The mercantile house of Dutilh & Wachsmuth operated in Philadelphia from 1790 until approximately 1798. The business was formed in 1790 by the partnership of French-born Etienne Dutilh (1748–1810) and Philadelphian John Godfried Wachsmuth (1748–1828). The partnership drew on both Dutilh’s family and personal history with the world of commerce as well as Wachsmuth’s connections to Philadelphia and the new American state.
Etienne Dutilh immigrated to Philadelphia from his native France in 1783 and by 1784 he had established the import-export house of E. Dutilh & Co. Having been a merchant in both Rotterdam and London prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Dutilh had established many European and West Indian contacts to benefit his new business. One of these many contacts was the Havana-based John Dutilh, who was presumably Etienne’s brother.
By 1788 Dutilh had crossed paths with Philadelphian John Godfried Wachsmuth. In 1790 Etienne Dutilh and John Godfried Wachsmuth formally established a business partnership, and E. Dutilh & Co. became Dutilh & Wachsmuth. In about 1798 Dutilh & Wachsmuth disbanded and Wachsmuth partnered with John Soullier, who himself was an associate of Dutilh.
While the Dutilh & Wachsmuth mercantile house was disbanded at some point in the late 1790s, the partnership between Etienne Dutilh and John Godfried Wachsmuth continued on into the nineteenth century with records existing that link the two in business transactions as late as 1803. Indeed, the connectedness of the two families did not end with the dissolution of Dutilh & Wachsmuth. When Dutilh (who had anglicized his first name to “Stephen” in 1804) passed away in 1810, Wachsmuth married Dutilh’s widow and raised Dutilh’s three sons until his own death in 1828. It is likely that two of these sons were Charles and Edward Dutilh. Both men appear to have initially followed in their father’s and stepfather’s footsteps by entering the commerce business, with Charles later making a name for himself in Philadelphia by becoming the president of the Pennsylvania Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities sometime in the 1860s.
Numerous repositories throughout the country hold Dutilh family manuscript collections. The finding aids for these collections are quite useful in obtaining biographical information on the family. Finding Aid for Dutilh & Wachsmuth (Philadelphia, Pa.), Records, 1772–1875. Hagley Museum and Library. Wilmington, Delaware. http://www.hagley.org/research.html (accessed May 2, 2008). Finding Aid for Etienne Dutilh, Papers, 1785–1803. The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera. Winterthur, Delaware. http://winterthur.org/research/library_ resources.asp (accessed May 2, 2008). Rau, Louise. “Dutilh Papers.” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society 13 (November 1939): 73-4.
From the guide to the Dutilh family business records, 1770–1861, 1780–1810, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)