Women and Banking in Early America

Sometime on July 9 Hannah Holland strode into her bank to get a loan. She learned the next day that her application had been successful but the news barely affected her busy day. The businesswoman had received bank loans in the past and would receive many more in the future. At first glance, scholars may view this anecdote as indifferently as Holland viewed her $1,000 bank loan. When told the episode occurred not in the twentieth century, or even the nineteenth, however, interest should wax strong. In fact, Holland received her loan in 1797.1 Nor was she alone. Though a small percentage of all bank customers, women held accounts in many northeastern banks in the early national period, a fact that apparently has eluded business and women's historians alike.

This is hardly surprising given that it is in a sense the job of historians to ignore "irrelevant" details. Has women's participation in early banking been discovered and rightly ignored as unimportant? Probably not. Even among business and economist historians it is rare to find a scholar who has leafed through the big, dirty pages of our few remaining ancient bank ledgers, and even rarer to find one not preoccupied with specialized technical concerns. Women's historians, on the other hand, tend not to concern themselves with economic matters. When they do, they seem unaware of early banking or women's role in it. The best recent example of this is Lisa Wilson Waciega and her excellent study of widows in early national southeastern Pennsylvania.2

So, though it is fairly certain past historians have not stumbled upon women's early banking and consciously relegated it to obscurity, the question remains what, if anything, present scholars should make of the discovery. Does the finding draw any historiographical interpretations into question, or does it merely reinforce what is already generally believed? In other words, is it a cause for pause or merely the business of historiography as usual? This essay will argue that women's early banking participation is actually both. The finding raises doubts about the belief that the Revolution proscribed women's economic behavior but supports the view that, whatever the exact extent of their rights and powers, women remained second-class denizens of early America.

The Revolution and subsequent ideological movements did not prevent women from joining the economy. Important to the colonial economy, women, be they single, married, or widowed, could and did create meaningful niches for themselves as skilled artisans and retailers. Except for certain coverture restrictions, most women could engage in all types of financial contracts necessary to engage in commercial banking. Though a small percentage of all commercial bank customers, women were bank shareholders, depositors, and loan recipients. For the sake of space and clarity, this study will be limited to New York and Pennsylvania, the economic and financial heart of the young nation.

History and Historiography of Women's Economic Roles in Colonial and Early National America

Everything indicates that, should need arise, there was nothing in the social or economic code of the times to prevent a woman's supporting herself and her family in whatever way she best could. ... As far as general business went, women were to be found buying and selling, suing and being sued, acting as administrators and executors, and having power of attorney, with what appears to be the utmost freedom.3

Recent historians have little changed Elisabeth Anthony Dexter's seven decade old conclusions.4 Women clearly played an important role in the colonial economy. Besides farmers and housewives, colonial women were innkeepers, "she-merchants," artificers, health care providers, teachers, landed proprietors, writers, and printers.5 Women were also shipbuilders, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, brewers, painters, gilders, and wallpaper hangers, among other occupations.6

Colonial women most often made a living in occupations that stressed their traditional female roles as mothers and housekeepers. But the monetization of even the most feminine of occupations transformed "women's work" into a component of the gendered game of wealth accumulation. Women inn and tavernkeepers had to take money and promissory notes from their customers in order to pay their suppliers, for example. The operation of a public house necessitated the hosting of public functions, especially legal and economic ones. Vendues, for instance, were commonly held at taverns, even those owned by women.7 Seamstresses often developed into milliners and mantuamakers -- fancy seamstresses who resold a stock of value-added goods. Widows and single women could not help but gain a familiarity with finances.8 In fact, William Dawson ran "an evening school for young ladies" in Philadelphia in 1755 that included instruction in "arithmetick," and "accounts, by way of single entry, in a plain methodical manner."9

According to Dexter, "women shopkeepers abounded in colonial days, not only in New York, but throughout the northern colonies. They excited little comment, and received scant mention in the earlier sources."10 Because she-merchants often took over the businesses of deceased husbands, colonial women sold a wide variety of goods from windows to clothes to wines to groceries. A few women were dry goods importers, the top of the colonial and early national merchants' ladder. One of these was Mary Alexander, the mother of Lord Stirling of Revolutionary War fame. She was a powerful New York City merchant of Dutch extraction. From the 1720s to the 1760s, Alexander lived the life of a wealthy merchant. Worth some £100,000, Alexander dealt in bills of exchange, especially with Barclay and Sons, her bankers in England.11

Other colonial women traders were furniture dealers, hardware traders, booksellers, druggists, and tobacconists. Some she-merchants specialized in certain goods. Clothing and seeds were favorite areas of concentration. Women came to dominate certain trades in some areas. For example, six of Boston's eight major seed retailers in 1774 were women.12

Although the words "for cash," or "for cash only," frequently appeared in the advertisements of colonial she-merchants, it is clear many women merchants allowed credit.13 Women shopkeepers were able to extend credit, it appears, because they were able to get credit directly from Britain.14 But, like their male counterparts, their credit was not unlimited, and they often had to dun debtors for payment. Women's dunnings were firm. One such dunning bluntly stated: "if not convenient to pay the money, to come and bring surety and change bonds into negotiable notes of hand ... and those neglecting will be sued in the December Court."15 This she-merchant needed cash, and was willing to resort to the private securities market, or the courts, to get it. Women shopkeepers also made their own promissory notes or assigned their debtors' notes to their creditors for collection.16

There remains some disagreement about the number of colonial women involved in trade. Elisabeth Dexter estimated about one out of every ten colonial merchants was female.17 Jean Jordan believed only 2% of colonial New York merchants were women.18 While admitting "the percentage of eighteenth-century colonial shopkeepers who were women is not clear," Patricia Cleary, who relied on tax records as well as advertisements, thought as many as one in every three shopkeepers were women. While Jordan found only 106 women traders in New York between 1660 and 1775, Cleary found 109 in the 1760s alone.19

Historiographical disputes grow more fundamental with the closing of the American Revolution. Several historians who believe the Revolution should have extended women's political rights have tried to explain why women were politically proscribed in the early national era. Although a reduction of the number of women in business, or a large increase in women's political involvement, would have been counter to colonial trends, these studies often also imply women's economic activities were similarly proscribed.20 That was simply not the case. Whether or not the reaction to women in politics during the early national period was "Thermidorean," or "a deeply gendered one," women continued to play an important role in the early national economy. Most men, in fact, did not find "it impossible to imagine adult women as anything other than wives."21

Jean Jordan wrote, with some degree of truth, that after the Revolution, "the colonial type of women merchants -- importer, exporters, wholesalers -- were gone."22 However, as will be shown below, it is clear that many women traders, though generally of a lesser sort, continued to prosper well after the Revolution. An analysis of Longworth's Directory for 1803 suggests that about 7% of New York City's "traders" were women. Of the Directory's approximately 12,250 names, 1,468 were sampled by manually assigning persons with last names beginning with an 'A' or a 'B' into one of six categories: male trader, male mechanic/laborer, male professional, unidentified females and widows, female trader, or female laborer. Male traders included merchants, grocers, shipmasters, shipchandlers, milliners, tavern or innkeepers, and any man owning a "store" or "shop."23 Such men composed 30% of the total sample. Male mechanic/laborers included carpenters, butchers, bakers, pilots, cartmen, oystermen, laborers, painters, masons, coopers, shipwrights, tailors, smiths, and others who probably worked primarily with their hands. Such men composed 50% of the total sample. Male professionals included doctors, lawyers, teachers, measurers, corporate officers, architects, constables, and a wide assortment of government officials. Such men composed 8.5% of the total sample. Widows or occupationally unidentified women composed 7.5% of the total sample and 71% of listed women. Female merchants included merchants, milliners and mantuamakers, tavern or innkeepers, and a few teachers and nurses. There were so few of these last groups that their inclusion in the traders group is not statistically significant. These traders (and the few "professionals") composed 2% of the total sample, 21% of the women's sample, and 7% of the "traders" sample. Female laborers included seamstresses and washers. They composed less than 1% of the total sample and only 8% of the female sample. Undoubtedly Longworth's compiler missed many of this last class, or listed them without occupation.

Frances Manges thought the increased complexity of the economy explained "the reason women were accepted in business more readily before the Industrial Revolution than after it." She thought "that the [colonial] economy was so simple that the shop, tavern, or craft could be conducted from, or not far from, the sanctuary of the home."24 In other words, the movement of economic activity from the home presumably made women's work less socially acceptable. Mary Beth Norton laid the blame on "the republican definition of womanhood." "Woman's domestic and maternal role came to be seen as so important," Norton argued, "that it was believed women sacrificed their femininity if they attempted to be more (or other) than wives and mothers."25 Many historians writing in this vein have focused largely on upper class women. Recently, Jeanne Boydston has noted this, and questioned why labor, economic, and even women's historians ignore early nineteenth-century lower-class women. Indeed, most women traders, as Mary Roberts Parramore has shown, were of "the laboring class."26 Her careful study shows that the number of women traders in South Carolina actually boomed after the Revolution.27

Parramore's study makes it clear historians have laid too much stress on women in the colonial economy and women in early national politics, and not enough on women in the early national economy.28 Linda Kerber's survey of early feme sole merchants, for example, was more concerned with women's political rights than with their actual economic roles. Kerber concluded "the feme sole clearly had property rights that she might vigorously protect, [but] she was not permitted to exercise the political rights that theoretically accompanied them."29 While this conclusion is important, it ignored the feme sole's economic power, and hence her indirect political power. Might not a successful feme sole have influenced her husband's vote? Though precluded from voting, women took an interest in politics that, like men, may have been reflected in their clothing. In his Travels through lower Canada and the United States in the years 1806, 1807, and 1808, John Lambert argued there were "French girls" and "English girls" in New York City, supplied by Madame Bouchard and Mrs. Toole, respectively. "If the ladies are not really divided in opinion as to politics," Lambert wrote, "they are most unequivocally at issue with respect to dress."30 Women could also occasionally voice their political opinions in print. In early 1797, Evah Van Derpsigle, a "Female Reader," and apparently in business, wrote the editor of the New York Diary to express her opinion that President Adams should cancel all treaties, call in all ambassadors, "sell the Mint, stop building the Federal City, raise no Salaries of officers, repeal the Sinking Fund," and buy [redeem] as many securities at the market price as possible and tax the rest.31 Nineteenth-century women's most direct avenues to political power are also the least studied -- the courtroom and the lobby. Well before the Seneca Falls convention, married New York women gained increased economic control by asserting their property rights in court and successfully challenging the common law of the Baron and Feme. After the convention women grew even more bold. In 1848 New York married women successfully lobbied for more property rights, and in 1860 won a major bill that gave them the right to sue and be sued and to include their wages as part of their separate estate.32 None of this would have been possible, or even thinkable, if significant numbers of married women had not been deeply involved in the economy in the decades after the Revolution. Indeed, as James Henretta has argued, the Revolutionary War "broadened the scope of women's work."33

The Feme Sole Trader

Feme sole traders were married women who avoided coverture, a series of legal restrictions that usually accompanied marriage.34 According to Kerber, "Feme sole status was ... a legal gray area"35 that originated in London merchant custom and was occasionally codified by American colonies or states.36 In other areas, especially commercial centers like New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, feme sole status could be secured without statutory sanction, although husbands still had to recognize their wives' independent trading.37

The English common law concerning coverture and feme sole status was best described in 1700 in a legal treatise titled Baron and Feme: A Treatise of the Common Law Concerning Husbands and Wives.38 According to this anonymous scholarly treatise, a feme covert was a woman whom "the Law of Nature hath put her under the Obedience of her Husband, and hath submitted her Will to his." Though "she wants Free Will as Minors want Judgment" the authors pointed out that the feme covert, strictly speaking, was not considered an infant under law. This was because "if a Feme Covert enter into Bond, Non est factum may be pleaded to it; but if an Infant enter into Bond he must plead the special matter that he was under Age." Also, feme coverts could not enter into contracts "without the consent actual or implied of the Husband." The Baron and Feme were often said to be one person in law but they could enter into certain contracts with each other. One of these concerned contracts entered into as a feme sole. Feme soles could "sue without her husband ... but the Action must be laid down within the City." "But every Feme which trades in London," the jurists pointed out, "is not a Feme Sole Merchant." "If the husband meddle with the Trade of the wife," for example, "then she is not a Feme Sole Merchant." However, "if the husband be beyond Sea, or becomes Bankrupt, or leaves his Trade, and the wife exercise the same Trade, or they both exercise the same Trade distinctly by themselves, and not meddle the one with the other, the wife is Sole Merchant."

A pamphlet published in Philadelphia on the eve of the Civil War shows how little feme sole rules changed in the century and half since the publication of Baron and Feme.39 The compiler of the piece, Thomas Baylis, wrote the pamphlet to help "merchants dealing with married women, and selling them goods, ... [a] quite a common practice." Baylis began by arguing that "the disability of a married woman to contract, so as to bind herself, arises not from the want of discretion, but because her legal identity is merged in the person of her husband." "The husband," Baylis continued, "is not liable for money lent to his wife."40 Likewise, "a suit cannot be maintained against a married woman for goods sold and delivered, unless she is lawfully trading as a feme sole trader, under the Act of 1718." Feme sole traders, on the other hand, may "sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded at law during their husband's natural lives, without naming their husbands." Just as in England in 1700, in Baylis' Philadelphia, "the main question in ... cases where the husband lives with the wife, and is in and about the business, seems to be: In what capacity is the husband in and about the business?" In other words, is he his wife's agent, employee, or merely trading in her name? The difference between coverture and feme sole status was especially important in contracts for the repayment of money, such as promissory notes. Though of proper form, sometimes promissory notes were declared void because the husband did not sign the note and the contracted debt was not for "necessaries."

