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

Elizabeth Martin letter to John Norton, 1769 December 22


Elizabeth Martin letter to John Norton, merchant of London, concerning the paying of an annuity and thanking him for his many kindnesses to her.

Invoice of goods for Cary Wilkinson


Invoice of goods sent by Cary Wilkinson to John Norton, merchant of London, in his letter of December 20, 1769. Wilkinson orders Dutch blankets, Irish…

Cary Wilkinson letter to John Norton, 1769 December 20


Cary Wilkinson letter to John Norton, merchant of London, explaining that he hasn't written in some time because he has sold his tobacco to buy more…

John Page Jr. letter to John Norton & Son, 1769 December 5


John Page Jr. letter to John Norton, merchant of London. Page writes Norton that he has drawn on him for credit even though his consignments of…

Peter Lyons letter to John Norton, 1769 December 1


Peter Lyons letter to Jon Norton, merchant of London, requesting Norton deliver the inclosed letter to George Thomas.

Robert Carter Nicholas letter to John Norton & Son, 1769 November 10


Robert Carter Nicholas letter to John Norton, merchant of London, to inform him of his draught on Norton for 100 pounds for Captain Necks.

James Carter letter to John Norton, 1769 November 7


Dr. James Carter, apothecary of Williamsburg, Virginia, letter to John Norton, merchant of London. Carter writes concerning his shipment of two…

Martha Goosley letter to John Norton, 1769 October 28


Martha Goosley letter to John Norton, merchant of London. Goosley writes concerning Norton's negative reaction to the desire of his son, John Hatley…

James Maury letter to John Norton, 1769 September 23


James Maury letter to John Norton, merchant in London. Maury informs Norton of the death of his father, James Maury, the non-importation Association,…

William Cary letter to John Norton & Sons, 1769 September 19


William Cary letter to John Norton & Son describing the destruction wrought, in Yorktown, by the hurricane of September 7-8, 1769. Cary remarks on the…