Dutilh and Wachsmuth papers

Collection 0184

( Bulk, 1780-1800 ) 1704-1859
(1.5 Linear feet ; 4 boxes, 1 flat file)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Dutilh, Etienne, 1748-1810.
Wachsmuth, John Godfried, 1748-1828.
Dutilh and Wachsmuth papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1780-1800
Date [inclusive]
1.5 Linear feet ; 4 boxes, 1 flat file
Finding aid prepared by Joanne Danifo
This finding aid was updated during the Digital Center for Americana Project Phase II, which was funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.
Étienne Dutilh emigrated from France to Philadelphia in 1783 and one year later became involved in a string of merchant firms bearing his name. In 1790, Dutilh forged a partnership with John Godfried Wachsmuth and the pair operated the mercantile house of Dutilh and Wachsmuth. Their firm was mainly engaged in the trade of coffee and sugar with the West Indies, Asia, and several European countries, such as the Netherlands and England. The Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers span from 1704 to 1859 with the bulk of the materials dating between 1780 and 1800. The collection, which consists of four boxes, traces the activities of merchants Étienne Dutilh and John G. Wachsmuth and is rich in information about Atlantic shipping activities of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of the papers are bills, receipts, and shipping invoices relating to the mercantile house. These financial records as well as cargo lists, correspondence, and legal documents offer insight into the trading that occurred in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries between the West Indies, North America, and Europe. About a quarter of the documents in this collection are in French.

Preferred Citation note

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers (Collection 0184), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

Étienne Dutilh was born to Pierre and Marie Dutilh in Marsac (also known as Clairac), France in 1732. During the 1770s, Dutilh established himself as a merchant in London and Rotterdam before immigrating to Philadelphia in 1783. Several Dutilh family members remained in Europe to continue their mercantile business in places like Amsterdam and England. As a result, Étienne Dutilh had strong trading ties to Europe for the next decades. When he came to Philadelphia, Dutilh established the mercantile house Étienne Dutilh and Company in the 1780s, trading primarily with the West Indies. In 1790, he forged a partnership with John Gotlieb Wachsmuth under the name Dutilh and Wachsmuth. During their partnership, Dutilh traveled frequently, leaving the management of the business to Wachsmuth. Dutilh and Wachsmuth owned about seven vessels, which traveled mainly between the West Indies and North America, as well as northern Europe; Theodosia, Lydia, Commerce, and Isabella were names of some of the vessels. Some of the goods traded by Dutilh and Wachsmuth were: sugar, cigars, coffee, indigo, flour, gunpowder, cotton, and wine.

Around 1797, Wachsmuth and Dutilh dissolved their partnership and Wachsmuth partnered with John Soullier, who was an associate of Dutilh. This business lasted until 1814. Étienne Dutilh anglicized his first name to Stephen around 1804 and passed away six years later, leaving a wife and several children. Wachsmuth married Dutilh’s widow and lived with his combined family in Germantown until his death in 1826.

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Scope and Contents note

The Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers span from 1704 to 1859 and profile the trading activities of the firm of Étienne Dutilh and his partner John G. Wachsmuth. The majority of records consist of bills, receipts, and invoices for the goods being shipped, and, to a lesser extent, correspondence and legal documents. The legal documents reveal the constant question of ownership of cargo and vessels in the Atlantic trade of the late eighteenth century. Dutilh and Wachsmuth were required to give depositions swearing to their ownership of goods and, in some cases as this collection demonstrates, they were sued for taking possession of goods that were not theirs.

This collection is a combination of Dutilh and Wachsmuth materials from two separate collections, the Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers, Miscellaneous (Collection 184) and the Dreer Collection (Collection 175). While the two collections are related, they have been kept separate within this larger collection, which consists of four boxes. The original Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers are in Box 1 and Box 2, folders 1-8. The materials from the Dreer Collection are in boxes 2, 3, and 4. Within each set, the materials have been arranged chronologically.

Also among the legal documents are powers of attorney and insurance and debt information for several estates involving John Dutilh, E.P. Thomas, Louis Stocker, and Dorothea Goy Dehery. Other items in this section of the collection are a travel journal, John A. Dutilh’s certificate for membership in the Masonic Order l’Isle de France, shipping instructions, several letters, and pension papers. There is also a printed sheet for recording a vote in the Pennsylvania State Assembly. A flat file contains a bill of sale, article of agreement, account statement, and statistics for the Pennsylvania Canal and Railway; the last item is from the Dreer Collection.

