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Watkinson Family Papers

Identifier: Watkinson family papers

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, journals and diaries, business records, legal documents, photographs, and watercolor paintings. Correspondence, business records, and legal documents of John Revell Watkinson (1772-1836) make up approximately two-thirds of the collection. The rest of the collection comprises of correspondence, business records, and journals and diaries originating with his brothers David Watkinson (1778-1857), Richard Watkinson (1776-1798), Samuel Watkinson Jr. (1773-1798), and watercolor paintings, photographs, and copies of correspondence created by his sister, Anne Watkinson Wells (1781-1836). The collection also contains one box of primarily correspondence of Samuel Watkinson Sr. (1745-1816), as well as the journal of Olivia Hudson (1781-1849), the wife of David Watkinson, who journeyed to England in 1819-1820. Themes present in the collection material include Anglo-American relations, class, and labor in early industrial America.


  • 1795 - 1873

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the John M.K. Davis Reading Room of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws when using this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Watkinson Sr. (1745-1816), and his wife, Sarah Blair Watkinson (1743-1819), immigrated to the United States in 1795 from Lavenham, England, settling in Middletown, Connecticut with their twelve children. Watkinson, who worked as a successful master woolcomber, belonged to a Dissenter Society, composed of primarily tradesmen, well-to-do craftsmen, and merchants, found itself at odds with the East Anglican Church for supporting the demands of the leaders of the French Revolution.

In Connecticut, Watkinson’s sons became successful business-owners, several of Watkinson Sr.’s sons, David, Samuel Jr., Richard, and William moved to New York City to pursue business ventures when they were stricken by a yellow fever epidemic in 1798. Both Samuel Jr., and Richard died during the epidemic. David returned to Connecticut and settled in Hartford where he married Olivia Hudson (1781-1849), and became a notable printmaker, banker, businessman, and philanthropist founding Trinity College, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Hospital, and the predecessor to the Hartford Library, as well as being a generous benefactor to the Watkinson Library (Trinity College), Watkinson Farm School, Hartford Hospital, the Watkinson Prisoner’s Aid Society, and the city’s orphanages. Another brother, John Revell, went on to produce woolen textiles and equipment in Middletown. He founded the Pameacha Manufacturing Company and Sanseer Manufacturing Company, and married Hannah Hubbard (d.1850).


8 Cubic Feet (24 flat boxes and 5 portraits)

Language of Materials



This collection includes correspondence, journals, diaries, business records, legal documents, photographs, and watercolor paintings of the Watkinson family; a prominent Middletown, Connecticut family involved in textile production during the early portion of the 19th century. The records begin in 1795 with Samuel Watkinson Sr. (1745-1816), his wife, and twelve children who immigrated to the United States to escape religious persecution in Lavenham, England due to their dissenting views of the French Revolution. The Watkinsons also went on to become major philanthropists with their son, David Watkinson (1778-1857) becoming a generous benefactor of the recently founded Watkinson Library at Trinity College, founding the college itself, as well as the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Hospital, and the Watkinson Farm School. He also played a large part in aiding the city of Hartford’s orphanages and prisoner’s aid society. The bulk of the collection comes from the business and personal activities of four sons: David, John R., Richard, and Samuel Jr., the latter of whom both die in a plague of yellow fever in New York City in 1798, and a daughter, Anne Watkinson Wells (1781-1836), who painted numerous watercolors and sketches in the collection. There are some additional correspondence of later descendants including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


There are eight series in this collection:

Series I: Papers of David Watkinson (1778-1857), 1803-1855 Series II: Papers of John Revell Watkinson (1772-1836), 1799-1833 Series III: Papers of Richard Watkinson (1776-1798), 1795-1798 Series IV: Papers of Samuel Watkinson, Sr. (1745-1816), 1795-1815 Series V: Papers of Samuel Watkinson, Jr. (1773-1798), 1795-1798 Series VI: Papers of Anne Watkinson Wells (1781-1836), ca. 1800-1834 Series VII: Miscellaneous Watkinson Family Papers and Portraits, 1799-1873

Series are arranged by creator.

Guide to the Watkinson Family Papers
Michelle C. Sigiel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Watkinson Library - Archival Collections Repository

Trinity College Library
300 Summit St.
Hartford Connecticut 06106