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Guide to the Records of the Tontine Coffee-House
1738-1879 (bulk 1791-1871)
  MS 631

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Gregory Tavormina

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 04, 2011
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Tontine Coffee-House Records serve as the historical memory of the organization. Specifically, the records establish evidence of business transactions and legality allowing this association of capitalists to operate. The Tontine Coffee-House Records are of unique scholarly value because they provide a glimpse into the world of wealthy 18th and 19th century New York merchants (many who were important New York figures) and the peculiar arrangement of the tontine.

The collection's greatest strength is its meticulous financial records, which include transfers, dividend receipts, expenditure lists, and general vendor receipts. The dividends are important because they demonstrate the wealth of the shareholders and the stakes each of them had in the arrangement. The receipts and expenditures provide insight into what was tangibly needed to sustain the Tontine Building. The records are more about the official business of the Coffee-House rather than the informal business that took place there.

Notable items include the Tontine Ship Journal, which recorded aspects of trade such as the contents of cargo, weather and tide information, port of departure, and number of days at sea. It also contains information about the War of 1812, including general news, ship captures, and information on the blockade of the port. The printed copies of the Tontine Constitution list every shareholder, their occupations, their nominees, and the nominees' date of birth and parentage.

The collection is physically divided between manuscripts and bound volumes. The boxes can be located with the call phrase Tontine Coffee House Records, the volumes with the call phrase BV Tontine, and the Tontine Ship Journal with call phrase BV Tontine Journal.


The records are organized into seven series:

  1. Series I. Organizational records, 1793-1871
  2. Series II. Financial records, 1791-1872
  3. Series III. Minutes, 1813-1871
  4. Series IV. Real estate, 1738-1876, Undated
  5. Series V. Tontine Ship Journal, 1812-1815
  6. Series VI. Correspondence, 1794-1871
  7. Series VII. Legal, 1835-1879