Scarce Thomas Jefferson Autograph
Signed Free Frank as President
Washington City - October 16, 1805
The first one of these rarities we have owned: a Thomas Jefferson Free Frank signature while President, dated 1805.
A "Free Frank" was a courtesy afforded U.S. Presidents and other officials during the first half of the 19th Century (to our knowledge none exist from President Lincoln). By simply signing his name on an outgoing piece of mail, a sitting or former President was permitted free postage on the item. The use of a free frank has its genesis in England, where such was a common practice afforded to Members of Parliament (and Archbishops) in the 1700's, ending by the mid-1800's when an Act of Parliament outlawed the privilege due to its excessive abuse. The term "frank" has its origin from the Franks of the Middle Ages. In today's vernacular, it means to place a "mark" or "stamp" on an item.
The Thomas Jefferson Free Frank we present is an unusually nice example, particularly since it was signed while he was in office, dated October of 1805. That's important to us, as most we've seen over the years were signed after he left the Presidency.
Moreover, it is fully intact! We are offering the complete "envelope" itself, which is hand addressed by Jefferson as well. The wax seals that once closed the envelope are visible, and the postmark, "Oct. 16, Wash City", is unusually dark compared to most others we’ve seen that have simply faded away. The word "Seal", missing on most free franks, is fully readable and bold. All of these elements make this example an exceptional one (which is why we "zeroed-in" on it).
The Jefferson autograph, in quill-pen ink, appears in the upper left hand corner and is unusually bold. Also, he has added the word "free" above his signature, a very nice addition indeed. Overall condition is excellent, with insignificant light toning; most we've seen are horribly dark and soiled, unless intrusive (non-recommended) conservation was involved. This one is fully original in everyrespect. Fortuitously,
A brief word about mailings during that period.
To state the obvious, there were no manufactured envelopes during this time. Therefore, correspondence started with a simple piece of paper that was folded to form what is today an "envelope". This piece of paper, now unfolded (undoubtedly by the original addressee), is the actual "envelope". Notice the remnants of the seals at the top and bottom. They served to close this homemade mailer. When folded, it measured 5" x 3.5". We are presenting it unfolded with dimensions of approximately 5" x 8".
The vast majority of Jefferson autographs extant are just that: simply his signature snipped off a document or letter. A free frank is the preferable alternative, certainly rarer and unquestionably more attractive, especially when professionally displayed. We can only imagine what the content of the missive contained inside this makeshift envelope, but note that the addressee was a local merchants firm (of Baltimore). Jefferson, a fervid wine consumer, routinely purchased the beverage and even (unsuccessfully) attempted to create the first vineyards in the new world. Perhaps this mailer contained an order for wine - or are we ourselves just biased towards that wonderful elixir?
About Our Third President
Stating the obvious, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) is among our most important historical figures. A Founding Father, he authored the Declaration of Independence, served as our second Vice President (under John Adams), was the country's first Secretary of State (under Washington), Governor of Virginia, an early Minister to France (pre-revolution) , and of course, the third President of the United States, elected in 1800 for two terms. The list of his many accomplishments is extensive of course; however an interesting note concerns the date of his passing in 1826. Though afflicted with a number of maladies causing him much pain, he lived to the ripe age of 83, almost unheard of at the time.
The actual date of his death, coincidentally, or by fate, was July 4th. In addition, Jefferson died on the same exact date as his once political rival, President John Adams. The two did not speak for over two decades, but eventually reconciled. When Adams passed that fateful day on July, 4th, 1826, legend has it that he muttered the words, "Thomas Jefferson survives", though he was unaware Jefferson had passed just hours before.
An amazing coincidence, these two Founding Fathers passed exactly on July 4th, the most important date in our history. Both had served on the Committee of Five, the driving force for independence in the Continental Congress. Adams actually insisted that Jefferson write the Declaration.
We believe to fully appreciate this wonderful collectible, it had to be displayed in its original form--as an unfolded piece of parchment paper, i.e., before it became an official Presidential "envelope". To that end, we carefully placed it in a piece of inert archival mylar for safekeeping, and present it now with a vintage nineteenth century steel engraving of our third President. Both are housed in a stately gold frame using ultraviolet-protected pl
Collectors invariably ask us what historical autographs are best to collect when starting their Americana collection. Through the decades our answer has been constant: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Grant, both Roosevelt’s, JFK and of course, John Hancock (after all it is an "autograph" collection). Though not always easy, our goal is to have these names "in stock" at all times. They are that significant and serve as the heart of any important non-sports autograph collection. To that aim, we proudly present this wonderful 214-year old piece of history, signed item by one of our most influential Founding Fathers.
Brigandi Quality indeed!
Accompanied by the all-important letter of authenticity from the PSA/DNA Company.