Charles R. Leslie
(Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1860)
[ 1 ]
In looking back on the opportunities my profession has given me of knowing many persons whose names will outlive the present age, I cannot doubt that much which has interested me will be read with interest by others. Without the hope that I can do justice, in my relation, to what I have seen and heard, I am yet tempted to commit to paper those of my recollections on which I dwell with the most interest, and to connect with them some account of my life.
My father, Robert Leslie, and my mother, Lydia Baker, were Americans, natives of Cecil county in the state of Maryland. Their forefathers had settled in that neighbourhood early in the last century as farmers; my father's ancestors being from Scotland, and my mother's from England.
My father was a man of extraordinary ingenuity in mechanics. He settled in Philadelphia in the year 1786, as a clock and watchmaker, having previously pursued that business at Elktown. He was a member of the Philosophical Society, and was known and respected by some of the most eminent scientific men in America, among whom I well recollect Latrobe, the architect of the Capitol at Washington. His business having become prosperous, he determined to extend it by taking a partner in Philadelphia,
2 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
and by going himself to London to purchase the clocks and watches wanted for the establishment. This he did about the year 1793. He was accompanied by his family, which consisted of my mother and three young children (girls), and his sister, Margaret Leslie.
I was born in London on the 19th October, 1794, and my first recollections are of our living in a house in Portman Place, Edgeware Road, two doors from that which I occupied after an interval of thirty years. My brother, the youngest of my father's children, and about two years younger than myself, was also born in London. On the death of my father's partner, Mr. Price, he returned to America with his family.
Our voyage was a remarkable one; and, as my father kept a journal, and as I have been favoured, within these few years, with a sight of another kept by one of our fellow passengers, Mr. Lawrence Greatrakes, I am enabled to give some account of the principal events of it.
We sailed, on the 18th September, 1799, from Gravesend, in the ship Washington, 875 tons burthen, carrying sixteen 24-pounders (carronades), six long twelves, and two 6-pounders. She was an English-built East Indiaman, but when we sailed in her she was in the American merchant service, and armed in consequence of the war between the United States and France. She had a complement of sixty-two men and boys, and was commanded by Captain James Williamson, a Scotchman. Mr. Greatrakes remarks, that:
"Perhaps few instances ever occurred of a vessel suffering greater difficulties, and not being lost, in endeavouring to beat out of the Channel."And my father says:
"We were only just clear of the land when we had been thirty-four days on board.
CHAP. I.] VOYAGE TO AMERICA. 3
was a French ship in sight, and that we must prepare for an engagement. As soon as I got on deck, the captain requested me to get Mrs. Leslie and the children up and dressed, as he wished to have them ready to go below at a minute's warning. We were steering west, with the wind right aft, and the Frenchman following us at the distance of about four miles. It was, no doubt, a ship we had seen the evening before, dogging the fleet we had passed through, probably in the hope of cutting one or two of them off. He did not seem to be gaining on us, so that, at eight, we had breakfast as usual, soon after which we found that our enemy could keep up with us with less sail than we had, by which it was evident he could overtake us if he pleased. Our captain determined, therefore, to slacken sail, and have our fate decided while we had the day before us."Mr. Greatrakes says:
"The orders to clear for action were productive of some droll scenes. Great was the confusion produced among the passengers some half-asleep, some only half-dressed, running every way but the right one, and carrying their moveables everywhere but where they should; bemoaning their unhappy lot in coming to sea in time of war; rolling up their bedding, and tumbling their trunks down the orlop deck stairs; and some of them tumbling themselves after them; inquiring of every one whom they judged in the least likely to know, whether it would be a hard fight; whether the French would take all the passengers' property; whether they should be put into prison; whether they should ever get home; &c., &c."To return to my father's journal:
"At half-past nine we had everything in readiness, and every man to his station: the guns all primed, the matches lit, and all the women and children ordered down into the hold.... At a quarter before ten the Frenchman fired one gun, though at too great a distance to reach us. In five minutes more they were near enough, when our captain fired our first gun with his own hand, it being one that stood on the quarter-deck; the men gave three cheers, and the action commenced very briskly on both sides, the two ships being near enough to use muskets and have a distinct view of each other. The French ship appeared new, and in every respect like a frigate, except in size. Their musket-balls for a
4 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
few minutes were sent so rapidly against the side of our ship, that the noise to us was like a hail-storm against a window, and yet we had not a man killed by them. One grazed our steward's neck, and another went through the fleshy part of a man's arm. No muskets were fired from our ship, except by some of the passengers, as our men were all required to work our heavy guns; in which we were, in one respect, very unfortunate, as almost every one of the 24-pounders that was fired tumbled over. I counted at one time five of them lying on their sides on the gun-deck. The carriages were made on a new patent plan, but so high and narrow that they could not bear the recoil. One of them in falling broke the leg of our carpenter. The two ships were but for a few minutes near enough to use muskets; after which some of the passengers who had been engaged with them went to assist in making wads and handing cartridges, and the rest went below. The action was now continued with the cannon on both sides; ours were pointed at the hull of the enemy, and we saw the effects of them in several places. They generally aimed at our rigging with double-headed shot, grape-shot, large spike nails, bars of iron from six to twelve inches long, and some of them an inch square, which did much damage to our sails and ropes. At eleven o'clock the privateer steered off, to our great joy, as almost all our cartridges were gone, most of our 24-pounders dismounted, and our crew much fatigued. We had lost, however, but one man, who was hit by a grape-shot through the head, and died instantly.
CHAP. I.] FRENCH SHIP VANQUISHED. 5
that they charged the guns with a 24-pound ball and two double-headed shot. The French, as before, aimed at our rigging, and we at their hull, which our 24-pounders damaged very much; four of them were seen to go through her on one side below the wale, and another stove in the whole of her gangway. At a few minutes before two o'clock she sheered off, and did not return, leaving us with our rigging terribly damaged: our main-mast shot through in four places, the mizen top-sail yard in one, and the cross jack-yard cut in two in the middle; one ball through the fore-top mast, and nearly half the shrouds and stays of the ship cut away. Most of the braces were gone; and the mizen stay-sail, the smallest we had up, had thirty holes in it, the main-sail sixty-two, and the others in the same proportion: yet in the last action not a man was either killed or wounded.__________
* I remember hearing my father say, that he found the iron of an old patten sticking in the side of the ship
6 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
Samuel Reed; he was a good sailor, and had been with Truxton when he took a French frigate, and afterwards in the ship Planta when she beat off a French privateer in the Channel in the early part of the summer."Mr. Greatrakes says:
"During the action a circumstance occurred that showed the character of our captain. A wad from one of the Frenchman's 32-pound carronades struck the starboard quarter-rail and flew back, spinning round with great velocity. He instantly attempted to jump on it and stop it, almost pushing me down to get it. Then tearing and cutting it to pieces, he charged the larboard 6-pounder several times, and, stuffing the fragments of the wad into it, fired it back again at the Frenchman, swearing bitterly at the whole nation all the time. *Of such of the occurrences of this eventful day as were most calculated to make an impression on the mind of a child of five
* Young as I was, I can recall to mind the figure of Captain Williamson. He was a well-formed, strong-made man, of a good height, but not tall. On this occasion he wore a kind of naval uniform, a hanger at his side, and a belt round his waist, in which were stuck a pair of pistols. From what will be related, he seemed (like Dr. Johnson), to consider one Englishman a match for four Frenchmen; and with Englishmen he no doubt classed Americans, as well as Scotchmen.
CHAP. I.] THE NEWFOUNDLAND DOG. 7
years of age, I have a tolerable recollection. I had often before looked with awe down the hatches into the gloomy region in which we were confined during the battle, and had seen indistinctly the upright post with notches in it for the feet, by which we children were carried down. My wonder and admiration were now excited by the steward, who seemed to me almost to fly up and down this post by the help of the hand-rope, his frequent visits having no other object than to see that we were as comfortable as circumstances permitted, to tell us all the best news from the decks, and to bring us reinforcements of ginger-bread, oranges, and wine.
All my notions of war were associated with the then popular piece of music, the "Battle of Prague," which I had heard my eldest sister play on the piano; and, accordingly, when I heard the groans of the poor man whose leg was crushed, and who was brought somewhere near us, I exclaimed, "There are the cries of the wounded" The burial of the man who was killed made a deep impression on me, for I saw his messmates carry him to the bow of the ship, and I could distinctly trace the human form through the white canvas in which it was tightly sewn up; and this to me, the first image of death, has never been effaced from my recollection.
