1786 John Francis Journal

Value (2005) | $3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

Well, it's been passed through the family, and it belonged to an ancestor, John Francis, who was a junior partner of John Brown, a merchant in Providence. And I'll tell you a funny story was, he married the boss's daughter. He came from Philadelphia, and he moved into the John Brown mansion in Providence, living with the Brown family. So John Brown sent him on this trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with his son James.

And it was in October of 1786 that they left Providence. Now, the Brown family is, of course, Brown University. But give me some of the highlights.

Well, John Francis and James traveled from Providence to Boston, and from there, they traveled along the sea coast visiting Salem and Marblehead. And the thing that fascinated me was, John Francis writes about the devastation that the war caused-- the Revolutionary War. Shipbuilding was flat, the land was ruined. In Marblehead, he sees all these children on the road, and he said most of them-- they were orphans. Their fathers had gone off to the war and never returned.

Now, there's one other thing that I want to emphasize. Where this is Brown University, Brown family... He talks about getting to the village of Cambridge, and what did he see there?

Well, James Brown had attended college in 1779, and so they stopped in their travels, because they wanted to see the new laboratory and the new buildings and so forth, so they stop in the village of Cambridge.

And they're talking about the praises of Harvard, how wonderful it is, how it has the best library in the world. When you get to old journals of this type, one of the things that really adds to the value, really makes them, is that they're interesting. In other words, if they have a journal like this and they're saying they're going, and the roads are bad and the food's bad, it's sort of boring. But when they start talking about the devastation from the war, they start telling about how Marblehead is this little hole with only a few families, you can almost feel yourself in with the person as they're going along on the trip. That's what makes the value-- is the writing, the giving you the feel of it. You say you have a whole group of papers, and you have them on archival paper, which is wonderful, but I would also say that you should have copies and transcriptions in another location. A journal like this, in and of itself, just the one item, I would estimate $3,000, maybe $5,000.

Well, that's wonderful. Well, that's... You really opened a world for me, so thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Brattle Book Shop
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2005)
$3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Providence, RI (June 18, 2005)

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