Scottish Transatlantic Merchants, 1611-1785


Author: Dobson, David
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: x 147 pp.


Scottish merchants were in the vanguard of Scottish emigration to colonial America. In the 17th century, ships would leave Scotland bound for the Americas on trading voyages. The success of voyages led to the settlement of factors and their servants in a given colony. Once the factors had established these outposts, the merchant ships would carry passengers as well as goods. These passengers were, in part, indentured servants who had contracted for work in the colonies and who were shipped and sold there by the shipmasters, who represented the merchants.

Probably the single most important commodity imported from America to Scotland during the colonial period was tobacco, and by the mid-18th century Glasgow virtually controlled the trade. Within the Chesapeake region, factors, who were often the sons of merchants or the gentry, handled operations for the Glasgow establishments. Scottish factors were prevalent in the other colonies as well. While some of the factors eventually returned to Scotland, many chose to remain in the colonies.

This latest book from immigration authority David Dobson identifies many of these merchants and their American representatives. Based on primary sources found in Scotland and in America, Scottish Transatlantic Merchants identifies about 2,500 Scottish expatriate merchants and factors throughout the Americas. In all cases, Mr. Dobson presents the individual’s full name, location in the Americas, a date, and the source of the data. Sometimes we are given quite a bit more, as in the case of William Woodrup, “a merchant in Nevis, 1675; merchant from Glasgow who settled in St. Kitts, died there in 1867,” or the case of Robert Aitkin, “born in 1734, a merchant from Paisley who settled in Philadelphia during 1769, died there in 1802.”

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