September 21, 2022 11:00 EST

Books and Manuscripts

 
  Lot 89
 

89

[Philadelphia & Pennsylvania] [Penn, William]
Printed Document, signed

A very rare document dating to the founding years of Pennsylvania, issued by the first large-scale business venture in the colony to the very first purchaser of Pennsylvania land

London, August 17, 1683. One sheet, 2 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (63 x 190 mm). Partially-printed receipt (No. 258) on vellum, issued by the Free Society of Traders in Pennsilvania to William Penn's business manager and First Purchaser, Philip Ford, for £50 in stock in the company; signed by Nicholas More as President of the Free Society, and James Claypoole as its Treasurer; original red wax seal intact, bottom right corner; inscribed on verso by Ford, assigning profits to Thomas Hodson, dated September 16, 1683.

A very rare document dating to the founding years of Pennsylvania: a receipt issued by the Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania for stock in its company. The Free Society was the first joint-stock company to operate in Philadelphia, and was established in 1682 by prominent English Quakers, friends, and wealthy business associates of founder William Penn. Upon receiving a charter for a new colony by King Charles II in 1681, Penn understood that in order for it to succeed it would need a steady flow of settlers, as well as abundant financial capital, to help it grow and prosper. To guarantee both, Penn granted generous privileges and concessions--both economic and political--to entice investors who were willing to provide financial backing, either through the purchase of land, or, through investments in trade and nascent industries. With Penn's encouragement, the Free Society was organized to take advantage of his concessions and acted as the colony's semi-official trading company, with the aim of developing and controlling the economic possibilities in the new colony.

The three signers of this document, Philip Ford (ca. 1631-1702), Nicholas More (d. 1689) and James Claypoole (1634-87), were heavily invested from the start in Penn's Holy Experiment. All three were First Purchasers, and were some of the largest early individual landholders in Pennsylvania, with each owning upwards of 10,000 acres. Ford, to whom this document originally belonged, made the very first purchase of Pennsylvania land from Penn, in July 1681, for a 5,000 acre bloc for £100. More and Claypoole would eventually settle in the colony, but Ford apparently never did.

These men were also the Free Society's three principal leaders, its original incorporators, and each subscribed between £300-400 in stock in the company. More, a physician, was related by marriage to the proprietor of West Jersey, and was appointed the Free Society's President due to his generous contributions. Claypoole, second-in-command, was a successful merchant and close friend of Penn's, and was the Free Society's treasurer and it's chief promotional agent. Ford acted as the Free Society's stock-issuing agent while based in London.

Concurrent with Ford's role in the Free Society, he was also William Penn's business manager, and oversaw his various professional affairs, including receiving and recording land payments and making arrangements for newly settling colonists. Over the period of Ford's role as Penn's steward, Penn became heavily indebted to him, and eventually owing him over £4,000. Although Penn made periodic payments to retire the debt, and even went so far as to deed the entire colony over to him as collateral, by the time of Ford's death they had not settled their account. Ford's heirs were likewise unable to settle with Penn, and by 1707, after years of legal dispute, in which Penn accused Ford of trickery and extortion, the Ford heirs successfully sued him for the outstanding debt. Penn refused to pay and was sent to debtor's prison, but was released after paying them £7,000 that he raised from his wealthy Quaker friends.

The Free Society was organized throughout 1781-82, by Quaker merchants such as Claypoole, More, Ford, and others, and by March 1782 they were granted a charter by Penn. To fund its operations, subscription in the venture was promoted throughout Quaker enclaves, such as London, Bristol, and Dublin, and individual stock shares sold for £25. "Over 200 subscribers, chiefly well-to-do Quaker merchants from London and the provincial towns, pledged 12,500 pounds toward this enterprise, and actually paid about 6,000 pounds by September 1682. Penn granted the company a 20,000-acre tract (the Manor of Frank or Frankford) together with a 100-acre tract allotment in Philadelphia, extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill between Spruce and Pine Streets. The prospectus that the Free Society of Traders issued in 1682 made it plain that the company expected to monopolize Pennsylvania's maritime commerce through its trading stations at Philadelphia and on Chesapeake Bay, as well as its London agents who would market the colony's exports and select its imports. Furthermore the society intended to handle Pennsylvania's fur trade with the Indians, build a glass factory, dig lead and iron mines, fish for whales, and produce linen cloth and wine for export." (Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, The Founding: 1681-1701, in Philadelphia: A 300-Year History, p. 19, New York, 1982).

The Free Society's ambitious plans were quickly hampered for political as well as economic reasons. Their privileged economic position was met with opposition from settlers who were already residing in the colony, as well as from newly arriving independent merchants who were suspicious of their monopolizing trade plans. In the Pennsylvania Assembly, rising political opposition to Penn's proprietary management resulted in the Assembly's refusal to confirm the Free Society's charter, leaving them without legal protection as a corporation. Further compounding these issues was mismanagement from President More and the board of directors, which quickly led to them being outcompeted by independent merchants in the region. These problems increased over time, and in only a few years unpaid debts and numerous lawsuits among its members crippled the Society's activities and pushed it toward bankruptcy. By the late 1680s it ceased its trading activities, and by 1721-22 it was put into liquidation and its assets were sold.

The Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia is named after this venture, as it is the location of its original headquarters.

Excessively rare. We can locate only four other examples of similar stock receipts on Rare Book Hub, with the earliest, from 1917, catalogued as "extremely rare."