Often as children are frightened without cause, they are as often in moments of real danger less alarmed than their elders; and I, though constitutionally timid, have no recollection of being terrified by what was going on, perhaps because I believed the hold to be a place of perfect safety. I remember that my brother and I amused ourselves for a great part of the time with playing at hide and seek among the water-casks, with some of the other children of the passengers. My brother, indeed, who was more heroic than I, wanted a little pistol, that he might go on deck and shoot the "naughty Frenchmen." My two elder sisters were of an age to understand and feel alarmed for our situation, and my youngest sister was dangerously ill with an attack of pleurisy, and in that state taken out of bed and carried below. What must my poor mother have suffered!
The captain had a very fine Newfoundland dog, named Nero, who was always greatly excited by the firing of guns. During
8 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
the engagement, he was so much in the way of the sailors, running from one end of the ship to the other, jumping on the guns and barking, that either by chance or design he was thrown down a hatchway, and his leg broken by the fall. The poor animal became so restless, and his howls were so distressing, that my father, having fastened a rope to his collar, carried him to a part of the hold as far as possible from that which we occupied, and while endeavouring to find some means of securing him, he found one of the passengers sitting alone and quite in the dark. My father asked him to hold the dog, but receiving no answer, he placed the rope in his hand, but it was cold and trembling, and incapable of retaining it.
The broken leg was probably not the worst hurt poor Nero received by his fall, for he died a few days afterwards, greatly regretted by his master, who gratified him, in his last moments, by firing a pistol over him; a favour Nero acknowledged by slightly moving his tail, and making a faint attempt to bark.
Some of these particulars have probably remained with me from hearing my father and others of the family mention them after our arrival in America, rather than from my own recollection.
Mr. Greatrakes relates that
"As our damages were too great to be repaired at sea, and the wind was unfavourable either for England or Ireland, the captain determined to go to Lisbon to refit, from whence we were about 500 miles distant.__________
* The house in which we passed our "Winter in Lisbon," had been built purposely for the accommodation of lodgers. It was four stories high. On each story were two complete and distinct suites of rooms; each suite comprising
CHAP. I.] RESIDENCE AT LISBON. 9
"The repairs of the ship detained us at Lisbon five months and two days, though the carpenter had engaged to send us to__________
a very large parlour or drawing-room, four chambers, and a kitchen. -- Our family occupied a set of apartments on the second story or first-floor. The adjoining set was rented by a Portuguese fidalyo who held a small place under the government, and with his wife, sister, and children, led a life of pretension and poverty, show and dirt. All the rooms, except the kitchens, were built entirely without fire-places, or any means of heating them except by the occasional introduction of a brazier of charcoal, in which case it was of course imperative to sit with a door or window open. And even then, the fumes produced such headaches that we thought it better to endure the cold. In the south of Europe, the lamentable scarcity of fuel is a serious drawback to any pleasure that may be derived from passing a winter in those countries. The houses are built as if for perpetual summer. Though during the whole winter there was no snow that lay on the ground, and no ice thicker than a shilling, we had several weeks of almost incessant rain, accompanied by cold, driving winds; and afterwards occasional rain-storms of three or four days. And such rains! a whole cloud seemed to descend at once. The streets (fortunately for them) were so flooded that at times they looked as if cataracts were rushing down between the two rows of houses. But it washed them clean. Our door-windows fitted so badly, that the rain poured in at them through all sorts of crevices and open places; so that, at each of the three, large tubs had to be placed to catch the water that would otherwise have deluged the floor. After the first rain, however, my father contrived means to stop up these cracks, so as to render the in-pouring less violent. But the dampness that pervaded the house, and all other houses in this fireless country, was without remedy. The shoes that we took off at night were frequently in the morning found covered with blue mould. So also were the surbases, and the frames of the chairs and tables. Our clothes became mouldy in the bureaus and presses; the covers and edges of our books were frequently coated with mould in a single night. To guard against the effects of this humid atmosphere, which there was no fire to counteract, we had recourse to many strange expedients. Every morning, on rising, we dressed ourselves as if we were going to spend the day in the street; putting on as many under garments as we could, and finishing with our pelisses or outside coats, and fur tippets. We wore our bonnets all day long; and my sisters and myself rejoiced in cottage beavers, tied in closely to our faces. My father (always in his great coat) likewise kept on his hat, and the two boys were made to keep on theirs. Several days were really so cold, as well as damp, that after breakfast we all went regularly to bed; remaining there the whole day, except at meal-times. This we found a tolerably good plan, and I liked it very well, as I could then give myself up entirely to reading. One of the amusements of the juvenile part of the family, when our parents were not present (with shame I speak of it), was to peep through the keyhole, with a desire to be enlightened as to the manners and customs of the Portuguese people who occupied the adjoining suite of apartments; a door, always locked, being between their drawing-room and ours. We would not have acted so dishonourably towards persons of our own country, or even to British neighbours; but we regarded the Portuguese as "no rule." We soon ascertained that
10 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
sea in six weeks, or two months at the farthest. The expense was 12,000 sterling, with a deduction of 2000 for old materials.__________
their general habiliments were old and slovenly, but that whenever a fine day tempted the lady-wife to walk out, she covered her dirty dark calico dress with an elegant blue satin cloak trimmed with ermine; and had a barber to come and dress her hair, and decorate it with embroidered ribbons; bonnets not yet being introduced into Portugal. Keeping no regular servant, she, for these occasions, hired, by the hour, two maids to walk after her. When any of her female friends came to visit our neighbour, they also brought their maids with them; and while the mistresses were conversing on the sofa, the maids sat flat on the floor in front of them, and kept up a whispering talk with each other. Among other items of keyhole knowledge, we discovered that every day, about dinner-time, our neighbours had a table set out in their parlour with clean damask cloth and napkins, pieces of bread, silver forks, spoons, castors, &c.; handsome wine-glasses, and goblets, and all the paraphernalia of a very genteel dinner equipage. The table stood thus during an hour or more; so that if visitors came in, they, might suppose that the family were preparing to sit down in style comme ilfaut. But to this table they never did sit down; for when the time of exhibition had elapsed, all the fine things were taken off and carefully put away for a similar show the next day, and the next. Meanwhile (as we found by reconnoitring through the kitchen keyhole) the Portuguese family all assembled in the place where their food was cooked; seated themselves on the floor round a large earthen pan filled with some sort of stew; and each dipped in a pewter spoon and fed out of that same pan. Our house was supplied with milk in the usual Portuguese fashion; the fashion at least of that time. A dirty ofd man with a red woollen cap on his head, and round his ragged jacket a red woollen sash, to which hung several tin cups of various measures, drove before him a cow, two she-asses, and three or four goats, stopping to milk them at the doors of his customers, who thus had their choice of cow's milk, ass's milk, or goat's milk. The two last milks are considered good for invalids; English people of that unfortunate class being then in the habit of resorting to Lisbon for the improvement of their health. They have grown wiser since the whole European continent has been opened to them. Our milkman, like all other Portuguese, took snuff a loutrance ; always stopping to regale himself with a pinch more than once during the process of milking into the tin mug, and when resuming with his snuffy fingers. A remonstrance from the person who stood at the door to take the milk so offended his Portuguese dignity, that he immediately drove off his beasts in high dudgeon, and there was no milk that day. Next morning, when he was caught with some difficulty as he passed grandly by, it required considerable coaxing and apologising, and many promises of future good behaviour, to prevail on him to stop, and supply milk as usual. The fashion of knee-breeches, cocked hats, and hair tied and powdered, was retained by the Portuguese long after that style became obsolete in all other parts of the world. With their long and ample cloaks, there was no need of wasting money on good clothes to wear underneath; and linen was rarely discerned about their necks, for very good reasons. A large house was building next door to ours. Immediately in front, the street was chiefly occupied
CHAP. I.] RESIDENCE AT LISBON. 11
"While we were at Lisbon we heard from the American consul at Corunna, of the privateer we had been engaged with.__________
