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Papers of James Rundlet (1780-1852)


Series I, Papers of James Rundlet (1780-1852), 1780-1863, undated (#2.1-2.3, 3.1-3.20, C.1.1-C.1.35, C.2.1-C.2.30, C.3.14, OV.025.01, OV.025.03, x.x-x.x), contains account books, bankbooks, cancelled checks, correspondence, deeds, estate papers, financial records, legal documents, memorandums, notebooks, pamphlets, printed material, and wool samples reflecting the professional activities as a textile merchant, woolen manufacturer and investor in Portsmouth as well as the personal interests of James Rundlet (1780-1852). The series is arranged in seven subseries.

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Collection Name
Rundlet-May family papers
Collection Code
1780-1863, undated
Acquisition Type
Date of Acquisition
Physical Description
Personal papers (2 file boxes, 3 cartons)
Collection Type
Description Level
Credit Line
Gift of Ralph May, 1971
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

James Rundlet was born on December 8, 1772, in Exeter, New Hampshire, the oldest son of James and Dorothy (Stevens) Rundlet. The family had been in Exeter since the seventeenth century. The senior James is consistently referred to as yeoman though he engaged in property transactions with "gentlemen" and his property holdings included a blacksmith shop and slaughterhouse and his home included a shop. He must have had more cosmopolitan goals for his oldest son, however. In 1785, at age 12, James, Jr., was enrolled in the newly formed Phillips Academy to complete his education. James, Jr., came to Portsmouth in 1794. He began on a small scale as a commission merchant, but later specialized, importing and retailing textiles. The economic environment was favorable, the young man grew wealthy, and the town was prosperous. During the War of 1812 he began the most important phase of his career turning from sales to manufacturing textiles. He was instrumental in the development of two early woolen mills, one in Amesbury, Massachusetts, in 1814 and in Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, in 1823. During his middle years, however, the climate of Portsmouth changed. Rundlet turned from active merchant and manufacturing activities to a more passive role as investor. He had become one of the town's wealthiest individuals and could live the last twenty-five years of his life on the interest of his earlier accumulation.Rundlet married Jane Hill in Portsmouth on January 1, 1795. Just eleven months after their marriage, Jane Rundlet gave birth to their first of child, Harriet (1795-1840). Twelve more children followed, some of whom did not live to adulthood: Caroline (1797-1880), William (1800-1846), Elizabeth (1802-1810), Edward (1804-1805), Edward (1805-1874), John Samuel (1807-1835), George (1808-1830), Alfred (1811-1851), Elizabeth Jane (1813-1839), James (1815-1855), Louisa Catherine (1817-1895), and Francis Matilda (1821-1834).The details of James Rundlet's activities in the later years of his life are obscure. He suspended his yearly accounting in 1840, and his ledger was not kept up to date. His investments, through the New York investment firm of Prime, Ward, and King, included some slightly more speculative properties, such as insurance policies, municipal public works, but no clear picture emerges. His will provisions were not unusual. The three of his children who made their home with him, Edward, Caroline, and Louisa, were the major beneficiaries. Jane (Hill) Rundlet died in August 1849, at age seventy-five. Two and a half years later, James Rundlet died in 1852 at age eighty.

Record details

Hales, J.G. (Surveyor)
Rundlet, James, 1772-1852
Rundlet, Jane (Hill), 1774-1849
Material Type
personal papers
Location Note
Folders 2.1-2.3, 3.1-3.20, C.1.1-C.1.35, C.2.1-C.2.30, C.3.14, OV.025.01, OV.025.03, x.x-x.x)