Sold for $20,160
Estimated at $5,000 - $8,000


 

A very rare document dating to the founding years of Pennsylvania, issued by the first large-scale business venture in the colony to the very first purchaser of Pennsylvania land

London, August 17, 1683. One sheet, 2 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (63 x 190 mm). Partially-printed receipt (No. 258) on vellum, issued by the Free Society of Traders in Pennsilvania to William Penn's business manager and First Purchaser, Philip Ford, for £50 in stock in the company; signed by Nicholas More as President of the Free Society, and James Claypoole as its Treasurer; original red wax seal intact, bottom right corner; inscribed on verso by Ford, assigning profits to Thomas Hodson, dated September 16, 1683.

A very rare document dating to the founding years of Pennsylvania: a receipt issued by the Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania for stock in its company. The Free Society was the first joint-stock company to operate in Philadelphia, and was established in 1682 by prominent English Quakers, friends, and wealthy business associates of founder William Penn. Upon receiving a charter for a new colony by King Charles II in 1681, Penn understood that in order for it to succeed it would need a steady flow of settlers, as well as abundant financial capital, to help it grow and prosper. To guarantee both, Penn granted generous privileges and concessions--both economic and political--to entice investors who were willing to provide financial backing, either through the purchase of land, or, through investments in trade and nascent industries. With Penn's encouragement, the Free Society was organized to take advantage of his concessions and acted as the colony's semi-official trading company, with the aim of developing and controlling the economic possibilities in the new colony.

The three signers of this document, Philip Ford (ca. 1631-1702), Nicholas More (d. 1689) and James Claypoole (1634-87), were heavily invested from the start in Penn's Holy Experiment. All three were First Purchasers, and were some of the largest early individual landholders in Pennsylvania, with each owning upwards of 10,000 acres. Ford, to whom this document originally belonged, made the very first purchase of Pennsylvania land from Penn, in July 1681, for a 5,000 acre bloc for £100. More and Claypoole would eventually settle in the colony, but Ford apparently never did.

These men were also the Free Society's three principal leaders, its original incorporators, and each subscribed between £300-400 in stock in the company. More, a physician, was related by marriage to the proprietor of West Jersey, and was appointed the Free Society's President due to his generous contributions. Claypoole, second-in-command, was a successful merchant and close friend of Penn's, and was the Free Society's treasurer and it's chief promotional agent. Ford acted as the Free Society's stock-issuing agent while based in London.

Concurrent with Ford's role in the Free Society, he was also William Penn's business manager, and oversaw his various professional affairs, including receiving and recording land payments and making arrangements for newly settling colonists. Over the period of Ford's role as Penn's steward, Penn became heavily indebted to him, and eventually owing him over £4,000. Although Penn made periodic payments to retire the debt, and even went so far as to deed the entire colony over to him as collateral, by the time of Ford's death they had not settled their account. Ford's heirs were likewise unable to settle with Penn, and by 1707, after years of legal dispute, in which Penn accused Ford of trickery and extortion, the Ford heirs successfully sued him for the outstanding debt. Penn refused to pay and was sent to debtor's prison, but was released after paying them £7,000 that he raised from his wealthy Quaker friends.

The Free Society was organized throughout 1781-82, by Quaker merchants such as Claypoole, More, Ford, and others, and by March 1782 they were granted a charter by Penn. To fund its operations, subscription in the venture was promoted throughout Quaker enclaves, such as London, Bristol, and Dublin, and individual stock shares sold for £25. "Over 200 subscribers, chiefly well-to-do Quaker merchants from London and the provincial towns, pledged 12,500 pounds toward this enterprise, and actually paid about 6,000 pounds by September 1682. Penn granted the company a 20,000-acre tract (the Manor of Frank or Frankford) together with a 100-acre tract allotment in Philadelphia, extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill between Spruce and Pine Streets. The prospectus that the Free Society of Traders issued in 1682 made it plain that the company expected to monopolize Pennsylvania's maritime commerce through its trading stations at Philadelphia and on Chesapeake Bay, as well as its London agents who would market the colony's exports and select its imports. Furthermore the society intended to handle Pennsylvania's fur trade with the Indians, build a glass factory, dig lead and iron mines, fish for whales, and produce linen cloth and wine for export." (Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, The Founding: 1681-1701, in Philadelphia: A 300-Year History, p. 19, New York, 1982).

The Free Society's ambitious plans were quickly hampered for political as well as economic reasons. Their privileged economic position was met with opposition from settlers who were already residing in the colony, as well as from newly arriving independent merchants who were suspicious of their monopolizing trade plans. In the Pennsylvania Assembly, rising political opposition to Penn's proprietary management resulted in the Assembly's refusal to confirm the Free Society's charter, leaving them without legal protection as a corporation. Further compounding these issues was mismanagement from President More and the board of directors, which quickly led to them being outcompeted by independent merchants in the region. These problems increased over time, and in only a few years unpaid debts and numerous lawsuits among its members crippled the Society's activities and pushed it toward bankruptcy. By the late 1680s it ceased its trading activities, and by 1721-22 it was put into liquidation and its assets were sold.

The Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia is named after this venture, as it is the location of its original headquarters.

Excessively rare. We can locate only four other examples of similar stock receipts on Rare Book Hub, with the earliest, from 1917, catalogued as "extremely rare."

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