Pennsylvania passed an act relative to feme sole traders in 1718. The act was designed for mariner's wives, to protect them, after established in business, from having to pay the debts of profligate sailor husbands. The act also protected "creditors [so that they] may, with certainty and safety, transact business with a married woman under the circumstances aforesaid." A feme sole trader, then, was a married women conducting business on her own, with her husband's permission, but without his aid.41

A Glimpse into the Thoughts of a Milliner

Whether speaking of single women, married women acting under some sort of feme sole provision or custom, or widows, the millinery42 and mantuamaking43 trade dominated all other economic avenues open to women in the early national period. Sure, many women became innkeepers, grocers, landlords, and teachers, but the fancy clothing trade was the most challenging and potentially lucrative.

Milliners and mantuamakers were more than mere seamstresses. They were highly skilled artisans deeply involved in the transatlantic fabric trade. Milliners and mantuamakers could make "a comfortable livelyhood," but like other skilled trades success usually required a lengthy apprenticeship and even formal training. A girl's school in Oxford, New York, for example, away from "the scene of dissipation and alluring gaiety" of cities, offered courses in reading, writing, "and Needle work of all kinds -- Netting, Fringing, Millenary, and Mantua-making."44 Most milliners and mantuamakers kept small retail shops where they sold fancy, "untrimmed" cloth, finished imported clothes, and their own value-added productions.

Most women traders merely mentioned they sold goods "on very reasonable terms."45 Others were more aggressive. Mrs. S. Toole, for example, advertised that "she has received several cases supurb [sic] millinary ... all of which she will sell from 10 to 15 per cent lower than any other house in the city."46 When Mrs. Barbour opened her "new millinery" in Bath, New York, she advertised "all kinds of produce will be received in payment."47 Miss Post also agreed that "Various Kinds of PRODUCE will be received in exchange for Millinery" when she moved her store from Utica to Geneva in the mid-1820s.48 Miss Winship of Rochester sold her "millenery & mantuamaking" goods "cheap for Cash or most kinds of produce."49 Mrs. Merrit sold her "assortment of Millinery ... silks and sattins ... at the lowest prices for ready pay."50

Male wholesale import merchants did not eschew trade with milliners. M. Natsh, No. 7 Peck Slip, ran the following advertisement in the New York Weekly Museum: "To Milliners White, Brown and Blue Bonnet Boards, for sale."51 N. Smith, a "Chymical Perfumer from London," advertising in the same women's magazine, made it clear that "great allowance [will be given] to those who buy to sell again."52 Alexander Saunders and John Leonard, manufactures "of Hats and Bonnets," seemed to specialize in supplying milliners: "With a general and elegant assortment of articles in the Millenary Line, by wholesale only."53 J. Tiebout tried to sell "Ten Gross BONNET BOARDS of a superior quality ... to Milliners."54

Like other country businessmen, milliners in out of the way places were not adverse to diversifying their offerings in order to make ends meet. Mrs. Barnard of Bath, for example, ran a boarding house and millinery.55 Mrs. Ayers of Ithaca sold "millenary + groceries (butter, wheat)" and received "most kinds of produce ... in payment."56 Also like businessmen, women traders sometimes entered into partnerships and other forms of business relationships.57 Miss Coon of Ogdensburgh, for example, made arrangements to carry on her millinery and mantuamaking business "at the house of Mr. Fitch."58 Jesse Merritt and his feme sole wife moved into the building "formerly occupied by the Newburgh Branch Bank."59 Mrs. Merritt carried on an extensive business, advertising that she "had returned from New York, with a very General assortment ... She has likewise obtained a knowledge of the present City Fashions."60 This, however, did not keep Mrs. Torrey from opening a new millinery "next to J. Merritt in the building once occupied by David Ayers."61 Torrey also carried on an extensive business. Besides her shop in Ithaca, she kept "a supply of the above articles [fabrics] ... at the store of Mr. Calkin, at Athens, Tioga Point, where orders will be also received for any article in the Millinery line." Torrey did so well that she soon removed to a brick building, where she advertised that she would sell her wares for cash or produce.62 Although not expressed, Torrey may have forwarded country produce to her associate Mr. Calkin for resale in the Albany or New York markets. Sometimes milliners and mantuamakers entered into more formal partnerships. Miss Flagg and Miss Rogers of Plattsburgh entered into partnership in 1817, for example.63 A year later, the unmarried sisters "Miss[es] L. & A. Mather ... have lately removed to a room in the Store occupied by S. Mather & Son" to make and sell "elegant clothes."64

Milliners and mantuamakers were part of a women dominated trade network that distributed goods from New York. Milliners in intermediate towns forwarded goods to country and frontier areas. For instance, besides carrying on her millinery and mantuamaking business, Miss A. S. Hotchkiss shipped "Winter hats, gypsies, leghorns," for retail sale in Rochester.65 But Hotchkiss' operation paled in comparison to that of Mrs. Langworthy, who sold ladies hats "together with many other desirable goods." From Langworthy's two ads, it is clear that she sold head dresses, pelisses, hats, and summer dresses. Langworthy was also attempting to build up a wholesale trade. "Neighbouring Milliners are particularly invited to call," she wrote, "where they can be accommodated with the latest style of Hats, patterns, and the sign of the times."66 Langworthy's shop was so well known, a male competitor, Asahel Barber, referenced his store in relation to hers! Part of Langworthy's success may have been due to familial connections. Her husband was probably a partner in the Rochester Cupola Furnace, which Langworthy, Hall & Co. used to make plows, weights, spindles, and gudgeons.67 Other Rochester milliners, most notably Mrs. Strong, bore important family names, suggesting their businesses were condoned, or even urged.68 Unfortunately Paul E. Johnson and Blake McKelvey, early Rochester's two most important historians, ignore this aspect of Rochester's economy and culture. The implications of important married women working outside the home on the eve of the evangelical revivals seems to be worthy of more attention.69

Shortly after the Civil War, a certain "Belle Otis," published her Diary of a Milliner.70 Otis, whose real name was probably Caroline H. Woods, described her daily life as a milliner and her development from a naive widow into a hard-nosed businessperson. "When I went into business I had very correct ideas of integrity in the abstract," Otis wrote in her Preface. "I intended to make steady, reasonable profits," she explained, but "had no idea of the fluctuation in prices which might interfere with my purpose." Otis, her diary revealed, concocted "Paris," "London," and "New York" "imports" to increase her sales. She felt uneasy about the deceitful way she treated her customers, but claimed she "loved" her customers, and thought her customers "love the attention" she provided.

