JOHN NORTON & SONS PAPERS, 1750 [1763-1798] 1902, 2,294 pieces. MS 1936.3

Correspondence and business papers of the firm of John Norton & Sons, merchants of London and Virginia, including letters, bills, accounts, receipts, and bills of lading.

John Norton, Jr. (1719-1777) began his career in the mercantile business in Yorktown representing the firm of Flowerdewe & Norton. He married Courtenay Walker (d. 1780) in 1743. John Norton returned to England in 1764. His son, John Hatley Norton (1745-1797) succeeded his father in Virginia in the late 1760's.

The majority of the letters were written to John Norton, Jr. in London, or his son, John Hatley Norton, the firm's representative in Yorktown, Virginia, during the period 1766-1798. The letters deal primarily with the sale of tobacco and the ordering of goods, but since they cover the period of disturbances which culminated in the American Revolution, they provide insight on the strained circumstances of the situation, and the rumors of independence at a very early date. The papers contain comments on such affairs as the Stamp Act, the Boston Port Bill, political unrest in England, Parliament's relations with the colonies, and the non-importation agreements. Included are an extensive list of articles obtained for Lord Dunmore's use at the Governor's Palace; interestingly engraved invoice heads; and numerous letters and invoices from Williamsburg shopkeepers and residents.

There are also letters and papers concerning political, economic, and social affairs in the colony from more than three hundred Virginians, including: John Baylor, Gov. Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt, Carter Braxton, Nathaniel Burwell, John Clayton, James Craig, Thomas Everard, Capt. William Goosley, Francis Jerdone, Warner Lewis, Peter Lyons, James Maury, Thomas Nelson, William Nelson, Robert Carter Nicholas, John Page, Mann Page, Edmund Randolph, John Randolph, Peyton Randolph, Augustine Smith, and George Wythe.

Approximately one-third of the papers have been published in: Frances Norton Mason (ed.), John Norton & Sons Merchants of London and Virginia (Richmond, 1937).

Note on Navigating the Online Collection

To view the papers in chronological order click the "Date Added" tab.


In addition to the John Norton & Sons Papers owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Foundation Library’s Special Collections section contains several other primary sources relating to the Norton family. These manuscript groups in Library Special Collections, including correspondence and accounts bearing the Norton name, are: the Baylor Family Papers (MS 59.1), the Burwell Papers (MS 64.4), the Dr. James Carter Invoice Book (MS 39.8), the Richard Corbin Papers (MS 71.5), the Francis Jerdone Account and Cargo Waste Books (MS 29.4), the William Lightfoot Papers (MS 52.4), and manuscript materials in Virginia Almanacks owned by Francis Jerdone (1757, 1762) and John Page (1771).

Library Special Collections also has a photocopy collection of Norton manuscripts collected from various repositories. These repositories include the Valentine Museum, Alderman Library at UVA, the British Treasury Office, the British Public Records Office and Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. An inventory of this material is available.

Researchers may also locate photocopied materials relating to the Nortons in the Baylor Family papers (PH 04), the John Baylor Letterbook (PH 02 19), the College of William and Mary Ledger Books, 1763-1777 (PH 02 49-50), and a letter from Peyton Randolph to John Norton (PH 00 23 Sep 1777).

Transcripts of Norton materials include a John Hatley Norton Letterbook (1764-1820) (TR 23) and a collection of Norton correspondence (1766-1782) most of which is transcribed from the originals described in this guide, although some are from other repositories or collections (TR 22). The Norton name also shows up in the following transcripts: the Burwell Family Papers (TR 06), Francis Jerdone Account Book, 1751-1752 (TR 20), Nelson Letterbook (TR 48), Reynolds Letterbook (TR 49) and J. Baylor Letterbook (TR 50).

The entire collection described in this guide is available on microfilm. In addition to this, Library Special Collections has several additional collections of Norton-related papers on microfilm. These include: a John Norton & Sons Banker’s book (1764-1784) from the original in the Library of Congress (M-57.12); a John Norton & Sons ledger (1768-178) at the Library of Virginia (M-6); papers concerning the Norton family in the Brock Collection at the Huntington Library (M-42-43); papers concerning the Norton family in the George Arents Tobacco Collection (1730-1796) at the New York Public Library (M-1204); a tobacco book (1774-1775) from the Library of Virginia (M-1000); and the Bordly Letterbooks from the Maryland Historical Society (M-76).

This site is currently under construction. Content will be added to the site on a regular basis until all the items in the collection are available.

Recently Added Items

Thomas Everard letter to John Norton and Son, 1770 August 1


Thomas Everard letter to London merchants John Norton and Son. Everard writes that he has sent 4 hogsheads of tobacco and includes an invoice of goods…

John Lipscombe letter to John Norton, 1770 July 30


John Lipscombe letter to London merchant John Norton. Lipscombe acknowledges receipt of Norton's letter informing him that only one hogshead of his…

Invoice of goods to be sent by Mr. Norton to Peter Lyons


List of goods sent to London merchant, John Norton, inclosed with Peter Lyons's letter of July 30, 1770.

Peter Lyons letter to John Norton, 1770 July 30


Peter Lyons letter to London merchant John Norton. Lyons thanks Norton for selling his tobacco but complains about the pot sent to him which was…

Thomas Everard letter to John Norton, 1770 July 30


Thomas Everard letter to London merchant John Norton. Everard writes that he has drawn two bills on Norton and that he is shipping 4 hogsheads of…

Richard Gwathmey letter to John Norton, 1770 July 28


Richard Gwathmey letter to John Norton, merchant of London, England. Gwathmey writes that he has received Norton's letter and the goods he ordered but…

Invoice of goods to be sent Rebecca Chamberlayne


An invoice of goods sent by Rebecca Chamberlayne with her letter of July 28, 1770 to London merchant John Norton. The majority of goods ordered are…

Rebecca Chamberlayne letter to John Norton, 1770 July 28


Rebecca Chamberlayne letter to John Norton, merchant of London, England. Chamberlayne writes that she has received the goods she ordered and is…

Archibald Govan letter to John Norton, 1770 July 27


Letter from Archibald Govan to London merchant John Norton. Govan writes that after conversation with Norton's son, John Hatley Norton of Yorktown, he…

Scheme of goods to be ship'd from London by Mr. John Norton, on Account of Hart & Marshall for spring 1771


List of goods sent by Hart & Marshall to London merchant John Norton inclosed in their letter of July 26, 1770.