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

William Langhorne letter to John Norton, 1770 July 20


William Langhorne letter to John Norton and Sons complaining of the quality of goods received in exchange for tobacco. Langhorne regrets he won't be…

Cary Wilkinson letter to John Norton, 1770 July 19


Cary Wilkinson letter to John Norton in which Wilkinson complains that the shipment of goods sent him for his tobacco failed to contain the linen he…

Rebecca Chamberlayne and Ann Taylor letter to John Norton, 1770 July 16


Letter of Rebecca Chamberlayne and Ann Taylor to John Norton merchant in London discussing their attempt to sell their estate in Brentwood.…

John Tazewell letter to John Norton, 1770 July 12


John Tazewell letter to John Norton concerning a recent act of Assembly which would prevent the bringing of suits for the collection of debts…

George Turner letter to John Norton, 1770 July 9


George Turner letter to John Norton in which Turner describes the great expense to which he has been put for an upcoming court hearing. Turner…

Hart & Marshall letter to John Norton, 1770 July 4


Letter of Hart & Marshall of Hanover Town, Virgina, informing London merchant John Norton that they have shipped him 12 hogsheads of tobacco on the…

Edward C. Travis letter to John Norton, 1770 July 2


Edward C. Travis letter to John Norton, merchant in London. Travis writes to inform Norton that he has drawn a bill on Norton payable to Mr. John V.…

John Page Jr. letter to John Norton, 1770 June 28


John Page Jr., planter of Rosewell, Gloucester County, Virginia to London merchant John Norton requesting clothing for his slaves for him he was…

Martha Goosely letter to John Norton, 1770 June 13


Martha Goosley letter to John Norton, merchant in London, England. Goosley thanks Norton for his kindness to her shipwrecked son: discusses Norton's…

Robert Burwell letter to John Norton & Son, 1770 May 9


Robert Burwell letter to John Norton & Son concerning the death of his wife, Sarah Nelson Burwell, his numerous debts and desire to sell off all his…