Benjamin Franklin Papers

Philadelphia Linen Manufactory: Stock Certificate for Charles Thomson, 13 August 1764

Philadelphia Linen Manufactory: Stock Certificate for Charles Thomson

Printed form with MS insertions in blanks: American Philosophical Society

In July 1764 a group of Philadelphia citizens issued a two-page printed circular inviting subscriptions to the stock of a “Linen Manufactory” to be established in or near Philadelphia.7 According to this announcement, benevolence furnished the principal motive. “Whereas the number of poor in and around this City, is at present great, and every Year increasing; and as for want of Employment, many of them, especially in the Winter, are reduced to great Straits, and rendered burthensome to their Neighbours; therefore, in order to alleviate their Wants” the promoters were launching this project. Obviously, they hoped their enterprise would be economically successful and that they and other stockholders would profit financially, and the Sugar Act of 1764 explains their optimism and their timing. This measure abolished the drawback on the exportation of foreign linens from Great Britain to the colonies, thereby assuring a rise in price to the colonial consumer. The promoters must have considered Pennsylvania a natural place for producing such textiles because the province raised flax in sufficient quantity to carry on a brisk export trade to Ireland. Writing to Richard Jackson, June 25, 1764, Franklin boasted that “we have in the Nature of our Country every kind of Ability to provide ourselves with Linnen in Plenty, if Dearness should once compel us into the more general Practice and Habit of making it” (above, p. 235).

The articles of association printed in the circular called for subscriptions to stock at £100 per share, for which subscribers were to sign promissory notes. They were to pay £20 within ten days and the balance upon demand of a majority of the trustees. A treasurer, elected by ballot, was to issue certificates, and, as soon as £5000 had been subscribed, seven trustees were to be elected. These men were to complete the purchase of “Wilson Brown’s Interest” on Penn Street, near Pine Street, for the use of the company and to appoint a manager. Distribution of profits and election of the treasurer and trustees were to take place annually on January 1, beginning in 1765.

Three stock certificates are known to the editors, all issued during the summer and autumn of 1764, all for subscriptions of £250, and all signed by Samuel Preston Moore, who was apparently the first treasurer.8 The earliest of these three is printed here.

[August 13, 1764]

WhereasIsaac Norris, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Fox, Joseph Richardson, Abel James, William Brown, Peter Reeves, John Mifflin, Thomas Wharton, Charles Thomson Samuel Mifflin, Samuel Rhoads, William Plumsted John Meas two shares, for himself and William Allen, William Logan, Baynton & Wharton, William Fisher, Samuel Preston Moore, Isaac Greenleafe, Richard Wistar, Jacob Lewis,  have entered into an Agreement of Copartnership, for erecting and carrying on a Linen Manufactory, in or near the City of Philadelphia; this is to certify that  Charles Thomson9 hath subscribed, and by his Note of Hand engaged to pay Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds towards the joint Stock of the said Company, whereby he the said  Charles Thomson  is entitled to his Share of the Stock, and a Proportion of all the Profits arising from the said Manufactory. Witness my Hand, this  thirteenth  Day of  August  176 4

Saml. Preston Moore1

Endorsed: Charles Thomson Certificate for a Share in the Philada linen Manufactory2

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Evans microprint edition, 9870. The circular is dated only “in July” 1764 and carries no names of promoters.

8The other two certificates were issued Sept. 19, 1764, to Reuben Haines, printed in PMHB, XVIII (1894), 262–3; and Oct. 11, 1764, to Richard Wistar, John Carter Brown Lib. These two documents add the names of the following eight subscribers, making thirty in all: Daniel Roberdeau, John Redman, William Morris, Jr., Charles Coxe, Reuben Haines, Thomas Montgomery, John Hughes, and Philip Syng. In all three certificates the subscription figure of £250 is printed out, so the price of a share had probably been raised to that amount since the July circular was issued.

9On Thomson, see above, VII, 266 n.

1On Moore, provincial treasurer, 1754–68, see above, IV, 295 n.

2BF and the other promoters overlooked one thing: in spite of the alleged unemployment in the city, labor was not cheap. For this reason the factory had failed by 1767. Writing to the Board of Trade, Jan. 21, 1767, Governor John Penn reported the demise of the undertaking: a linen factory “was set up about three years ago in this City, by private Subscriptions, for the making of Sail Cloth, Ticking, and Linnens; but the Persons concerned have already sunk money by their Project, for the high Price of Labour will not allow any of the Articles to be made at so cheap a rate as those of the same Quality and Goodness, manufactured in England, are sold for by the Retailers here; they have, therefore, lately resolved to discontinue that undertaking.” Pa. Col. Recs., IX, 353–4.

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