Peter Ray

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NYPL ID number: 1800761
George Arents Collection


circa 1842


Manuscript Receipt Book. ca. 1825-ca. 1843/ Receipts, chiefly for curing tobacco and preparing snuff


The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
The father of Cornelia and Peter Williams Ray, Peter Ray was one of the black community’s most respected members. Born in 1800, he began working in Peter and George Lorillard’s tobacco company as an errand boy in 1811. When he died in 1882, he was one of the general superintendents in the company’s new factory in Jersey City. The Lorillards valued him as a worker, recognizing his skill as a "judge of leaf tobacco, and which will do best for snuff and which for cutting, for smoking and chewing tobacco," and rewarded accordingly.

Ray was also an important leader in the black community. He was active in the affairs of St. Philip’s since its inception, serving as the vestry’s senior warden for all but two years between 1843 and 1862. He also worked tirelessly on behalf of black education, cajoling the city's public school system into hiring black teachers.


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“Peter Ray,” Black Gotham Archive, accessed July 10, 2018,