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    George Washington Document Signed as President of the Potomac Company. One page, 7.5" x 4", Alexandria VA, November 21, 1785. A year after resigning his commission as General of the Armies of the United States, Washington traveled through Bath, Virginia, where he stayed at the Sign of the Liberty Pole and Flag tavern and inn, operated by James Rumsey. Washington was impressed by Rumsey, a skilled engineer, cabinet-maker, blacksmith, and millwright, and contracted with Rumsey to build a house and stable for him on some nearby property owned by the future president.

    As the evening wore on, Rumsey showed Washington a model of a mechanical boat he had designed, which could propel itself upstream by means of grapples on the bottom. Washington was intrigued, and wrote a certificate of commendation for Rumsey, that Rumsey would then be able to use when trying to secure financial backing for his endeavors.

    In July 1785, recommended by both Washington, and Revolutionary War hero General Horatio Gates of Shepherdstown, Rumsey was appointed the superintendent of the newly formed Potomac Company. This company, a precursor of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, had as its goal making the Potomac River navigable. George Washington became its first president, as well as an investor in the company. However, Rumsey requested release from the position after a year, citing difficulties in getting proper supplies, securing pay for the workers, and trying to keep the workers under control.

    No longer acting as Potomac Company superintendent, Rumsey was able to devote his time to his dream of steam navigation, something he had been thinking about since 1783. Work on a hull for a steamboat had begun in 1785 in Bath by Rumsey's brother-in-law Joseph Barnes. The boat was brought that fall to Shepherdstown where Rumsey was living.

    The item offered here is an invoice dated September 1785 and signed by James Rumsey, documenting the receipt at Shepherdstown of "thirty Eight pound [sic] and One oz. of Steel for the use of the Patomack [sic]Company."

    At about this time, the Potomac Company was in arrears for the cost of various supplies, and Mr. Washington called for a reckoning of these debts. On November 21, 1785, accounts with the proper vouchers were brought before the committee of Directors, amounting to just over £260, and were ordered to be paid. As each outstanding debt was reviewed, the Company's officers signed their approval for payment. On the verso of Rumsey's invoice, is that approval. It is signed by Washington as President of the Potomac Company, and reads, in full: "The within accts. allowed." It is also signed by John Fitzgerald and James Gilpin as Company Directors.

    The order is moderately age toned with a few small areas of fold separation, and has been matted and placed in a two-sided frame; overall size 13" x 9".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2009
    6th-7th Friday-Saturday
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