Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Benjamin Akin Ledger
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Akin ledger offers insight into the fortunes of an 18th-century artisan during the most productive years of his life, as well as into the structure of a local community in southeastern Massachusetts. The entries begin as early as 1737, when Akin was barely into his twenties -- probably carried over from earlier volumes -- and they continue for over twenty five years. The ledger's earlier entries are in the form of standard double-entry accounts, however the latter third of the book was used as a daybook. Carrying debts on his books for months at a time, Akin settled many transactions on a cash basis, however he often accepted cords of wood, shoes, meat, hides, fish, grain, cheese, molasses, and other goods in barter. In the 1750s, his business branched out in a rather logical direction to include shoemaking and shoe repair, but whether Akin employed journeymen or members of his family to do the work, or did the work himself remains unclear.
The ledger includes several items of particular interest. The transactions provide some insight into the local community of exchange, revealed through entries with Abigail Niah, "widow Indian" (facing l. 171), and particularly with the records of his work as town clerk in the 1750s. These included payments for writing warrants, laying out highways, setting tax rates (l. 162), defending the town's suit against the selectmen of Rochester (l. 150), and "taking cear" [sic] of the poor (leaves 140, 156). Less local, but no less significant, is Akin's brief note on Nov. 18, 1755: "The Great Earth Quake the first That Ever I heard -- being the 18 Day of November at 4 of the Clock in the Morning and Lasted for the Space of four or five minets."
Only the right-hand pages are numbered (by Akin), and therefore references are to leaves, rather than pages. The account book is arranged as follows: