Alexander Hamilton Promotes New Jersey’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures
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Autograph Receipt Signed Twice, in the text, as Secretary of the Treasury. Philadelphia, Pa., August 20, 1791. 1 p., 7½ x 4 in. Countersigned by William Pearce.
Received Philadelphia Aug 20. 1791 of
Alexander Hamilton one hundred Dollars towards providing for the use of Society for the establishment of Manufactures in the State of New Jersey certain machines & models of Machines to be delivered to the said Alexander Hamilton.
[in Pearce’s hand:] Wm Pearce
The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), which Alexander Hamilton references by a slightly different name, was a public-private partnership intended to industrialize the area around the Great Falls of the Passaic River. By utilizing the falls’ water power, Hamilton envisioned a planned industrial community that would promote his industrial vision for the United States. Chartered by New Jersey Governor William Paterson in 1791, S.U.M. was exempt from property taxes for a decade. Washington, D.C. designer Pierre L’Enfant designed the races and sluiceways to harness the waterpower. After a shaky start, cotton manufacturing took off in the late 1790s, followed by steel manufacturing in the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1880s, Paterson was the center of American silk production.
“Hamilton did not lend his prestige to the scheme from afar,” biographer Ron Chernow has written. “In July 1791...he traveled to New York to drum up support for the society’s first stock offering, which sold out instantly. He then attended the subscribers’ inaugural meeting in New Brunswick, New Jersey.” Here, Alexander Hamilton similarly “puts his money where his mouth is” by providing William Pearce, an English engineer recruited to work for S.U.M., with $100 to begin building models and machines. Four months later, Hamilton’s policy recommendations were codified in his Report on Manufactures, which capped his efforts to build America’s industrial economy.
William Pearce produced machines or models for a wool, flax, or hemp yarn spinning machine, a perpetual-cotton yarn spinning machine, a device for preparing cotton, a loom capable of weaving cotton, linen, wool, silk, or hair, and a loom capable of weaving multiple pieces of cloth at once. All of these devices were capable of being powered by “hand...water or any other power,” including mule power.
Very good. Light foxing and staining along horizontal fold. Light toning at left edge. Few spots of foxing. Horizontal fold and damage to lower left corner has been archivally repaired.
Stan V. Henkels, Jr., May 15, 1931, Lot 23
Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin, 2004).
Joseph Stancliff Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American
Corporations, vol. 1 – 3. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1917).
Harold Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 9
(New York: Columbia U.P., 1965) p. 86.