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Daniel Crommelin and Sons (1767-1892)

(A Glimpse into a Dutch Company trading in Early America)


Daniel Crommelin [Source]
(1707-1789)
Primary Source: The Contribution to the Establishment of the American Commonwealth by the Commerce of Amsterdam by Jonkheer Dr. P.J. van Winter, published 1927

Charles Crommelin emigrated from England with his father, Daniel, to New York around 1696. They left their home in England where they had settled after leaving their native France around the time of the growing religious intolerance in that country. On November 7, 1706 Charles married Anne Sinclair and they became the parents of nine children. The first born to this couple was Daniel Crommelin, on November 11, 1707 in New York. Around the age of seventeen, and with the perpetual frustrations of copper mining in Connecticut as a backdrop [his father's enterprise], this Daniel chose to leave the "New World" and emigrated to Europe in 1724 to live amongst relations in Amsterdam, Holland where, no doubt, his budding interests in commerce might be more readily honed. One source [Virginia Harrington, "The New York Merchant on the Eve of the Revolution", P. 199] mentions that father, Charles, had started the Holland Trading Company in New York in 1720. It could be, therefore, that Daniel was sent overseas as soon as possible to establish himself as the firm's primary European contact.

Daniel became a 'poorter' (freeman) of Amsterdam on June 26, 1737. This was also the year that Daniel went into partnership with Louis Poupart who died a decade later in 1747. On October 30, 1736 he married Marie le Plastrier in Amsterdam (the daughter born in Amsterdam October 11, 1711 to M. le Plastrier and Mme. Cognard).

The Beginning of Daniel Crommelin and Sons


Robert Daniel Crommelin
(1741-1808)

In 1767 Daniel's sons, Robert Daniel and Gulian, joined their father's firm, so this may be said to be the beginning of the trading company, 'Daniel Crommelin & Sons'. With optimism about America, Daniel the Dutch merchant, entered into the private merchant traffic but this was suspended temporarily between 1776 and 1779 because of the blockades that were set up during the American Revolution. This stagnation in commerce followed a short burst of flourishing traffic between the Old and New World. The first direct shipments which re-introduced somewhat normalized trade traffic between The Netherlands and the USA were assumed by merchants in New England. There de Neufville, Daniel Crommelin, and others with overseas connections and offices, sought people through whom they could process orders, or to whom they could consign shipments. Thus, despite the wartime conditions, a budding trade had developed which saw the import of Dutch, German and even English goods to America while the return cargo was minimal and did not live up to expectations.

In their enthusiasm and naivity regarding the future prosperity of America, the Dutch allowed their goods to be sold on credit in America and for American paper dollars. But when European entrepreneurs heard little or nothing about the processing of transactions, even those who had started the race to do business in the enticing New World lost their initial enthusiasm. By 1782, before peace was declared, de Neufville was writing desperate letters for payment on goods that he should have received long ago and, according to the Dutch trade practice, making good out of his own sparse working capital.

On January 26 1790, Daniel Ludlow was given authorization to enter into contracts with the USA, acting as an agent on behalf of Robert and Gulian Crommelin. The New York relations of the Crommelins naturally also brought Americans into their office. James Greenleaf, born in Boston, was one with whom the Crommelins did business, and who was associated with Watsonís in New York since 1788. His name will appear again, and not always in a favourable light. Therefore it is good to mention from the outset that his greatest admirers were his descendants who picture him as captivating, attractive, dignified and elegant. Greenleaf married Cornelia Scholten van Aschot in Amsterdam but this marriage was later dissolved in 1796. When Greenleaf was nominated as consul to Amsterdam, William Shaw objected, but this did not prevent his being appointed to that position in 1793. In Crommelin circles, "King", as he had been nicknamed, appears to have been a respected figure.

On behalf of DaniŽl Crommelin and Sons, it may be said that Greenleaf negotiated loans of 2,475,000 Dutch Guilders until 1791, and that he received some 2,103,000 Dutch Guilders in orders for merchandise. The companyís loan negotiations were always completed in the following year, and the interest on loans to the American Government reached a peak in 1791.

French and Dutch investors were the major foreign financiers of the American revolution. In addition to international loans, foreign investors also invested in the domestic debt of the United States through investment trusts that were formed to speculate on the future credit of the country. Shown above is a Treasury certificate made out to Daniel Crommelin and Sons - the Dutch merchant bank that organized a number of these trusts.

Real Estate Speculation in Washington D.C.

The Dutch public showed genuine interest in Washington D.C. real estate in 1794. DaniŽl Crommelin & Soonen then negotiated a loan to their old business partner, Greenleaf (and probably the three partners involved) in the amount of F2,000,000 in respect of purchasing a substantial area (8,910,000 square feet) in the new capital city. Shares were issued sufficient to cover the principal plus interest of 6% amortized over a period of twelve years. In May of 1796 it was formally announced that the first installment would be coming due the following year. However, in March of the following year, it became clear that only some F200,000 worth of real estate had been registered and the consortium had no intention of repaying the outstanding balance.

Greenleaf was then arrested by his creditors and incarcerated from October 18, 1797 until March 31, 1798 when he was released having declared bankruptcy. This was not a pleasant situation for his partners who then took the creditors to court in a dispute over the validity of the mortgage.

