lovers of their Country, to be very careful of their Linnen Rags, and send them to Joseph Stocker in Spring Lane, BOSTON, and they shall receive ready Money for the same.

Richard Fry.
That plea highlights what seems like a fundamental flaw in the plan to run a paper mill on the Presumpscot River. A frontier settlement didn’t have nearly as many rags as a big old port like Boston. Nor did it have printers, newspapers, attorneys, or many businessmen in need of lots of paper. Waldo was still busy recruiting settlers, as this broadside shows. But aside from supply, demand, and labor, Fry’s enterprise had great prospects.

Meanwhile in Boston, as I quoted a couple of days ago, James Jackson first advertised himself as making and selling brass goods at the sign of the Brazen Head. On 8 May 1735, James and his wife Mary had their second son, James, Jr., baptized at King’s Chapel.

After another two months, on 7 July 1735, the New-England Weekly Journal announced:
Brown paper, TO BE SOLD, for ready Money, by James Jackson, at the Brazen Head in Cornhill, Boston.

P.S. There will be no more Brown Paper made at Mr. Fry’s Mill at Stroudwater, at Casco-Bay
I’ve found no clue about how Fry and Jackson linked up. Why would a shop full of brass hardware be a good outlet for brown paper? Perhaps the two men felt some affinity as recent arrivals from England making their way among established Yankees.

In any event, at the end of that summer James Jackson took a trip up to Casco Bay. He might have been delivering or installing brass fixtures in a mill or other new building. He might have been picking up more paper to sell. Jackson might even have been exploring the possibility of joining Waldo and Westbrook’s settlement, moving his small family to the Maine coast.

He never came back.

TOMORROW: “a very severe Storm of Wind.”

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