Official US Document Signed by George Washington as President
Decemeber 14, 1790
PSA Graded Gem Mint 10!!
Also signed and completely handwritten by William Ellery of Rhode Island. (Member of the Continental Congress and Declaration Signer--second largest autograph after John Hancock!)
This original document authorizes federal payment to maintain one of the first and most important lighthouses in US history; Beavertail Lighthouse in Rhode Island. As the Redcoats retreated from Newport, RI during the Revolutionary War they strategically burnt down and stole the optics from Beavertail leaving the treacherous Narragansett Bay dark for the rest of the War (and many years after).
The importance of lighthouses at this time in history cannot be overstated, they were integral to economic success. Without a guiding light, trade ships could not travel at night or in fog. Unfortunately, shipwrecks were especially common in the notoriously shallow, rocky and foggy waters of Narragansett Bay. As a result, Beavertail Lighthouse was officially constructed in 1749 (though a “tended light” had been established at the turn of the 18th century, making it the first ever navigational light in the US.)
In 1790, Newport was one of the biggest US cities and a major trade hub between the US and Europe. (It’s most notable industry was manufacturing rum from molasses harvested in the South. Newport was the fourth richest city at this time- behind only New York, Boston and Philadelphia.)
George Washington (1789-97) and Alexander Hamilton knew Newport’s key economic role and one of the first orders as President was to restore Beavertail lighthouse to enable safe travel of valuable vessels and cargo. Washington provided immediate federal funding to jump-start trade. Although, federal funding and centralized control was definitely not a popular notion at this time, the forefathers knew that economic success was paramount to the survival of our young Nation.
This official document specifically appoints William Martin to the position of Lighthouse Keeper and defined his salary, “at the rate of $140 by the year”. By all accounts, Martin was a fine keeper and excelled at all his duties including maintaining lamps at night as well as property and structural maintenance.
Rhode Island, hesitant to lose a valuable asset to a central power, made a provision stipulating that if the lighthouse is not well kept by the Federal Government than it will default back to State ownership. (Today it’s still federally owned and maintained by the US Coast Guard.) Additionally, under direction of William Ellery, Rhode Island collected taxes from ships entering Narragansett Bay to help defray lighthouse costs.
Here’s a rare chance to own a historically important United States document with one of the earliest George Washington signatures as President of the United States. Not to mention, the finest Washington autograph in existence! In fact, PSA graded the jet black autograph Gem Mint 10!
It’s also signed by Declaration signer William Ellery (Rhode Island tax collector), his son William Ellery Jr., and an unknown signature of D. Lyman (likely a secretary or witness.) All four executed this contract on Oct. 15, 1790 and “interchangeably set our hands”.
Comes with a PSA Letter of Authenticity and Graded GEM MINT 10!! Investment grade and Pure Brigandi Quality!
Document reads in full:
“Whereas in pursuance of an Act of a Congress of the United States for defraying the Expences of the Light Houses in the several States, and of instructions received from the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States William Martin is continued Keeper of the Light House on the Island of Conannicut in the Town of James Town in the State of Rhode Island &c until the pleasure of the President of the United States shall be known. I William Ellery Collector of the Port of Newport in the State aforesaid Do by these Presents agree with the said William Martin that he shall receive for his Services in keeping said Light House at the rate of One Hundred and forty Dollars by the year. --
And, I the said William Martin Do by these Presents agree faithfully to discharge all the duties of Keeper of the Light House aforesaid, and to accept said allowance in full compensation for my services, and to do and perform whatever shall be required of me respecting the Promises: This provisional contract to commence on the Thirteenth day of September last, and to be subject to the approbation of the President of the United States.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto interchangeably set our hands this Fifteenth day of October in the year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety”