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

George Wythe letter to John Norton, 1772 June 17


George Wythe letter to John Norton, merchant of London, England. Wythe writes to thank Norton for the estimate of goods and states that he will be…

William Anderson letter to John Norton, 1772 June 17


William Anderson letter to John Norton of London, England. Anderson writes that he has shipped 35 hogsheads of tobacco on joint account with John…

Invoice of sundries for Mr. Edwd. Ambler's estate


Lists of goods for the estate of Edward Ambler and for Mary Ambler sent by Robert Carter Nicholas with his letter of June 16, 1772 to John Norton,…

List of books


List of books sent by Robert Carter Nicholas with his letter of June 16, 1772.

Robert Carter Nicholas letter to John Norton & Son, 1772 June 16


Robert Carter Nicholas, Treasurer of Virginia, letter to John Norton, merchant of London, England. Nicholas writes concerning the currency issue,…

Max Calvert's invoice issued to John Clayton, 1772, June


Invoice of Max Calvert issued to John Clayton for shipping charges and duties on a pipe of wine from Madeira. Clayton forwarded this invoice to John…

Lamar, Hill and Bisset bill of lading for wine, 1772 June 13


Bill of lading for one pipe of wine shipped by Lamar, Hill and Bisset, from the Road of Funchal, Madeira, Portugal to John Clayton, Gloucester County,…

John Clayton letter to John Hatley Norton, 1772 June 13


John Clayton letter to John Hatley Norton, merchant of Yorktown, Virginia. Clayton writes concering a pipe of wine he ordered in error and request…

To be bought for G. Wythe


George Wythe's order for books and a robe sent with his letter of May 29, 1772, to John Norton, merchant of London, England.

George Wythe letter to John Norton, 1772 May 29


George Wythe letter to John Norton, merchant of London, England. Wythe writes concerning the estate of the late Lieutenant Governor of Virginia,…