Otis' undated71 diary began with the young widow trying to decide what to do with her life. "I am told that it is not genteel and fashionable for young ladies to work," she began, as if she had read Moss, Kerber, Norton, or Jordan. Otis' economic needs pressed her on, however. Her next choice was whether to "go on a salary, or engage in some business of my own?" She decided on the latter, reasoning that she was "as capable of managing a business, and obtaining all the profits of it as the one who might employ me." Though frightened, she was happy because "business will be independence."

Otis immediately recognized she "must get some practical knowledge of those perplexing phrases, percentage, profits, losses, &c." She decided to become a clerk in a large millenary establishment to learn the trade. Otis honed her sales skills until she could "tell by a glance whether the article sought for suits by the expression of the face." She quickly came to live by the old Quaker proverb: "Get money honestly if thee can ... but don't fail to get it." Like many male merchants, she was soon railing vociferously against women who looked for hours without buying.

Soon after opening her own shop, Otis, facing ruin, asked herself, "what is honesty?" She twisted the concept about as far as it could be bent without breaking. For instance, in order to usurp the "custom" of the aristocratical and highly influential Mrs. Tallmadge, Otis, already burdened with expenses, created a fashionable "imported" bonnet in her own shop. Playing on Tallmadge's vanity, and her husband's need to feel as though he had made a "good deal," Otis demanded a high price for the "import," but quickly gave in to her customer's exhortations and magnanimously lowered the price a little.

Otis was not very explicit about how she paid her debts, but did mention that to make three special bonnets she "turned every wholesale store in the city inside out to get just what I wanted, and every retail where they would oblige me." Those who would not "oblige her" were more concerned that she would steal their patterns than their goods. As a creditor, Otis did not seem terribly concerned about the restrictions of feme coverts to enter into contracts, often accepting their promissory notes in payment. As Baylis pointed out, the practice of contracting with feme coverts for non-necessaries without their husbands' consent was a risk often undertaken in antebellum America.

The practice of dunning married women was so common, in fact, Henry F. Anners included an example in his book of form letters.72 Anners' book was "meant to be adapted to the use of the middle and the lower ranks of society" when "the writer is pressed for time" or does not feel up to the task. "A Milliner Requesting Payment of an Account" began as follows:

Excuse the liberty which I now take in writing to you upon the subject of money, but the calls upon me for the payment of debts have been so urgent, that I find myself compelled to direct your attention to my account.

The rest of the letter made it clear it was intended to be sent to a woman debtor.

Survey of Women in Early National Finance

The Revolution created the need to bank and invest for both sexes. Although records are far too sparse to describe women's participation in early banking with any degree of precision, the following survey of women's economic activities in the early national economy shows some women indeed were commercial bank customers, and women were certainly a major class of noteholders. Though exaggerated, the reports that William Duer and his cohorts borrowed heavily from "widows and orphans" in the years and months leading up to the Panic of 1792 seem to have some basis in fact. As early as 1790, for example, Mrs. Elizabeth B. Hatter drew on Duer "at thirty days sight for Four Hundred Dollars ... being on accot. of the Ballance due me [George Reid] by Royal Flint Esq."73 Duer also involved his wife Kitty in his infamous financial schemes. "Received your letter my dear love, this morng," Mrs. Duer began. "I am sorry it did not arrive in time to have done the Business in Bank on saturday," she continued, adding that she had "managed to take up the notes by borrowing 1100 dols of Rosevelt."74 Kitty ended her very businesslike letter by informing William: "I am obliged to make large drafts on your cash on acct of the expense of moving."75 After Duer's failure lead to a minor financial panic, Alexander Macomb's wife pledged that her "own little property shall go towards the maintenance of the Family with pleasure."76

Women also bought and sold government securities.77 Women owned Continental securities.78 During the liquidity crisis of 1784, widow Marian Maxwell advertised that "Cash, Bills of the New Emission, and any other Security of the State of New-York will be taken in payment, at their current value" for her husband's estate.79 In 1809, Philadelphia shopkeeper Ann Robertson instructed her executors to invest the proceeds of her estate "into the funds or public securities," by which she certainly meant the federal bonds Alexander Hamilton created in the early 1790s.80 Later, women owned state internal improvement bonds. Hellen Ellice, for instance, owned a large amount of Pennsylvania 5% stock in the 1830s.81 Agents heartily encouraged women to buy lottery tickets.82 Women's benevolent associations, like "The Association for the relief of respectable aged indigent females," invested in equities. From Treasurer Sally Lockwood's report it is clear that the organization gave their wards cash, wood, and tea. The organization paid for these goods from donations, of course, but also received a "dividend on Stock in Mechanics Bank $40.50."83

In fact, one of the best investments a widow or young lady could make was in bank stock.84 Most New York banks, especially early ones, were extremely stable, and, unlike long bonds or leases, their dividends tended to fluctuate in the same direction as general prices. This eased the burden of price inflation.85 Sometimes bank stock was a real Godsend. During the War of 1812, bank stock helped Marie Nichols make ends meet. "Now, mamma has not been well for some two or three weeks," Nichols explained to Mrs. James Bayard, "and it was a little difficult to determine the cause of her malady; but the nature of her disease declared itself upon her rapid recovery when the United States Bank86 declared a dividend." "This is an excellent Bank," Nichols continued, "last quarter they paid 3% -- this 3 1/2% -- next they hope to pay 4%." Nichols was "truly thankful" for the Bank's high dividends because it cushioned some of the discomfort that price inflation inflicted on families with fixed incomes. "It is hard at any time to have one's income reduced," she concluded, "but more aggravating when the necessaries of life are so raised in value."87

Considerable numbers of women owned insurance and bank stock (equities). Eleven of the 89 persons and companies who held stock in the Insurance Company of North America from 1792 until 1799 were women.88 Similarly, some fifty-three of the Manhattan Company's first three hundred and eighty-eight subscribers were women.89 Of course, at the time of subscription it was not clear to everyone the Manhattan Company was going to be a bank. It is also quite certain that most of these women subscribed in order to give the Livingstons, Ludlows, and other aristocratic Republican families a controlling share of the stock. These women owned the stock outright, however, and could theoretically cast their votes, or give their proxies, to whomever they chose. Women throughout the Northeast invested in the stock of other banks too, of course. A considerable number of women owned stock in the Bank of Pennsylvania in the mid-1790s.90 In 1812, some 45 females, mostly unmarried women and widows, owned stock in the Bank of Utica.91 According to H. C. Carey, by the late 1830s women owned some 38.5% of Massachusetts's total banking capital.92 Carey, a political economist, applauded limited liability corporations because small tradesmen, servants, and women could buy stock without fear. Under such a principle, he noted, an association of the poorest persons could form a successful commercial bank.93

Like other property, married New York women could own bank stock on their own account, and they did not lack the legal support of male attorneys when pursuing their rightful claims. "It is a glorious cause to argue," financier Jacob Barker told attorney Benjamin F. Butler, "being against the Husbands right to dispose of Bank stock settled on his wife by her late father."94

Stock ownership often entailed borrowing privileges for men and women alike.95 Personal records show that women could get discounts at bank, even the Bank of the United States,96 but the records are not a systematic means of quantitatively determining women's bank use.97 Extant bank ledgers, though few, yield some limited data regarding the degree of women banking. In 1790, 2.68% of the Bank of North America's almost 1,600 customers were women.98 A decade later, women composed 5% of the Bank's customer base. Three decades later, women were still banking, making up 11% of the Bank of Germantown's customers.99 Women also received discounts from country banks, including the Bank of Utica in 1813.100

From large merchant Margaret Duncan, to innkeeper Sarah Dyer,101 to tutoress Mary Pine,102 to gentlewoman Sarah Wistar,103 banks helped women in a variety of ways. Wistar, for instance, made 190 "deposits" in the Bank of North America between 1809 and 1815.104 Since Wistar was a stockholder, some of these "deposits" were dividend payments. Others were loans. Most were "lodged" deposits of cash or checks. Wistar drew on her balance with checks, some made out to order, but most simply "to bearer." She made out these bearer checks for as little as $6 and as much as $13,000. In 1791, shopkeepers Anne and Sarah Ashbridge wrote 121 checks, mostly to important Philadelphia businessmen like John Chaloner. They met these drafts by making 49 deposits, about one a week, ranging between $50 and $225. That same year, the throughput (credits) of shopkeeper Mary Rhea's account topped $13,500.

In general, women used banks for the same reasons as men: to safeguard money, to make disbursements by check, and to increase liquidity. In other words, women used banks to improve their business and personal finances. Though some women, like some male customers, used the bank only to store funds which they withdrew in cash, most disbursed their credits by writing checks. Many women customers received bank discounts.105 That is, the bank loaned them money on the security of a promissory note or bill of exchange. This allowed them both to extend their businesses and to conduct their operations more safely i.e. with less chance of insolvency.

Whatever the exact numbers in particular times and places, it is clear that, in New England and the Middle Atlantic states anyway, there were no legal restrictions, outside of coverture, to women's bank use. In other words, women could engage in every type of activity needed to bank. For example, they could make or endorse promissory notes.106 William B. Astor, son of John Jacob Astor, often sent bills of exchange to Astor's sister Elizabeth. "At the request of my father," William once wrote, "I enclose you John Bolton Agent's bill on Thos. Wilson & Co. (No. 7) at 60 dys favor John Bolton for £500 which be pleased to receive."107 Elizabeth was well equipped to deal with such difficult transactions as John Jacob had corresponded with her about complicated financial matters for years.108 But a woman did not have to be John Jacob Astor's sister to make or use personal securities. Margaret Duncan, a large early national Philadelphia merchant and Bank of North America customer, dealt in bills of exchange.109 Women also circulated promissory notes. In the mid 1820's Miles Sweeney of Geneva cautioned the public "against purchasing two Notes of Hand, which were stolen from the subscriber." "One of the said Notes," Sweeney's ad continued, "was drawn by Mrs. Mary M'Kay, to the subscriber or bearer, for $200, dated Bloomfield, 15th March, 1819."110 Women could also make,111 receive,112 and endorse checks,113 even epistolary checks.114 Alexander Hamilton's wife Elizabeth, for example, had the power to draw checks against Hamilton's account in the Bank of the United States.115 In 1815 a "young girl" presented Jacob Barker's Exchange Bank with a forged check.116 A woman asked her husband for a check in an 1819 farce.117 In 1811, an anti-debtor's prison essayist claimed that the state's debtor laws and promissory notes helped perpetuate prostitution. The madams controlled their girls by compelling "them to give a quantity of promissory notes, for small sums, on each of which they sue, and thus harass them into a compliance with their purpose."118

Women could also loan their money to others. Alexander Bryan Johnson once told of a widow who "loaned [her husband's small estate] on interest." This arrangement "added greatly to her resources, small as the income seems to persons in a different society."119 They could also receive deposits and make disbursements to third parties. Erastus Root once wrote Ebenezer Foote: "I leave the bill with Mrs. White -- you can have it by sending to her."120 Notes payable at houses where a woman resided could be protested for non-payment if the woman asserted that the maker had not made provision for its payment with her.121

Women not under coverture could sue and be sued.122 At least one woman, Martha Bradstreet of Utica, spent so much time in the courts she was practically a lawyer. Contemporaries called her "a host in herself." Because she was "a strenuous and persevering claimant of a large part of the soil of Utica," she acquired "by study a mastery of the law of real estate." "She harassed numbers of its citizens with suits at law and besieged the courts with her causes," antiquarian Moses Bagg asserted.123 She started so many suits that she had fill-in-the-blank forms created for her own use!124 Other women started suits too. For example, Mary Vredenburgh sued Benjamin Thomas for default on a mortgage in 1822.125

Women were also counterfeiters. "Mary Davidson was detected in passing counterfeit money," the Northern Whig announced in 1812. She was carrying $500 in bad bills and $50 of specie when she was apprehended on her way to Goshen, New York. "There is no doubt but she has been employed by a gang of counterfeiters," the editor concluded.126 She eventually got two years in the New Jersey State Prison for her activities.127

Women were implicated in some of the many financial controversies of the period. For example, in the spring of 1810, Federalists alleged the State's Republican Comptroller had made improper use of the School Fund by loaning too much money for too long on too little security to too many friends and family members. Two of the "improper" loans, for $1,450 and $1,250, were made to Catherine Tillinghast.128

Women sometimes defended their sex and trades in the public press. Betsey Lewis countered her husband's "eloped from my bed and board" advertisement with an ad of her own. She asserted that she could not have left her husband's bed and board because he provided her with none. He left with "MY property" she claimed. She concluded by asserting she did not expect him to pay her debts, as "he cannot pay the debts of his own contracting."129 In the wake of the Panic of 1819, many pseudo-economists blamed the economic downturn on "extravagance," "fashion," and, indirectly, women.130 "Matilda" retaliated, asserting that men were extravagant in their use of tobacco and liquor.131 This article started a mini-newspaper war.132 In Rochester in the early 1820s Tabitha, a "Milliner & Mantuamaker" who "resided in this village some time" wrote the Telegraph to "protest in the most solemn manner against the practice of certain merchants introducing Leghorn Hats ready trimmed, and Silk Dresses made up." Such practices, she argued, were "an infringment upon a branch of business, with which they ought not to interfere." "If I discover any thing of the kind in future," she warned, "I shall be more explicit."133

