Mar 25, 2021 - Sale 2562

Sale 2562 - Lot 140

Price Realized: $ 9,375
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(BUSINESS.) Paul Cuffe. Invoice drawn up and signed by perhaps the young nation's leading Black merchant. Autograph Document Signed, one sheet, 6 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches, with signature and docketing on verso; folds, minor dampstaining . [Dartmouth, MA], 20 August 1800

Additional Details

The sea captain, shipbuilder and abolitionist Paul Cuffe (1759-1817) was one of the first successful Black businessmen in America. The son of a formerly enslaved father and a Wampanoag Indian mother, he developed his own shipyard, captained whaling ships, and made two trips to help the British colony from freed slaves at Sierra Leone. This invoice was written and signed by Paul Cuffe in 1799 and 1800, then in his early forties and already one of the leading merchants in what is now Westport, MA. It records a series of small transactions with a near neighbor, John Davis. Starting in September 1799, Cuffe billed Davis for carting several scow-loads of wood and ashes across the river, plus 2 gallons of tar, for a total of $5.00. Davis repaid him in part with 95 feet of clapboards. Cuffe then added additional charges for the repair of Davis's boat Abigail, for allowing Davis to use his cider mill, and for the wharfage of wood. The account was settled in full circa August 1800, presumably with the payment of $6.32 in cash to Cuffe. The receipt would have been given to Davis as proof of payment and filed among his papers. In the grand scheme of Cuffe's business activities, these were not major transactions, but they provide an interesting insight into his daily activities and community relationships during a period before his activism brought him a level of fame to match his fortune.