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Lot #1
George Washington Document Signed for the Potomac Company

Scarce Potomac Company financial document, neatly endorsed by George Washington as he aimed to promote early American infrastructure

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Estimate: $10000+
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Scarce Potomac Company financial document, neatly endorsed by George Washington as he aimed to promote early American infrastructure

DS, signed “Go: Washington,” one page, 4.25 x 7.75, January 22, 1787. Potomac Company financial receipt, neatly endorsed on the reverse in ink by George Washington, George Gilpin, and John Fitzgerald as directors. The front, signed by James Smith, reads, in full: "Alexandria, January 22d 1787. Received of Wm. Hartshorne, Treasurer of the Potomac Company Ten pounds Four shillings on acco't." Impressively mounted, cloth-matted, and framed with a color copy of the front, a color portrait of Washington, and a biographical caption to an overall size of 30 x 28. In fine condition. George Washington's bold, crisp autograph is an ideal example.

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. During this period, James Smith was serving as an assistant manager; in June 1788, he would be promoted to manager of the project.

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
  • Dates: #689 - Ended April 17, 2024

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