This collection is made up of 46 business letters and financial records, which primarily relate to commerce in and between Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Caribbean, 1795-1801. Early manuscripts primarily relate to fabrics, buttons, and similar materials traded by Philadelphia merchant John Imlay. Later business letters are addressed to his son, John Imlay, who lived in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and also participated in West Indian commerce.
The Imlay collection includes financial documents, such as receipts and accounts, related to the Imlays' shipping interests and to their involvement in the clothing trade between 1795 and 1796. Among other items, they dealt in ribbon, linen, and buttons. Later business correspondence (1795-1801) comprises the bulk of the collection, and is addressed to the elder John Imlay or to his son. Correspondents from locations such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tortola, St. Thomas, and other Caribbean locations discussed the shipments of rum, sugar, and other goods. Some letters relate to the capture of merchant ships by privateers or allude to conflicts with France (May 22, 1799, and January 14, 1800, for example). Though most letters are purely financial in nature, correspondents occasionally provided local news. Some letters are addressed to other merchants operating in similar industries and regions. Post-1801 items include a financial document regarding the estate of Thomas Leavett, settled in 1817, and a 2-page manuscript of one-line notes about planting crops on an unidentified farm between May and October 1824.