Victorian Attitudes Against Women in the Economy

Although there is ample evidence that women continued to play an important role in the early national and antebellum economy, it is also clear that Mott, Kerber, and Jordan were not totally off the mark when they argued post-Revolutionary society was not as accepting of working women as colonial society had been. The extent to which this attitude affected behavior is questionable, however. The exact origin and nature of this attitude is also debatable. It appears to have been most prevalent in genteel circles and hence was probably related in some measure to Victorianism. Some stories written by the great Utica banker and capitalist Alexander Bryan Johnson during the Civil War about his early banking experiences point strongly to this Victorian influence.134

Johnson's stories, in one way or another, blamed women for financial difficulties and defalcations. In "An Accommodation Endorsement; Or, A Romance of Real Life," Johnson showed how womanly emotions could lead to ruin.135 One day, a dealer called "who wanted to borrow three thousand dollars for the purchase of wheat which was destined for the New York market in the coming spring; with the prospect of large profits, the English demand for breadstuffs being very urgent." "The present application being for a larger sum than usual," Johnson wrote, "I declined the loan [unless] he could procure an additional endorser." Joe, the dealer, suggested his brother, to which Johnson acceded, knowing the brother "to be a substantial farmer." The note was for $3,000 payable in four months. "Brother Tom heard this revelation with great pain," however, "because he was a simple-minded man, who attended to nothing but his farm and a few neighborhood duties, eschewing all speculations." The brother had sworn he would "never endorse a note." The yeoman's wife pitied her brother-in-law, however, and suggested he should be accommodated this once. The brother endorsed the note "and sent Joe on his way rejoicing." Unfortunately, "the English market had been bountifully supplied from the European continent" and "the expense of inland transportation" was so high that even in New York City the wheat could only be sold for a loss. The brother lost his farm, and after attempting the retail trade, died.

A women was also to blame in "The Discounting of Business Paper; Or, A Romance of Real Life."136 The daughter of a wealthy Indian trader insisted on marrying a lesser man, a mere "merchant's clerk." "He was the last person the parents would have selected of a son-in-law." Nevertheless, the girl's father accepted him into partnership. "As I had long known the senior partner, and liked the appearance of the junior," Johnson wrote, "I was pleased with the acquisition of their business." All seemed well at first. The partners expanded into the country wholesale trade and business grew. The son-in-law soon began to mail notes "and to draw on the bank for the proceeds without any previous negotiation." Unfortunately, the seeming volume of business was fictitious; the son-in-law paid for one discount with the proceeds of another. The partners' total debt became so large Johnson stopped discounting their notes and the firm failed.

In "A Mistake in Counting; Or, A Romance in Real Life," Johnson's culprit was again female. An irate bank customer wanted $20 he said the bank had short changed him. He ranted and raved until Johnson gave in and gave him the money. The customer returned the money later that day much humbled. His wife had taken the bill to prove to him that he should keep more careful track of his cash! In the "Forgery, or a Romance in Real Life," Johnson portrayed an honest young man temporarily led astray by the needs of his young wife.137

The seemingly unconscious way Johnson managed to blame women for lost farms, ruined partnerships, embarrassing mistakes, and heinous crimes indicated his deep mistrust of women's involvement with the economy. That attitude was consistent with Johnson's exalted position in Utica's society and reflected his Victorian value system.


The findings presented here extend Lisa Wilson Waciega's view that early national women could excel in business to the realm of finance.138 Although women were not commercial bankers, they did own the equities of commercial banks, voted their stock, and received discounts and other financial accommodations. Though those imbued with Victorianism questioned their participation in the economy, women used those accommodations to help their businesses and lives. So, though still denied all political, most legal, and many economic rights, early nation women could and sometimes did succeed in American business. Hitherto little studied, those women deserve more treatment.