by a wide deep slough or mud-hole, where the paving-stones had sunk or died away; and the councilmen, or aldermen, or selectmen (if there are any such persons in Lisbon) had taken no account of it. When the weather was uncommonly bad, the carts that brought stone for the building generally stuck fast in this capacious hole. The Lisbon carts were of very primitive structure. They had no close sides; neither had they iron stanchions like those of drays to keep things from falling; there were only a few crooked sticks, stuck in here and there along the edges. Though wood is so scarce in Portugal, there was a great waste of it in the wheels, which had no spokes, but were solid and massy, like grindstones; and the axle-tree revolved with them, groaning, or rather, shrieking dismally all the time. These carts were drawn by a pair of oxen, which it always required two men to urge along. The dress of these carmen began by cocked hats, and powdered hair tastefully queued with blue or pink ribbons; cotton velvet jackets with tarnished, tinsel-looking ornaments; faded breeches open at the knees; and their bare Portuguese legs ended, as usual, in old shoes with large showy buckles. Each driver carried a goad, and when the cart-load of stone got into the slough, while one man goaded the oxen, shouting violently something that sounded like "shah!" the other went to their heads, and endeavoured to frighten the poor beasts out of the mud-hole by making ferocious faces at them, and shaking also in a loud voice, and brandishing his stick threateningly. The workmen came out of the house to assist in this enterprise of extricating the cart; and they always had to do at the end what they should have done at the Beginning, unload it of the slabs of stone; after which, the oxen and the empty cart were generally shahed out of the hole in less than half-an-hour. Among the sights of Lisbon streets, those that have a taste for such things may be treated daily with the gratuitous view of a pig-killing. If a man is driving a pig, and the animal seems to have more than his usual disinclination to "go a-head," the driver, to cut short all further argument, stops in the open street, takes out his knife, and deliberately kills the pig. Then, getting some dry furze from the nearest shop, he makes a fire in the street, singes and scrapes the animal, removes the inside, and carries the carcase home on his shoulder, all ready for selling or cooking. The Portuguese pork is the finest in the world: being fattened on chestnuts and sweet acorns. This food gives a peculiar sweetness and delicacy to the meat, the fat of which is as mild as cream. The beef is far from good; and there is a law against killing calves ; it being thought better they should live and grow up into larger and more profitable animals. Nevertheless, mysterious men came sometimes to our house, and with many and solemn injunctions to secrecy, produced from under their cloaks a piece of veal, for which they asked an enormous price as an indemnification to their consciences for having violated the law. Kids are much eaten in Portugal; but it is not altogether safe to venture on one, unless you are quite sure that it is not a cat. I am still uneasy with a misgiving, that, at a table not our own, I did eat a slice of grimalkin kid; and I can never be quite certain that I did not. I must say, however, that whether of the feline species or not, it looked and tasted well. Among the country people that came into market, were the wine-sellers,
12 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
She was called La Bellone, of Bordeaux, a beautiful new ship, mounting twenty-six brass twelves and four thirty-two pound cannonades. She was a very swift sailer, and had, when she left port, 275 men; but when she engaged us her complement was 240, having put the others on board a British prize. We killed thirty-seven and wounded fifty-eight, and when she got to Corunna, she had four and a half feet water in the hold."These particulars are confirmed by my father's journal, with the exception of the number of men killed, which he states at thirty. *
"On the 31st of March," says Mr. Greatrakes, "we left Lisbon, and the same day we carried away our new fore top-mast in a gale, and the next morning though the wind had subsided suddenly, it left such a deep trenching sea that the ship rolled in the most dreadful manner, and about 11 o'clock our new main top-mast was rolled over-board, with a man and a boy on it. The man was killed, but the boy saved himself by catching in the shrouds, though he was severely wounded.__________
each carrying on his back a borachio or goat-skin, distended with new wine, the forelegs being brought round the neck of the man and tied together in front. Such were the wine-skins that Don Quixote attacked with his sword, mistaking them for an army of soldiers. "Recollections of Lisbon" by Miss Leslie.
* The remainder of my father's journal has unfortunately been lost.
CHAP. I.] ARRIVAL AT PHILADELPHIA. 13
dreadfully. We now concluded she was an enemy, and respiration seemed almost to cease among us for a few seconds, expecting her fire. She, however, swiftly crossed our bows from starboard to larboard, and wearing round, as if animated by an instinctive spirit, laid herself alongside of us at about twenty yards' distance. In this manoeuvre was fully exhibited the great skill and discipline of British seamen, and all was done in profound silence. She hailed us in English, a language at this moment peculiarly musical to our ears, and she proved to be the Sea Horse, a 38-gun frigate, most gallantly manned and homeward-bound from a cruise. *My father now found himself obliged to engage in a lawsuit with the executors of his deceased partner, who had greatly mis-managed the business. The lawsuit turned out tedious and expensive, and before it was decided my father, whose health had been long declining, died, after a confinement to his room of one week.
This was in 1804. I was too young to feel how much we all lost in him. He was a most kind parent, and I cannot now recollect that I ever had an angry word from him, though I can remember many indulgences and gratifications which he afforded to my sisters, my brother, and myself, at an expense of time and trouble, of which we were then little aware. The retrospect convinces me that his chief happiness consisted in making his children happy, as well as his wife, between whom and himself I can remember nothing but entire harmony and affection. The only recollections of my father that are painful, are of his ill-health. I cannot recall to mind a single day in which he seemed quite well; and his disorders must have been greatly aggravated by his pecuniary embarrassments during the last years of his life.
Among his most intimate friends, I remember the leading physicians
* It may seem incredible that the captain of our ship should have thought of fighting a frigate, disabled as he was; but he assuredly did so, for I distinctly remember, when we came up from the hold, seeing our sailors all ranged at their guns with lighted matches, and I can, therefore, vouch for the veracity of Greatrakes.
14 MEMOIR OF C. R. LESLIE. [CHAP. I.
of Philadelphia Doctors Rush, Barton, Whistar, Physick, and Mease. He had also known Franklin, and among his daily associates were Charles Wilson Peale, and Oliver Evans, two men of great ingenuity the first in many ways, the last as an engineer. That a man, without any advantages of education, should have lived constantly in such society, proves that he possessed no ordinary mind. His reading was, probably, not extensive; but I remember that, after Shakespeare, his favourite authors were Addison, Pope, Fielding, Sterne, and Goldsmith. He made a small collection of engravings in England, and "Hogarth's Apprentices " were among the number....
Note 1: Mr. Leslie's recollection of the immigration ship's name is confirmed by a 1911 genealogical query from E. Haviland Hillman: "...Lawrence [Greatrake] was a passenger on the American ship Washington, sailing from Lisbon in November, 1799. This Lawrence settled in America, and, I believe, owned and operated the first paper mills in that country, on the Brandywine, near Wilmington, Delaware." (Notes and Queries: For Literary Men, General Readers, etc., 11th series vol. 3, Jan., 1911, p.7)
Note 2: For more information on the long-forgotten military conflicts referenced in the above account, see Gardner W. Allen's 1909 book, Our Naval War with France. On page 67 he notes: "Several other vessels were built, or purchased and converted into vessels of war, under the acts of April 27 and June 30 . The more important of these were the General Greene, 28 [guns], Adams, 28 [guns], and the Portsmouth, Connecticut, Trumbull, Ganges, and George Washington, of twenty-four guns each. The two last were merchantmen purchased and converted to warlike use." On pp. 234-35 Allen reports the following communication: "A letter from William Smith, United States minister to Portugal, to the Secretary of State, dated Lisbon, November 2, 1799, says: 'Two days ago arrived here in distress the Washington, Capt. Williamson, bound from London to Philadelphia, with thirty-four passengers. She mounts 22 guns, has seventy men, and off Scilly fought two hours a large French privateer of 28 guns and beat her off. She had one killed and two wounded.'"
Note 3: The Port of Philadelphia passenger disembarkation lists show a "Laurence Greatrich" as one of eight cabin-accomodated passengers, arriving in that city aboard the Washington, from London, on May 19, 1800. The Leslie family is listed among the steerage passangers arriving on the same ship. Greatrake's family members were not with him -- they do not appear in the government records as U.S. citizens until 1813. They probably came on a different ship in 1800, without any record of their arrival in America having survived. They appear to be enumerated in the 1800 census for the "Christiana Hundred" (Wilmington) of New Castle Co., Delaware, under the household head "Laurence Greatrater," with two boys between the ages of 10 and 15, three young men between the ages of 16 and 25, and four men between the ages of 26 and 44. The household then included three girls between the ages of 10 and 15, along with four women between 16 and 44.
News Items (from various papers)
06-27-1813 06-04-1817 07-25-1817
08-14-1822 08-19-1822 08-23-1822
No. 448. Wilmington, Saturday, June 20, 1813. Vol. V.
FOR THE WATCHMAN.
No. 450. Wilmington, Saturday, June 27, 1813. Vol. V.
FOR THE WATCHMAN.
Mr. Wilson. -- I observe in your paper of the 20th inst. an address signed Lawrence Greatrake, evidently intended to prosuce a belief that he has been the innocent victim of unmerited oppression upon the part of the Marshal of this district, in having been sent into the interior, as an alien enemy. A regard to the dictates of truth, which have been egregriously violated in almost every line of this production, induces me to submit a brief explanation of the causes which led to that measure.
Vol. IX. Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, June 4, 1817. No. 707.
