Philadelphia. July 8, 1698. pp., on a single folio sheet, docketed on the fourth page. Original red wax seal. Original folds, some expertly and unobtrusively strengthened on verso. Light toning, mild edge wear. Very good plus. Item #WRCAM55383
An extraordinarily rare example of Jonathan Dickinson's signature, applied to a Philadelphia real estate document near the close of the 17th century. The document itself records the sale of a "lott of land" by Daniel Van Beeke to Edward Shippen for fifty pounds sterling. The lot measured 198 by 20 feet, and its location is described by noting the names of the owners of adjoining lots, though "Delaware Front Street" is recorded as the southern border of the lot. At the time of this transaction, Philadelphia had only about 2500 residents. Edward Shippen (1639-1712) was among the most prominent of Philadelphians, serving as the second mayor of the town (though the first under William Penn's charter). The year after this purchase he served as the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and he later served as President of the Provincial Council. He has signed this document on the second page, which also notes that Van Beeke received a further payment from Shippen in 1701. The transaction is witnessed by three men, Abraham Hardman, David Lloyd, and John Cadwallader, next to William Penn's proprietary wax seal. The document is further "acknowledged in the County Court held at Philadelphia" by Jonathan Dickinson, who was serving as clerk of the Philadelphia County Court and the clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly in the year the present document was written. An English Quaker merchant and early American political figure, Jonathan Dickinson (1663-1722) is most famous for what happened to him and his family shortly before arriving in Philadelphia in 1697. Born in Jamaica in 1663 to a British Naval officer who owned sugar plantations, Dickinson married in 1685. In 1696, Dickinson, his wife, their six children, and eleven slaves boarded a ship bound for Philadelphia after a destructive earthquake hit Jamaica. Their ship, the REFORMATION wrecked off the coast of Florida just north of Jupiter inlet, and they were held captive by local native peoples, along with other passengers and crew from the ship. Dickinson, his family, and other captives were eventually allowed to travel by boat 200 miles up the coast of Florida to Saint Augustine, experiencing many harrowing encounters with Indians en route. Five people of the traveling party died before reaching Saint Augustine. Spanish authorities there arranged for Dickinson and his party to travel by canoe to Charleston, South Carolina, where they ultimately found passage to Philadelphia. The journal kept by Dickinson during his treacherous trip through Florida was published in Philadelphia in 1699, the year after the present document was issued. GOD'S PROTECTING PROVIDENCE... is one of the most famous of American Indian captivities, and was often reprinted in the 18th century. Dickinson would later serve in the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly, acting as Speaker in 1718, as well as serving stints as a member of the Provincial Council, Philadelphia city alderman, justice of the Supreme Court from 1711-12, and twice as mayor of Philadelphia. Despite his broad range of official service, few examples of Dickinson's signature have survived, especially from as early as the present example, and emanating from America. Most of the small population of Dickinson signatures are found on documents or letters he sent from Jamaica or other locations after his arrival in America, and when he was still traveling back-and-forth through the West Indies on business. We know of one other example of Dickinson's signature on a Philadelphia document from March 1699. The present document holds a particularly strong example of a truly rare and important early American signature.