Holker, John, 1745-1822

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Merchant and French consul general in the United States.

From the description of Papers of John Holker, 1777-1822. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71063366

Biographical Note

  • 1745: Born near Manchester, England
  • 1767 - 1768 : Married Julia Quessnel in France
  • 1770: Partner with father in a textile mill in Rouen, France
  • 1778: Sailed from France to America
  • 1778: Arrived in Philadelphia, Pa. Commissioned as French consul and agent for the Royal Marine in North America
  • 1781: Entered into business partnership with Robert Morris
  • 1783: Dismissed, by Dormesson, comptroller-general of French Finances, as consul general of France in America and as agent for the French Royal Marine Set up peacetime business partnerships with Turnbull, Marmie & Co., Philadelphia, Pa., and with Parker, Duer & Co., New York, N.Y.
  • 1784: Terminated partnership with Robert Morris over settlement of their accounts
  • 1806: Married Hannah Hay Cooper
  • 1815: Married Ann Davis Stillman
  • 1822: Died

From the guide to the John Holker Papers, 1777-1822, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

John (Jean) Holker (1745-1822), born in Manchester, was the son of Chevalier Jean Holker, an English Jacobite who fled to Rouen, France, in 1745 and became prominent in French textile manufacturing. The younger Holker returned to England between 1769 and 1772 to study the Hargreave and Arkwright manufacturing processes. In 1777, father and son were involved in helping the American commissioners in Paris obtain military clothing and other supplies. In 1778, with Benjamin Franklin's support, John Holker and Conrad Alexandre Gérard came to America as the first French ministers to the United States. Holker was the agent for the French navy in American ports and consul of France, and took up permanent residence in Philadelphia. During the war, he supplied arms and provisions to the French fleet, with Robert Morris acting as Holker's American agent in Philadelphia and William Smith as his agent in Baltimore.

By 1780, Holker had become consul general for Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. While acting in this official capacity, he was engaged in extensive private business speculations with Robert Morris, William Turnbull, and Peter Marmie. Complaints from local authorities on his financial activities led the French government to demand that he either observe the prohibition against public officials engaging in trade or resign. Holker resigned in 1781, preferring to continue his various business ventures that included supplying clothes to Continental troops during the war, and later investing in western land speculation, Pittsburgh ironworks, distilleries, saw mills, and salt works. He and his partners William Turnbull and Peter Marmie formed the Alliance Iron Works, which was important to the early development of Pittsburgh as an urban center. The death of his father and the turmoil of the French Revolution diminished his assets and left him with fewer business ties in France. Following the war, Holker settled in Springsbury, Virginia, where he remained until his death in 1822, with the exception of a brief sojourn in France from 1800 to 1804.

Holker had children with three wives on both sides of the Atlantic. He first married Elizabeth Julie Quesnel (1748-1820) in France in 1769; they had one son, Jean-Louis Holker (1770-1884), who stayed in France with his mother. Holker's second wife was Hannah Hay Cooper (1755-1812) of Pennsylvania, whom he married in America even though his French wife was still alive. They had two children: Catherine Cooper (1781-1857), and Maria Holker, who died in 1794 in Virginia at age 10.

After the death of Hannah, Holker married Nancy Davis Stackpole (1777--1857) daughter of Boston wine merchant William Stackpole (1746--1813) and Ann Jackson Parker (d. 1807). Nancy’s first husband was John Morgan Stillman, whom she wed in 1794. She married John Holker in January 1815, and they had one daughter, Anna Maria Adelaide (1816-1875). Nancy Holker died in 1857 at her daughter's estate Long Branch in Clark County, Virginia.

