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Charter of the Marine Society of the City of New York, Printed in 1788 with Franklin’s Passy Type
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A rare volume printed with Franklin’s Passy type. According to Rare Book Hub, only one copy of this edition sold between 1946 (Parke Bernet, 16 May, lot 168) and 2021. Provenance: India House. Ref: “A Descriptive Catalogue of the Marine Collection … at India House” (N.Y., 1935).

[NEW YORK]. Printed Pamphlet, Charter of the Marine Society of the City of New-York, in the State of New-York, to Which are Added, the Bye-Laws, and a List of the Members of the Society. New York: Francis Childs, 1788. 34 pp., 6 x 7.75 in. Octavo, contemporary marbled boards (detached), title page toned, some edge tears – but very rare.1/1/1788.

Inventory #26537       Price: $3,500

This pamphlet presents the charter, authorizing legislation, by-laws, and past and (then) current membership of the Marine Society, a charitable and educational organization composed of officers of vessels in the United States Merchant Marine. King George III granted the society a royal charter on April 12, 1770, providing initial officers, a method of elections, authority to create bye-laws, and the ability to hold property and sue and be sued. The pamphlet also includes an extract from an “Act Altering the Stile of the Marine Society,” passed by the New York legislature on May 5, 1786, changing the name to “The Marine Society of the City of New-York, in the State of New-York.” It also presents a series of twenty-five by-laws, passed in April 1788.

The four-page list of honorary members includes President George Washington, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, future Vice President Aaron Burr, future New York governor and Vice President George Clinton, and future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and New York governor John Jay.

The eleven-page “List of Masters of Vessels Names, Members of the Marine Society” includes the date and number of the certificate when they joined, noting several who were deceased. Eleven individuals say “(no admission.)” after their names.

On July 23, 1788, the Marine Society participated in the “Federal Procession” in New York City in honor of the ratification of the United States Constitution. James Farquhar led the Marine Society, “with a gold anchor at his left breast, suspended by a blue ribbon,” followed by the other officers and a standard bearer with a white silk flag, “representing a ship cast on shore; a dead body floating near her; a woman and children in great distress, lamenting the sad catastrophe, are consoled by Hope, leaning with one hand on a large anchor and pointing with the other to Charity, who holds a chart inscribed, New-York Marine Society.” The flag also included in gold letters the Society’s motto, “To Charity add Knowledge.”[1] Three days after the procession, the State of New York became the eleventh state to ratify the Constitution.

XII. / That no person who hath been, now is, or hereafter shall be a master of a vessel, and is requested to become a member of this society and shall refuse, shall ever after such refusal be admitted a member thereof....” (p16)

The Marine Society of the City of New York (1770-present) was originally organized in the Exchange building in New York City in November 1769, and chartered in April 1770 by King George III to “improve maritime knowledge and relieve indigent and distressed shipmasters, their widows and orphans.” It began with seventy-one members and £200 in its treasury. Its members all are or have been captains or officers of merchant vessels flying the United States flag. By 1780, its membership had increased to 650 and its treasury to about £3,500. Among the early honorary members was President George Washington. The Society has improved maritime knowledge and over the years provided support for more than 5,000 distressed seafarers and their widows and orphans. In 1801, Captain Robert Richard Randall provided the financial basis for founding the Sailor’s Snug Harbor on Staten Island, the only institution in the United States for old and disabled seamen and one of the oldest charitable institutions in the nation. In 1854, the Society helped found the Mariner’s Family Home on Staten Island to aid the relatives of seamen. From 1882 to 1902, it operated the Marine Hospital on Staten Island.

[1] The Country Journal, and the Poughkeepsie Advertiser (NY), August 26, 1788, 1:1.

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