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Aaron Lopez Papers

Identifier: P-11

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Aaron Lopez encompass the breadth of his mercantile activities in Rhode Island and throughout New England during the period preceding the Revolutionary War. The collection comprises a large proportion of the extant Lopez papers, second only to that housed by the Newport Historical Society in Newport, RI.

The Aaron Lopez collection comprises accounts and correspondence with local merchants in Newport, as well as with important mercantile firms and families located elsewhere in British North America and abroad; local artisans, traders, and workmen; and Newport mariners such as Nathaniel Hathaway, Benjamin Allen, Jeremiah Osborne, John Peters, Benjamin Wright and others. The correspondence includes the important merchants Henry Lloyd of Boston, Henry Cruger of Bristol, George Hayley of London, William Stead of Sheffield and New Bedford whaler Joseph Rotch. In short, the Lopez papers reflect the diversity of communal life, social interaction, and mercantile activity both within the Jewish community and throughout British North America prior to 1783.

The collection is valuable to researchers interested in general mercantile activities in colonial America, in 18th century whaling activities, in colonial shipping practices, in the marketing of English textiles, and in colonial artisan and manufacturing activities. The collection contains shipping records, mercantile accounts, notations, correspondence and inventories of estates for several of the children of Aaron Lopez. The vast majority of the items are in English, although some correspondents wrote to Lopez in Portuguese, Spanish and French. Additionally, only a few items contain notations in Hebrew or Yiddish (generally not made by Lopez).


  • Creation: 1752-1994, 1846, 1852, 1953


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and /Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

However, researchers are advised that much of the paper in the collection is in extremely poor condition due to prior damage by water and mold, and must be handled carefully. The Society reserves the right to restrict the use, including photocopying, of fragile items in the collection for the purpose of preventing further damage. Researchers should also note that many items, while not fragile, may be difficult to decipher due to stains from prior water damage, foxing, mold, mildew and faded inks.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Aaron Lopez (1731-1782)

Duarte (Aaron) Lopez was born in Portugal in 1731 to well-to-do parents who were part of the Converso community. Raised to practice Judaism only in secret while maintaining outward conformity with Catholicism, Lopez reached maturity, married, and had a daughter before deciding to leave Portugal for a new, openly Jewish life in British North America. There, he joined his older brother Moses. Moses Lopez, who had himself left Portugal in his teens, had come of age in New York City before establishing himself in Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 1740s.

The passage of Aaron Lopez to British America was unique in its directness. Most of the escaping Portuguese conversos made their way first to London, where they were supported for a brief period by Congregation Shaar HaShamaaim (also known as the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Synagogue) at Bevis Marks in return for their open redemption as Jews.

Following his arrival in Newport, Duarte quickly redeemed himself and his family as Jews, assuming the name of Aaron, and, with the help of his brother Moses, set himself up in business. One of his earliest ventures involved participation in the consortium established by a number of Newport merchants for the manufacture of spermaceti candles. By 1760, his efforts to engage in the wholesale commodities trade had also proved successful. His business activities grew widely over the next 15 years to include whaling and a few ventures in the slave trade, as well as the export of Newport manufactures such as furniture, axes, plank and board, flour, barrel staves, and salt fish.

In 1761 Lopez, along with fellow Jew Isaac Elizer, sought naturalization in Rhode Island under the Act of 13 George II, ch. 7, which authorized the naturalization of Jews as well as dissenting Protestant groups as citizens of the crown within the North American colonies after seven years' residence. However, the two were refused by the colony's courts as well as by the legislature. Lopez, after seeking the advice of renowned Boston lawyer Samuel Fitch, set up residence in Swansey, Massachusetts, and was finally naturalized at Taunton in October 1762. Elizer was naturalized in New York a year later.

In Newport, Aaron began to establish ties with gentiles of his station, including among them Ezra Stiles, the Congregational minister of the town. Stiles, who had a great scholarly interest in Jewish scripture, came to know members of Newport's Jewish community during his residence in Newport. Following the death of his wife Abigail in 1762, Aaron also established broader ties within Newport's Jewish community by re-marrying the daughter of his business partner, Jacob Rodriguez Rivera.

With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776, Lopez suffered a dramatic downturn in his business, along with most colonial merchants. As the British took Savannah in 1778, Lopez evacuated his family to Leicester, Massachusetts, where he set up a retail shop and a modest commodities trade via overland routes through Salem, Boston and Providence. Over the course of the next four years, he became a key supplier to the American forces, providing such necessities as flour and leather breeches.

