• Ex-Confederate Treasury Secretary Memminger Takes Testimony in Post-Civil War Explosion

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    CHRISTOPHER GUSTAVUS MEMMINGER (January 9, 1803-March 7, 1888) was a founding father of the Confederate States and its first Secretary of the Treasury.  After Lincoln’s election, Memminger, who had been a moderate on the secession issue, decided that secession was necessary. When South Carolina seceded in 1860, he was asked to write the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. He had a difficult job as Treasurer due to financial challenges. He resorted to extreme measures such as income taxation and fiat currency and later issuing increasingly devalued paper money.  He resigned his post on July 18, 1864.  In the post-war years, he returned to Charleston, received a presidential pardon (1866) and returned to private law practice and business investment. The document offered reflects Memminger’s post-war business involvement when he served as attorney for and president of the Etiwan PhosphateWorks Company of Charleston, SC.

    Superbly detailed in an examination of the explosion, this 18 pp, 8” x 12” manuscript document is a record of testimony of an inquest regarding the boiler explosion at Etiwan on November 29, 1870, which resulted in the death of Mr. Shokes and the scalding of Mr. Williams.  Memminger took and attested to the testimony of the explosion. The document appears to be written by the coroner William N. Taft. With the title “The State vs. The dead body of J.W. Williams,” the document details the testimony of the physician, assistant chemist and secretary of the company, chemist, fireman, steam fitter, general workmen, a machinist, the maker of the boiler and a number of others.

    Reporting on the explosion at the time, The American Railway Times said: “The want of common sense, or at least technical knowledge, frequently shown in boiler making, was aptly illustrated in two boilers, one of which exploded with dire results in the Etiwan Phosphate Works, at Charleston, S.C…” (News story included)

    The document offered here reads, in very small part, “…New boilers…had been used for the first time on Friday…A few minutes before the accident, Dr. Pratt in the laboratory [had been] making an experiment, had caused a small quantity of water to be drawn…The pressure of steam was about 70 lbs. The boilers ought to have been capable of bearing 100 lbs. All assistance that could be rendered [the] deceased was done.

    “…W.W. Kerth, M.D…was on a visit at the laboratory and…heard the explosion and went out and found that two of the flues in one of the boilers had collapsed and that Mr. Shokes had been killed and Mr. Williams fatally scalded. There was a bruise on the deceased’s forehead and one on the back of his head…”

    The jurors concluded that the cause of the accident was unknown to them. The coroner, William N. Taft, noted that he disagreed with the findings of the jurors but signed the verdict because the law compelled him to do so.

    Folds, toning and some bleed through, but very readable and a fine piece of post-Civil War Business Americana involving a founding father of the Confederacy.  The document does not contain Memminger’s signature.

    Everything we sell is guaranteed authentic forever to the original buyer. We also offer a 30-day return policy. If you discover a problem or are dissatisfied with an item, please contact us immediately (617-236-4893). Our goal is please every customer.  We are pleased to be members of The Manuscript Society, Universal Autograph Collectors Club and The Ephemera Society. [AM164]