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Edward Davison Letters on Early American Merchants in Buenos Aires

Identifier: MSS-4282

Scope and Contents

This collection contains sixteen letters from Edward Davison to his business partner Francis (Frank) Leland in Montevideo, Uruguay. The letters deal with their effort to build up an American commercial firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that dealt in various commodities including beef, crackers, flour, wool, rice, salt, lumber, and gunpowder. A number of letters relate to Davison Leland and Company’s attempt to pursue a contract that would allow them to trade in seal skins; a May 3, 1835, letter indicates that Davison thought Leland’s engagement to “Mr. Aguilar’s daughter” might give them an advantage toward winning the skins contract. Letters frequently mention the names of other merchants, some of whom were competitors, including Hartley, Tileston, Zimmermann, Lafone, Brock, and DeForest. Other letters discuss bills, accounts, and cargo ship arrivals and departures. The first letter, dated October 26, 1834, was written from New York and includes a note addressed to “Dear brother” from “Emma” along with Davison’s letter to Leland. The rest of Davison’s letters cover April 25 to September 6, 1835, and were written from Buenos Aires.


  • 1834 - 1835

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections.

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Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Following their revolutions against colonial rule in the early 1800s, many newly independent South American nations saw an influx of merchants from the United States moving there to start new business ventures. The first (US) American commercial house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was established in 1818 by David DeForest. In 1834, two Massachusetts men, Edward Davison and Francis Leland, opened the house of Davison and Leland to compete with DeForest and other American commercial firms in the city. The firm dealt in various types of cargo shipped in from Cuba, Europe, and the United States. It had offices in Montevideo, Uruguay, across the bay from Buenos Aires on the opposite side of the Río de la Plata, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Two other merchants by the names of Zimmermann and Tileston bought out Davison and Leland in September 1835, but Davison stayed in the city and would later be known as “one of the foremost merchants in Buenos Ayres” (Boston Post, April 2, 1879).

Edward Davison was born about 1803 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He married Emeline Leland in 1825, and they would have five children. He died on January 19, 1874, in Boston. Emeline Leland’s brother Francis (Frank) Leland was born in Boston in 1807. He became engaged to the daughter of Francisco Aguilar y Leal, a Spanish soldier and merchant who was a former leader of the Uruguayan independence movement. In 1835, he married Eufrasia Aguilar (her last name has also been rendered "Aquila") in Maldonado, Uruguay. Francis Leland was later president of the New York County National Bank (1857-1885) and the Sixth National Bank (1863-circa 1883), and died on May 15, 1885, in Manhattan.


1.7 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains sixteen letters from Massachusetts native Edward Davison in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to his business partner Francis (Frank) Leland in Montevideo, Uruguay, regarding transactions at their commercial firm.


The letters are arranged in chronological order and housed in an oversize box.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Alabama Libraries acquired the Edward Davison Letters on Early American Merchants in Buenos Aires in 2019.

Related Materials

See: Edward Francis Davison (1827-1879), New-York Historical Society Museum and Library,

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Ryan, January 2021.
Guide to Edward Davison Letters on Early American Merchants in Buenos Aires
Erin Ryan
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266