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Sale 89: The John Barwis Collection of Philadelphia Postal History

Table of Contents

Philadelphia Foreign Mail: 1709-1775 Colonial Period

Lot 3002    

1708 (Sep. 22) Philadelphia Pa. to Jamaica, folded cover neatly addressed "To Jonathn. Dickinson, To be left with Ezeikeil Gommersale, Mercht., In Jamaica" with sender's directive "p Capt Bayly" who was Captain of the Hannah, receipt docketing "Philadia 22 9ber 1708, Isaac Norris Lettr. p ye Hannah…Bayly Commandr. who arrived Xber 9 & carried to hand the 25 Decembr", letter was written by Isaac Norris in Philadelphia on September 22, arrived at the Gomersall Plantation in Jamaica on December 9, and received by Jonathan Dickinson on December 25; small erosion spot in address, Very Fine and rare early mail from the American Colonies to Jamaica, ex-Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Estimate    $1,000 - 1,500.

The addressee, Jonathan Dickinson (1663-1722), was a Quaker merchant from Port Royal, Jamaica, who along with his family and crew on board the "Reformation" were shipwrecked off the Florida coast in 1696. The party was held captive by Jobe ("Hoe-bay") Indians for several days, and then was allowed to travel by small boat and on foot the 230 miles up the coast to Saint Augustine. The party was subjected to harassment and physical abuse at almost every step of the journey to Saint Augustine. During the arduous trip, five members of the Dickinson party died from exposure and starvation. Spanish authorities in Saint Augustine received the surviving members of the party and sent them by canoe to Charleston S.C., where they were able to find passage to their original destination, Philadelphia. Dickinson's family eventually settled there, and he prospered as a merchant and real estate owner, twice serving as Mayor in 1712-1713 and 1717-1719. Jonathan Dickinson's journal, written in 1697, is the earliest description of Native American culture in eastern Florida.

The sender, Isaac Norris (1671-1735) was a wealthy Quaker merchant, mayor of Philadelphia in 1724 and member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for many years. The Norris family emigrated from England to Jamaica around 1678, and in 1690 Isaac went to Philadelphia to arrange for his family to move to that city, but on his return he found that they had all died in the great earthquake of 1692 at Port Royal. He returned to Philadelphia and settled into business as a merchant and politician, becoming one of the wealthiest proprietors in Pennsylvania. While he was in England in 1706, he came to the aid of William Penn in his difficulties and rescued him from imprisonment.

Realized: $1,000

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