This leather pocketbook once belonged to shipmaster Elihu Smith (1771-1825). Although he moved to New York City in 1810, Smith was born near New Bedford in Bristol County, Massachusetts. When he came of age, he quickly rose through the maritime ranks. His illustrious sailing career purportedly took him to China, England, and domestically, on frequent trips between New England and New York.
Smith family manuscripts (also in the BHS collection) show that Elihu and his second wife Catharine both descended from old American Quaker families, hers from the area around Flushing, in Queens County. Following Elihu’s death, Catharine ensured their children received a thorough education at the New York City Quaker Meeting School.
While Elihu and Catharine lived out their lives in Manhattan, subsequent generations of the family —including their son Thomas T. Smith (1820-1883)—moved to Brooklyn Heights, America’s first “commuter suburb.”
Recently catalogued and photographed, this item is just one of over 5,700 objects currently being processed by BHS collections staff. We are excited to begin making these items available online for the first time! Explore more artifacts in our Digital Collections.