Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Ashton mss., 1818-1876, are the papers of William Adolphus Ashton, 1803-1870, textile designer.

Career: born in England, March 28, 1803; married Mary Wood, 1791/2-1838, February 18, 1822; member, Manchester Social Community Company, Manchester, England, and under its auspices led an emigrating party to America in 1834 to establish a cooperative community; sailed April 8, 1834, with five other families; May 10 arrived in Philadelphia; May 30 reached Cincinnati; June 11 purchased 80 acres of Congress lands in Whitewater Township, Franklin County, Indiana, as a site for the cooperative community; land entered in the name of Ashton and William Kerr; community failed, 1836, as a result of withdrawal of members and cessation of financial aid from Manchester Social Community Company; June, 1836, employed by Sawyer & Brackett, Cincinnati, Ohio, designing patterns for oil cloth and table covers; December, 1836, began traveling through Kentucky selling their products; May, 1837, entered into a partnership with R. M. Taylor at Medon, Tennessee, to manufacture oil cloth; summer of 1838 peddled their products in Illinois and Tennessee; October, 1838, the partnership was dissolved and Ashton peddled his share of oil cloth in Illinois and Indiana; September 25, 1839, married Sarah Heap, born March 8, 1815; 1848-1856 with Milo Sawyer operated oil cloth and painted window shade manufacturing business in Cincinnati; October, 1849, John Whiteley Ashton, brother of William, and eight other men peddled Sawyer and Ashton's window shades and oil cloth by flatboat on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers; in the early 1850's studied at the Eclectic Medical College in Cincinnati; 1857-1860, a trustee and treasurer of the college; practiced medicine in Cincinnati until 1862 when he moved to his farm in Whitewater Township, Franklin County, Indiana; 1862-1870, practiced medicine in Indiana and supervised the farm; died, 1870.

The William Adolphus Ashton material in the collection consists of correspondence with members of his family, the Manchester Social Community Company, and business associates, 1834-1869; a memorandum book giving data on the Ashton family, 1833; Ashton's journal, record of expenses and list of articles carried on the voyage from England to America on the Montezuma, 1834; his naturalization papers, 1840; financial records, 1849- 1856; a memorandum book containing boat expenses, October 20, 1849-February 25, 1850, and journals, October 20, 1849-February 12, 1850, and December 28, 1849-February 11, 1850, of a flatboat journey on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers of salesmen for Sawyer and Ashton; Ashton's papers relating to the Eclectic College of Medicine at Cincinnati, 1858-1860; his will, 1870; sketches and patterns of designs for oil cloth and window shades; a sample of oil cloth and two painted window shades; medical notes and drawings; a petition to the U. S. Congress on "Freedom of the public lands," signed by William A. Ashton and others; a photograph of his home; a daguerreotype of him and his second wife, Sarah Heap Ashton; and a farm cash book of his son, Samuel Heap Ashton, 1872.

Other papers on the collection relating to cooperative societies include: for the Manchester Social Community Company shareholders cards, 1832; a document setting forth the "objects" of the company, October, 1832, which also contains a constitution of the Hall of Liberty, Mt. Carmel, Indiana; and a memorial from the emigration company, 1834; and for the Social Cooperative Community, London, England, a manuscript containing its "objects and views," May, 1832.

Also included in the collection are a patent for a water wheel issued to John Edwards and signed by James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, 1818; a paper on passive resistance to assessed taxes, 1833; a ritual of the Order of Patriarchs and Matriarchs, 1855-1860; notes on reform and temperance; building plans; and a drawing of Masonic symbols.

Some of the material in this collection is in an oversize folder.

Collection size: 566 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.