ORIGINAL BROADSIDE SEAMAN’S CONTRACT, CONTAINING THE ACT OF CONGRESS FOR THE REGULATION OF SEAMEN, SIGNED IN PRINT BY GEORGE WASHINGTON
(WASHINGTON, George) CONGRESS. At the Second Session… An Act for the Government and Regulation of Seamen in the Merchants’ Service [recto]. It is agreed between the Master and Seamen… [verso]. [Probably Boston: T. Fleet, circa 1800]. Original broadside, measuring 15 by 19 inches, printed on both sides and finished in manuscript. $2800.
Original seaman’s contract issued by Master Penn Townsend in 1801 for a voyage of the Brig Rambler from Boston to the East Indies, listing himself, ten seamen a steward and a cook, finished and witnessed by Boston merchant William Shimmin.
Blank “seaman’s contracts” were printed in advance, with the 1790 Act for the Regulation of Seamen, signed in print by President Washington, Secretary Jefferson and Speaker of the House Muhlenberg. They were distributed to Customs Collectors in American ports, who supplied them to ships’ captains for completion upon enlisting their crews. Every American-owned ship was required to keep such contracts as part of her papers. In December 1801, ship’s master Penn Townsend of the brig Rambler used this earlier-printed form to sign on a crew, “now bound from the Port of Boston to one or more ports in the East Indies.” The contract lists Captain Townsend, Moses Grinnell as First Mate, nine able seamen, John Driver as steward and John Francios [sic] as cook. Ships-master Townsend was for many years a resident merchant in China. In 1799, his brig Rambler was the first American ship to enter Muscat harbor in Oman. Following the War of 1812, the Rambler was one of the first ships from China since the war, arriving in Boston harbor on May 8, 1815, loaded with rich cargoes of silk, tea, and other valuables. The witness to this document, William Shimmin, later became treasurer of the famous Dover Cotton Factory, a Boston-financed enterprise located in Dover, New Hampshire. See Evans 22959.
Generally quite clean, with only light show-through of ink. A very desirable document of American mercantile history.