Manuscript document signed, recording monies received from Pennsylvania Hospital for chimney sweeping.
Philadelphia: October 26, 1799.
1p. 5x8 inches. Framed and glazed. Provenance: Victor Niederhoffer Richard S. Newman, Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers (NYU Press: 2008). Item #346885
Richard Allen, born enslaved in 1760 on Benjamin Chew's Whitehall plantation in Kent County, Delaware, in 1768 he and his family were sold to a neighboring plantation owned by Stokely Sturgis. Just a few years later, Allen would be separated from his mother and several siblings who were sold again. In the midst of the Revolution, Allen would attend a Methodist revival which would have a profound effect on both he and Sturgis. In 1783, Allen purchased his and his brother's freedom for $2,000 in Continental currency and became a circuit preacher, settling in Philadelphia where he met Absalom Jones. Together, the two founded the Free African Society in 1787, a mutual aid society to benefit African Americans in the city. Allen and Jones rose to prominence during the city's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, in which the two led the heroic efforts of African Americans to aid the sick and bury the dead, publishing their Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People during the Late Awful Calamity in 1794 as a response to Matthew Carey and others who falsely portrayed their sacrifices as opportunistic.
That same year, Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), which became known as "Mother Bethel" Church, which would become the basis for the first fully independent Black denomination in the United States. From that period, until his death in 1831, Allen and his wife Sarah operated a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Concurrent with his religious and political activities, Allen worked in various capacities to support his family, including as a cobbler and as a chimney sweep. Cleaning the chimneys of Philadelphia, one of the least desirable and most dangerous occupations in the city, was largely undertaken by African Americans. The present document written and signed by Allen comprises a record of monies received, ironically from Benjamin Rush's Pennsylvania Hospital – it was Dr. Rush who incorrectly had asserted that African Americans were immune from contracting yellow fever during the epidemic – paying Allen £1.12s for sweeping 8 chimneys in August 1799, 8 in September 1799, and 16 in October 1799. The entire text is likely in Allen's hand but certainly the signature and the inscription above it, "Rcd the within bill."
Autograph material signed by Allen, particularly in the 18th century, is exceedingly rare. We know of no other example appearing on the market in the last half century.
Price: $22,500.00 Free International Delivery