• First Postmaster General Osgood, First Anti-Slavery Jewish Activist Judah Port of New York Document in 1806

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    Offering a document signed by George Washington’s First Postmaster General SAMUEL OSGOOD and the first American Jewish activist to have a role in anti-slavery activities, MOSES JUDAH, whose portrait, along with his wife’s, hangs in the Art Museum of Cincinnati. 


    One page, approximately 4 ½ x 8 ½, being a Port of New York certificate enabling the store keeper to open packages for ascertaining damages occurring during shipping, January 25, 1806.  Osgood signed the front of the document as Naval Officer of the Port of New York, appointed by President Thomas Jefferson.  Judah signed on the verso along with Robert C. Cornwall as merchants.  (His name is spelled Cornwell in government records.)  This particular shipment involved anvils. Research included.


    OSGOOD (1747-1813) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College in 1770. He became a merchant in Andover, represented the town in the colonial assembly, and was elected to the provincial congress in 1775. He served on the Massachusetts Board of War from 1776 to 1780, in the Massachusetts Senate from 1780 to 1781, and in the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1784. Osgood led a local company of minutemen into the BATTLE OF LEXINGTON and CONCORD in 1775. They followed the retreating British and became part of the Siege of Boston.  Osgood was made Major of a brigade and an aide to Gen. Artemas Ward. He was later promoted to Colonel.


    In 1785, the Continental Congress appointed him a commissioner of the Treasury, and he moved to New York City, where he held the office until 1789. He held the position of Postmaster General from 1789 to 1791. Osgood also offered his home to President Washington and his wife as the first executive mansion. He later served in the New York Assembly. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as Naval Officer of the Port of New York in 1803, a position he held until his death.


    MOSES JUDAH (1778-1831) was elected to the standing committee of the Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves in 1806.  Judah joined the society in 1799 and was elected to the executive seven years later. His responsibilities included investigating the validity of allegations made by slaves challenging their masters’ right of ownership. There was no official American Jewish opinion regarding slavery at the time.  Several Jewish ship owners on colonial Newport, RI, helped transport slaves from African.  However, many Jewish people were known to oppose slavery.


    Judah’s business partner was the renowned artist-playwright William Dunlap.  Judah and Dunlap were merchants who sold, among other things, china, looking glasses and hardware.  Dunlap appears to have been more of a silent partner. 


    Expected toning, light foxing, small chip to the upper right margin, a couple of small holes at folds, not affecting writing. One small fold tear reinforced with archival tape.


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