John Hancock Letter – Appointment of Officer to Massechusetts Militia 1781

Historic Information

John Hancock -Born in 1737, he was a statesman, merchant and patriot of the American Revolution.   Before the revolution he was one of the wealthiest men in the thirteen colonies.  He served as Massachusetts 1st and 3rd Governors and was the President of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia from 1775 to 1777.    His bold large signature served as a centerpiece on the Declaration of Independence.   It was told that he wanted King George II to be able to read his name on the document without his glasses.  He died in Boston in 1793.

Lieutenant Thomas Day – John Hancock, while Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, signed the appointment of Thomas Day to the rank of Lieutenant.    He was placed under the command of Captain Francis Stebbins on July 1, 1781 in the 2nd Company of the 3rd Regiment of the Massachusetts Militia.  This document was signed in the 5th year of our independence from England.    There was no information found about Day’s birth or death dates.

Thomas Day’s known record to the Massachusetts Militia reads as follows:  [Capt. Samuel Thrall’s Company; engaged Aug.17, 1781; discharged Nov. 9, 1781; service, 3 months 3 days, travel included, “under Col. Marenus Willet on Mohawk river;” company raised for 3 months; also, 1st Lieutenant , Capt. Francis Stebbins’s Company, Col. David Mosley’s regiment; entered service June 16, 1782; discharged June 20, 1782; service, 4 days; company raised to support the government at Springfield and Northampton, June 12, and June 16, 1782. ] (Massachusetts  Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, A Compilation from the archives – Secretary of the Commonwealth, 1891 Boston – Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers – 1898, pg. 586)

Artifact's Condition Prior to Treatment

The form appointment letter was printed with black ink on a hand-made linen and cotton-based paper with visible laid and chain lines.    The paper measures 13”h x 10”w and contains no water marks.    The written inscriptions on the document are hand-written by John Avery, Secretary of the Commonwealth with a quill pen in a brown/black ink.   John Hancock then signed the appointment with his usual large signature with underlining flourishes.   The document had been originally folded into nine sections.   There are breaks and losses of paper and missing sections of writing associated with these losses.   The majority of the big breaks and folds had been previously mended using 3M Magic Tape (or similar product) on a Mylar substrate.   The tape was stable, but wasn’t considered to be a long-term suitable means of repair for a paper artifact of this significance.    The tape would not have deteriorated or yellowed in the short-term, but there were better mending choices for long-term care of this artifact.  There was a red wax seal melted into the paper with an embossed Flour-de-lie.  The wax seal was stable and well attached to the paper.   The document had embedded dirt and grime on each side.

Treatment of the Artifact

Conservation of the artifact was documented with written reports and digital photography before, during and after treatment.     Printed and written ink was tested for water and solvent solubility.      All 3M magic tape holding the document together on the back side was removed with organic solvents.    Folds were relaxed back into place with deionized water and weighted until dry.  Both sides of the document were surface cleaned with crumbled eraser.   The document was flattened by misting the reverse side with deionized water.   It was then by placing between acid-free blotting paper with weights until dry.   All tears and breaks were reinforced in the document from the reverse side with Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste.     Paper inserts were cut to shape for missing sections of the document from 18th century paper, and attached in the same manner as the tears were repaired.    Missing inscriptions and printed ink were not replaced at the wish of the client.  A sealed archival package for this piece was created using ultra violet filtering clear acrylic sheeting, acid-free matt boards, and Coroplast corrugated board.     The edges of the package were sealed with archival tape on a Mylar carrier.    This artifact was placed into a new frame, and was secured with brass mending plates, braided picture wire and “D” ring hangers.

Photographic Documentation