The Dreer Collection materials, which are found in boxes 2, 3, and 4, consist of financial records and legal papers connected to Dutilh and Wachsmuth. Most of the papers in this part of the collection are bills, invoices, and receipts that are similar to those from the first section of papers in this collection. These records shed light on the operations of the mercantile house, the goods that were traded, and shipping practices. There are also account statements, bills of lading, and insurance papers. The insurance papers were drawn up for the trips taken by Dutilh and Wachsmuth’s vessels, including one to Cap Francais (modern-day Cap Haitien), Saint Domingue in 1792. Associates of the mercantile house represented among the financial papers include Nottnagel, Montmollin, and Co.; John Soullier; Robert Waln, who entered into an agreement with Wachsmuth in 1798; and John and Stephen Girard, who agreed to ship tobacco in 1786.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania August 2007

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107

Revision Description

 Finding aid entered into Archivists' Toolkit and revised in August 2011 by Sarah Newhouse as part of the Digital Center for Americana Project, Phase II. August 2011

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The materials in Box 1 and Box 2 folders 1-8 were purchased, Dreer Fund. The materials in Box 2 folders 9-23, Box 3, and Box 4 were a gift of Ferdinand Dreer.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

Abraham Dubois Papers, Collection 1636.

Claude Unger Collection, Collection 1860A.

John Stamper Letterbook, Collection 625.

Leonard T. Beale Collection, Collection 1735.

Powel Family Papers, Collection 1582.

French West Indies Collection, Collection 219.

At other institutions:

Dutilh and Wachsmuth Papers at the Hagley Museum and Library.

Dutilh Papers in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Étienne Dutilh Papers at the Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Merchants Collection (MS 206) at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University.

Papers Relating to the British Seizure of American Ships (MS 82-4) at Wichita State University Library.

Peter Stephen DuPonceau Collection (Collection B D92p) at the American Philosophical Society.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Nottnagel, Montmollin & Company.


  • Merchants--Pennsylvania-–19th century.
  • Merchants–-Pennsylvania–-18th century.

Personal Name(s)

  • Girard, Stephen, 1750-1831.
  • Nottnagel, Leopold, 1757?-1813.
  • Soullier, John M., d. 1824.
  • Waln, Robert, 1765-1836.


  • Cap-Français (Haiti)–-History–-18th century.
  • Cap-Français (Haiti)–-History–-19th century.
  • Commission merchants--United States--History.
  • Commission merchants–-United States--Pennsylvania–-Philadelphia.
  • Cuba--Commerce--History.
  • Cuba–-History–-To 1810.
  • Europe -- Commerce -- United States -- 18th century.
  • Europe–-Commerce-–United States–-19th century.
  • France--Commerce--United States--History.
  • France–-Commerce–-United States–-18th century.
  • France–-Commerce–-United States–-19th century.
  • Haiti--Commerce–-United States–-18th century.
  • Haiti-–Commerce-–United States–-19th century.
  • Insurance, Marine
  • Netherlands–-Commerce–-United States–-18th century.
  • Netherlands–-Commerce–-United States–-19th century.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Commerce--History--18th century.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Commerce--History--19th century.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.). Overseers of the Poor.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)–-Merchants-–18th century.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)–-Merchants-–19th century.
  • Sugar trade.
  • United States--Commerce--History--18th century.
  • United States--Commerce--History--19th century.
  • United States-–Commerce-–Europe-–History--19th century.
  • United States-–Commerce-–West Indies–-History--19th century.
  • United States–-Commerce-–France–-History--18th century.
  • United States–-Commerce-–France–-History--19th century.
  • United States–-Commerce-–Haiti–-History--18th century.
  • United States–-Commerce-–Haiti–-History--19th century.
  • United States–-Commerce-–West Indies–-History--18th century.
  • United States–-Commerce–-Europe–-History--18th century.
  • United States–-Commerce–-Netherlands–-History--18th century.
  • United States–-Commerce–-Netherlands–-History--19th century.
  • West Indies–-Commerce-–United States-–History--18th century.
  • West Indies–-Commerce–-United States-–History--19th century.
  • Wine trade.