DIED, at Brandywine Paper Mill, near Wilmington, on the 14th inst. of a short but severe illness, occasioned by an attack of the Gout in the Stomach -- LAWRENCE GREATRAKE. a native of Bristol, England; residence in this country seventeen years. He has left a wife and eight children to mourn his loss. --
NS. Vol. I. Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, July 25, 1817. No. 2.
ALL PERSONS having any demands upon the estate of Lawrence Greatrake, of the Brandywine Paper Mill, lately deceased, are requested to produce their accounts for settlement, and those indebted to the same, are respectfully requested to make payment to George Greatrake, who is authorized to receive it. THOMAS GILPIN, Ex.
Vol. XIII. Baltimore, Md., Friday, May 14, 1819. No. 113.
Vol. II. Georgetown, D.C., Friday, June 23, 1820. No. 2215.
Vol. XVII. Baltimore, Md., Wednesday, April 18, 1821. No. 2552.
Vol. XVIII. Baltimore, Md., Thursday, Aug. 23, 1821. No. 44.
THE WILMINGTON GAZETTE.
Vol. ? Wilmington, Del., February 26, 1822. No. ?
There has been much damage done in the neighborhood of this place by the freshet. The chain bridge at Brandywine was carried away, and with it the corner of a flour mill. The water was from twelve to eighteen inches deep on the lower floors of the other mills, and some injury was sustained in consequence of the wetting of grain and flour. The dams are all swept away. Several persons were standing on the bridge at the time it gave way and were carried down the current; two men are missing. The machinery in the cotton mills has been injured by being wet. The sulphur mill of Mr. Du Pont was carried away. A stone building belonging to Messrs. J. &. T. Gilpin's paper establishment, and used for the purpose of preparing rags, and one thousand dollars worth of paper, entirely finished, accompanied them. Several small buildings were destroyed, and some other injury done to other parts of their establishment -- their loss is estimated at fifty thousand dollars. The water is stated to be two feet higher than it was ever known before in the Brandywine. The whole loss by the flood is estimated at one hundred thousand dollars.
Vol. XX. Baltimore, Md., Thursday, Aug. 8, 1822. No. 30.
Vol. XX. Baltimore, Md., Monday, Aug. 12, 1822. No. 33.
Vol. XX. Baltimore, Md., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 1822. No. 35.
Vol. XX. Baltimore, Md., Monday, Aug. 19, 1822. No. 39.
Vol. XX. Baltimore, Md., Friday, Aug. 23, 1822. No. 43.
Vol. ? Philadelphia, Fri., April 30, 1824. No. 11,950.
NOTICE OF SALE.
WEREAS the President and Directors of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, in conformity with the powers in them vested, have heretofore made and signed orders for the payment at certain times and in certain proportions of the monies payable by the proprietots of stock... Now therefore notice is hereby given, that said President and Directors will on the first day of June 1824, at 7 o'clock in the evening, at the Merchants Coffee House in the city of Philadelphia, sell at auction and convey to the purchasers the sahre of the said proprietors so refusing or negelecting payment... H. D. Gilpin, Sec'ry. James C. Fisher, President....
Vol. ? Philadelphia, Penn., Thursday, April 5, 1832. No. ?
DIED, on the 9th day of March, 1832, at. St. Mary's, Georgia, of a pulmonary affection, George Greatrake, of the Brandywine Paper Mills, in the 38th year of his age. In the impressive remembrance of the conduct and merit of the deceased, a tribute seems to be alike due to the feelings of the living, and the character of the dead. In the several relations of the filial and social duties, he was led to support an even tenor of conduct, and to perform the part alloted him with affection, perseverance, and fidelity.
H. B. Hancock and
N. B. Wilkinson
"The Gilpins... Machine"
PMHB Vol. LXXXI No. 4
(Philadelphia: P.H.S., Oct., 1957)
© 1957 Penn. Historical Society
All rights reserved. Fair use excerpts
only, reproduced here.
[ 391 ]
The Gilpins and
A business new to Delaware was established on Brandywine Creek in 1787 when Joshua Gilpin founded the state’s first paper mill. His brother Thomas later joined the firm, and for the next half century the Brandywine Paper Mills were noted for their high-quality products. In 1817 America’s first endless paper machine, an invention of Thomas Gilpin’s based upon English models, went into operation in these mills. Revolutionizing the industry, this invention forced other paper manufacturers to mechanize their plants; by 1860 handmade paper had become a luxury.
Joshua and Thomas Gilpin are not the heroes of a rags-to-riches story. Their father, Thomas Gilpin, was a prosperous Quaker merchant in Philadelphia. Through inheritance and industry he acquired flour mills on the Sassafras River in Maryland and on the Brandywine, as well as properties in Wilmington and in Philadelphia. He was married to Lydia Fisher of the well-known Philadelphia Quaker family, and was active in the American Philosophical Society, exchanged letters on scientific subjects with Benjamin Franklin, advocated the construction of a canal from the Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay, and helped establish the Wilmington Grammar School. During the American Revolution, he was suspected of disloyal tendencies and was exiled to Winchester, Virginia, where he died in 1778. 
His son Joshua, born in 1765, was educated by tutors and in the Wilmington Grammar School. Joshua attempted to emulate the eighteenth-century concept of a gentleman, and the journal of his “grand tour’’ of Europe from 1795 to 1801 reveals that he was an
1 Thomas Gilpin, “Memoirs of the Gilpin Family in England and America,” 11, 41-69, Gilpin Collection, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), Vol. 64; Joshua Gilpin, “Genealogical Memoranda of the Gilpin Family,” 1-19, Gilpin Collection, Vol. 66; Thomas Gilpin, “Memoir of Thomas Gilpin,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of Biography and History (PMHB), XLIX (19ZS), 289-328; Henry Simpson, Lives of Eminent Philadelphians Now Deceased (Philadelphia, 1859), 389-400.
392 by H. B. HANCOCK and N. B. WILKINSON Octoberacute observer of antiquities, museums, and society. At great length he described and drew sketches of industrial processes in paper, iron, and pottery factories. During his travels he associated with such persons as Benjamin West, Robkrt Fulton, Joel Barlow, Lord Stanhope, Matthew Boulton, and William Gilpin of Bouldre, a distant relative and literary figure. In 1801 he married Mary Dilworth, the daughter of a Lancaster banker, from whom he acquired “a handsome fortune” and by whom he was to have eight children.  Gilpin and his family spent the years 1811-1815 in Europe, and three of his sons were later educated in English schools. Upon returning to America, he built an elaborate residence on the Brandywine called “Kentmere” after the English estate of his forefathers, and it was there that he subsequently passed most of his life.
A man of literary bent, Joshua Gilpin published "Verses Written at the Fountain of Vaucluse" (1799) "Memoir of a Canal from the Chesapeake to the Delaware" (1823), and "Farm of Virgil and Other Poems" (1839). His “Journal of Western Travels” appeared in the pages of "The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography."  Among his unpublished works are a fragmentary history of Delaware, a volume upon the English woolen industry, and a journal of travel in New England and the eastern states. A plump little gentleman, with a round face, owlish eyes, and receding hair, Joshua was, like his father, a member of the American Philosophical Society. 
Thomas Gilpin, who was born in 1776, never married. At the early age of nineteen, when Joshua went to Europe, Thomas was left in charge of the paper mill. In 1848 he published "Exiles in Virginia," in which he described the sufferings of Philadelphia Quakers, including his father, during the American Revolution, and compiled genealogical studies of the Gilpin and Fisher families. He too was a member of the American Philosophical Society and contributed papers to its proceedings. Possessed of decided mechanical genius and talents, he
2 Seven of his children survived him, several of whom became prominent. The nomination of Henry Dilworth Gilpin as governor of Michigan Territory was twice rejected by the United States Senate, but subsequently he was approved as Attorney-General of the United States in 1840. William Gilpin was appointed governor of the Territory of Colorado in 1861 and wrote several books about the West.
3 "PMHB," L, LI, LII (1926-1928).
4 Joshua Gilpin, “Genealogical Memoranda of the Gilpin Family,” 20-23; Simpson, 400-409.
396 by H. B. HANCOCK and N. B. WILKINSON October... By 1820 the Gilpin mills were producing $40,000 worth of handmade paper annually, had forty-four employees, and were paying $10,000 in wages. A severe flood in 1822 damaged the mills, and a fire in 1825 completely destroyed the building in which the handmade paper was manufactured. Since the Gilpins had now turned their attention almost exclusively to machine-made paper, they did not resume the manufacture of the handmade product. 
