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Mary C. Richards accounting exercise book

Identifier: MSS 0097-Item 0183

Scope and Contents

This single volume manuscript, dated 1823-1837, likely created by Mary C. Richards of Lewes, Delaware, functioned primarily as a mathematical and accounting exercise book, but also includes a brief daybook, two ledgers, and memoranda at the end.

Richards, possibly a resident of Lewes, Delaware, signed her name throughout the book. However, it is unclear if she was the sole creator since the names of several other Richards family members were also recorded.

The first three quarters of the volume were dedicated to mathematical exercises, primarily dealing with accounting practices and commercial exchange. Although the creator mostly employed a decimal system of U.S. currency, she also solved problems using English currency. The creator typically introduced a mathematical rule and then solved examples in the form of word problems. The exercises employed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, but also covered more advanced mathematical concepts, such as proportion, improper fractions, percentages, square and cubic roots, exponents, and plane and solid geometry. The creator explored the calculation of interest, the measurement of land and building materials, tax assessments, the balance of gains and losses, barter, and the calculation of shares among business partners. The creator also used numerous units of measure, including apothecary weights, cloth measures, measurements of time and distance, land measurements, liquid and dry measures, and paper measurements. Several of the examples referenced economic instruments, as well as historical and contemporary political figures (e.g. George Washington and Andrew Jackson). In a lesson on compound subtraction, the creator calculated the time it would take a ship to sail from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Interwoven through the mathematical exercises in the manner of a commonplace book, the creator inserted poems and aphorisms. These included a ballad by Samuel Woodworth entitled “Where Hudson’s Murm’ring billows” (1823), an acrostic on mortality, and a brief meditation on the nature of goodness. These entries appear to be in the same hand as the accounting exercises and mostly date to 1836 and 1837.

The last section of the volume begins with a daybook, again attributed to Mary C. Richards, starting in February 1837 and running through the end of the year. The entries described purchases by both men and women. Most of these purchases consisted of large quantities of textiles, paper, copy and spelling books, and various foodstuffs. Following the daybook, there is a ledger labeled “Ledger A” with the alphabetical listing of the aforementioned debtors, followed by a double-entry account of their debts and credits. These credits included payments in cash and goods as well as the assignment of promissory notes from other people.

“Ledger B” follows, which was dated 1823. The last page consisted of memoranda from the first six months of 1823. The unknown author (perhaps Mary Richard’s father?) recorded information about hiring a servant, receiving an appointment to the State House, renting property, buying a chaise, paying school tuition for two women, and sailing for Liverpool. Below this, Mary C. Richards copied out a sentiment on benevolence.

The volume has a blue, patterned fabric cover, which is reinforced on the interior with a striped fabric with pink flowers. The front and back covers are also reinforced with a Philadelphia newspaper, probably from 1834. Inside the back cover there is an orange paper ream wrapper engraved by Joseph Yeager for Gilpin & Co. Brandywine, a paper manufactory that was located in Wilmington, Delaware. The volume contains between 100 and 150 leaves with text written in ink. Most of the paper is unlined apart from a few leaves at the back of the volume. Laid in between the sections on calculating compound interest and cubical measures, there is a cut out of a leaf, probably trimmed from four-color stenciled wallpaper.


  • Creation: 1823-1837
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1834-1837


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Govering Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

The apparent creator of this manuscript is Mary C. Richards, whose name appears throughout the volume. There are several references to Lewes (alternately Lewistown), Delaware, as well, lending to the assumption that Richards was a resident of Lewes. However, it is unclear if Richards was the sole creator. The names Emily Richards, Caroline Richards, and Margaret Richards, as well as Mary C. Rickards, Margaret C. Rickards, William D. Rickards, William Rickards, and Elizabeth Rickards were also recorded. Most entries in this manuscript date to the mid-1830s, apart from “Ledger B” and the brief memoranda at the back, which were dated 1823.

Bidwell, John. American Paper Mills 1690-1832: A Directory of the Paper Trade with Notes on Products, Watermarks, Distribution Methods, and Manufacturing Techniques. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2013.Information derived from the collection.


1 volume : 90 leaves ; 32 cm


This single volume manuscript, dated 1823-1837, likely created by Mary C. Richards of Lewes, Delaware, functioned primarily as a mathematical and accounting exercise book, but also includes a brief daybook, two ledgers, and memoranda at the end.

Immediate Source of Acquisition


Related Materials

This item forms part of MSS 0097 Diaries, Journals, and Ships' Logs collection.

Shelving Summary

Item 0183: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, November 2016.


Finding aid for Mary C. Richards accounting exercise book
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2016 November 10
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA