These were usually handwritten documents, varying in size, containing a detailed description of the obligations and responsibilities of all parties involved in the contract. These “Agreements” might be concluded between an owner and a shipyard, to cover the construction of a vessel, or it could be written for specific work such as rigging, iron work, etc. Included are the signatures of both parties, as well as required witnesses to the agreement. Some documents may display notary stamps or seals, but this was evidently not generally required.
Illustrated above are Shipbuilding Agreements typical of the kind often found in manuscript collections from the nineteenth century. On the left is a portion of a four-page document for the construction of a ship at the agreed rate of forty dollars per ton. The contract on the right is a rigging agreement for $437.00.