The Gilpins were familiar with developments in the mechanization of the paper industry in Europe. During his tours of Europe between 1795 and 1801 and between 1811 and 1815, Joshua Gilpin had become acquainted with Bryan Donkin, John Hall, John Dickinson, Henry Fourdrinier, and John Whatman, all of whom were associated with the development of the endless paper machine. In 1798 Louis Robert of France had invented a machine in which paper was formed upon an endless belt of woven wire, which passed continuously through a vat of pulp. This machine was perfected by Bryan Donkin and John Hall in England and placed in use there in 1804 in the factory of Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier. The Fourdrinier machine, as it ‘was called, was not imported into the United States until 1827. Independently, John Dickinson of England had invented a cylinder machine for manufacturing paper, which he patented in 1809. By this method, paper was formed upon the wire-covered surface of a cylinder which revolved in a vat of pulp. Thomas Gilpin’s invention of 1816 closely resembled the Dickinson machine. 14
The resemblance was no coincidence. In the Gilpin Papers in The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a manuscript volume entitled “Paper Making Machinery - 1816. Property of Richard Gilpin.” Although the name of Joshua’s son is on the cover, most of the letters and memoranda in it were written by Joshua and Thomas Gilpin and by Lawrence Greatrake, manager of the Gilpin mills. The volume is important to students of papermaking because it reveals clearly that
13 Thomas Gilpin, “Fairmount Dam and Waterworks," PMHB, XXXVII (1913), 473; “Gilpin Mills" in “Raw Returns," 1820 Census (Photostat at Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation, Wilmington, Del.).
14 R. H. Capperton, “The Invention and Development of the Endless Wire, or Fourdrinier Paper Machine,” Paper Maker, XXXIII (1954), 1-11.
1957 THE GILPIN PAPERMAKING MACHINE 397the Gilpins in 1815 and 1816 were endeavoring by every means in their power to obtain models, drawings, and patent specifications of the Fourdrinier and Dickinson machines. Lawrence Greatrake was in England in 1815 and 1816, where, at the behest of his employers, he was paying special attention to papermaking. When Thomas Gilpin developed his invention, he was in possession of a detailed drawing of at least one machine and had probably received patent specifications for both English models which he had discussed with his brother and Greatrake. 
Upon Joshua Gilpin’s depirture from Liverpool for America on September 6, 1815, he wrote a note to an English papermaker, probably Fourdrinier, in which he regretted the existence of ill-feeling which seemingly had originated over his failure to acknowledge the gift of some sample paper. He also expressed a fear that a more serious reason for disagreement existed:
Another ground of jealousy may exist in your ideas that I wish to make myself master of your new machine and take it to America -- I assure you Sir that except what I have seen of your own and Mr. Dickinsons works, I have not been in a single paper mill in England, nor taken any measures whatever to obtain any further knowledge of the machine, workmen, or materials.
Joshua Gilpin could not see that any particular injury would come to English trade if the machine were to be exported to the United States, since he considered the United States to be largely self-sufficient in papermaking. Actually, the inventor might “materially” benefit if the patent were set up. 
By September 17, ten days after Joshua’s departure, Lawrence Greatrake had gathered enough important information to forward to his employers by separate routes two substantially similar letters. In these letters he described the events of a three-day visit with John Dickinson, the inventor of the cylinder machine. Greatrake had once been a fellow apprentice with Dickinson in the firm of Richardson and Harrison, stationers to the East India Company, and held him in high esteem. In one letter Greatrake described Dickinson as “the genius, the Gentleman, & the liberal mind,” and in the other, as “a Young Man of science, very Gentlemanly in his manners, & like
15 “Paper Making Machinery -- 1816,” Gilpin Collection, HSP.
16 Joshua Gilpin to [ -- ], Sept. 6, 1815, ibid.
398 by H. B. HANCOCK and N. B. WILKINSON Octoberyourself [Thomas Gilpin] of great Mechani[ca]l talents.” Greatrake was shown the Fourdrinier machine at Apsley Mill and Dickinson’s own model at Nash Mill.
At length Greatrake described Dickinson’s machine, whose principles were the same as those later used by Thomas Gilpin :
The machine of his own invention works by a cylinder covered with a 60 inch wove wire through a box of thin stuff which adheres for about a diameter or a third of its circumference to [the] wire & then gives it to a cylinder covered with an endless felt, which passes it off to 2 rolers covered with felt & afterwards between two brass rolers from whence it is wound off on a wooden roler ready for cutters; the adhesion of the Stuff to [the] first wire roler is caused by exhausting or as they call them suction pipes. these pipes are under ground, & the air is pumped up by a beautiful little air pump as I judge 30 ft distance from [the] stuff box or little vat.
The difficult part of Greatrake’s task was to secure a drawing or model of a Fourdrinier or a Dickinson machine. He had approached John Hall and Bryan Donkin with only limited success. “I cannot buy one, that is plain,” he wrote. “Mr. Dickinson has shewn & explained all I chose to ask, & whether he thinks He has now acquitted himself of all friendly attentions I cannot yet judge. Hall refused proceeding with [the] first machine of Fourdriniers, judging it was impossible to answer. Donkin took it up and completed it, and he could give me a drawing.”
Fourdrinier, whom Greatrake described as “an ignorant, swearing low man, & not much esteemed here,” had said that one of his machines would never be sent out of England, but believed that an imitator might successfully set one up from a drawing. As a matter of fact, one of Fourdrinier’s machines had been taken to Russia by his son, and several were about to be exported to
17 Greatrake to Joshia Gilpin, Sept. 17; 1815 (two letters), ibid.
1957 THE GILPIN PAPERMAKING MACHINE 399the Netherlands. Fourdrinier’s men watched Greatrake closely at all times. Obviously, his best chance of success lay with Dickinson. 
Greatrake submitted another report to the Gilpin brothers on November 8, 1815. He had finally secured from Hall a drawing of the Fourdrinier machine, and Dickinson was willing to have Greatrake make a drawing of his invention, but believed that because of concealed parts no one in America could duplicate it. Be it a Fourdrinier or Dickinson model, Greatrake hoped that some type of papermaking machine would soon be operating in the Gilpin mills. “It truly is a proper Object for America,” he observed, “as it makes [the] sheets so beautifully equal in thickness, so extremely smooth, & a small one would work all the stuff four Engines could give at Brandye. driving day [and] night, & make as much paper as 10 or 12 vats at the present rate of mens wages for one vat.” 
The Gilpins apparently felt that Greatrake was not making sufficient progress, for in December, 1815, Thomas Gilpin requested the aid of an English friend:
...you know that my brother, and self, are concerned here in the paper manufacture, and it has been so admirably improved by him, in my business as to constitute an excellent concern, certainly the best in the United States -- there are however some improvements in England, which it is exceedingly important for us to possess, as my brother has begun works which must be suspended till we have them; and when I assure you that the possession of them, if they do not actually make a fortune for my family bid fair to increase it, I am sure you will serve them and me in the business.
He thought that the Dickinson patents might be obtained from a clerk at the patent office, or through Mr. Wyatt, editor of the Repertory, whose brother was a clerk there. 
Thomas and Joshua Gilpin carefully studied the information that they received from England. Memoranda with such headings as “Dickinson’s Machine,” “The New Improvements in Paper Making,” and “Sequel to my own Information taken from letter of L. G. Allen to T. Gilpin, September 17, 1815” are scattered through Richard Gilpin’s papermaking book. Other memoranda were entitled
19 Greatrake to Thomas and Joshua Gilpin, Nov. 8, 1815, ibid.
20 Thomas Gilpin to “John” [?], Dec. 15, 1815, Gilpin Collection, Vol. 54. It is not known whether these patents were secured by the Gilpins.
400 by H. B. HANCOCK and N. B. WILKINSON October
(pages 400-403 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
404 by H. B. HANCOCK and N. B. WILKINSON October... The court papers reveal, furthermore, that Gilpin’s patent specifications and drawing had mysteriously disappeared from the Patent Office. In March, 1822, John Ames of Springfield, Massachusetts, appeared on the Brandywine and attempted unsuccessfully to visit the Gilpin mills. Later a Gilpin workman named Hugh McFee received a note “from an unknown friend” asking him to come to a Wilmington tavern. Ames met him there, took him to his room, and locked the door. He showed McFee paper made by machine at the Ames mill which was inferior to the Gilpin product, and asked advice about how to improve it. McFee refused to answer. Ames then attempted to bribe him with a handful of bank notes from his pocket and a promise of more money if McFee would tell him the secret. The Brandywine workman spurned the bribe -- “neither money nor fair words would induce him to inform Ames anything about Mr. Gilpin’s machinery or business.” Undaunted, Ames offered to move McFee’s family to Massachusetts and to pay him fifteen dollars a week to work in the Springfield mill, but McFee persisted in his refusal. In desperation, Ames attempted to get McFee drunk, but the Gilpin employee disdainfully refused the brandy: “If I want a glass, I’ll call for it and pay for it myself!”
McFee informed Lawrence Greatrake of his interview, and the next morning Thomas Gilpin called on Ames, examined the Ames paper, which he considered of such good quality that no help from him could improve it, and reprimanded Ames for attempting to “seduce” his employees. Eventually, Ames did locate a former Gilpin employee who gave him the desired information, and on May 14, 1822, within two months after his visit to the Brandywine, Ames patented a papermaking machine which closely resembled the Gilpin invention....
(remainder of article not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)
Anthony F. C. Wallace
(Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2005)
© 2005 Univ. of Nebraska Press
All rights reserved. Fair use excerpts
only, reproduced here.
The Inventors of the Machines 217
The Network Outside PhiladelphiaThe mechanicians traveled frequently, partly on business to discuss new construction and panly just to gain information. Travel was a mode of education for mechanicians as well as merchants. The mechanicians of the Brandywine Valley, which was in its own tight a center of machine shops of all kinds, were in constant contact with their brethren in Philadelphia. Charles Willson Peale sent his sons Titian and Franklin to serve apprenticeships with the Hodgson brothers. George Escol Sellers recalled in his later years riding out to Delaware County abut 1818 (when he was a boy of ten) with his father Coleman Sellers and Oliver Evans. Evans was then sixty-four and within a year or two of his death; but he talked vigorously about the future course of technological progress. On another occasion about the same time, George Escol and his father visited Thomas Gilpin and Lawrence Greatrake, Gilpin's technical manager, and spent the evening with them and E. I. du Pont from the powder mills.
The pattern of traveling to leam is also illustrated by the petegrinations of John Morton Poole and his brother-in-law Edward Bancroft of Wilmington. Initially financed by a loan of $100 from Charles du Pont, they wandered in a leiswely way through the 1830's from one machine shop to another, stopping for a couple of yeam to work at Matteawan, returning to the Brandywine, then spending two or three more years in the shops at Providence, Rhode Island, and finally going on to Boston and Lowell (where letters of introduction provided by Du Pont made possible their first commissions). Poole returned to work as a foreman (at $60 per month) in the locomotive shop of Charles and George Escol Sellers at Cardington in Upper Darby, before finally going on to establish the Poole machine shops in Wilmington.
The mechanicians also often made a pilgrimage to England, stili the fountainhead of mechanical innovation, in order to acquire technical sophistication (and, sometimes, to steal industrial secrets and entice away English mechanics). The visits to England of Francis Lowell, who there gained knowledge of the working principle of the power loom, and of Joshua and Thomas Gilpin, who studied textile and papermaking machinery, were well known in their day. Lowell's trip resulted in the patent Waltham loom and the great industrial growth at Lowell; Gilpin patented his imitation of John Dickinson's endless papermaking machine (the first introduction of continuous papermaking in America).
But many trips were undertaken less in the spirit of espionage than of a genuine desire to learn about English machines and processes that were
218 ROCKDALE FROM 1825 TO 1835
not regarded as secret and to tell the Englishmen about American progress. These visits seem to have been understood in that light and were carried on even during the War of 1812 (Joshua Gilpin was in England and traveled freely gathering technical information all during the conflict). Many of the Philadelphia mechanicians who worked as civil engineers during the period of canal and railroad construction before 1840 visited England, including Erskine Hazad, Samuel Kneass, Solomon Roberts, and William Strickland. In the winter of 1832-33 George Escol Sellers traveled in England to learn about English papermaking machinery from Bryan Donkin and John Dickinson; but he also visited the shops of the late Henry Maudslay -- celebrated as the inventor of the first workable slide rest for the engine-powered lathe; Sharp and Roberts’ shops at Manchester; the Royal Mint; and the tunnel under the Thames then being constructed by Marc Isambard Brunel. And he found time to visit his old friend Jacob Perkins’ “Adelaide Gallery” (or “National Gallery of Practical Science”), where he found a display of remarkable machinery invented by Perkins and his old Philadelphia friend Joseph Saxton. Saxton had in fact just invented the first practical commutator for an “electtic magnetic motor” and an electric generator. Soon after Sellers’ return, Isaiah Lukens built an electric generator for Peal’s Museum.
The inter-state and international character of the mechanicians’ fraternity was also maintained by migration in search of opportunity. After the lifting of British restrictions in the 1820s, a steady stream of English and French mechanicians of greater or lesser degree came to America; of the hundreds of these immigrants in the Philadelphia area, among the best known were the Hodgson brothers and the Greatrake family on the Brandywine. The Du Ponts imported French mechanics while they were setting up their cotton and powder mills. And within the country, as opportunities opened one after the other in the growing frontier cities in the west and burgeoning south, mechanics from the east coast traveled to construct railroads, locomotives, steamboats, mints, and textile factories.
The mechanicians’ fraternity, then, was consciously international, indifferent (insofar as technology was concerned) to national boundaries and to international conflict, committed to facilitating technological progress by a continuous, free exchange of information among themselves. They talked constantly to one another of ideas for improving processes and were eager to show the uninformed the value of a more advanced procedure....
The Inventors of the Machines 225
him around the shop, and carrying him along on business travels. In this way was laid the basis for a deep, if somewhat competitive, identification, as the sun sought first to become like his father and then to excel him if possible in their shared and chosen craft.
The Network of In-LawsConnections by marriage were as important as descent for economic purposes, for they provided added sources of partnership and capital, opponunities for education and recommendation, and a forum for the exchange of ideas. After children were born, of course, they were the source of consanguineal alliances as well. They offered an additional set of connections to tie together the loose fraternal assemblage of mechanicians.
One important affinal connection of this kind was formed between the John Sellers line of Millbourne and the Pooles of Wilmington, Delaware. John Sellers was a successful miller but he did not contribute much personally to the family's tradition of mechanical invention. In 1817, at the age of twenty-seven, shortly after undertaking the management of the new mill his father had built for him, he married Elizabeth Poole, the eldest daughter of William Poole, a Brandywine miller (and friend of Oliver Evans). Elizabeth Poole was a strong and intelligent woman, who "had been the congenial companion of a very intellectual father," and (in the opinion of the county historian, who knew them well) "brought into her husband's home a wisdom beyond her years." One of their eleven chiidten, William, born in 1824, was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to John Morton Poole, his maternal uncle, when Poole started up a machine shop in the basement ac Joseph Bancroft's mill. This John Morton Poole, who had been born in 1812, had served his mechanical apprenticeship at the Matteawan Manufacturing Company and had studied science and mechanical drawing at the Franklin institute in Philadelphia. He had been partners briefly with Edward Bancroft (the brother of Joseph), who had worked at Cardington for several years for Coleman Sellers and Sons, and his sister Sarah was married to Joseph Bancroft.
William Sellers stayed with his uncle for seven years as a machinist's appmtice. He then took charge of the machine shop at Edward Bancroft's mill on Ridley Creek. In a few years he moved to Philadelphia to set up his own plant for the manufacture of machine tools; there he was joined in partnership by Bancroft. In 1853 William's brother John joined the firm as partner. The firm of William Sellers and Company, as indicated earlier, pioneered the design and manufacture of machine tools.
226 ROCKDALE FROM 1825 TO 1835
An affinal connection of equal importance was formed with the Pooles in 1805 when Nathan Sellers’ son Coleman married Charles Willson Peale’s daughter Sophonisba. This alliance brought the two families into a close consortium. Charles Willson Pale was then principally devoted to the development of his famous Museum, which he hoped would become a "School of Nature” at the heart of a national university. To the Museum, as lecturers and laboratory workers, he attracted most of the scientists, artists, and mechanicians of Philadelphia. Of Peale’s numerous progeny, two -- Franklin and Titian -- had at the suggestion of E. I. du Pont been apprenticed in 1813 to the Hodgson brothers in their machine shop on the Brandywine. After a year, with an introduction from Coleman Sellers, Franklin went for another year’s experience to work at William Young’s cotton mill at Rockland. This was to be their preparation for taking part in managing the Peale family’s little cotton factory at Belfield near Germantown. But, like so many others, the Peales’ cotton factory did not survive the renewal of British imports after the end of the War of 1812 and the three mechanically mined brothers -- Franklin, Titian, and Charles Linnaeus -- went on to other things. Franklin, however, returned to mechanics, working for Coleman Sellers for a time, and later serving as an employee of the U.S. Mint, where he invented a steam press and eventually (in 1840) became Chief Coiner. It was Franklin also who, a temporary victim of religious enthusiasm, married the daughter of the Gilpins’ mechanical expert, Thomas [sic - Lawrence?] Greatrake. The Greatrakes were Quakers and the young woman was a “Quaker Preacher” of extreme religious zeal. After their daughter was born, Eliza became psychotic, running away from home and threatening to kill the child. She was placed in the Philadelphia Hospital for a time and the marriage was annulled; eventually she was returned to her parents. 
Another of the Peals, Raphaelle’s son Edmund, lived with the famiiy of Coleman Sellers and worked for a time in his factory. And George Escol remembered in later years his own summer visits to Belfield, to stay with his grandfather Charles Wiltson Peale, where he recalled hearing a discussion of Redheffer’s famous -- and fraudulent -- perpetual motion machine.
Evidently, then, the Sellers’ connections by marriage with both the Pooles and the Peales were routes by which young people were recruited into mechanical pursuits, trained, and placed in positions of employment. They bound together three important mechanicians’ families of Philadelphia and Wilmington.
9 Early Engineering Reminiscences (1815-40) of George Escol Sellers Smithsonian Institution, 1965); by George Escol Sellers, pp. 97, 124-26; Charles Willson Peale, 1947, by Charles Coleman Sellers, pp. 294-95; and Titian Ramsay Peale, 1799-1885: And His Journals of the Wilkes Expedition, Jessie J. Poesch (ed), 1961, p. 16: "References to the Eliza Greatrake episode occur in Charles Willson Peale's Letterbooks throughout the 1814-1824 period... In April, 1815, Franklin married his Quakeress, somewhat against the better judgment of his father."
George Escol Sellers
Early Engineering Reminiscences
(Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1965)
[ 96 ]
In 1817 or 1818 [sic - 1817], George Escol Sellers, not yet ten years old, journeyed with his father to see Thomas Gilpin's new cylinder paper machine on the banks of Brandywine Creek, just north of Wilmington, Delaware. The area was a center of industry that included mills for the manufacture of paper, flour, gunpowder, cotton goods, and textile machinery
The paper mill of Thomas Gilpin had been established 20 years earlier by his elder brother Joshua Gilpin and Miers Fisher. Flour mills had been in operation since before 1750, and by the 1780's several were employing Oliver Evans's bucket-and screw-conveyors. The powder mills were those of E.I. du Pont de Nemours, who had opened them in 1802. William Young's cotton factory and the machine shops of the Hodgson brothers have been mentioned in chapter 9. It was in the Hodgson machine shops on the Brandywine that George Escol's uncle, Franklin Peale, had learned the machinist's trade.
Thomas Gilpin's paper machine, patented in 1816, was based upon the similar machine of John Dickinson, of London, patented in 1809. Details of Dickinson's machine had been obtained through the extensive European travels of Joshua Gilpin and from Lawrence Greatrake, who had returned to England on personal business at the time the Gilpins were considering the practicality of producing machine-made paper in America.
Other cylinder paper machines machines followed Gilpin's, as related by Sellers. Of John Ames's patent for a cylinder machine, the editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute commented in 1833 that he could detect nothing novel in the Ames specification, since Ames was merely adapting a design that had originated in France and that had since been improved in England and in the United States.
[ 97 ]
I have no distinct recollection of my father's visit to the mill at that time. But I do remember that he and Mr. Gilpin and his manager, Mr. Greatrake, spent much time in the machine room watching the operation, sketching and discussing points in connection with the forming cylinder and the exhaust pumps. The millwright had been...
[Editor's notes] Lawrence Greatrake is known to me only through these pages and a series of his letters in the Gilpin papers in Historical Society of Pennsylvania (kindly pointed out to me by Norman B. Wilkinson). Bound in a volume entitled "Paper Making Machinery -- 1816 -- Property of Richard Gilpin" there are several of Greatrake's letters to Thomas Gilpin between September 1815 and April 1816. The date of Greatrake's first coming to the United States is uncertain. He mentioned, however, that "had I staid another year in England, I had been a partner in the immense concern at Apsley."... Greatrake's letters indicate that he could not obtain a cylinder to take to the Gilpins, as he had hoped to do.... In 1815 Franklin Peale married Eliza Greatrake, daughter of Lawrence. The marriage was a tragic one, for within a year or two Eliza became hopelessly insane.
Dickinson purchased the Apsley mill in 1809 (Anon., "The Firm of John Dickinson and Company Limited," London, 1896. p. 7). about the time his paper machine patent was issued. Thus Greatrake may well have been Dickinson's right-hand man, as related by Sellers; but his letters do not suggest an earlier familiarity with the development of the Dickinson machine.
[ 98 ]
I also visited the cotton factory of my father's old friend, Mr. William Young, who had, in connection with his factory, a good machine shop for that period. It was in this shop that my uncle, Franklin Peale, served his apprenticeship
We spent the evening with Mr. Gilpin in his bachelor quarters, Messrs. Du Pont and Greatrake being of the party. The making of paper by machinery in all its aspects was discussed, also the feasibility of drying the paper by steam heated cylinders....
[ 106 ]
... worthy gentleman." (Greatrake was the father of Eliza our Uncle Franklin's first wife) ...
[ 124 ]
On my replying in the affirmative, and that I was well acquainted with with Gilpin, and thoroughly posted as to his cylinder paper machine, he then spoke of Greatrake as having been one of his most reliable and trusted employees; that it was a severe blow his leaving at the time he did, knowing that he had taken with him to introduce in the States his inventions, that they had together worked on for years, through great difficulties. He was very bitter on Gilpin for, as he called it, buying Greatrake to get his inventions.
Before we left, he asked me if I had ever met any of Mr. Greatrake's family. He referred particularly to a daughter, Eliza, who many years ago had written to his wife, announcing her marriage, since which time they had lost all trace of her.
I told him her case was a sad one; her husband was my mother's brother; that since the birth of her only child she had become a hopelessly confined invalid...
B. G. Watson
John Dickinson and
His Paper Machine
The Paper Maker 36:1
(Wilmington, DE: Hercules, 1967)
[ 31-35 ]
A number of articles have appeared in earlier issues of THE PAPER MAKER which have discussed, in detail, the work of Joshua and Thomas Gilpin... Joshua, the elder brother, during his visits to Europe between 1795 and 1801, and again between 1811 and 1815, met many of the British paper-machine machine pioneers, including Hall... he was obviously anxious to find out all he could about new machinery, and consider whether it would be of use in their new mill. Of an excursion he made to Nash Mills, in 1796 (before it belonged to Dickinson), he mentioned that it had recently been built under the supervision of Hall, and he was particularly impressed with the salle -- "being the most extensive and perfect I have elsewhere seen."
Another mill he visited in the same area is referred to as "Greatrakes Mill," It was described as "...an old patched affair with two engines and vats." Without doubt this was Apsley Mill, which had been owned by the Greatrake family for some years. In 1792 James Greatrake was in correspondence with James Whatman, and four years later Roger Greatrake was the papermaker at the mill. Gilpin mentions Lawrence Greatrake in his journal, and it was this member of the family who was eventually to work in America, assisting the Gilpins in the development of their paper machine.
As we have seen, Dickinson had bought Apsley Mill from Staddord in 1809, and it would appear that at this time Lawrence Greatrake was employed at the mill. He is also spoken of as having been foreman at Nash Mills, and it may well be that in the years before he left England he worked in both the Dickinson mills. He wrote a letter about Dickinson as "the genius, the gentleman, and the liberal mind" and on another occasion as a "Young Man of Science, very Gentlemanly in his manners, and... of great Mechani[ca]l talents." Nothwithstanding his esteem for his employer, Greatrake was persuaded by the Gilpins to work in their mill. It is not certain when he first went to America, but it was probably about 1808 [sic - departed in 1799]. By this time Dickinson's mould-machine was working, though not commercially, and Greatrake would have been familiar with its construction. Since the English patents were not effective in America, there is little doubt that by employing Greatrake, the Gilpins hoped to build and run a copy of the machine. In a recently published book, it is reported that George Escol Sellers wrote of a visit to Dickinson in the summer of 1832:
"Mr Dickinson asked me if I had ever met a Mr. Greatrake in America, who many years before had been taken from him by Mr. Thomas Gilpin offering a higher salary than he could at the time afford to pay.
Charles C. Sellers
Charles Willson Peale
(NYC: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947)
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... If Titian [Peale] said that he could not learn dead languages, his father asked the school to excuse him from those classes, and so it went. Constraint was a last and dreadful recourse. Instead, he would offer only encouragement and advice, emphasizing, too, that innocent pleasures are a necessity of life. His children, after the manner of children, responded with a love that was not tempered by respect, and very rarely expressed in obedience....
After completing his year at Hodgsons', Franklin went, in December, 1814, for another twelve months' service at William Young's cotton factory outside of Wilmington -- their machine cards were manufactured at Coleman Sellers' wire works, which gave him the entrance there. Thence he returned to Belfield to open the cotton factory of his own. In the meantime, however, to the mingled distress and amusement of his family, the youth had fallen in love with a Quakeress -- not an ordinary Quaker girl, but a strange, unctuous creature, older than himself, given to awesome silences and sudden ejaculations of a religious character. Of course he must join the Society. His father sent him a copy of the Portraiture of Quakerism, wrote himself in praise of the Friends, and hoped for the best.
It was a changed Franklin who now visited the farm -- the tassels off his boots and the ruffles gone from his shirt front -- his eyes warm with devotion, his lips formed to pious utterances.
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Sybilla, at the same time, but in a very different vein, was writing to Lin, now absent at an army post. "Oh I only wish you could come home to see a fine job of a wedding here and some Quaker Preachers that are coming into the family. You would crack your sides laughing to know who it is. Try all your might to get a furlough, for besides the pleasure of seeing you, I would not that you should miss the pleasure of being groomsman and going into meeting with your great sword by your side and uniform on for the world....
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... It was not long before he let out the land again to a tenent farmer, and thus regained full leisure. On fair days he drove to town with Hannah at his side, renewing old acquaintances, laughing back at those who laughed at the idea of an old man making a new painter -- declaring that an inactive old age "savors in my opinion of laziness." On cloudy days he stayed at home, reading aloud to Hannah and Rachel, or at work in his painting room.
He sought lessons and advice from Rembrandt, who visited the farm for the purpose, and he and Franklin went down to Baltimore. He tried out his skill with a still life, an art he deemed too elementry to hold much interest, and and turned, as soon as his hand was in, to portraits and occasional landscapes. He made copies for the Museum, including Columbus and... With Franklin's training now completed, with the war over and a new era opening before them. Peale vastly admired the neatness and artistry with which his son was setting up the new machinery.
Franklin, borne along upon the happy tide of expectation, married -- on the twenty-fourth of April, 1815 -- his "Quaker preacher." His father had shortly before bade him to take no
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Eliza Greatrake was a daughter of the manager of Thomas Gilpin's paper mill on the Brandywine, the only plant in the country making continuous paper. Gilpin, an intimate friend of Coleman Sellers, had brought Eliza's grandfather [sic - father] to America, to the annoyance of his former employer, John Dickinson, an inventor of paper-making machinery and the owner of several English mills.
Eliza's reputation as an oddity had preceded her when she came to Belfield for a visit in the spring of 1815. Peale thought at first that she must be out of sorts with him, and tried to win her by attentions -- then came to the belief that perhaps her mind had been deranged by religious enthusiasm. Belfield's rational, matter-of fact style of living should be a cure for that. But after her marriage the terrible truth appeared, and by summer it was plain to all -- Franklin's wife was insane. Looking back, talking with those who had known her longer, it became equally evident that she had always been so. Indeed, a warning letter had been written to Peale, which he, by mischance, had never received. Poor Franklin's brief joy was turned into an agony of shame and bitterness, trying in vain to conceal what everyone soon knew, moody and silent, meditating suicide for all his father knew. A daughter was born to him, March 25, 1816. Eliza ran away, threatened to kill the child, and, in these straits, was placed in the hospital in Philaphia.
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His daughter, Anna Elizabeth Peale, lived, unmarried, to the ripe age of ninety [in 1906]. Franklin's cotton mill was of course but one of a host of new ventures. Burgess Allison was spinning at Burlington, and there were others everywhere....
Note 1: Additional published references to Eliza Greatrake Peale are very sparse. Volume 107 of The Numismatist (July-Dec 1994) has a short article on Franklin Peale's work with the U.S. Mint -- and on page 1137 the following mention of his wife and daughter occurs: "Peale married Eliza Greatrake on April 24, 1815. Together they had a daughter, Anna Elizabeth [b. 26 Mar 1816, Philadelphia]. It soon became apparent that Eliza was insane, and the marriage was annulled in 1820. Peale married again on May 4, 1839. He and his second wife, Caroline E. Girard Haslam, had no children."
Note 2: A more detailed account of Eliza was excerpted from an unidentified biographical source, for publication in the May 1888 issue of The Atlantic Monthly (Vol. 61, No. 367, pp. 611-624: "The American Philosophical Society" by Anne H. Wharton). In a report which may have mistakenly been taken from the life of Charles Willson Peale's wife (also a Quakeress), the magazine reports the following: "...Franklin Peale, says his biographer, ... was one of the founders of the Franklin Institute, and for many years discharged with great ability the office of chief coiner at the United States Mint. -- One of Mr. Peale's friends, who became an active and valued member of the society, was the learned Abbe de Serra, Portuguese Minister to the United States, who scandalized Mrs. Peale, a Quakeress, whose neatness was phenomenal, by appearing at her door so dusty and shabby... that the good lady waved him away from her spotless threshold, saying, 'No, my good man, I have no time to attend to you now;' little thinking that the good man was the expected guest, in whose honor she had put on her best satin gown, and prepared a savory repast, whose crowning triumph was a dish of asparagus from Mr. Peales garden, then a greater rarity than now. The Abbe had been on a geological tramp with Mr. Peale, and when that gentleman rallied his wife on treating his friend and guest like a beggar, the excellent lady justified herself by saying that, after all, 'he could not be much of a gentleman, as he helped himself to the asparagus with his fingers;' eating it, of course, after the French fashion."
(Philadelphia: T. K. Collins, 1851)
38 REMINISCENCES OF WILMINGTON.
to be further described, where many visitors from the neighborhood and cities have been so hospitably entertained. Mr. Gilpin resided here with his family the latter part of his life; and died there in the year 1841.
In the day of prosperity, the large stone house opposite the mill was occupied by Lawrence Greatrake, who managed the concern of paper-making. Death summoned him suddenly, in the vigor of life, to leave this extensive business and his large family. A youthful son succeeded him in the management of the establishment for years. It was a beautiful spot, and all around it was kept in the neatest order, shaded by trees, shrubbery and vines. Yet no withered leaves or broken branches marred the rich verdure on this hill. The mistress of the mansion, Mrs. G., arranged all within her bounds in good taste.
The court in front was adorned in beauteous order, with many flowering shrubs. The balcony in the rear overlooked the creek and mills, and far beyond; and the steep hill descending was covered with rich grass, and handsome trees well trimmed, so that the view was not obscured. On one side was the garden, with a serpentine walk the whole length of the high ground, and planted with different species of trees and shrubbery, consisting of some hundred varieties, completely shaded. Here and there was an arbor, decorated with vines and furnished with stools painted white. This presented the most picturesque view. At the entrance of the estate was a neat cottage, called a lodge, at vhich the road divided into three ways, with a large gate to each; a private one led to Kentmere, a lower one to the mill below; and the centre one to this house and the mills above.
There are many who gratefully remember the civilities tendered to them by this family, especially those caught in rains or thunder-storms in their rambles up these banks, and sought shelter under their roof. Some far away, who have been educated at Hillis’s boarding-school, may not forget the memorable evening when the entire school fled to this mansion to
VISITORS TO THE MILLS. 39
seek an asylum from a pelting rain, and the perplexity, as night approached, with no appearance of a change in the weather, and how George Greatrake exhibited his kindness in ordering the large covered mill wagon, geared with four horses,in which fifty or more girls were closely packed like reams of paper, standing erect, secure from the rain. They had a merry ride: though slow, it was sure and novel; a carriage conveyed the teachers home, and this was deemed an event in their life.
The daily crowds of visitors here one would think must be wearisome to master and man, yet all were met by cheerful faces, their curiosity gratified, and questions answered, however frivolous, and the greatest civility extended in passing through the various departments. Some one was ready to show all that you desired to see.
Mr. G. Greatrake, by personal exertion in the freshet of '22, impaired his constitution, and became the victim of a disease of the lungs, and in a few years died at the south, whither he went to recruit his health. From his knowledge of the business, and popularity with the workmen, his death was a great loss to the establishment. But the business being changed and the estate having fallen into other hands, everything was soon on the wane; and we lament to note the decline and fall of an establishment of which this town could once boast, as unrivaled in its order and pleasant scenery, and the delight and amusement of distant friends in their walk to view the operations at the old paper-mill.
How old things have changed! The buildings are noe cotton mills with additions. The beautiful trees and tasteful ornaments are laid low in the dust. Like the elder members of this hospitable family, they are mingling with the earth....
Baltimore-Philadelphia Area c. 1815 (larger image)