I recently had the chance to visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In collaboration with Wells Fargo, they are conserving a collection of bank materials from the Bank of North America, the first chartered bank in the United States. It was chartered by the Second Continental Congress in 1781, and was established to aid America in the Revolutionary War. This historic bank is a predecessor to the modern day Wells Fargo.
HSP has brought in three conservation technicians to work on this important collection, as well as staff from the Archives department. The team is tracking its progress on their blog and their Flickr site. Their amazing efforts will ensure that researchers can access this material for many years to come.
The team explained their conservation process and showed off some highlights from the collection. Many of the bindings of the old ledgers have come apart. The technicians are painstakingly sewing ledgers back together and creating new bindings for the books, as well as matching some loose bindings with the originals. I have to say it is highly impressive to see what they do!
This collection not only highlights the beginning of banking in our country, but also documents the Revolutionary War and the early Republic. The Bank of North America was proposed by Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton, and Robert Morris was a stockholder in the company. Some significant items from the collection include a charter of land signed by William Penn; a handwritten copy of the Revolutionary War era Loyalist ballad, “Canto,” by Jonathan Odell; and other items relating to and signed by a whole host of important Philadelphia and Revolutionary War figures, including John Adams, Samuel George Morton, Andrew Hamilton, Samuel J. Randall, Israel Pemberton, Owen Biddle, Samuel Carpenter, and Benjamin Chew.
I am excited that this collection is being conserved and that it will be available to the public. Hopefully the next time you are in Philly you can stop by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for a visit (it is right down the street from the Wells Fargo History Museum)!