Description

    John Hancock Autograph Letter. One page, 7" x 8.75", Boston, October 31, 1783. Written to Meshech Weare, President of the State of New Hampshire (Hancock's retained copy). For the Native Americans and early colonists, the Merrimack River had long been an abundant source of fish, as well as a thoroughfare through upper Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In the late 18th century, however, industrialists used the Merrimack's natural falls to power textile mills, and even built mill dams on the river to obtain a steady water supply for the factories. The immediate effect of this early industrialization was the near complete disappearance of the fish: by the 19th century, the Merrimack also struggled with issues of pollution and disease. In this letter to the President of the State of New Hampshire, Hancock urges his neighboring state to take the same steps to preserve the fishing industry on the Merrimack River that Massachusetts has. In full: "In Compliance with the Request of the Two Branches of the General Court I inclose to you Two Acts of this Government making provision to prevent the Destruction of Fish by Mill-Dams in Merrimack River etc., As the Designed Utility of this Bill will much Depend upon the measures that shall be Adopted by the Legislature of your State, I am to Request that your Excellency will be pleas'd to lay those Acts before them, and cannot but flatter myself that they will Take such effectual Steps as will ensure the good Effects which our Genl. Court had in View in passing the Bill."

    Despite Hancock's efforts, the fishing industry on the Merrimack was moribund by the mid 19-century, a phenomenon Henry David Thoreau commented on in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). The provenance comes from the Hancock-Chase Collection, formerly house at the National Museum of American History. Very fine condition; mild creasing; toning at the edge; very mild separation at creases.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2006
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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