• [Confederate Railroad] Early NY Merchants Respond To Criticism Rakes Unusable By Slaves

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    The firm of Davenport Brothers was established in 1843 in New York as importers and dealers in china and glassware. They later embarked on manufacturing at the City Pottery in Trenton, NJ, a firm that lasted well into the 1880s. 


    Offering two letters in which the brothers were responding to James T. West of Raleigh, NC, apparently a close friend, as family matters are mentioned.  They obviously had engaged in business as commission merchants to purchase various trade goods such as boxes, snuff, crockery and umbrellas. 


    West was an agent for the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, which used slave labor.  The railroad served the Confederacy during the Civil War with practically no interference from the federal forces. The line offered the most direct route between Richmond, Raleigh and Charlotte until 1864.  In September of 1863, trains were engaged in massive troop movements for the army of Gen. James Longstreet.


    James Davenport wrote to West defending the integrity of their products on February 9, 1844. “...When reading your letter, we think we can trace the out-lines of dissatisfaction. Your allusions to the mistake in hoes might claim some affinity to sarcasm. You say instead of being adapted to the use of Negroes, more properly belongs to a Lady’s Flower Garden. Allow me to assure you, we spare neither time nor pains in filling your orders as speedily & as advantageously as if we were buying good for ourselves. I am fully aware we cannot purchase good of some kinds to suit your market as well as you can yourself...We are always pleased to assist our friends as far as our means & previous engagements will permit. We would not take the responsibility, trouble of a commission merchant for the paltry sum of a commission...We are willing to attend to your business here but not in the capacity of commission merchants...”


    Thomas Davenport writes “...Goods of almost all description are extremely scarce and high at this time and some articles are on the rise. Domestics...such as you wanted cannot be purchased...Those I sent were from Hunt Brothers, the lowest and best domestics, hence in the city and a very good criterion to go by. The shoes were as large as any I could find where they are willing to sell by the case. Small figured red French calico I was able to find; also red spool cotton 200 yds...”  One and a half pages of the letter is a list for due bills for 1843, amounting to more than $400, involving such firms as Belknap & Wycoff, Manners & DeCamp, Thom Hoff & Thomas, Wm Rankin & Co., Burnham & Baldwin.


    Nice integral address leaf with an early New York postmark and a 20-cent manuscript stamp.


    Folds, toning. Some edge chipping to the letters.  Nice early Americana with an association to the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad.


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