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William Wilson papers

 Collection 0158-MDHC

William Wilson was an agent for the milling firm of Hoover and Frick, which was located near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. He apparently spent much of his time at the harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, gathering the news of the day, which he then transmitted to his employers in a series of letters. In his correspondence Wilson discusses cattle and grain prices, political news and events of Europe and Mexico, the effects of the California gold rush on the east coast, and prospects for trade with England and other European countries.


  • 1848-1849

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


0.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

This collection of correspondence covers the years 1848 to 1849. Wilson relates to the ups and downs of the market, identifying the prices for flour, cornmeal, rye, oats, cattle, and produce. He also notes the prospects for trade with England and other European countries.

Wilson discusses the political news carried over by the officers of ships from Europe arriving in Baltimore and what he hears about ships arriving in New York. Included are comments on Prussia, the threat of civil war in France, starvation in Ireland, U. S. troops in Mexico, Asiatic cholera, and several notes about the Pope. Russia, Hungary, Austria, and South America are mentioned as well.

The California gold rush is also a recurring topic in a few of Wilson’s letters. He conveys information about the number of men and ships leaving the eastern ports with “gold fever” bound for the west coast. The arrival of two shipments of gold worth ten thousand and a million dollars, respectively, is noted.

Biographical / Historical

William Wilson may have been a member of the family of William Wilson & Sons, well-known Baltimore merchants and shippers. His correspondence indicates he gathered information about grain and cattle prices, politics—both local and foreign—and other news from the ships that came into the harbor. This news was passed along to Hoover and Frick, commercial millers located near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania; they sent barrels of flour to Wilson for sale.

The firm of William Wilson & Sons was established in Baltimore in 1802 by William Wilson (1749-1824) who emigrated from Ireland in 1770. His sons, James and Thomas joined him in the business. All three men had sons named William, two of whom were alive in 1849-1849, William Charles (1810-1878) and William Thomas (?-1861).


The papers are William Wilson have been organized as one series of correspondence.

Series 1

Related Materials

Hatchett, Richard J. et al. Matchett’s Baltimore Directory. (Baltimore: R.J. Matchett) (UMCP HK Maryland Room, Maryland Rare Stacks F189.B1A183 1849-1850).

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Baltimore City and County. (Baltimore: Regional Pub. Co., 1971) (UMCP HBK Maryland Room, Maryland Reference F189.B1S3 1971).

Processing Information

The letters have been unfolded and gently flattened along the folds. They have been placed in an acid-free folder in an acid-free box

Guide to the William Wilson papers
Sharon Beth Vicoli; Terry Sayler, September 2013.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742