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Robert Fergusson Papers 1

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS263

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Robert Fergusson Papers document the business activities of Robert Fergusson (d. 1813), a tobacco factor operating in Port Tobacco, Maryland. The collection includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence of Fergusson. Alexander Hamilton (d. 1799), a tobacco factor in Piscataway, Maryland, is a principal correspondent. Other correspondents include Dumfries [Virginia] merchants George Gray and Alexander Henderson, James Brown & Company of Glasgow [Scotland], and others. John Glassford & Company, a firm for which Fergusson worked for a time, is mentioned several times in Fergusson's letters. The Robert Fergusson Papers are preserved in seventy-five (75) folders in one archival box (0.5 linear feet). Fergusson's papers provide significant primary source material on the Potomac River tobacco trade of the late 1700s and early 1800s. While the papers date between 1717 and 1810, most of the documents were written between 1780 and 1800. The Robert Fergusson Papers complement several collections covering similar topics in the Georgetown University Library Special Collections Division. The Huie, Reid & Company Collection; which consists of order receipts sent to merchants Huie, Reid & Company of Dumfries, Virginia, together with one of the company's letterbooks; documents the Potomac River tobacco trade in 1787-1789. In fact, Huie, Reid & Company is mentioned in the Robert Fergusson Papers (Box 1 Folder 44). In addition to a number of other collections concerning the history of Maryland, the Georgetown University Library Special Collections Division preserves the Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, a vast collection with valuable source material on the early history of that particular state.


SERIES 1 - Letters from Alexander Hamilton to Robert Fergusson. Contains eleven (11) letters from Maryland tobacco merchant Alexander Hamilton to fellow Maryland tobacco merchant Robert Fergusson. Discussion of business matters, especially debts and payments. Sent from Piscataway, Maryland to Port Tobacco, Maryland. Also includes one (1) letter from Hamilton to Benjamin Cawood. Letters date from 1786-1794. Arranged chronologically.

SERIES 2 - Letters from Robert Fergusson to Alexander Hamilton. Contains sixteen (16) letters from Maryland tobacco merchant Robert Fergusson to fellow Maryland tobacco merchant Alexander Hamilton. Discussion of business transactions and debts. Sent from Port Tobacco, Maryland to Piscataway, Maryland. Letters date 1788. Arranged chronologically.

SERIES 3 - Correspondence to Robert Fergusson. Contains correspondence, mostly to Robert Fergusson, a tobacco merchant in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Correspondents include merchant James Brown, Maryland merchant Alexander Hamilton, Virginia merchant George Gray, Virginia merchant Alexander Henderson, and others. Discussion of business matters. A few of the letters were sent from agents in Scotland. Documents date 1717-1810. Arranged chronologically in forty-seven (47) folders.


  • 1717 - 1810
  • Majority of material found within 1780 - 1800

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical notes

Robert Fergusson (d. 1813) was a factor in the Maryland tobacco trade in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Originally a resident of Moniave, Dumfries-shire, Scotland, Fergusson worked as a factor for John Glassford and Company in Georgetown, Maryland in 1773. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Fergusson departed the colonies on the ship "Dunlop" in September 1775. In 1784, by virtue of power of attorney from the partners of Glassford & Company, Fergusson was empowered to collect debts owed the company and dispose of its American property. Fergusson also represented Glassford, Gordon & Monteith; Neil Jamieson & Company; James Brown & Company of Glasgow, Scotland; the heirs of Matthew Blair; and Henry Glassford, Richard Henderson, and Alexander Henderson of Glassford & Henderson. He formed Henderson, Fergusson & Gibson with Richard Henderson of "Spring Hill," Montgomery County, Maryland. Fergusson resided at "Mulberry Grove," near Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland. He married Elizabeth Ballantine, the daughter of John Ballantine. Robert Fergusson died in 1813.

Source: MacMaster, Richard K. and David C. Skaggs, "The Letterbooks of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Factor: Part I, 1774," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 61, No. 2, June 1966, p. 153.


Alexander Hamilton (d. 1799) was a Maryland tobacco factor of note, though of less renown than the more famous American bearing that name. The son of John and Jacobina (Young) Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton the merchant was born in Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scotland. Seeking employment in the tobacco trade, Hamilton emigrated to America. In 1768, he became an assistant factor in Simson, Baird & Company's store in Piscataway, Prince George's County, Maryland. The store was managed by factor James Brown of Glasgow, Scotland. Soon, Simson, Baird & Company merged into James Brown & Company, and Hamilton became the factor at the Piscataway store as a result of this change. The American Revolution caused disruptions in the tobacco trade, and Hamilton and his fellow Scots merchants were forced to make some difficult decisions. Hamilton remained in Piscataway until about 1777 before removing to his brother's land in Berkeley County, Virginia. Hamilton's economic activities during Revolution from 1774 to 1776 and after the Revolution in 1784, when he returned to Prince George's County [Maryland] to resume business and regain debts, are well chronicled in his letters published in the "Maryland Historical Magazine." The letters in the Robert Fergusson Papers at Georgetown University Library provide insights into Hamilton's later career. The merchant Alexander Hamilton died in 1799.

Sources: MacMaster, Richard K. and David C. Skaggs, "The Letterbooks of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Factor: Part I, 1774," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 61, No. 2, June 1966, p. 146-166. -----, "The Letterbooks of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Factor: Part II, 1774-1775," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 61., No. 4, December 1966, p. 305-328. -----, "The Letterbooks of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Factor: Part III, 1775-1776," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 62, No. 2, June 1967, p. 135-169. -----, "Post-Revolutionary Letters of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Merchant: Part I, January-June 1784," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 63, No. 1, December 1968, p. 22-54. -----, "Post-Revolutionary Letters of Alexander Hamilton, Piscataway Factor, Part 2, July-October 1784," "Maryland Historical Magazine," Vol. 65, No. 1, Spring 1970, p. 18-35.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Robert Fergusson Papers 1
Scott S. Taylor. Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057