Lot #8005
George Washington

In 1798, Washington loans shares in the Potomac Company—a firm organized to improve early America's infrastructure
This lot has closed

Estimate: $3500+


In 1798, Washington loans shares in the Potomac Company—a firm organized to improve early America's infrastructure

Handwritten endorsement by George Washington on the reverse of a letter written to him, unsigned, one page, 7.5 x 13, May 30, 1798. Washington pens a docketing note concerning a loan to the Potomac Company, in full: "From the Treasurer of the Potomac Comp'y, 30th May 1798, Enclosing Deed of Conveyance of 16 shares in said Company for the sum of $3,271 36/100 money lent." The letter written to him by William Hartshorne from Alexandria, in full: "I wish I had been at home when thou called yesterday—however I now enclose an obligation for the 6⅌ Ct Stock thou proposes Lending to the Poto Co and wish thou would examine the same. I intend to wait on thee tomorrow or the day after tomorrow in the afternoon (unless in the mean time I should be informed thy business will occasion thy coming here) when we can both sign it and finish the business." In very good condition, with scattered foxing and staining.

Formed in 1785, the Potomac Company planned to develop the picturesque Potomac River as a navigable inland transportation route using a series of locks and canals; Washington served as the firm's president. The members of the Potomac Company met in Georgetown on February 8, 1798, and decided to ask that stockholders transfer up to one hundred shares of stock in the company to its directors for two years, so that the directors could mortgage the stock to secure desperately needed funds. Washington agreed to transfer twenty of his shares to the company.

On March 4, Washington’s personal secretary and President of the Potomac Company Tobias Lear wrote to Washington, 'I enclose a deed for the Potomac Shares which you subscribed for the use of the Potomac Company, which you will be so good as to execute whenever it may be convenient. The form of the Receipt to be given to those who convey their Shares is also enclosed, which will be given when the deed shall be delivered. It was thought best to have those shares conveyed to the President of the Company rather than to the Presidt & Directors—to facilitate the mortgage of them to those who may lend money or Stock thereon.'

Washington later decided to make an additional monetary loan to the Potomac Company. On May 28, 1798, Washington wrote to his broker Clement Biddle (1740-1814), 'Enclosed you will receive my Power of Attorney to sell the sum of three thousand four hundred and ninety four dollars and thirty one cents, Six pr Cent stock of the United States, which stands in my name on the Books in Philadelphia, and also the certificate of sd Stock. This stock is loaned by me for the use of the Potomack Company, and in the application thereof you will be pleased to follow the advice of Mr William Hartshorne, of Alexandria, the Treasurer of that Company.'

Accompanied by an unsigned engraving entitled "The Presidents of Our Great Republic," published by Charles Magnus in 1861, featuring portraits of commanders-in-chief from Washington to Lincoln surrounding a vignette of the "White House"—an early use of this term for the nation's Executive Mansion.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Presidents
  • Dates: #603 - Ended February 18, 2021