In 1782, while on the way to Newport with his family, Aaron Lopez accidentally drowned in Scott's pond in Smithfield, Rhode Island, while watering his horse. He left behind his grieving wife Sarah, devoted father-in-law and business partner Jacob Rodriguez Rivera, and 15 surviving children. Ezra Stiles, now President of Yale University, composed the following epitaph for him:


José Lopez, son of Diego José Lopez and his first wife, comes under suspicion of the Holy Office and flees Portugal. In London, José is redeemed as a Jew, changing his name to Moses.
Duarte Lopez born in Lisbon to Diego José Lopez and his second wife.
Duarte marries Anna, the daughter of his half-sister Elizabeth.
Duarte arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, with wife Anna, infant daughter Catherine and younger brother Gabriel. Duarte and Gabriel are circumcised by Benjamin Gomez of New York. Duarte, Anna and Catherine become Aaron, Abigail and Sarah Lopez and Gabriel becomes David Lopez.
Aaron forms a business partnership with Jacob Rodriguez Rivera.
Aaron and Isaac Elizer are refused naturalization by the Rhode Island legislature and courts.
Aaron is naturalized at Taunton, Massachusetts.
Abigail dies at Newport.
Aaron re-marries Sarah, daughter of Jacob Rodriguez Rivera.
Aaron sends his ship America to Lisbon, under command of Jeremiah Osborne, to rescue his older half-brother Miguel with his wife and three teenage sons.
Miguel Lopez and his sons Duarte, José and João are circumcised at Tiverton, and take the names Abraham, Moses, Samuel and Jacob, respectively.
Aaron's elder brother Moses dies at age 51 of apoplexy.
Aaron's eldest daughter Sally, marries Abraham Pereira Mendes of Kingston, Jamaica.
Aaron moves the extended family to Leicester Massachusetts after Newport falls to the British. The family sets up shop at Leicester by overland routes.
Aaron drowns in Scott's Pond at Smithfield, Rhode Island, near Providence, in full view of his family.


7 Linear Feet (14 manuscript boxes)


Aaron Lopez (1731-1782) was a member of the Converso (converted) community of Portugal. In order to freely practice Judaism, he and his family left Portugal and relocated to British North America, settling in Newport, Rhode Island and later, Massachusetts. He began a successful mercantile business and eventually became a key supplier of the American revolutionary forces.

The collection contains numerous shipping records along with correspondence and accounts with merchants, mercantile families, and firms including Henry Lloyd of Boston, Henry Cruger of Bristol, George Hayley of London, William Stead of Sheffield and New Bedford whaler Joseph Rotch. The collection contains manifests, mercantile accounts, notations, correspondence and inventories of estates for several of the children of Aaron Lopez.


Researchers should note that the collection has recently been reorganized. Previously, the Lopez papers were kept in strict chronological order. In order to restore, to the greatest extent possible, the original order in which the records were kept by their creator, the collection is now divided into four series.

We believe that this new organizational scheme restores the context within which these records were originally created and used, and therefore will facilitate use of the collection by researchers.

The four series of the Lopez Collection are:

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY


Purchase, in part, and individual gifts, in part, by Samuel Oppenheim (1915), Lee Max Friedman (1936), and The Sang Foundation (1979).

Microfilm and Digitization Note

Box 10, Folders 12 and 17 were digitized in 2017 as part of the Digitization-on-Demand program. They , and are available in their entirety.

The collection is on 31 microfilm reels.

