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Thomas Meredith papers

Identifier: MS 1795


This collection contains the papers relating to Thomas Meredith, a dry goods merchant in Baltimore, including his business and personal papers, 1772-1872.


  • 1772-1872


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Very little is recorded concerning the businessman in this collection; in some cases, birth and death dates can be found or computed: Only a chronology seems to exist for the businesses involved, and any reasons for changes have, in most cases, to be assumed. The following note on Thomas Meredith, principal person in the collection, is based on observations made after having scanned the family letters, some business correspondence, and the receipts. Other men are listed only with dates of birth and death; following this, the businesses are given little more than a chronological treatment.

L. THOMAS J. MEREDITH (1790?-c.1865) was the son of William Meredith (1750-1801). William Meredith seems to have come to Baltimore from Lancaster County, Virginia. His children (or nieces and nephews) lived there, and it is recorded that he died there.

Thomas Meredith is seem to be a rather hard-dealing merchant, a devout and ardent Roman Catholic, and a benefactor for his hard-pressed relatives. Meredith and his wife Maria seem to have had no children of their own, so this may be why he did and could support five nephews at once. Most of the boys were sent to Georgetown College, though others attended several Catholic schools, most notably Mt. St. Mary's College.

Meredith's zeal for supporting the Cathedral in Baltimore seems extraordinary; he paid not only for his pew, but for music, various salaries, repairs and maintainence, and other regular and emergency needs. It seems from letters written to his family that he took the doctrines of his religion seriously enough to try to put them into practice. The combination of this image with that of a successful businessman is interesting.

The firm of William Meredith and Company was first listed in 1802. In 1807, Thomas Meredith became a partner and the company was listed as William and Thomas Meredith, dry goods merchants, until 1810 when, because of the death of William Meredith, it became Thomas Meredith and Company. In 1812, the company was Meredith and Spa[u]lding; this was a short-lived venture for in 1816 Thomas Meredith was listed singley. The next year, 1817, Meredith was a partner of Thomas Mummey, an established dry goods merchant whose firm had been located next door to the Meredith firm since its beginning.

Thomas Mummey is first listed in 1800 as a flour merchant. It appears that this was his first venture into business since he was then 26 years old. No doubt he expanded his business in the following 17 years, and there would be little doubt, too, that a merger of his business with that of Meredith's was advantageous to both men. Yet however experienced Meredith was, he was the junior; (he was only 27 years old.) In 1833, a year after Mummey's death, Thomas Meredith, then the senior, took Edward Spencer as a partner. That same year, Spencer had married Guinelda Mummey, daughter of the late Thomas Mummey, so it may be that the partnership had been requested by Mummey to insure proper support of his daughter, or it may have been that Meredith was kind as well as shrewd.

The firm was listed as Meredith and Spencer from 1833 to 1865, with the exception of the period of 1842 to 1848 when, due to the death of Edward Spencer and lack of another partner, the firm was listed as Meredith and Company. In 1849, another Spencer became a partner - Joseph H. Spencer. A guess is that he was the late Edward Spencer's brother since no other information has been found.

In 1864, it seems that Thomas Meredith was succeeded by his nephew, Joseph H. Meredith, who had been in Baltimore since 1860 with Canfield Brothers and Campany. Two years after Joseph Meredith took over, the company was dissolved, and Meredith was listed as capitalist. Further directories list only his name and residence, and after 1872, he is no longer listed. There is no record of what happened to him, whether he died or left the city. There is also no record of Joseph Spencer, though it could be assumed that he died in 1865.


1.67 Linear Feet (4 full Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Mason Rudolph.

Scope and Contents

Accounts and receipts make up the bulk of the collection. Among these can be found purchases from hundreds of Baltimore businesses, showing prices for charcoal, fabrics, liquors, books, silverware and well as for services such as music copying, bricklaying, and carriage repairs. (This is only a minute smapling of the variety of goods and services included.) Along with various check and bank books, this portion of the papers spans 1800 to 1869 (though the latest receipts appear unrelated to the rest). Only one book - a bank book - survives as a record of William Meredith and Co/Meredith and Spaulding. This is dated 1811.

The correspondence - 1818-1853 - is divided between family letters and business letters. Members of the family who write include a brother and two sisters, and five nephews. The nephews' letters primarily concern their schooling, which Thomas Meredith pays for.

The value of the collection as a picture of Baltimore dry goods business is not particularly good; there are hardly enough account books or letters. The value may be attached to items that enumerate prices or have bill heads engraved or lithographed by important engravers or lithographers. Certainly the bills for music copying, organ tuning, muscian's salaries and instruments may be worthwhile. Letters about Georgetown University and Mt. Saint Mary's College from nephews who are students at these schools are interesting since they convey, somewhat, the kind of life led by the average student. These letters, however, are geared to what the uncle (the patron) wants to hear, except in the case of one boy who consistently resists all efforts to civilize and educate him. He appears to have the best imagination; the others appear to have donned the image of stiff and humorless righteousness.

Miscellaneous items are grouped at the end of the collection. Most of these seem to have no relationship to the bulk of the papers. Their value is dubious to say the least.

Guide to the Thomas Meredith papers
Under Revision
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-12-04: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States