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Henry family papers

Accession 1209

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807

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Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Henry family papers (Accession 1209), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807


Descriptive Summary

Title: Henry family papers
Dates: 1758-1909
Accession Number: 1209
Creator: Henry family
Extent: 12 linear feet
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: The Henry family were armsmakers who operated a family gun manufactory in eastern Pennsylvania for five generations. The records of the Henry family document the line leading from the first William to Granville, with some records of William, III. The main body of records deals with the operation of the Boulton Gun Works, its predecessor operation at Nazareth and the associated gun shop and store in Philadelphia.

Administrative Information

Existence and Location of Copies

Also available in a microfilm, edition made in 1971. Not all items were microfilmed.

Access to Collection

Collection is open for research.


Historical Note

The Henry family were armsmakers who operated a family gun manufactory in eastern Pennsylvania for five generations.

The business was founded by the first William Henry (1729-1786), the son of John Henry, an early immigrant from Ireland. In 1744 William moved to Lancaster, Pa., where he was apprenticed to a gunsmith. He soon achieved great expertise in the craft, and from 1750 to 1760 he conducted the business in partnership with Joseph Simon, a merchant and Indian trader. During the Indian wars from 1755 to 1760, Henry served as the principal armorer for the colonial troops. After 1760 he conducted business alone. The Henry rifle, the prototype of what later became known as the Kentucky rifle, was famous for its quality.

William Henry also served as Treasurer of Lancaster County from 1777 until his death; as Assistant Commissary General and Disbursing Officer for the District of Lancaster County during the Revolutionary War; and as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1784. He joined the American Philosophical Society in 1768, along with his close friend, David Rittenhouse. He invented a screw augur, a steam-heating system, a "sentinel register" for regulating the flue damper in furnaces, and is often credited with trying to develop a steamboat. He died in Lancaster on December 15, 1786.

Three sons of William Henry carried on the family tradition of gunmaking. Abraham Henry (d. 1811) and John Joseph Henry (1758-1811) continued to work in Lancaster. William Henry, Jr., (1757-1821) apprenticed under his father and opened his own rifle-making shop at the Moravian community of Christian Spring, Pa., in 1778. In 1780 he moved to nearby Nazareth. Like his father, he was involved in local politics and was made justice of the peace and associate judge of the Court of Common Please of Northampton County. He was involved in the early operations of the Lehigh Coal Mine Company (1792-1798), and for a while was its chief agent in the field. Around 1794 he laid out the town of Lehighton, Pa., with Charles Cist. His son, Matthew Schropp Henry (1790-1862) became an ironmaster and built the Catharine Furnace nearby. M. S. Henry also wrote a history of the Lehigh Valley and a dictionary of the Delaware Indian language.

William, Jr., brought his other two sons, John Joseph (1786-1836) and William (1794-1878), into the business. John Joseph moved to Philadelphia in 1808, where he set up a branch gun shop and handled sales for the works at Nazareth. William was sent to Philadelphia as an apprentice to his older brother.

In 1808, William Henry, Jr., contracted to supply the U.S. government with 10,000 muskets and bayonets at a fixed price of $10,750, payable in advance. The arms were to be delivered at the rate of 2,000 per year. The government furnished the patterns, but the inspector rejected the first shipment and demanded changes, which Henry complied with. In 1812-1813, Henry constructed a much larger factory, the Boulton Gun Works, on Bushkill Creek at nearby Jacobsburg in anticipation of war orders and William, III, returned to supervise the work. However, the controversy with the government deepened. The alterations requested increased the costs to the Henrys to below profitability, and the cost of the Boulton Works constituted an additional burden. Eventually, William, Jr., refunded the entire advance. The government also blocked the Henrys from receiving further government contracts, although they did get orders for the state militias of Maryland and Delaware. In March 1817 William, Jr., retired to Philadelphia and sold the works to his two sons.

William, III, continued to operate the works, while John Joseph remained in Philadelphia, but the firm was further hurt by the depression of 1819. The brothers finally won some partial compensation from the government in 1820-1821. In 1822 William sold his interest to John Joseph, who came up from Philadelphia. John Joseph achieved a limited prosperity, primarily supplying rifles to Astor's American Fur Company. At his death in 1836, the works passed to his son, James (1809-1894). Regular operations ceased in 1895, although his son, Granville Henry (1834-1912), maintained the property during his lifetime.