  1. Reel 1: Box 1, Folder 1 - Box 1, Folder 9
  2. Reel 2: Box 1, Folder 10 - Box 1, Folder 14
  3. Reel 3: Box 1, folder 15 - Box 2, Folder 10
  4. Reel 4: Box 2, Folder 11 - Box 2, Folder 18
  5. Reel 5: Box 2, Folder 19 - Box 3, Folder 4
  6. Reel 6: Box 3, Folder 5 - Box 3, Folder 10
  7. Reel 7: Box 3, Folder 11 - Box 3, Folder 24
  8. Reel 8: Box 3, Folder 25 - Box 4, Folder 6
  9. Reel 9: Box 4, Folder 7 - Box 4, Folder 22
  10. Reel 10: Box 4, Folder 23 - Box 5, Folder 6
  11. Reel 11: Box 5, Folder 7 - Box 5, Folder 24
  12. Reel 12: Box 5, Folder 25 - Box 5, Folder 31
  13. Reel 13: Box 6, Folder 1 - Box 6, Folder 32
  14. Reel 14: Box 6, Folder 33 - Box 6, Folder 60
  15. Reel 15: Box 6, Folder 61 - Box 7, Folder 17
  16. Reel 16: Box 7, Folder 18 - Box 7, Folder 44
  17. Reel 17: Box 7, Folder 45 - Box 8, Folder 20
  18. Reel 18: Box 8, Folder 21 - Box 8, Folder 49
  19. Reel 19: Box 8, Folder 50 - Box 9, Folder 30
  20. Reel 20: Box 9, Folder 31 - Box 9, Folder 53
  21. Reel 21: Box 9, Folder 54 - Box 10, Folder 15
  22. Reel 22: Box 10, Folder 16 - Box 10, Folder 39
  23. Reel 23: Box 10, Folder 40 - Box 11, Folder 25
  24. Reel 24: Box 11, Folder 26 - Box 12, Folder 2
  25. Reel 25: Box 12, Folder 3 - Box 12, Folder 11
  26. Reel 26: Box 12, Folder 12 - Box 12, Folder 17
  27. Reel 27: Box 12, Folder 18 - Box 13, Folder 2
  28. Reel 28: Box 12, Folder 3 - Box 12, Folder 5
  29. Reel 29: Box 13, Folder 6 - Box 12, Folder 11
  30. Reel 30: Box 13, Folder 12 - Box 14, Folder 16
  31. Reel 31: Box 14, Folder 17 - Box 14, Folder 41

Related Material

Papers of the Seixas Family of Newport and New York

Papers of the Levy Family of Newport and New Orleans

Papers of the Touro Family

Jacques Judah Lyons Collection (P-15)

Samuel Oppenheim Collection

A.S.W. Rosenbach Collection of Early American Judaica

Morris and Eleanor Soble Collection of American Judaica

American Jewish Historical Society

George Peabody Wetmore Collection

Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA

Papers of Jeremiah Osborne

Peabody-Essex Institute Library, Salem, MA

Papers of Christopher Champlin

New York State Library, Albany, NY

Papers of the Brown Family

John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI

Papers of Henry Lloyd

Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA

Papers of Ezra Stiles

Beinecke Rare Book Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Papers of Aaron Lopez

American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH

Newport Historical Society, Newport RI

Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, RI

Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA


  • Bigelow, Bruce M. "Aaron Lopez: Merchant of Newport," The New England Quarterly, vol. IV, no. 4 (Oct 1931), pp. 757-776; reprinted in Rhode Island Jewish Historical Notes, vol. 2, no. 1 (June 1956), pp. 4-18.
  • Broches, Solomon. Jews in New England: Six Monographs, vol. II. New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1942.
  • Chyet, Stanley F. Lopez of Newport: Colonial American Merchant Prince. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.
  • Chyet, Stanley F. "Documents: From a Prison in Brazil," The Americas, vol. XXXV, no. 4 (April 1979), pp. 573-580.
  • Friedman, Lee Max. "Some further sidelights on Aaron Lopez," The Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. XLV, (April 1955), pp. 562-567.
  • Gutstein, Morris A. Aaron Lopez and Judah Touro: A Refugee and a Son of a Refugee. New York: Behrman's Jewish Book House, 1939.
  • Gutstein, Morris A. The Story of the Jews of Newport: Two and a Half Centuries of Judaism. 1658-1908. New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1936.
  • Hedges, James B. The Browns of Providence Plantations: The Colonial Years. Providence: Brown University Press, 1968.
  • Marcus, Jacob Rader. The Colonial American Jew, 1492-1776. Volume III. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.
  • Marcus, Jacob Rader. Early American Jewry: The Jews of New York, New England and Canada, 1649-1794. Volume One. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951.
  • Massachusetts Historical Society. Commerce of Rhode Island. 1726 -1800. 2 Volumes. Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 7th Series, vols. IX-X. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914-1915.
  • Sarna, Jonathan, Benny Kraut and Samuel K. Joseph (eds.). Jews and the Founding of the Republic. New York: Markus Wiener Publishing, 1985.
  • Stern, Malcolm H. (comp.). First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies. 1654-1977. Cincinnati: American Jewish Archives and Waltham: American Jewish Historical Society, 1978; Revised edition, 1992.
Guide to the Papers of Aaron Lopez (1731-1782), 1752-1794, 1846, 1852, 1953 *P-11
Processed by Holly Snyder
© 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from aaronlopez.xml

Revision Statements

  • April 22, 2005.: Updated document-type definition, removed boilerplate entities, added a photograph of a portrait of Aaron Lopez. Tanya Elder
  • September 2017: dao links to DOD folders and digitization note added by Leanora Lange.
  • March, June 2020: EHyman-post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States