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Lot #1
George Washington Document Signed

Rare 1787 Potomack Company payroll document, boldly signed by George Washington

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Estimate: $20000+
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Rare 1787 Potomack Company payroll document, boldly signed by George Washington

Manuscript DS, signed “Go: Washington,” one page, 8.75 x 16, January 3, 1787. Potomack Company payroll document for workers at Shenandoah Falls from September 29-November 12, 1786, overseen by Alexander Pollock, Thomas Pollock Robert Duke, and James Hamilton, listing the names of over fifty men along with their occupations, number of days worked, rate of pay, and amount owed. Endorsed on the reverse by George Washington, John Fitzgerald, and George Gilpin as directors of the Potomac Company. In very good condition, with archival repairs to fold separations; Washington's crisp signature remains bold and unaffected.

One of George Washington's greatest interests in the period between the end of the Revolutionary War and the start of his presidency was the development of the picturesque Potomac River as a navigable inland transportation route. The Potowmack Company, formed to accomplish this task using a series of locks and canals, was formed in 1785 and Washington was named the company's president. The company's 1785 charter provided 'liberal wages' for 'any Number not exceeding one hundred good Hands with provisions and a reasonable Quantity of Spirits.' These laborers led a difficult life, being required to remove a certain amount of rock and debris before receiving their rations of spirits.

With an eye toward the greater good of the nation, Washington's ambitions surpassed those of the ordinary businessman—he believed that improved infrastructure would strengthen the fledgling United States, with the Potomac Canal forming a literal link from east to west and binding together territories in a 'chain which could never be broken.' The project was beset by constant difficulty: insufficient funding and constant legal trouble contributed to the company's ineffectiveness and eventual failure. A significant document associated with a major early American infrastructure project.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts, Ft. Animation
  • Dates: #637 - Ended June 15, 2022

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