William Henry, III, then operated a store at Wind Gap, Pa. from 1822 to 1828. He then joined with his nephew, John Jordan, Jr., to build Analomink Forge, which was to refine iron made by his brother Matthew's furnace. The brothers quarreled, and in 1832 William took a lease on Oxford Furnace in New Jersey to secure a supply of pig iron. He later brought his son-in-law, Selden T. Scranton, into this operation. Henry spent a great deal of time promoting railroads to open the territory and in experimenting with smelting iron with anthracite coal. He designed the first Lackawanna furnace in 1840-1841, but was blamed by his partners, the Scrantons, for its failure and forced out of the venture in 1842. He spent the remainder of his life in a series of minor jobs, often on charity from his former partners and relatives.


Scope and Content

The records of the Henry family document the line leading from the first William to Granville, with some records of William, III.

The main body of records deals with the operation of the Boulton Gun Works, its predecessor operation at Nazareth and the associated gun shop and store in Philadelphia. There are fragmentary account books (1807-1881), including day books, price books, sales ledgers, receipt books, factory rules, Boulton farm accounts and company store records. There are also wage books (1832-1839), day work and boarders' accounts (1817-1842), and workmen's ledgers (1833-1881), which include production lists and lists of grinders, welders and laborers.

There are scattered financial papers and correspondence of William Henry, Sr. (1760-1784). Correspondence of William Henry, Jr., is fragmentary, with the best coverage on the operation of the Gun Works and the contract dispute with the federal government. There is no material on his outside activities with the Lehigh Coal Mine Company. Correspondence increases with John Joseph Henry, including exchanges with the American Fur Company, with orders, specifications and details of shipments. Also included is correspondence from sales agents in Nebraska, Texas and Ohio, particularly with George W. Ewing in the last named state. Other letters detail the Henrys' efforts to lobby Washington for a higher tariff on imported firearms. Sketchbooks of John Joseph and William Henry, Jr., include designs for firearms including decorative cartouches and other markings.

There are three account books of William Henry, III, documenting the operations of Oxford Furnace by Henry, Jordan & Company. One volume contains drawings of the iron mines at Oxford and Port Colden, N.J.

Henry family personal papers (1758-1902) include private accounts, correspondence, deeds, indentures and miscellany of the five generations of the family.

There is a separate series of volumes and papers documenting William Henry's role as Treasurer of Lancaster County (1777-1810). He was succeeded in office by his wife, Ann Wood Henry, who served until 1796. Her papers include official records as county treasurer and well receipts for personal goods and services and the inventory of her estate.

Another special series is William Henry's Revolutionary War papers, when he served as Assistant Commissary General and also Superintendent of Arms and Accoutrements, a position in which he established workshops in various parts of Pennsylvania and directed the making of boots, shoes, hats and firearms. The records include correspondence, accounts, and receipts concerning weapons, shoes, leather, tallow, clothing and recruits.

The final series consists of Lancaster County Court papers (1770-1795), consisting of court record books and dockets.


Access Points

Boulton Gun Works.
Iron industry and trade.