It was argued that the creditors could withdraw interest from the shares, but they would eventually have to recover the principal through the liquidation of the property. Since the Greenleaf properties had been chosen mainly in the South-East while the city, contrary to expectation, grew out toward the West, in the vicinity of the White House, it is not surprising that little was done in the way of recovering from the bad loan until around 1840. [Originally the White House was meant to be some kind of a retreat for the head of state, situated outside the city in a country-like setting.] However, even during the period between 1840 to 1846 the results were minimal because DaniŽl Crommelin & Soonen could only realize about 210 Florins on a building lot which had originally cost Greenleaf 1,000 Florins (Guilders).

Back in December 1793 the properties of Morris & Greenleaf had been designated, amongst others, as "part of the DaniŽl Carrolsland within the branches of the canal". That Canal (which is Canal street today) was situated close to the Capitol, but happened to be on the side where little development was taking place.

In any case, it was determined that the validity of the three loans should remain unchanged until their maturity date, and the property was thus returned to the borrowers. However, mindful that the property value had diminished, it is believed that the trustees probably withheld the dividends in favour of the creditors, but no details about this were ever disclosed.

An announcement was then made by Crommelin & Croese that the annual interest realized on the 6% stocks would be reinvested immediately to keep the value of these securities at a stable level. But since it appeared that soon it wouldn't be possible to purchase any more of the old 6% stocks, they invested the freed monies in other securities that were not declining in value.

To ensure the stability of the New York securities, DaniŽl Crommelin & Soonen also offered trades for shares in their own firm or as the basis on which credit would be offered. The Crommelin firm also dealt with Jean de Neufville and other American contacts with whom they had business before the War of Independence.

Other firms which introduced American stocks to the Dutch public include Hope & Co., Ketwich & Vomberg, and the Widow Borski. It appears especially that Hope & Co. also relied heavily on old relations as did DaniŽl Crommelin & Soonen and Willink Jr. who floated stock issues on the Amsterdam stock exchange.

Then there was the matter of a canal to be dug from Jersey City on the Hudson via Newark and Patterson, towards Easton on the Delaware. A canal was dug with 23 overpasses and 24 locks over a length of 100 miles, gaining a grade elevation of 900 feet.


Click to Enlarge

About the time that Willink provided money for the Morris canal in the Netherlands, DaniŽl Crommelin & Soonen brought to market a stock issue worth $3,750,000 on a foundation of 5 Ĺ% debentures on behalf of the cities of Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria who wanted to raise money to finance their part in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company. That way they would try to revive the recently restarted Potomac Plan.

While the stock issue was successful and provided a stimulus to the economy of Maryland in 1828, the project itself suffered a setback when the Union Government under President Jackson appeared less cooperative than would have been expected under President Adams.

By 1835 the company had an obligatory debt of $1,144,963.79 which included not only a loan from Willink but also a number of loans raised in London which were in Dutch hands. An attempt to float another 5000 shares at $200 each failed.


The Cessation of Daniel Crommelin & Sons


(See also: Tutein-Nolthenius family notes)

PostScript

From: Gemeentelijke Archiefdienst van Amsterdam
Amsteldijk 67
Amsterdam
October 5, 1979

To: Mr. P.eng. J.W. H. Crommelin
Van Goghstraat 68
Arnhem

In answer to your above noted letter I can advise you as follows. The file of the firm DaniŽl Crommelin and Soonen (Part. Arch. 654, long 3 meters) is located in our archives at this location. At present it is being inventoried and it can be viewed as well during this time.

In 1737 DaniŽl Crommelin started a business with Louis Poupart who died in 1747. The sons Robert DaniŽl and Gulian were taken on by the firm so that one can only then speak of the firm Crommelin en Soonen. Nothing points at a liquidation as such. Business continued, after the death of Claude DaniŽl, by Tutein Nolthenius and De Haan. For clarification I include, here with a copy from R.P.J. Tutein Nolthenius. The family Nolthenius, part II (Haarlem, 1930, not commercially available) Page 788, in which the members of the firm are shown.

As many important merchants operated as bankers as well as businessmen, at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the firm Crommelin performed as bankers and as business functionaries as well; Businessman-banker therefore is a much used term. During the nineties of the 18th century the firm procured loans for the young United States, up to an amount of four million dollars. During the 19th century loans were procured for the United States for the benefit of ďInternational ImprovementĒ, such as the building of canals. Besides that the firm traded mainly in tea, rice, coffee and tobacco.

In accordance with the large size of the firm, business relations with other merchant houses are plentiful. It is impossible to sum these up. Perhaps an exception can be made for the firm Greenleaf and Watson in New York. In the nineties, during the entire existence of the firm Crommelin in the USA, they were operatives in above noted loans, as agents for the United States and the firm Ludlow and Co.

Finally, the following literature contains much information about the firm and its members: P.J. Winter, ďThe participation of the business community of Amsterdam with the building of the American Commonwealth, I and II (The Hague, 1927 and 1933); R.P.J. Tutein Nolthenius, see above, and J.H. Scheffer, genealogy of the family Crommelin (Rotterdam, 1878). The latter two are probably not available in public libraries but rather in archival libraries.

Dr. Wilhelmina C. Pieterse