Pittsburgh Waste Book and Fort Pitt Trading Post Papers



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The Pittsburgh Waste Book, so described on its cover, is the ledger of trader George Allen who had been appointed Indian Agent by the Commissioners for Indian Affairs in March 1759, and is reputed to be the first known merchant's account book written in Pittsburgh. The book contains accounts and transactions taking place at Fort Pitt between June 19, 1759 and June 19, 1760. The ledger details the dates, goods, quantities, and prices for trading and also records names of traders. Native American trade was conducted either directly with tribes or through agents; some of the tribes represented in the book are Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Tawa (Ottawa), Wyandot (Huron or Wendat), and Mohican, among others. In at least one instance goods were received of a "Shawannah Woman."

The term "waste book" is contemporary to the time and was traditionally used in bookkeeping. It documented the daily transactions (receipts and expenditures) of an office or store in chronological order, and was intended for temporary use only (i.e., until the daily transactions could be recorded in a daybook or account ledger in order to balance one's accounts). Hence the name "waste book" derives from the fact that once its information was transferred to the journal, the waste book was no longer needed and could be discarded.

Accompanying the Pittsburgh Waste Book is a folder containing twenty-six items of correspondence, mainly in the form of receipts for trade between 1757 and 1765. The various documents provide evidence of business conducted in Pittsburgh with payment to be received by the various traders or made to John Reynell, Treasurer for Indian Affairs in Philadelphia. The majority of the documents are handwritten though several are printed. The earliest document dates from 1757, a printed document presumably from a Philadelphia printing press, possibly Franklin and Hall, stating that Ellis Hughes should pay one pound, ten shillings, to John Reynell of Philadelphia. Another printed form, dated 1760, shows that Elizabeth Warner of Philadelphia lent the Commissioners for Indian Affairs one hundred fifty pounds. The form is signed by Commissioners Joseph Morris, William Fisher, William West, Thomas Willing, Joseph Richardson, Amos Strettell, Edward Penington, James Child, and John Reynell.

Other receipts dictate the type of service provided such as "advice to the Indian Trade in Pittsburgh." There are also records indicating that provisions of food were taken by agents for the Province in Indian Affairs during expeditions, often explaining the length of the journey and rations for specific individuals. Lastly, the documents provide evidence of the Baynton Company's purchase of "the Commissioners for Indian Affairs, the Goods belonging to this Province, now at Pittsburgh" on March 15, 1765. The Philadelphia Company also known as Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan were simultaneously involved with increasing their trade with the Native Americans while disassociating themselves from English merchants due to legislation restraining colonial trade in the interest of the Crown.

A number of names appear in this collection, aside from those mentioned above; a brief list follows: Joseph Wharton, John Hughes, Robert Field, E.E. Magee, Sanderson, Davenport, McMurray, Robert Tucknifs, Charles Kenny, Samuel Reyer, John Carson, Joseph Morris, Edward Pennington, Benedict Dorsey, Samuel Taylor, David Shields, James Irvine, Frederick Post, Robert Burchan, and others.

About Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt came into existence after General John Forbes reclaimed Fort Duquesne from the French in November of 1758, renaming the fortification in honor of the English Prime Minister, William Pitt. The fort was rebuilt in 1759 and was reportedly the most sophisticated English stronghold on the frontier. Though the fort's main purpose was to provide a citadel for the British and Colonial troops who were continuously engaged in maintaining the land interests of England during the French and Indian War (1754-1764), the fort was an extensive outpost for traders due to its prime location at the "point" of three rivers.

Although it was peaceful at the newly rebuilt fort in 1759, the surrounding areas experienced attacks by Native American forces who later besieged Fort Pitt between May 27 and August 9, 1763, during Pontiac's War (1763-1766). Fort Pitt was well prepared to withstand the siege that ended with Colonel Henry Bouquet's victory at the Battle of Bushy Run (August 5-6, 1763). Trade escalated during this entire time period with business mainly being conducted by colonial frontiersmen, Native Americans, and soldiers. Goods typically traded included animal skins, wampum, metal products such as knives, kettles, and needles; textiles, musical instruments, gun flints, gun powder and other goods. The Commissioners for Indian Affairs for the Province of Pennsylvania directed trade and recorded business transactions at the fort.

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