Series Descriptions and Inventory

I. Bound volumes
A. Day books
1 John Joseph Henry, 1807-1812
1 John Joseph Henry, 1813-1819 [Philadelphia.]
1 John Joseph and William Henry, Jr., 1815-1820
1 John Joseph and William Henry, Jr., 1820-1822
1 John Joseph Henry and Gun Works, 1820-1822 [After 1822.]
1 Bolton Gun Works, 1840-1845
1 Waste Book, Joseph Henry, 1818-1821
B. Ledgers
1 Ledger A, John Joseph & William Henry, Jr., 1814-1815
1 Ledger B, John Joseph & William Henry, Jr., 1815-1822
1 Volume 1, John Joseph Henry, Bolton Gun Works, 1824-1833
2 Ledger, 1872-1882
2 Essay of a price book, Bolton, 1815
2 Price Book #2, 1822-1826
2 Sales Made by John Joseph Henry, 1823-1848
2 Bolton Gun Works, Sales Records, 1853-1866
2 Sales Ledger, 1866-1882
2 James Henry, Sales Agent List, 1882
2 Receipt Book, John Joseph Henry, 1833
2 Receipt Book, James Henry, 1866-1868
2 James Henry Accounts, 1836-1881
2 Bolton Farm Accounts, 1831-1833
2 Bolton Farm Accounts, 1853-1860
2 Bolton Farm Accounts, 1860-1883
2 John Joseph Henry Sketch Book
2 William Henry of Nazareth Sketch Book
2 Dr. Thomas sites Ledger, 1905-1907
3 Wage Book, 1832-1839
3 Day Work Accounts, 1833
3 Day Work Accounts, 1835
3 Day Work Accounts, 1842
3 Bolton Gun Works Day Work & Boarders Accounts, 1817-1822
3 Bolton Gun Works Day Work & Boarders Accounts, 1823-1831
3 Workman's Ledger, 1833-1836 [Production lists included.]
3 Workman's Ledger, 1836-1839 [Lists grinders, welders & laborers.]
3 Workman's Ledger, 1846-1848
3 Workman's Ledger, 1852-1855
4 Workman's Ledger, 1855-1857
4 Workman's Ledger, 1856-1859
4 Workman's Ledger, 1864-1867
4 Workman's Ledger, 1866-1869
4 Workman's Ledger, 1869-1871
4 Workman's Ledger, 1870-1873
4 Workman's Ledger, 1873-1878
4 Workman's Ledger, 1870-1874
4 Workman's Ledger, 1872-1881
4 Workman's Ledger, 1880-1881
5 Production Records, 1838
5 Company store Records, 1849-1852
5 William Henry, III - Memorandum Book
5 Oxford Furnace, 1841
5 Blotter Book, 1833-1837 [Oxford Furnace.]
5 William Henry, III - Oxford Furnade Letter Book
5 Iron Works Lands, 1840
5 Granville Henry - Sunday Accounts, 1888
5 Stock Accounts, 1868-1872
5 Expenses for house at Bolton Landing, 1820-1836
6 Circuit Court Records Chamber's Lancaster Docket, 1781-1789
6 William Henry I, Docket Book, Lancaster District, 1788-1789
6 William Henry I, Pennsylvania and Continental Tax List, 1778-1783
6 William Henry I, Circuit Court Record Book, 1783-1789
7 William Henry II, ledger, 1820-1835
7 John Joseph Henry, ledger, 1836-1872
7 Joseph Henry, ledger, 1809-1836
C. Cash books
7 John Joseph Henry, 1817-1825
7 John Joseph Henry, 1829-1849
7 John Joseph Henry, 1852-1860
7 John Joseph Henry, 1835-1853
D. Order books
7 Order book, 1818
7 Order book, 1850
7 Order book, 1852
7 Order book, 1855
II. Boulton Gun Works
Box Folder
8 1 Financial records, 1760-1783; 43 items.
Box Folder
8 2 William Henry correspondence, 1766-1784; 31 items.
Box Folder
8 3 William Henry, II business correspondence, 1830-1842; 21 items.
Box Folder
8 4 William Henry, III business correspondence, 1830-1842; 21 items.
Box Folder
8 5 J. J. Henry & William Henry, II Deed to Gun Manufactory, 1817
Box Folder
8 6 J. J. Henry & William Henry, III, Accounts, 1814-1819; 3 items.
Box Folder
8 7 J. J. Henry & William Henry, III business correspondence RE controversy with U. S. Army over sale of guns, 1808-1819; 29 items.
Box Folder
8 8 J. J. Henry, III, business accounts
Box Folder
8 9 J. J. Henry correspondence, 1809-1836 [Some with American Fur Company.] ; 48 items.
Box Folder
8 10 James Henry, accounts receivable, 1879-1881
Box Folder
8 11 James Henry, bills payable, 1864-1892
Box Folder
9 1 James Henry correspondence, 1837-1884; 153 items.
Box Folder
9 2 JameS Henry & Sons correspondence, 1876-1884
Box Folder
9 3 Granville Henry correspondence, 1878; 2 items.
Box Folder
9 4 Granville Henry lock plate patent, 1866
Box Folder
9 5 James Henry of Detroit correspondence, 1801, 1803
Box Folder
9 6 Patents Granville Henry, 1822, 1891-1894
Box Folder
