Alexander Hamilton Papers
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Receipt from William Pearce, 20 August 1791

Receipt from William Pearce1

[Philadelphia, August 20, 1791. “Received Philadelphia Aug. 20, 1791 of Alexander Hamilton, one hundred dollars towards providing the use of Society for the establishment of Manufactures in the State of New Jersey certain machines & models of Machines to be delivered to the said Alexander Hamilton.”2 Receipt not found.]

AD, sold by Stan V. Henkels, Jr., May 15, 1931, Lot 23.

1On December 7, 1791, H wrote to the directors of the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures: “There is a William Pearce who has been employed by me in preparing Machines for the use of the Society.… He pretends to a knowlege of the fabrication of the most valuable Machines now in use in the Cotton Manufactory.” In describing Pearce, Joseph Stancliffe Davis wrote: “William Pearce came over [from Belfast] also in July at the instance of Thomas Digges, who looked upon him as ‘somewhat like a second Archimedes,’ and gave him letters to the President, the Secretary of State, ‘Governor’ Dickinson of Pennsylvania, William Seton, cashier of the Bank of New York, and others. On Jefferson’s promise that ‘all charges would be faithfully repaid,’ Seton paid Pearce’s passage money, supplied him with funds to go to Philadelphia, and sent his precious models to Tench Coxe. Thus he came in touch with Hamilton, who at once set him to work and personally advanced him ample funds for constructing his machines” (Davis, Essays description begins Joseph Stancliffe Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations (“Harvard Economic Studies,” XVI [Cambridge, 1917]). description ends , I, 401).

Pearce had been engaged in cotton manufactures in Belfast, Ireland, when Digges encouraged him to emigrate to the United States. In a letter to Jefferson, dated April 28, 1791, Digges described Pearce’s background as follows: “Pearce came last from Dorcaster in Yorkshire, & is the artist who erected the famous Mills of Messr. Cartwright of that place, which dress the wool, spin, and weaves it into Broad Cloth by force of water, Steam, or Horse…” (ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress). This letter also contains an account of the textile machines Pearce had developed in Belfast.

2This quotation has been taken from an extract of this document in the dealer’s catalogue.

An undated manuscript in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress, reads as follows:

“A list of Mr Willm Pearce’s Machines

“1st   A machine for spinning combed wool into yarns of various sizes by a combination of rollers (with a large cylinder) which take their movement from a wheel turned by hand, and capable with some variations of being moved by water or any other power, and that this machine is also capable of spinning yarns of flax & hemp.

“2nd   A machine composed of rollers for the perpetual spinning of cotton-wool into yarns of various sizes capable of being moved by hand, water or any other power with a Jack for winding by water or hand, that the said rollers, applied to the perpetual or water spinning machines, are capable of being so combined with the ordinary spinning Jenny as to form a highly useful hand machine denominated a Mule.

“3rd   A machine denominated a Billy for roving or preparing cotton for the common spinning Jenny and other purposes, likewise for roving tow suitable for candle wick by means of a feeding Cloth, a roller and spindles.

“4th   A machine or loom for weaving cloths of any material such as cotton, linen, wool silk or hair, capable of being moved by water or any other power.

“5th   A loom for weaving cloths of various kinds which he denomiates a multiplier, capable of weaving two, three and perhaps more pieces of goods at one time. Connected with this Machine is a set of Temples in two, three or more pairs or parts for stretching the Cloth while in the loom—also a sett of unknotted hiddles or hells (sometimes called harness or geers) in two, three or more parts according to the number of pieces of Cloth in the multiplier.”

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