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James Fullton: A Phildelphia Merchant & His Customers

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review 2001


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by Richard K. McMaster

"By the middle years of the eighteenth century business firms in Londonderry, Belfast, and Newry had established commercial links with Philadelphia, New York, and other American ports. Their agents shipped cargoes of flaxseed, flour, wheat, iron, timber, and barrel staves to Ulster ports.

Since flaxseed had to arrive in ample time for spring planting, there was a seasonal rhythm to the trade. On the arrival of the flaxseed ships their owners advertised for passengers, redemptioners (whose fares were paid on arrival, usually by family members) and indentured servants for the outward passage to America.

These ships would also carry an assortment of Irish linens, beef, potatoes, gammons and other items to sell in the Colonies. If the emigrant ships arrived early in the season, there would be time for an additional voyage to one of the Southern or West Indian colonies before taking on flaxseed and flour in Philadelphia to sail for home in November or December.

Early arrival at Derry or Belfast permitted flaxseed ships to fit in another voyage to Bristol or Norway before embarking passengers for the Colonies. Every firm trading to America needed a trusted and competent man on the spot to handle each stage of a complicated business transaction."

This article looks at the life and work of James Fullton, a Philadelphia merchant with connections in Londonderry and Rathmelton, Co. Donegal.