9 7 Advertising Material, 1879-1888; 5 items
Box Folder
10 1 William Henry, Sr. Commission appointing him Assistant Commissary General of Pennsylvania - related correspondence, 1778-1782
Box Folder
10 2 Anne Henry estate records of William Henry
Box Folder
10 3 Anne Henry Lancaster County tax records, 1786-1795
Box Folder
10 4 J. J. Henry, personal correspondence, 1781-1811; 7 items.
Box Folder
10 5 William Henry, II, personal correspondence, 1796-1820; 8 items.
Box Folder
10 6 J. J. Henry II, personal correspondence, 1824-1836; 31 items.
Box Folder
10 7 William Henry to J. J. Henry, 1814 August 25
Box Folder
10 8 James Henry, personal correspondence, circa 1855-1893; 59 items.
Box Folder
10 9 Granville Henry, personal correspondence, 1865-1902; 71 items.
Box Folder
10 10 Reuben Henry, personal correspondence, 1847-1898; 31 items.
Box Folder
10 11 John Jordan, personal correspondence, 1823-1841; 5 items.
Box Folder
10 12 Abraham Henry, personal accounts, 1786-1792; 3 items.
Box Folder
10 13 Benjamin Henry, accounts, 1796; 1 item.
Box Folder
10 14 Elizabeth Henry, accounts, 1779, 1780; 2 items.
Box Folder
10 15 Mathew Henry, accounts, 1830
Box Folder
10 16 J. J. Henry, I, personal accounts, 1789-1811; 6 items.
Box Folder
10 17 William Henry, II, personal accounts, 1787-1811; 17 items.
Box Folder
10 18 J. J. Henry, personal accounts, 1809-1831, 1836; 14 items.
Box Folder
10 19 James Henry, personal accounts, 1878-1884; 15 items.
Box Folder
10 20 Granville Henry, personal accounts, 1878, 1884; 2 items.
III. William Henry, Sr.
A. Ordnance - Revolutionary War
Box Folder
11 1 Weapons - Revolutionary War accounts & receipts, 1778-1787; 5 items.
11 2 Ordnance, correspondence, 1771-1782; 27 items.
11 3 Ordnance, shoes, lether tallow accounts & receipts; 55 items.
11 3 Ordnance, shoes, lether tallow correspondence; 27 items.
11 4 Clothing
11 5 Recruits, listings and correspondence, 1777-1783; 36 items.
11 6 Ordnance, correspondence, 1777-1786; 14 items.
11 7 Circuit court records, 1785-1795; 4 items.
11 8 War Office, Office of Counsel correspondence [Includes letters of Horatio Gates, David Rittenhouse & Anthony Wayne.]
11 9 Miscellaneous accounts, 1777-1786; 14 items.
B. Lancaster County Treasury
Box Folder
12 1 Accounts & receipts, 1779-1781; 68 items.
12 2 Accounts & receipts, 1782-1784; 57 items.
12 3 Accounts & receipts, 1785-1787; 85 items.
12 4 Plans to raise funds to finance the Revolutionary War, 1777-1785
12 5 Lancaster County tax records, 1786-1810 [William Henry & Executors.]
12 6 Tax assessments & individual accounts, 1779-1782
12 7 Tax book, 1786-1789
12 8 Anne & James Henry accounts, 1788-1789
12 10-Sep Miscellany, 1781-1783 [Includes: Payments made to state treasury; Accounts of militia fines; List of grand jurors; statement of the sinking fund; and Accounts of gratuities & bounties paid.]
12 11 J. J. Henry, Lancaster Treasury, 1790, 1807
IV. Estate papers
Box Folder
13 1 William Henry, 1786-1829
Box Folder
13 2 Anne Henry, 1814-1815
Box Folder
13 3 Matthew Henry, 1787-1788
Box Folder
13 4 Jane Henry, 1814
Box Folder
13 5 Benjamin Henry, undated
Box Folder
13 6 William Henry, II, 1824
Box Folder
13 7 William Jason Henry, 1767-1774
Box Folder
13 8 Will - William Frederic Sauter, 1819
Box Folder
13 9 Miscellaneous indentures, 1797-1853; 21 items.
Box Folder
13 10 Extract from the life of William Henry by John Joseph Henry, 1770-1772
V. James Henry
Box Folder
14 1 correspondence with American Fur Company some with William Astor, 1828-1850
Box Folder
14 2 Bolton Gun Works sales records, 1840-1884
Box Folder
14 2 Bolton Gun Works accounts, 1836
Box Folder
14 3 Bolton Gun Works - orders, 1836-1879
Box Folder
14 4 Orders, 1881-1884
Box Folder
14 5 Bills and receipts, 1876-1885
15 James Henry, personal correspondence, 1870s, 1880s
16 James Henry, Granville Henry, John Henry, 1880-1907 [Includes: miscellaneous accounts, advertising material, and correspondence.]
17-21 James Henry, Personal papers, accounts, bills, receipts, postcards, 1870s, 1880s