June 27, 2008

For all of the knitters

I started to work on this little green notebook. It must have been beautiful in its day. I think it is made from grass green vellum with a beautiful clasp and very nice paper. The dates on the entries range from 1760 - 1785. In the notebook is a loose note from Joy to a Mrs. Frisby (or Hrisby). My favorite part of this letter is the "nittin needles" which Joy is asking to use a bit longer because they are in a stocking - something every knitter can relate to.

June 23, 2008

We've been adopted!

A few weeks ago, we received a lovely surprise in the mail from the Abington Junior High School History Club. They sent us a letter (and a check!) notifying us that they had raised $165 to help fund the processing of the Chew Family Papers. Of course, we were all very touched by this gesture, so I sent them a letter thanking them and asking if they'd like to be featured on our blog. Because it is the end of the school year, we can't get permissions to post a photo, but here is a little bit about them and their decision to raise money to help us with the project:

"In addition to studying history and participating in history-related programs, the History Club at Abington Junior High School believes that it should make every effort to preserve our local history. We decided upon the Chew family papers after reading through the various collections listed on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website. We thought this collection was important due the significance of the Chew family to the region as well as the fact that this collection highlights the lives of “ordinary” Americans. We look forward to continuing to raise money for this very worthwhile cause in the upcoming school year."

We are so excited to have them as our supporters. Look for more information about the Abington Junior High School History Club in the Fall.
Thank you to Mr. Shaun Little and the students in the History Club! You inspired us with your thoughtful gift.

June 18, 2008

Old Money

The Chews saved everything--including examples of currency. Here are a few we came across today.

June 4, 2008

"I am almost bewildered + know not what I write, documents, I have none to send."

Benjamin Chew Jr. was long-time attorney for Richard and Mary Penn. Over the course of many years, Richard Penn's financial situation worsened--for a time, he relied upon his cousin to provide him with financial support, and later, he caused a great rift in the family by seeking compensation for property he felt he was owed by his father's will. He associated with agents who were able to persuade him to become involved in land ventures that were not to his benefit. At the end of his life, he was mired in debt due to his own decisions and his ill health, which made management of his affairs difficult.

In this letter, Mr. Penn's hysteria rises to a boiling point, and he writes to Benjamin Chew, "Your great friendship towards me has been the cause of my death an event which has not yet taken place as you will see, but I hear it will not be long ere it happens. I have been so much vexed perplexed and disappointed in your not enabling Mr. Coates to put in bail for me....I am told this business of attachment might easily have been prevented at the beginning; that was not done and therefore I must suffer."

In the letter following this, Mr. Penn begins to Benjamin Chew, "I am sorry any thing I should have written to you caused any pain to your feelings. I certainly never meant it. You must attribute it to my distress which accumulates every day....For God's sake, do every thing you can to extricate me + if the Francis family will have the Luzerne lands they must in short, I am almost bewildered + I know not what I write, documents, I have none to send...."

Some bewilderment, indeed! There is a very similar kind of exchange between Mary Penn and Benjamin Chew in 1812, a year after Richard Penn's death. Mrs. Penn appointed another attorney to represent her, and then apologized to Benjamin Chew for hurting his feelings, explaining that she did what was necessary, and hoped that it would not hurt their friendship.

Fashion first

Among some documents relating to land deals and legal disputes, were these little drawings and detailed instructions for the design of cavalry uniforms. Benjamin Chew III petitioned the governor of Pennsylvania to fund the manufacture of these fancy uniforms for the 25 members of the Pennsylvania Lancers. Apparently, Colonel Chew picked out the cloth for the jacket and pants, and carefully specified the type of cotton that would be used to create the accents. They were, of course, red, white and blue--blue coat and pants with a red facing on the jacket, red stripes on the pants, and white girthing around. The saber would be hung from a white waist belt. For the summer, a lighter fabric would be used for the pants.

It is unclear whether the governor agreed to Chew's request for funding.