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Collins, William

William Collins was born in Gloucester in 1787 to blockmaker Daniel Collins and his wife Polly. William was very probably apprenticed to his father, who was well-established in an important trade whose products and services were in constant demand for new vessels and vessels in need of repairs to rigging. Blockmaking, which included the making of various types of rigging fittings (blocks, deadeyes, belaying pins, cleats, etc.) called for skilled workmanship and use of special types of wood. Inventories and auction announcements for William Collins’ estate give long lists of tools, materials, and products from his business. (Ref. 1)

Daniel Collins died in his 68th year in 1810, when William was 23 years old, making it likely that William was already experienced in blockmaking, and had (with his siblings) inherited his father’s business, including a shop and the wharf at the head of Harbor Cove. Maps of the harbor from 1835 identify the wharf as Collins property, one of them being labeled “Wm. Collins”, suggesting sole ownership by then. When William Collins died in 1845, the property remained in the hands of his family, as indicated in Walling’s map of Cape Ann (1851) and in the Commissioner’s Map of Gloucester Harbor (1865).

Collins’ death did not mean the end of his wharf’s use in his line of work. An announcement in "The Gloucester Telegraph" that year stated that Parker Burnham & Brothers would resume the blockmaking business on the wharf, along with sparmaking and carpentry. All those activities were associated not just with shipbuilding, but with vessel maintenance and repair. They possibly marked the beginning of a major change in the Burnhams’ business, which had focused on shipbuilding to this point, but was now shifting to vessel repairs, and would lead to their building Gloucester’s first marine railway half a decade later.(Ref. 3)

–Erik Ronnberg


1. “Gloucester Telegraph”, April 2, 1845. Administrator’s Sale, April 9, 10 o’clock, Wm. P. Dolliver, Adm’r. Massachusetts Archives, Probate Records, Essex County, March 1845.

2. Henry F. Walling, “Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex County, Massachusetts” (Philadelphia: A. Kollner, 1851). “Commissioners” Map of Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts” (Commissioners on Harbors and Flats of the Commonwealth, October, 1865).

3. “Gloucester Telegraph”, May 7, 1845. “Removal”, Parker Burnham & Brothers, Gloucester, April 23, 1845.

Related tables: Collins's, William (estate wharf) »  //  Vessel Details: Parts / Fittings »

1845 Gloucester Telegraph 2.15.1845
Newspaper obituary
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive


In this town, yesterday morning, very suddenly, Mr. William Collins, aged 56 years.

1845 Gloucester Telegraph 3.7.1845
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

March 4, 1845: “Notice is hereby given, that the subscriber has been duly appointed administrator of the estate of


late of Gloucester, in the County of Essex, block-maker, deceased, and has taken upon himself that trust by giving bonds, as the law directs. All persons having demands upon the estate of said deceased are required to exhibit the same, and all persons indebted to said estate are called upon to make payment to

WM. P. DOLLIVER, Adm’r.Gloucester,
March 4, 1845

1845 Gloucester Telegraph 4.2.1845
Newspaper announcement
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive



ON WEDNESDAY, April 9th, 10 o’clock Workshop of Wm. Collins (deceased) near Willam Burnham’s, will be sold. ALL the STOCK, TOOLS. &c. &c., of said shop,

Consisting in part as follows, About 400 Blocks of different sizes; 600 unfinish-ed Blocks; lot of Lignumvita  Belaying Pins; Jib Hanks; Hand Pumps; 2 Guns; Handspikes; Knives; 1 large Grindstone; Saws; Gouges; Chisels; Planes; Augers; Bitt Stocks and Bitts; 1 Turning Lathe; 2 Vices; Stove and Funnel; Crow Bars; Hammer and Drills; Wheelbarrow; 2 large New Purchase Blocks; 2 second hand do. do.; together with a variety of other articles too numerousto mention.


Wm. P. DOLLIVER, Adm’r.

If it should be foul weather, the sale will take

Place the first fair day after.                    March 29

1845 Gloucester Telegraph 5.3.1845
Newspaper announcement
Gloucester Telegraph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive


ON SATURDAY next, at 9 o’clock, in front of my Store, will be sold,

A LOT of articles remaining unsold, belonging to The estate of Mr. Wm. Collins, such as: 1 Air Tight Stove, nearly new; I Cyl. Stove; Cast Steel and Iron Travels; lot of 7x9 and 8x10 Windows; 100 Junk Bottles, &c., &c.Also, lot of Crockery Ware; Household Furniture; 1 James’s Cook Stove; 4 bottles of Sweet Oil; lot of Books; Letter Paper; 2000 Short Sixes; ½ Box of Good Tobacco; 8 Hindostan Oil Stones; 4 Globe Lanthorns; 4 boxes Pipes; 2 nests of Measures, and Various other articles Persons having goods to dispose of, can do so By sending them in season.

May 3                    WM. P. DOLLIVER, Auct.

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Collins%2C+William (accessed July 23, 2024).
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