Henry Scamman was a prominent banker in northern California with investments in mining, real estate, shipping, and wheat ranching. Born February 12, 1831, Scamman spent his early years in Saco, Maine and left around 1850 to seek his fortune in the then-booming California Gold Rush in hopes of making enough money to pay off debts he had accrued in Saco and put himself on sound financial footing. Scamman and his two brothers bought the bark "Wildwood" in 1871. This ship brought freight to ports worldwide while Scamman owned it, and ended up sold along with real estate in Maine to pay off debts after his death. Scamman, however, was not a sailing man, and spent most of his time working at the House of Scamman bank in Downieville, managing his gold mines in the Sierras, and seeing to his wheat ranch in Butte County. Throughout his years in California, his brothers also kept him abreast of the news from home, in particular the news about the local "Allen girls" who, though distant, figured largely in Scamman's life. He remained a bachelor most of his days until on January 13, 1881, when he married one of the Allen girls, Francesca. The records do not indicate how their arrangement came about, but Francecsa remained in Saco while Henry managed his business investments in northern California during the twelve years between their marriage and his death in 1893. Just prior to his passing, Scamman had made plans to meet his wife and child in Chicago for the World's Fair, but had to postpone his plans when his business affairs took a turn for the worse. Though no records indicate the exact cause, Scamman passed away in August shortly after the reversal of fortunes in his businesses.
Scope and Content
The collection is semi-catalogued and arranged alphabetically by author, or in the case of ephemera, type. The first six boxes consist entirely of correspondence, the lone exception being a manuscript entitled "Mind your Business" one of Scamman's school papers. Highlights include an extensive series of correspondence between the husband and wife from the early 1890s detailing Scamman's discovery that one of his trusted employees, Henry T. Briggs, had embezzled thousands of dollars from Scamman's bank in Downieville. Though Scamman did not prosecute Briggs criminally, he ordered his disgraced clerk to hand over all of his life insurance, his stock in the gold mine in which both men had invested, and any money in his possession. Also prominent in the correspondence are letters to and from captains of Scamman's ship, the bark "Wildwood." The collection's ephemera component is its largest, and includes business ledgers, checks, legal documents, receipts, bills, mortgages, promissory notes, insurance policies, deeds, and tax forms. There is also an autographed copy of a book given to Scamman's daughter in 1932 in oversize. Subjects in the collection include: agriculture; banks and banking; Butte County and Downieville (Calif.); merchant ships; mining; and Saco (Me.).