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With His Colony Just Over a Year Old, William Penn Sells 500 Acres for Pennies an Acre
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Just 13 months after Pennsylvania was created, this indenture records a land transaction, where William Penn sold 500 acres in Pennsylvania to fellow Quaker William Clark(e) for 5 shillings. Clark became Provincial Councilor and Justice of the Peace in Sussex County (now Delaware). He lived in the area disputed by Lord Baltimore and Penn, and attempted to mediate the dispute between the two proprietors, to no avail.

WILLIAM PENN. Manuscript Document Signed, to William Clark. [London], April 24, 1682. 1 p., 19 x 14 in. On vellum, with red wax signet seal attached to a vellum tab at bottom Countersigned by three witnesses on verso.

Inventory #23407       Price: $7,500

Pennsylvania founder William Penn (1644-1718) became the largest private landowner in the world when King Charles II granted Penn 45,000 square miles on March 4, 1681. “Penn’s Woods” would become a model of its proprietor’s vision with a special character guaranteeing religious tolerance, fair dealings with Native Americans, and a planned cosmopolitan city, Philadelphia.

Penn’s charter, combined with his acquisition of the three “lower counties” on the Delaware River, clashed with Lord Baltimore’s earlier charter for Maryland. Conflict between Penn and Baltimore would beleaguer their descendants for generations. The two points of contention were ownership of the lower counties and the precise location of the east-to-west boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In the 1760s, descendants of Penn and Baltimore finally consented to a survey of their shared boundary by Englishmen Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Their labors produced one of the iconic dividing lines of American history, and arguably the most famous surveyed border in the world.


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