London: 1772. Ephemera. A bill of lading for an early shipment of books from London to Henry Knox's bookstore, possibly the first. Signed by Knox on the verso. The document reveals the ties between Henry Knox, Thomas Longman, John Hancock, Captain John Scott and the Hayley family.
Henry Knox, a founding father of the United States, general in the Continental Army and the first Secretary of War, was first a bookseller by trade. He was born and raised in Boston. He was forced to leave Boston Latin School at age nine on the collapse of the family's ship building business. After completing apprenticeship with Wharton and Bowes in 1768, he continued to work for them, hoping to open his own shop. The Townshend Acts' taxes imposed by Parliament caused a boycott over British goods in Boston, not a propitious time to launch a business dependent on British imports. In the interim, he joined the artillery division of the Massachusetts militia, studying geometry, calculus and engineering. When the boycott ended in 1770, Knox purchased the business of a retiring bookseller and opened the "London Book-Store" in 1771. He imported books from Thomas Longman, the London bookseller who had supplied Thomas Hancock, (John Hancock's uncle). In September 1772, he moved to a new, larger location, where he continued to thrive.
Thomas Longman (1730–1797), was a British bookseller who took over the firm started by his uncle and greatly extended the colonial trade of the firm. The firm continues to trade today. John Hancock was an advisor to Thomas Longman, and involved in the pursuit of the debt owed Longman from John Mein, publisher of the Boston Chronicle. Henry Knox was one of three who were chosen to value the Mein assets.
John Hancock was a Boston lawyer and merchant, and flamboyant signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Hancock family papers, 1712-1854 are held at the Harvard Business School. "Letters to Thomas Longman reference Hancock's involvement in recovering debt due to Longman from Boston Chronicle publisher John Mein. Hancock writes to frequent correspondent Hayley & Hopkins in 1772 about the total loss of the brig Lydia in Nantucket and his participation in the General Assembly. In December 1773, he reports to the British firm about the Boston Tea Party and his ship captain James Scott's knowledge of the events that occurred: "We have been much agitated in consequence of the arrival of the tea shipt by the East India Compa. and after every effort was made to induce the consignees to return it from whence it came & all proving ineffectual in a very few hours the whole of the tea on board Bruce Coffin & Hall was thrown in the salt water the particulars I must refer you Capt. Scott for as indeed I am not acquainted with them myself so as to give a detail."
Capt. John Scott was Hancock's preferred captain. He was a witness to the Boston Tea Party. After Hancock's death, Scott became Dolly Hancock's husband.
The Ship Hayley was John Hancock's ship and it was on this ship that the book consignment was transported across the Atlantic. It was named after the Hayley family, British merchants with whom Hancock had often corresponded and perhaps for Mrs. Mary Wilkes Hayley, sister of the British radical John Wilkes and widow of George Hayley, who came to live in America after the Revolution, to recoup debts to her husband's estate. She became a known personality in the young country.
The Bill of Lading for a purchase of books by Henry Knox, then a 21 yr old bookseller, from Thomas Longman, London bookseller. The consignment was for 11 trunks and 1 box of merchandise from Thomas Longman of London. "No. 1 a 11 Trunks 12. Box", for which Mr. Henry Knox was to pay "Eleven Pounds 16/ Lawfull (sic) Money-" signed by James Scott and dated "Februa. 10. 1772". It is signed "Rec'd the Within Contents Henry Knox" on the verso. 4 3/4 x 9", lightly toned but overall in excellent condition with its original blind stamped British duty crest visible next to a stylized "HK".
An intriguing piece of ephemera, shedding light on the ties that threaded together the players in the American Revolution and the book selling trade. Item #27519