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The Morris Canal and Banking Company Business Papers 1843-1864

Identifier: SC MS 0156

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection contains 337 paper items including various receipts, bills of lading, tariff and tolls, checks, paycheck ledgers, business correspondence and two maps. The span of time represents approximately 50 years from 1827 to 1893. The years 1854, 1856, 1857, 1859, 1863 and 1864 represent the largest amount of transactions. Some years have no represented paper transactions. The 1827 map (a Photostat copy) is of a map at one time located in the Morris Canal Office at Phillipsburg, N.J. The 1893 map (blue print) has indications that this map is from the Lehigh Valley Railroad office in Jersey City, N.J. The 335 pieces of paper represent the various aspects of Nineteenth Century business and banking practice. The collection was originally filed in a box identified as 627.13 M875 Morris Canal pamphlets.


  • 1843-1864


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions:

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Use Restrictions:

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice:

Please inquire about copyright information.

Historical/Biographical Note:

By an act of legislature of the State of New Jersey dated December 31, 1824, the Morris Canal and Banking Company, as a private company, was chartered to build an artificial navigable waterway as a public highway across northern New Jersey within 15 years. The charter provided that New Jersey could take over the canal at the end of 99 years. In the event that the state did not take over the canal, the charter remained in effect 50 years more, after which the canal became the property of the State without cost. The original company failed in 1841, was reorganized in 1844 with banking privileges dropped in 1849 leaving only a canal operating business.

The canal was intended to connect Phillipsburg, New Jersey on the Delaware River with the tidewaters of the Passaic River. The canal was totally hand dug four to five feet deep 109 miles long completed in 1831but was extended to Jersey City on the Hudson River from 1834 to 1836. What was truly exceptional about this canal was the use of inclined planes as well as locks to gain elevation. It was the only canal in America to use the inclined plane. The canal boats loaded onto railroad carriages were hauled by wire rope (supplied by John A. Roebling’s company) up and down the inclines to the level of the waterway. The canal primarily facilitated carrying coal from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fuel New Jersey’s growing iron industry and on return carried iron ore to western New Jersey and Pennsylvania among other types of freight.

By the1850s, the canal began to be eclipsed with the construction of railroads. It remained in use through the 1860s for hauling coal and freight. In 1871 Asa Packer’s Lehigh Valley Railroad Company leased the canal to gain the canal’s terminals at Phillipsburg and Jersey City to control the fees being charged for shipment of Pennsylvania coal by the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The Lehigh Valley Railroad did not make money on the lease. By leasing the Morris Canal and Banking Co., Asa Packer gained a foothold for his railroad to cut out using the Central Railroad of New Jersey to carry Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal to the Northeast markets especially in New York City (a letter from Cornelius V. Roosevelt, a New York banker and real estate investor and grandfather of President Theodore Roosevelt, reflects New York business dealings). This collection of business papers illustrates the large variety and volume of freight carried by the Morris Canal during the period from the 1850s through the mid 1860s.

In the 1890s, talk began of abandoning the Morris Canal. The railroads had surpassed its usefulness as a public highway and an economical way to haul freight. The Morris Canal was taken over by the State of New Jersey in 1922 and formally abandoned in 1924 being dismantled during the following years.

Portions of the canal are preserved today such as the Waterloo Village near Stanhope, N.J., the Morris Canal Park in Clifton, N.J. and nearby the Liberty State Park in Bayonne, N.J.

The Morris Canal was considered a technical marvel in its day because of the extensive use of inclined planes to overcome the large elevation changes across northern New Jersey hills. An 1827 map illustrating the proposed entire length of the canal is included in the collection as well as an 1893 map of Lake Stanhope, a reservoir for the canal feeders, from the Lehigh Valley Railroad. On the canal’s western end (Phillipsburg, N.J.) a cable ferry allowed the Morris Canal boats to cross the Delaware River to Easton, PA and thereby enter the Lehigh Canal to travel up to Mauch Chunk (renamed Jim Thorpe) and White Haven in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region.


1.0 box, 0.5 linear feet


The Morris Canal started in 1825 was built from Phillipsburg, New Jersey on the Delaware River eastward across northern New Jersey to connect in 1831with the Passaic River tidewaters as a public highway. By 1836 it was extended to Jersey City on the Hudson River. Its main commerce was carrying coal from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to the growing iron industry in New Jersey and iron ore back to Pennsylvania but also carried other freight. The canal was the only canal in America that utilized inclined planes to overcome the elevations involved in crossing hilly northern New Jersey. In 1871, Asa Packer’s Lehigh Valley Railroad leased the canal company to transport Pennsylvania anthracite to markets in the Northeast. This collection of business papers represents the peak years of freight transportation on the canal. The papers represent receipts, checks, ledger accounts, personal business correspondence, bills of lading, tolls and tariffs, and two maps.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection of ephemera contains 14 legal size folders each representing a year from1827 to 1893. The main body of material includes business papers from the years of 1843 to 1864. Within each yearly folder the documents are sorted by month and day usually of the earliest date of transaction. Two maps are included: one from 1827 illustrating the entire length of the Morris Canal acknowledged to be a copy from the Morris Canal Office, Phillipsburg, N.J and an 1893 of Lake Stanhope acknowledged from the Lehigh Valley Railroad office in Jersey City, N.J.

Acquisition Information



No additions expected.

Related Material:

Perkins, William Cassidy. The Morris Canal of the State of New Jersey, Senior Thesis, Lehigh University, 1890.

Roeder, Adolph. The Morris Canal. Special Report of the New Jersey State Civil Federation, Number Eleven, Orange, New Jersey, 1910.

Wilde, Edward S. Review of the Report of the Commissioners Appointed Under Concurrent Resolution of March 31, 1903, to Investigate and Report Upon the “Abandonment of Navigation on the Morris Canal,” and of the Bill Proposed by the Commissioners, 1905.

The Morris Canal and Banking Company Business Papers 1843-1864 M0156 SC MS 0156
Finding aid prepared by William Ying Added to ArchivesSpace by Trevor Wood
April 18, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)