1Technically, Holland received a "discount," a type of commercial loan where the bank deducted the interest from a promissory note or bill receivable. Hence, she received a bank credit for $994.67 in return for a promise to pay the bank $1,000 in 30 days. The details of Holland's story have been dramatized for effect, but the facts are true. For Holland's accounts with the Bank of North America, see the Bank of North America Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, hereafter H.S.P. 2Lisa Wilson Waciega, "A 'Man of Business': The Widow of Means in Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1750-1850," William and Mary Quarterly, (1987) 44:40-64; Lisa Wilson, Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750-1850 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992). 3Elisabeth Anthony Dexter, Colonial Women of Affairs: A Study of Women in Business and the Professions in America Before 1776 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1924), 182-185. 4Frances Manges, "Women Shopkeepers, Tavernkeepers, and Artisans in Colonial Philadelphia," (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1958), 70; Miriam Moss, Women and Business (UK: Wayland Publishers Ltd., 1990), 5. 5Jean Jordan, "Women Merchants in Colonial New York," New York History, (1977), 435. 6Manges, "Women Shopkeepers," 102; Mary Roberts Parramore, "'For Her Sole and Separate Use': Feme Sole Trader Status in Early South Carolina." (M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1991), 93. 7Dexter, Colonial Women, 10. 8Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980), 135. 9Pennsylvania Gazette, 25 March 1755. 10Dexter, Colonial Women, 19. 11Patricia Cleary, "'She Merchants' of Colonial America: Women and Commerce on the Eve of the Revolution," (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1989), 211, 225; Patricia Cleary, "'She Will Be in the Shop': Women's Sphere of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia and New York," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, (July 1995), 181-202. 12J.H. Plumb, "Britain & America: The Cultural Heritage," in The English Heritage, eds. Frederic Youngs Jr. et al, 1st ed. (St. Louis: Forum Press, 1978), 8. 13Dexter, Colonial Women, 36; Cleary, "'She Merchants,'" 44) 14Cleary, "'She Merchants,'" 8; Cleary, "Women's Sphere," 181-202. 15Dexter, Colonial Women, 37. 16Manges, "Women Shopkeepers," 69. 17Dexter, Colonial Women, 38. 18 Jordan, "Women Merchants," 436. 19Cleary, "'She Merchants,'" 94-96; Cleary, "Women's Sphere," 181-202. 20Cleary, "'She Merchants,'" 91; Jordan, "Women Merchants," 432. 21Linda Kerber, "The Paradox of Women's Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Case of Martin vs. Massachusetts, 1805," American Historical Review, (April 1992), 97:349-378. 22 Jordan, "Women Merchants," 438. 23Business historians have argued that "merchants" owned "stores" or "warehouses" while mere "traders owned 'shops'" Herman Kroos and Charles Gilbert, American Business History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972), 51. Longsworth did not seem to make the distinction, however. 24Manges, "Women Shopkeepers," 119. 25Norton, Liberty's Daughters, 298. 26Parramore, "Feme Sole," 7. 27Of the 357 feme sole deeds she examined, 304 were dated between 1777 and 1824. 28Linda Grant De Pauw and Conover Hunt, Remember the Ladies: Women in America, 1750-1815 (New York: Viking Press, 1976). 29Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1980), 148. 30John Lambert, Travels through lower Canada and the United States in the years 1806, 1807, and 1808 (London: Richard Phillips, 1809), 196-197. 31New York Register of the Times: A Gazette for the Country, 27 January 1797. 32Norma Basch, In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage, and Property in Nineteenth-Century New York (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982). 33James A. Henretta, The Origins of American Capitalism: Collected Essays (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 237. 34Mary Beth Norton seems to have forgotten this when she wrote that "most colonial women did not choose feme sole status deliberately; as was pointed out in chapter 2, an unmarried female's life had few attractive qualities." Norton, Liberty's Daughters, 125. 35Kerber, Women of the Republic, 151-152. 36Parramore, "Feme Sole," 6. 37Kerber, Women of the Republic, 148. 38Anon., Baron and Feme: A Treatise of the Common Law Concerning Husbands and Wives (Assigns of Richard and Edward Atykns, for John Walthoe, 1700). 39Thomas E. Baylis, An Opinion Regarding the Validity of a Claim for the Value of Goods Sold and Delivered on Credit to a Married Woman, Trading as a feme sole trader, and under other auspices Embarking in Mercantile Business; and herein of the Married Woman's Act and of the Disabilities of Persons to Enter into Engagements, Promises and Contracts, and of the Limited Nature of Certain Interests in Lands and Tenements not Liable for the Debts of the Beneficiary, and of Conveyances Made by a Husband to his Wife (Philadelphia, 1860). 40Baylis relied heavily on the legal treatises of New York jurist James Kent. 41Cleary, "'She Merchants,'" 83, 106-108. 42Strictly speaking, milliners made fancy headgear, especially bonnets. The term came to denote any fancy needleworking, however. "The term milliner covered a wide variety of skills, including making cloaks, muffs, hoops, gloves, riding habits and petticoats" Moss, Women, 7. 43Mantuamakers made fancy dresses and cloaks. Norton, Liberty's Daughters, 138. 44Sherburne Olive Branch, 18 March 1807. 45New York Weekly Museum, 27 March 1802. 46New York People's Advocate, 23 February 1806. 47Bath Farmers' Advocate and Steuben Advertiser, 28 August 1828. 48Geneva Palladium, 16 June 1824. 49Rochester Telegraph, 28 March 1820. 50Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 3 January 1821. 51New York Weekly Museum, 23 November 1805. 52New York Weekly Museum, 17 May 1806. 53New York Weekly Museum, 24 May 1806. 54New York Weekly Museum, 21 May 1808. 55Bath Farmers' Advocate and Steuben Advertiser, 19 April 1827. 56Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 13 June 1821. 57New York Weekly Museum, 8 December 1810. 58St. Lawrence Gazette, 5 May 1818. 59Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 24 January 1821. 60Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 4 July 1821. 61Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 9 January 1822. 62Ithaca American Journal, 7 August 1822. 63Plattsburgh Republican, 22 November 1817. 64Cherry Valley Gazette, 26 November 1818. 65Rochester Telegraph, 21 January 1823. 66Rochester Telegraph, 30 June 1828. 67Rochester Telegraph, 8 September 1828. 68Rochester Telegraph, 12 July 1828. 69Nancy Hewitt also misses the working lives of Rochester women. Nancy Hewitt, Women's Activism and Social Change: Rochester, New York, 1822-1872 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984). 70Belle Otis, Diary of a Milliner (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867). 71From internal evidence the diary appears to have been written in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Otis mentions Swedenborgianism and wartime price inflation, among other things. 72Henry F. Anners, The American Lady's and Gentleman's Modern Letter Writer, Relative to Business, Duty, Love, and Marriage (Philadelphia, 1847). 73George Reid to William Duer, Charleston, 22 September 1790, William Duer Papers, 1752-1802, New York Historical Society. 74Probably Isaac Roosevelt or Nicholas Roosevelt. 75Catharine "Kitty" Duer to William Duer, New York, 17 April ?, William Duer Papers, 1752-1802 New York Historical Society. May 1 was the traditional day of moving in New York City in those days. 76Alexander Macomb to William Constable, New York, 15 June 1792, Constable-Pierpont Papers, New York Public Library. 77Jonathan Elliot, The Funding System of the United States and of Great Britain, With Some Tabular Facts (Washington: Blair and Rives, 1845), 117. 78"Five scrips Paper also inclosed the property of a Poor Woman -- make the most of them and return a Certif. singly for it." John Delafield to James Fairlee, New York, 4 February 1785, John Delafield Letterbook, New York Public Library. See also the Loan Office Book of Thomas Smith, Continental Loan Officer in the State of Pennsylvania, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, for the receipts of at least ten women for indents (certificates for the payment of interest due on earlier certificates). 