Lot 221

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Benjamin Franklin 1748 Handwritten Signed Note With Pepperrell Content In Year He Enlisted PA Militia, Superb!

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Autograph Note Signed, "B Franklin", 1p, 6.375" x 5.625", Philadelphia, June 15, 1748. Reinforced at verso with linen, which appears easily removed. Toning and scattered foxing; folds and creasing with minor separation and small areas of paper loss, none affecting legibility of dark text. Large, bold signature by Franklin. He became a soldier in the PA militia after turning down a commission as a Colonel citing military inexperience. Undoubtedly, with mention of Pepperrell, this note is military-related.

Provenance: Tobias Ham Miller; by descent to Helen Pearson; acquired from her estate by Joseph W. P. Frost; Frost Family Collection, New Hampshire. 

According to a prior owner, Tobias Ham Miller (1801-1870), this document was in an oak frame screwed onto the first printing press in New Hampshire, which had been bought by Daniel Fowle from James Franklin. Benjamin Franklin purportedly used that very press in his printing apprenticeship to his older brother. While Miller was minister of the Congregational Church at Kittery Point, ca. 1838, he obtained the letter from the Pepperrell mansion. 

In full: "I receiv'd yours ⅌ [per] Mr Baynton with the Money as therein specified; and have since deliver'd it to Mr Warren (who is now here) with Mr Pepperill's Letter; of which please advise Mr Pepp'll. I am Sir, Your most hum'le Serv't". 

Some suggest that Franklin is referring to Admiral Peter Warren and Sir William Pepperrell, who respectively commanded British Naval and Army forces in the capture of Louisburg. But in a letter to [John Franklin] of April 2, 1747, Benjamin Franklin refers to "Admiral Warren". Kittery was also the home of a Mayflower family named Warren, so there are other possibilities. Likewise, if Franklin were referring to William Pepperrell, he likely would have said "Sir Pepperrell" rather than "Mr. Pepperrell". 

Recipient: Nathaniel Sparhawk (1715-1776). Merchant at Boston, Portsmouth, and Kittery. In 1742, he married and had seven children with Elizabeth Pepperrell (1723-1797), the daughter of Sir William Pepperrell (1696-1759). He represented Kittery at the General Court of Massachusetts, was elected a Member of the Council of Massachusetts, and served as Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and Colonel of the York County Militia. Sparhawk is the subject of a 1764 life-sized portrait by American painter John Singleton Copley.

Likely person mentioned: Andrew Pepperrell (1726-1751). The son and business partner of William Pepperrell, he graduated from Harvard College in 1743. He did not marry and had no children. 

Likely person mentioned: John Baynton (1726-1773). Born into a prominent Philadelphia mercantile family. He served in the Pennsylvania Assembly and became Provincial Commissioner in 1756. In 1763, he formed the firm of Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan. They traded mainly in sugar, beer, cordwood, and foodstuffs, and set up a trading post in Fort Pitt.

The possible person mentioned: Peter Warren (1703-1752). Born in Ireland and entered the Royal Navy in 1716, rising to captain by 1728. He was the first governor of Cape Breton Island. He purchased large tracts of land in both Great Britain and the American colonies with the substantial prize money he amassed over the course of his career. 

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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