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Dun, James Alexander. “What avenues of commerce, will you, Americans, not explore!": Commercial Philadelphia's Vantage onto the Early Haitian Revolution, William and Mary Quarterly 62 (July 2005). Available: History Cooperative; Address: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/wm/62.3/dun.html.(August 2007).

Rau, Louise. Dutilh Papers, Business Historical Society Bulletin 13 (November 1939). Available: Rutgers University Library; Address: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/index.shtml. (August 2007).

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Collection Inventory

Dutilh and Wachsmuth, Miscellaneous (formerly collection 184) 1762-1842 

Box Folder

Account statements 1762-1799 

1 1-2

Bills and invoices 1791-1794, undated 

1 3

Jacob Graff estate papers 1768-1793 

1 4

Charles Graff papers and covenant with Benedict Shipper 1829-1856 

1 5

John Dutilh estate paper 1780-1806 

1 6

Passenger and merchandise manifests 1784-1794 

1 7

Bond from Edward Dutilh to the Overseers of the Poor of Philadelphia 1788 

1 8

Stockar and D’Eberz: Correspondence excerpts 1788 July 

1 9
Oversize Drawer

Bill of sale, article of agreement, and account statement 1792-1801 

1 1
Box Folder

Journal from a voyage 1789-1790 

1 10

Bills and receipts 1793-1808 

1 11

Wastebook 1795-1796 

1 12

Fair American vessel papers 1801-1804 

1 13

Nottnagel, Montmollin and Company v. Joseph Coulon 1802 

1 14-15

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh 1804 

1 16

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh: Bills of Equity and interrogation papers 1804 

1 17

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh: Depositions 1804 

1 18

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh: Evidence list and agreement 1804 

1 19

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh: Isaac Lockwood evidence and deposition 1804 

1 20

Palmer and Higgins v. Dutilh and Insurance Company of Philadelphia v. Dutilh 1804 

1 21

Proceedings in the Court of Vice Admiralty of the Bahamas for the Nancy 1804-1805 

1 22

Case between Dutilh and Andrew Sequin regarding the Speedwell 1807 

1 23

John A. Dutilh membership certificate for "La Triple-Espérance" 1807 May 8 

1 24

Instructions for the Minerva undated 

1 25

Miscellaneous 1760-1838 

1 26

Miscellaneous 1771-1788 

1 27

Miscellaneous 1773-1837 

1 28

Miscellaneous 1789-1792 

2 1

Miscellaneous 1793 

2 2

Miscellaneous 1796-1800 

2 3-4

Miscellaneous 1801-1807 

2 5-6

Miscellaneous 1810-1842 

2 7

Miscellaneous undated 

2 8

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Dreer Collection (formerly in collection 175) 1746-1821 

Financial and business documents 

Box Folder

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1746, 1776, 1780-1788 

2 9

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1755-1768 

2 10

Receipts 1759-1778 

2 11

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1776-1785 

2 12

Receipts 1780-1785 

2 13

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1786-1787 

2 14

Receipts 1786-1789 

2 15

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1788-1789 

2 16

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1790 

2 17

Receipts 1790-1792 

2 18-19

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1791 

2 20

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1792 

2 21-22

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1793 

2 23

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1793 

3 1

Receipts 1793-1799 

3 2

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1794-1795 

3 3

Bills, receipts, invoices, and miscellaneous documents 1796 

3 4

Bills, receipts, and miscellaneous documents 1797 

3 5

Agreements with Walns and miscellaneous memoranda 1798 

3 6

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1798 

3 7

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1799 

3 8

Account statements and balances 1799 

3 9

Cargo lists and memoranda 1799 

3 10

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1800 

3 11

Bills, receipts, and miscellaneous documents 1800 

3 12

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1801 

3 13

Misecellaneous documents 1801 

3 14

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1802 

3 15

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1803 

3 16

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1804 

3 17

Receipts 1804-1821 

3 18

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1805 

3 19

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1806 

3 20

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1806 

3 21

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1807-1809 

3 22

Bills, receipts, and invoices 1810-1811 

3 23

Bills, receipts, invoices, and miscellaneous 1812-1846 

3 24


Box Folder

 1789-1796, undated 

3 25


3 26


4 1


4 2


4 3


4 4


Box Folder


4 5-9

 1784-1793, undated 

4 10

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