79New York Packet, 30 September 1784. 80Copy of the Will of Ann Robertson, 27 January 1809, Dreer Box, 81John Jacob Astor to Walter Mead, Cashier of the Merchants Bank, New York, 14 September 1835, Volume 17, Letterbook, J. J. Astor, 1831-1838, John Jacob Astor Papers, Baker Library, Harvard University. 82Henrietta Larson, 1930-31. "S. & M. Allen -- Lottery, Exchange, and Stock Brokerage," Journal of Economic and Business History, (1930-31), 3:434; Thomas Smith, The City of New York in the Year of Washington's Inauguration, 1789 (New York: Printed for the Author, 1889), 43. 83New York Weekly Visitor, and Ladies' Museum, 1817-1820, Volume 1, 1817-1818, 94-95. The organization owned around $600 worth. 84"Women frequently owned stock in banks." Naomi Lamoreaux, Insider Lending: Banks, Personal Connection, and Economic Development in Industrial New England (New York: Cambridge University Press., 1994), 2 n.2. 85For an example of a widow feeling the pinch of inflation during the Revolution, see Abigail Willing, sister of future banker Thomas Willing, to Robert Morris in the Levis Collection, Willing and Morris Business Papers, 1756-1777, H.S.P. Abigail dunned Morris three times in late 1780 and early 1781. Though she admitted she well knew "know the collecting hard money at this time is attended with some Inconvenience to every person," she insisted on payment in coin, not depreciated paper. 86Unfortunately, the Bank of the United States was no longer in operation when this letter was written. Perhaps the writer was referring to the Bank of America. Another possibility is that the letter was dated 1818 instead of 1813. I have not located the original letter, and so must rely on whoever transcribed it for the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society Record. 87Marie Antoinette Nichols to Mrs. James Ashton Bayard [of Washington], New York, 15 October 1813. New York Genealogical & Biographical Society Record, Volume 24. 88Mary E. Ruwell, Eighteenth-Century Capitalism: The Formation of American Marine Insurance Companies (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993), 160-1. 89This is almost 14%. 90Nancy Patterson Bright Collection, Bank of Pennsylvania Mss., 1790-1831, H.S.P. 91 H. C. Carey, The Credit System in France, Great Britain, and the United States (Philadelphia, 1838), 82. 92$9,995,747.17 93Ibid., 82-83. 94Jacob Barker to Benjamin F. Butler, Bloomingdale, 17 November 1822, Gratz Collection, H.S.P. 95Naomi Lamoreaux argued women "occasionally borrowed" from banks, but offered no examples, much less statistics. Lamoreaux, Insider Lending, 2 n.2. 96Rebecca Cadwalader to Thomas McEuen & Co., 17 March 1803, Gratz Collection, H.S.P. 97"Mr. Carey has one Note of 5[,]000 due on Wednesday, + one for 400 on [F]riday next. it will be time enough for you to offer a Note for 500 D[olla]rs. on tuesday for discount - but it [mss. torn] necessary for you to send it in on Monday. I shall take Care of Mr. Carey's Credit, if you send in the Note as far as the above Sum," Thomas Willing to Mrs. Mathew Cary, Philadelphia, 14 February 1795, Lea & Febiger Papers, H.S.P. "Mrs. Laurance previously had discounted the note at the Citizens Bank [in 1839] so the bank was Marston's primary obligee." Richard H. Kilbourne, Jr., Debt, Investment, Slaves: Credit Relations in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, 1825-1885 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995), 21. 98Bank of North America Papers, Individual Ledgers, H.S.P. 99Bank of Germantown, Individual Ledger D, H.S.P. 100Bank of Utica, Individual Ledger, Oneida County Historical Society, Utica, New York, 1813. 101Federal census, 1790. 102Federal census, 1790. 103Wistar Papers, Gratz Collection, H.S.P. 104Her bank book (checkbook) survives at the H.S.P. 105Individual Ledgers, 1790-1803, Bank of North America Papers, H.S.P. 106"LOST NOTES -- The subscriber had three notes, on one piece of paper, for five hundred dollars, dated June 21st, 1819, executed by James Yates, Catharine Yates, and Mariah Yates, and made payable to Christopher Yates ... all persons are hereby cautioned against purchasing the same, as they are the property of the said Christopher Yates." Saratoga Sentinel, April 19, 1820. "Recd of Mrs. Honor Meredith One hundred Pounds Pennsylvania Currency which we hereby Promise to repay within five days after demand & if not paid before the 1st day of October next then Interest is to commence thereon form said 1st day of October." Willing, Morris & Co. were the makers of this promissory note, 2 June 1775, Levis Collection, Willing and Morris Business Papers, 1756-1777, H.S.P. 107William B. Astor to Mrs. Elizabeth Astor, New York, 7 April 1834, Volume 17, Letterbook, J. J. Astor, 1831-1838, John Jacob Astor Papers, Baker Library, Harvard University. 108John Jacob Astor to Elizabeth Astor, New York, 15 October 1814, Volume 16, Copy of Letter, J. J. Astor, 1813-1815. 109Margaret Duncan to John Enver, Philadelphia, 12 December 1772, 2 May 1774, and other letters, Cadwalader Collection, Phineas Bond Section, John Enver - Margaret Duncan correspondence, H.S.P. 110Geneva Palladium, 20 November 1822. 111Women made over 10% of the checks in the Girard Papers dated in 1830. Webster Christman and Fritz Redlich. 1967. "Early American Checks and an Example of Their Use," Business History Review, (1967), 285-302. 112There are two checks made out to women in the Box 116, Folder 1: Bank Checks, 1827 - 1830, Erastus Corning Papers, Albany Institute of Art and History, Albany, N.Y. 113"To the Cashier of the Bank of Columbia, Pay to Mrs. Granfurd or Bearer, four hundred Dollars." Thomas Ferguson Livingston, check, July 7, 1812, Livingston Family Papers, New York Public Library. 114Rebecca Cadwalader to Thomas McEuen & Co., 17 March 1803, Gratz Collection, H.S.P. 115Alexander Hamilton to ?, Philadelphia, 30 September 1794, Harold Syrett ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol XVI August 1794 - December 1794 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972). 116Albany Advertiser, 14 October 1815. 117New York National Advocate, 28 April 1819. 118New York Observer, 27 January 1811. 119Alexander Bryan Johnson, Banker's Magazine, January, 1861. 120Erastus Root to Ebenezer Foote, Delhi, 22 December 1799, Papers of Ebenezer Foote, New York State Library, Albany, New York. 121"Exhibited the original note ... to a woman at the house of James H. Sinacre the Maker thereof + demanded of her payment of its contents; whereunto she answered, Mr. Sinacre was not within, and she did not know anything about said Note." See the protested note signed by Nicholas Bleecker Jr., Public Notary, Albany, 13 January 1830 in Folder 51: Van Schaack Papers of the Abraham Van Vechten Papers, New York State Library, Albany, New York. 122Basch, In the Eyes of the Law. 123Moses Bagg, Memorial History of Utica, N.Y. (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1892). 124One such survives in Folder 62 of the Abraham Van Vechten Papers at the New York State Library in Albany, New York. The forms are for the "District Court of the United State of American For the Northern District of New York." Martha Bradstreet of Utica "who is an Alien, and a Subject of the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" deserves one quarter of 20 houses, 20 warehouses, etc. 125Ithaca Republican Chronicle, 20 February 1822. 126Hudson Northern Whig, 2 March 1812. 127New York Herald, 1 April 1812. 128Albany Balance, 9 March 1810. 129Kingston Plebeian, 17 June 1820. 130Mordecai M. Noah, Essays of Howard (New York: National Advocate, 1820). 131Albany Plough Boy, 4 September 1819. 132Albany Plough Boy, 11 September, 2 October 1819. 133Rochester Telegraph, 4 June 1822. 134The following articles can be found in the Alexander Bryan Johnson Scrapbooks, Hamilton College, New York, and also in Banker's Magazine, as cited. 135Alexander Bryan Johnson, Banker's Magazine, May, 1861. 136Alexander Bryan Johnson, Banker's Magazine, June, 1861. 137Alexander Bryan Johnson, Banker's Magazine, July, August, 1861. 138 Waciega, "A 'Man of Business'," 40-64; Wilson, Life After Death.