Go to homepageUncovering the common past of the countries around the Baltic Sea in the years 1450-1800

Advanced search

Trading Company "Thomas Clayhills & Son"


Estonian Historical Archives
Tartu, Estonia

Record group

Trading Company "Thomas Clayhills & Son"
Ekspeditsioonifirma "Thomas Clayhills & Son"
Reference code : 4924
Period : 1633-1944
Extent : 6662 items


The record group chiefly comprises business records of the company and its numerous industrial and commercial enterprises. There are also a number of personal papers of the company's owners (the Girard family) as well as some materials relating to their activities as consuls of various West-European countries and charity institutions funded by them. The bulk of the materials dates from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Relevant contents

Period : 1697 - 1800
Countries involved : Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Various countries
Languages : English, High German, Russian

General ledgers cover the period 1698-1941 (items 1-17 concern the period until 1800) and include data on the geographic range of business contacts (London, York, Newcastle, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Lübeck, the Baltic provinces), business partners and the contents of deals made with them. The company expanded its business contacts in the eighteenth century; direct contacts were developed with Russian cities and trade with West Europe intensified. Journals from 1715-1939 (items 65-80 until 1800) for the most part repeat the information provided by general ledgers.

Memorials from 1716-1939 (items 138-172 until 1800) contain notes taken before concluding business transactions. Items 252-261 (clean copies, 1744-1800) and 319-321 (rough copies, 1794-1800) make up the series of cashbooks (1744-1941). There are also loan books (1732-1855), copy books of bills (1786-1941), calculations books (1786-1915), current accounts (Kontokorrenten) (1776-1828), books on business costs (1789-1927) and post costs (1731-1827). Books on incoming goods cover the period 1775-1930s. Items 691-692 (until 1800) provide data on all goods (salt, herring, vodka, wine, flax, hemp and hemp seeds, coal, sugar, grain), items 789-792 pertain only to grain bought up all over Estland, Livland and Russia (besides, they contain data on grain prices in West Europe).

Books on the loading (item 962, 1783-1839) and unloading (item 957, 1775-1782) of vessels in the port of Tallinn cover the period 1775-1915. They contain data on both the vessels (port of departure, etc.) and the goods carried by them (kind, amount, prices, and customs charges paid). There are copies of invoices (item 969, 1716-1723) (series continuing until 1917). There are also financial reports and balances (1745-1938); items 1241-1242 include balance sheets from the eighteenth century.

Incoming letters as well as copies of sent letters are available for the period 1697-1939. Items 2557a, 2559-2648 make up copybooks of sent letters with alphabetic indexes (1709-1800). Item 2558 contains copies (1697-1702) and items 1629-1637 (1716-1799) originals of incoming letters. They speak about the sale and purchase of goods, monetary transactions, transportation of goods, shipping, market situation, daily commercial activities, and other issues.

The record group also comprises some tiny collections of other merchants: i.e. Hermann Poorten from Narva (a copybook of invoices from 1699-1706, an account book from 1701-1703; items 6042-6044 contain copies of sent letters from 1700-1701), and a Lübeck merchant (item 6046 conists of an account book from 1750).

Finally, the records include two handbooks on commerce: Eröffnete Akademie der Kaufleute, I-IV (1767-1768) and Waaren-Lexicon (1797).


Inventory, with introduction (in Estonian).

Record creator / provenance

The company was established around 1633 by a Tallinn (Reval) merchant, Thomas von Drenteln. After his death the company was left to the Clayhills family, which originated from Scotland. Thomas Clayhills was born as a merchant's son in 1626 and moved to Danzig and further on to Riga around 1639. His sons, Johann, Thomas and Hermann, moved to Tallinn. Johann Clayhills, who obtained the burghership of Tallinn in 1684, married the daughter of Thomas von Drenteln and inherited the company of his father-in-law. His son Thomas Clayhills, the mayor (Bürgermeister) of the town, left the company to his son Hermann Johann Clayhills (1719-1770), who gave the company its name "Thomas Clayhills & Son". After the death of Hermann Johann Clayhills, the company went into the hands of his widow's relatives, the Girard family, originating from Oldenburg. It remained in the possession of the Girards (since 1862 ennobled as Girard de Soucanton) until the early twentieth century.

In the late eighteenth century, the company bought its first ships. It imported mostly salt, iron, herring, codfish, tobacco, hops, etc. and exported flax, grain and timber products, later also asbestos and cement. It developed intensive business contacts with several towns in Germany (Hamburg, Lübeck), Denmark (Copenhagen), England (Liverpool) and Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg). The business continued to grow and extend its scope. In the nineteenth century, a cement factory was set up in Kunda, and an oil-shale mine in Ubja (in German: Uppia) and a gypsum mine in Irboska (also called Izborsk) were bought. The company made investments in many of the most important industries both in Estonia and Russia. The company was nationalised by the Soviets in 1940/1941.