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1776 John Hancock Signed Free Frank
Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $3,555.00
Envelope, dated December 27, 1776, bearing a free-frank signature of John Hancock (1737-1793), Massachusetts statesman and first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hancock's signature has been boldly scripted in black ink and grades "9/10." Hancock was president of the Continental Congress at this time, but because of British advances in New York and New Jersey, the Congress was forced to flee to Baltimore (at this time, most members of the congress had been charged with treason by the British and traveled with a price on their heads). The congress first met in Baltimore, in a house rented to it by Henry Fite, on December 20, 1776, and remained there until February 27, 1777. This envelope, which was written entirely in the hand of Hancock, reflects that temporary Baltimore location. Above Hancock's signature he has written "Congress Baltimore." The letter is addressed "On Publick Service/To/Joseph Trumbull Esq./Commissary General/At." It is interesting to note that Hancock did not provide an address for Trumbull, probably not wanting to reveal his location in case the letter was intercepted by the enemy. The urgency of the missive is indicated by his note along the base that reads "To be delivered as soon as possible." The reverse is docketed by the recipient: "Colo. John Hancock, 27th December, 1776."
Although the actual letter that this envelope once contained is not present, we know of its content because it can found at the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center under the heading "Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 5, August 16 1776-December 31 1776." In his letter, Hancock and congress empower Trumbull to purchase quantities of rice, flour, and other provisions as he judged necessary from the southern states in support of the Army. Hancock also writes that "The Delegates of Virginia will write immediately to the Governor and Council of that State, to contract for the Delivery of ten Thousand Barrels of Flour to your Order, for which purpose you will please to send Vessels to take them in. (2) Your Draughts on me for Payment thereof, shall be duely honored." That last line is also interesting in that it shows that Hancock himself was personally guaranteeing payment for supplies. Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies at the time, and one of the chief financiers of the American Revolution. As shown in his letter, he spared no expense for liberty.
The envelope (10 x 8 inches; unfolded) displays fold lines, one of which displays light toning (through the Hancock signature), as well as residue from the wax seal. In Excellent condition overall. John Hancock's signature is desirable in any form, but those dated 1776 are especially prized by collectors, making this a truly extraordinary relic from the birth of our nation. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $3,555.00
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