University of Massachusetts Amherst
SCUA

Breck, John

John Breck Account Book
1801-1810
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 196 bd

A prominent storekeeper in Northampton, Mass., at the turn of the nineteenth century, John Breck was born on April 20, 1770. Starting in business with his father as Robert Breck and Son from their store at the corner of Main and King Streets, Breck thrived dealing in “English and Hardware Goods” and “crockery and Glass ware.” According to historian Nancy Goyne Evans, he was recorded working with blacksmith Seth Pomeroy in 1800 supplying chair makers with imported and domestic turning tools.

Labeled on the cover “Petty debts B, Iron Accounts,” this volume of accounts includes records of a substantial business in selling iron and steel at the turn of the nineteenth century. Although the owner of the book is nowhere recorded, it has very tentatively been assigned to John Breck based on his signature on p. 101 (and p. 49), settling an account with the clockmaker Nathan Storrs. Most of the entries are brief, often for petty sums and often cryptic in nature, however a significant number note the sale of iron or occasionally steel.

Background on John Breck

A prominent storekeeper in Northampton, Mass., at the turn of the nineteenth century, John Breck was born on April 20, 1770. Starting in business with his father as Robert Breck and Son from their store at the corner of Main and King Streets, Breck thrived dealing in “English and Hardware Goods” and “crockery and Glass ware.” According to historian Nancy Goyne Evans, he was recorded working with blacksmith Seth Pomeroy in 1800 supplying chair makers with imported and domestic turning tools. Breck also invested in land in the Western Reserve, where his family helped settle the town of Brecksville, Ohio.

Active and ambitious, Breck served as the first postmaster in Northampton (1792-1797) and he was associated with the Second Aqueduct Company in 1809. He and his wife Clarissa Allen had four children before his death in 1827.

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Contents of Collection

Labeled on the cover “Petty debts B, Iron Accounts,” this volume of accounts includes records of a substantial business in selling iron and steel at the turn of the nineteenth century. Although the owner of the book is nowhere recorded, it has very tentatively been assigned to John Breck based on his signature on p. 101 (and p. 49), settling an account with the clockmaker Nathan Storrs. Most of the entries are brief, often for petty sums and often cryptic in nature, however a significant number note the sale of iron or occasionally steel, with occasional intriguing detail. In 1807, for example, the book records the sale of a quantity of iron to the sawmill owner Simeon Clark of Easthampton, along with a crow bar and bullet molds; repayment came in timber and labor in constructing a kitchen and clapboarding. Most of the entries simply refer to a page number in another, presumably more detailed, daybook, sometimes adding “to iron” or “to steel.” The title “Iron Accounts” suggests the possibility the owner kept books for other commercial accounts as well.

Although the location of the account book is also not recorded, it can more certainly be located in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts and almost certainly in Northampton. Many of the clients recorded in the volume are clustered in the area in and around Northampton, including in Westhampton, Easthampton, Southampton, Williamsburgh, and Worthington; with others located east of the River (Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, New Salem); northward to Whately, Greenfield, and Conway; and into the Berkshires at Cummington, Chesterfield, Goshen, and Pittsfield. Several notable Northampton residents appear — notably without the town being noted — including the physician Harvey Frink (p.33), Maj. Seth Pomeroy (p.71), Col. Charles Chapman (p.62), and the clockmaker Storrs (p.101). The accounts indicate the Breck rented his shop to Frink.

Residue

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English

Provenance

Gift of George Chigas, Sept. 1987.

Bibliography

On Breck, see James Russell Trumbull, History of Northampton, Massachusetts: From Its Settlement, Vol. 2. Northampton, 1902.

Nancy Goyne Evans, Windsor-chair Making in America: From Craft Shop to Consumer. University Press of New England.

Related Material

Three of John Breck’s daybooks (1794-1795, 1803-1808) are part of the collections at Witnerthur

Processing Information

Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, July 2017.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: John Breck Account Book (MS 196 bd). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Subjects
  • Iron industry and trade--Massachusetts--Northampton
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
Types of material
  • Daybooks

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