Lot 223

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B. Franklin Signed Philadelphia Partial Land Grant Dated Less Than 6 Months After Launch of "Poor Richard's Almanack"

A partial document signed by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), then a 27-year-old printer/publisher with literary ambitions, as one of two land grant witnesses, as "B. Franklin" at center. The fragment is from a larger document dated May 15, 1733. [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.] The document is flanked at left by a glossy photo reprint of Benjamin Franklin's 1778 portrait by Joseph Duplessis, and both are displayed in a custom double-sided mat whose rear opening permits a view of the front of the document. The mat measures approximately 21.5" x 14.75" x 1" overall. Postdates the earliest known signature by only 2 years and we can locate only two signed examples that predate this. Provenance: Freeman's auction 1978 where it fetched a then enormous price of over $1000, equivalent to what a decent Abraham Lincoln ALS might bring at that time.

In addition to Franklin, the document fragment is also countersigned by seller Mary Jackson as "Mary Jackson"; witness Rebecca Edgell as "Rebecca Edgell"; and Philadelphia Recorder of Deeds Charles Brockden as "C. Brockden." The vellum document is double-sided, with details of the real estate transaction secretarially inscribed verso. Expected wear including minor discoloration, isolated wrinkles, and gentle curling, else near fine. Trimmed to a completed size of 7.125" x 7.75" and displayed in a floating mount.

Franklin witnessed this real estate transaction between Mary Jackson, an unmarried woman, and Alexander Wooddrop, a local merchant, in which two tracts of marsh and meadow were sold for 240£. The land was situated in Blockley adjoining Stephen Jackson's Plantation. Originally incorporated in 1704 and encompassing the west side of the Schuylkill River, Blockley township would merge with the City of Philadelphia in 1854. Stephen Jackson had acquired his 500+-acre plantation in 1716, and later sold portions of it to Andrew Hamilton, whose grandson, William Hamilton, commissioned The Woodlands, a Federal mansion/estate designated as a National Historic Landmark District. This area is now part of modern-day West Philadelphia.

Less than six months before witnessing this deal, in late December 1732, Benjamin Franklin had launched the inaugural edition of "Poor Richard's Almanack." The Almanac, authored and compiled by Franklin under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, was a medley of weather forecasts, astronomical information, household tips, poems, aphorisms, puzzles, diversions, and serial stories. Franklin continuously edited and published the incredibly popular almanac until 1758.

Other document signers include Rebecca Edgell, the wife of Philadelphia landlord, merchant, and pewterer Simon Edgell (1687-1742). The Edgells had rented a house to Franklin and his business partner Hugh Meredith for their printing shop, ca. 1728-1738. (Franklin would likewise also witness the signing of Simon Edgell's will.)Charles Brockden (1683-1769) served as the Master of Rolls of the Province of Pennsylvania and as Recorder of Deeds for Philadelphia between 1716-1767.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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December 14, 2022 11:00 AM EST
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000