John Banister of Newport

The Life and Accounts of a Colonial Merchant


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About the Book

Merchant John Banister (1707–1767) of Newport, Rhode Island, wore many hats: exporter, importer, wholesaler, retailer, money-lender, extender of credit and insurer, owner and outfitter of sailing vessels, and ship builder for the slave trade. His recently discovered accounting records reveal his role in transforming colonial trade in mid–18th century America.
He combined business acumen and a strong work ethic with knowledge of the law and new technologies. Through his maritime activities and real estate development, he was a rain-maker for artisans, workers and producers, contributing to income opportunities for businesswomen, freemen and slaves.
Drawing on Banister’s meticulous daybooks, ledgers, letters and receipts, the author analyzes his contribution to the economic history of colonial America, highlighting the complexity of the commerce of the era.

About the Author(s)

Marian Mathison Desrosiers, PhD, a two-time Fulbright scholar, taught history at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. Publications include historical biographies on Colonel Mary Agnes Brown of the Women’s Army Corps and Justice Florence Kerins Murray of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Bibliographic Details

Marian Mathison Desrosiers
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 36 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6932-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2905-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments x
Introduction: Methodology, Materials, Dating 1
1. Historical Context: Newport and John Banister 11
2. Outward Bound from Newport: The Export of Colonial Staples 34
3. Imported Textiles and Luxury Items from Europe and Asia 54
4. Imports of ­Semi-Manufactured Goods, Raw Foods and Raw Materials 69
5. Sugar, Molasses, Rum, Wine and Slaves 85
6. Ship Building and Outfitting of Privateers and Merchant Ships 103
7. The Business of Global Shipping 123
8. The Banister Family as Consumers 141
9. The Legacy of John Banister 156
Conclusion 176
Appendix A. Twenty Vessels Outfitted, Built or Owned by Banister, 1739–1746 181
Appendix B. Eighteen Vessels Outfitted, Built or Owned by Banister, 1747–1749 184
Chapter Notes 187
Bibliography 214
Index 231

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “[Desrosiers] has penned the best book on a colonial merchant from Newport…. This most welcome work, for historians and for readers interested in colonial Newport, deepens our understanding of Newport merchants and the world in which they lived in during the decades prior to the American Revolution”—Online Review of Rhode Island History
  • “Sets the standard for what the writing of the economic and social history of early America should be”—The Northern Mariner
  • “Traces the life of merchant John Banister of Newport, Rhode Island, to illustrate his position in the history of Newport and its consumers from the 1730’s to the 1760’s.”—ProtoView
  • “Comprehensive and well-written…The rise and fall of the Banister family came to life…takes the reader on a journey of a family and ‘how momentous decisions about liberty and loyalty affected Americans during the War for Independence.”—Newport this Week