From the guide to the John Holker papers, Holker, John papers, 1770-1872, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Holker, John, 1745-1822. Papers of John Holker, 1777-1822. Library of Congress
creatorOf Ely, Joseph J. Ely family papers, ca. 1696-1924. Hightstown-East Windsor Historical Society
referencedIn Marmie, Peter. [Letter] July 29, 1822, Rostraver Township, Pa. [to] Mrs. John Holker / Peter Marmie. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)
creatorOf Lowell, John, 1769-1840. Statement to the jury, ca. 1803. Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
creatorOf John Holker Papers, 1777-1822 Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
referencedIn Marmie, Peter. [Letter] July 29, 1822, Rostraver Township, Pa. [to] Mrs. John Holker / Peter Marmie. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)
referencedIn Crupper, Micajah. [Receipt of money from Mrs. Hannah Holker received September 3, 1813 by Micajah Crupper, agent for John Holker, to be used for Mr. John Holker's Salt Works on Jacobs Creek, Pa.]. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)
creatorOf John Holker papers, Holker, John papers, 1770-1872 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Turnbull, William, 1751-1822. Holker papers : letters 1788-1816 of William Turnbull, Peter Marmie, and others to John Holker relating to the Alliance Furnace. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland)
referencedIn Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen, 1760-1844. Indian vocabularies, 1820-1844. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Holker, John, 1745-1822. John Holker papers, 1770-1872. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Bancroft, Edward, 1744-1821. person
associatedWith Barclay, John, 1749-1816. person
associatedWith Bell, Daniel, merchant, of Boston, Mass. person
correspondedWith Bell, Daniel, merchant, of Boston, Mass. person
associatedWith Chastellux, François Jean, marquis de, 1734-1788. person
associatedWith Chaumont, Jacques-Donatien Leray de, 1725-1803. person
correspondedWith Clonard, Lieutenant de person
associatedWith Clonard, Lieutenant de. person
associatedWith Crupper, Micajah. person
associatedWith Deane, Simeon. person
associatedWith Duer, William, 1747-1799. person
associatedWith Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen, 1760-1844. person
associatedWith Ely, Joseph J. person
associatedWith FitzSimons, Thomas, 1741-1811. person
associatedWith France. Marine. corporateBody
associatedWith France. Treaties, etc. United States, 1788 Nov. 14. corporateBody
associatedWith Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790. person
associatedWith Gérard, Conrad Alexandre, 1729-1790. person
correspondedWith Grand, Henry person
associatedWith Grand, Henry. person
associatedWith Harrison, Benjamin, ca. 1726-1791. person
associatedWith Holker, Nancy Davis Stackpole, 1777-1857 person
associatedWith Huntington, Samuel, 1731-1796. person
associatedWith La Luzerne, Anne-César, chevalier de, 1741-1791. person
associatedWith La Rouërie, Charles Armand Tuffin, marquis de, 1751-1793. person
correspondedWith LeGriffon, A. D., merchant person
associatedWith LeGriffon, A. D., merchant, of Baltimore, Md. person
associatedWith Lowell, John, 1769-1840. person
associatedWith Marmie, Peter. person
associatedWith Mease, James, 1771-1846. person
associatedWith Morris, Gouverneur, 1752-1816. person
associatedWith Morris, Robert, 1734-1806. person
associatedWith Nelson, Anna Maria Adelaide Holker. person
correspondedWith Parker, Daniel, merchant person
associatedWith Parker, Daniel, merchant, of New York, N.Y.. person
associatedWith Peters, Richard, 1743-1828. person
correspondedWith Peters, Richard, 1744-1828 person
associatedWith Reed, Joseph, 1741-1785. person
associatedWith Ridley, Matthew, 1749-1789. person
correspondedWith Ross, John, merchant person
associatedWith Ross, John, merchant, of Philadelphia, Pa. person
associatedWith Roulhac & Company (Edenton, N.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Rutledge, John, 1739-1800. person
associatedWith Saint Hilaire, Jean-Marie-André de Capriol de. person
associatedWith Sartine, Antoine de, comte d'Alby, 1729-1801. person
correspondedWith Smith, William, merchant person
associatedWith Smith, William, merchant, of Baltimore (Md.) person
associatedWith Stillman, George W. person
associatedWith Stillman, George W. person
associatedWith Turnbull, Marmie & Company (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Turnbull, William person
associatedWith Turnbull, William. person
associatedWith Turnbull, William, 1751-1822. person
associatedWith United States. Continental Army corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Continental Congress. Committee of Commerce. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Virginia--Clarke County
United States
New York (State)--New York
North Carolina--Edenton
Philadelphia (Pa.)
United States
Philadelphia (Pa.)
United States
United States
Merchants--North Carolina--Edenton
Merchants--New York (State)--New York
Diplomatic and consular service, French--United States
Plantations--Virginia--Clarke County
Land speculation--Indiana
Farm tenancy--Virginia
Land speculation--Illinois
Marriage settlements--Virginia
Finance, Public--United States--History--To 1789
International trade
Embargo, 1807-1809


Birth 1745

Death 1822


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