John Donnaldson (1754-1831) was a merchant and insurance broker who owned shares in the Canton, the first ship to sail from Philadelphia to China in 1785-1787. All of his five sons also had mercantile careers, and three of them--Edward Milner Donnaldson (1778-1853), Richard M. Donnaldson (1787-1873) and Hugh Donnaldson (1796-1819)--traveled to China. The Donnaldson family papers, 1773-1915, include documents relating to various family members, but principally Richard M. and Harriet Donnaldson. Documents include correspondence, land draughts, marriage certificates, etc. Of special interest are two original accounts of voyages to China, 1818-1819.
John Donnaldson (1754-1831) was the son of Mary Wormley (1734-1817) and Hugh Donnaldson (1719-1772), an Irish immigrant who manufactured sea biscuits. John was a merchant and insurance broker, and owned shares in the Canton, the first ship to sail from Philadelphia to China in 1785-1787. John married Sarah Milner (1760-1839). John's eldest son Edward Milner Donnaldson (1778-1853) worked as a crew member on his father's ships, and first traveled to China on the Canton in 1800. He soon became a captain and traveled to Europe, India, and other parts of the world. Another of John's sons, Richard M. Donnaldson (1787-1873) was also involved in the China trade. He travelled to China and made many trips between Liverpool and the West Indies from about 1804-1825, but seems to have stopped sailing around 1825. He married Harriet Shewell Currie in 1832. Of John's three remaining sons, all three had mercantile careers, but only Hugh Donnaldson (1796-1819) also traveled to China.
Bibliography: Lee, Jean Gordon. Philadelphians and the China Trade, 1784-1844. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984.
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of miscellaneous original documents relating to various Donnaldson family members, principally Richard Martin Donnaldson and Harriet Shewell Currie Donnaldson. Document types include correspondence (1801-1820s), land draughts (1775-1818), marriage certificates, and other items. Of special interest are two original accounts of voyages to China, 1818-1819. There are also some published items, including a family Bible and a tangrams book.
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories.