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With a Name Like Peleg Wadsworth….

When using Google to search for people and their place in history, you always hope you’re not looking for Joe Jones. So when the name Peleg Wadsworth appeared on a page of the Liberty Paper Mill ledger, there was great hope of finding him.

As you can see, Wadsworth bought only small amounts of writing paper, bonnet board – and 12 bottles of snuff – during 1774 and 1775 when he was a teacher in Plymouth, Mass. His Wikipedia entry tells us:

Wadsworth was born in Duxbury, Mass., to Peleg and Susanna (Sampson) Wadsworth. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B. (1769) and an A.M. (1772), and taught school for several years in Plymouth. There he met Elizabeth Bartlett (1753 to 1825), whom he married in 1772.

As was quite typical of the day, Wadsworth paid for his paper and snuff thusly:

He sold rags to the mill, sold paper and earned a commission, and evidently carted rags or paper.

Pretty normal stuff, but the events of April 19, 1775 were to change his life dramatically. After Lexington and Concord, Wadsworth recruited a company of minutemen, of which he was chosen captain.  The Plymouth Countybattalion, commanded by Col. Theophilus Cottonmarched to Marshfieldto attack a garrison of British troops there. The attack was delayed for two days, allowing the British time to escape Marshfield by sea. During that time, Capt. Wadsworth, frustrated with the delay, advanced his company to within firing range of the British encampment, nearly instigating combat.

Wadsworth served as aide to Gen. Artemus Wardin March 1776, and as an engineer under Gen. John Thomasin 1776, assisting in laying out the defenses of Roxbury, Mass. He was present at the Battle of Long Island on August 1, 1776. He was made brigadier general of militiain 1777 and Adjutant General of Massachusetts in 1778.
But it was the Penobscot Expedition that brought out his best, even during what was to become the worst American naval disaster until Pearl Harbor.  In the summer of 1779 he served as second in command to General Solomon Lovell over the land forces sent to make a land and sea attack on the British fort at Castine, Maine. Commodore Dudley Saltonstall commanded the naval forces. Lt. Colonel Paul Revere also served in this expedition as commander of artillery.

In short, While General Lovell remained aboard the Commodore’s vessel, Wadsworth and Revere landed with the infantry and artillery and laid siege to the fort for about two weeks. Due to the reluctance of the Commodore to launch a naval attack in support of the ground forces, the British garrison held out until ships of the Royal arrived from Halilfaxand drove the American Navy up the Penobscot River where all 43 American warships were sunk or were scuttled and burned, comprising most of the American fleet.

Wadsworth organized a lengthy retreat through Maine that helped save what was left of the militia.

An engaging account of the Penobscot Expedition by  Windows on Maine can be found here.

A committee of inquiry interviewed several officers, including Wadsworth, and blamed the American failure on poor coordination between land and sea forces and on Commodore Saltonstall’s failure to engage the British naval forces. Saltonstall was declared to be primarily responsible for the debacle, and he was court-martialed, found guilty, and dismissed from military service. Paul Revere was accused of disobedience and cowardice, resulting in his dismissal from the militia; he later had the charges cleared.

“The Failure of the Expedition under Enquiry seems to me to be owing principally to the Lateness of our Arrival before the Enemy, the Smallness of our Land Forces, and the uniform Backwardness of the Commander of the Fleet.”

–Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth, 29 September 1779

The historical irony to all of this is that Wadsworth assisted in having Revere publicly disciplined. His grandfather, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sang Revere’s highest praises in “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

Following his military service, Wadsworth moved to Portland, Maine, In 1792 Wadsworth was chosen a presidential elector and a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and from 1793-1807 was the first representative in Congress from the region of Massachusetts that later became Maine.

In January 1807 he moved to Hiram, Maine, where he incorporated the township  and served as selectman, treasurer and magistrate. For the remainder of his life devoted himself to farming and local concerns. He died in Hiram on July 18, 1829, and is buried in the family cemetery at Wadsworth Hall.


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A Distiller Turned Quartermaster

We introduced a member of the “Loyal Nine” recently, noting that there were at least two other members who were also customers of the Liberty Paper Mill of Vose, Lewis & Crane.

Thomas Chase (you will note on the entry above that spelling was not necessarily of utmost importance in ledgers) was a distiller by trade and a hater of kings by inclination.

Chase was present at the Boston Tea Party, and it was at his distillery that the Loyal Nine met.

From the Diary of President John Adams:

 “I spent the evening with the Sons of Liberty at their own appointment, in Hanover Square, near the ‘Tree of Liberty.’ It is a counting-room in Chase and Speakman’s distillery. A very small room it is. There were present Jon Avery a distiller, of liberal education, John Smith the brazier, Thomas Crafts the painter, Benj. Edes the printer, Stephen Cleverly brazier, Thomas Chase distiller, Joseph Field master of a vessel, Henry Bass, Geo. Trott jeweler, and Hernry Wells. I was very cordially and respectfully treated by all present. We had punch, wine, pipes and tobacco, biscuit and cheese, etc. they chose a committee to make preparation for a grand rejoicing upon the arrival of the news of the repeal of the stamp act.”

When hostilities broke out in 1775, Chase joined the revolutionary Army, becoming Deputy Quartermaster General of the Eastern Department. In 1777, he notified the Continental Congress there were too few tents for soldiers under his jurisdiction. The Congress agreed to send him $50,000 for that purpose.

His first purchase from the Liberty Paper Mill was in November of 1771, and from then until 1777 he bought a good deal of writing paper and papers for other unspecified purposes. But soon after his appointment as Deputy Quartermaster, we see the purchases of paper for very specific purposes: musket and cannon cartridge paper. Through the remainder of 1777, Chase bought more than 200 reams of cartridge paper. During that period it is interesting to note that he also stepped up his purchases of writing paper, buying more than 150 reams.

Chase wasn’t the first, nor was he the last, to buy cartridge paper from the Liberty Paper Mill, but he certainly kept Stephen Crane busy in 1777!


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An Eye For Detail Thwarts a Forger

The letter to Crane & Co., Paper Manufacturers, is dated Oct. 31, 1878 from Philadelphia:


We are informed that the enclosed sample of paper is manufactured by you.

There has been presented for probate in this city a will claimed to be forged, which is written upon this kind of paper, and it becomes a matter of considerable moment for us to ascertain when the particular and exact brand was manufactured. I presume it may possibly extend over a period of years, and would be obliged if you will give us what information you can upon the matter.

Yours truly,

Pinkerton’s request was part of his investigation of the celebrated Whitaker will case:

in which an attempt was made to defraud the heirs of an aged and miserly millionaire in Philadelphia a few years ago. In this case the parties to the forgery were an aged and hitherto respectable lawyer, who had for years been the confidential adviser and counselor of the deceased, and three other men whom he had selected for his purposes, to forge the seals and to sign fictitious names of witnesses. This was one of the best planned and carefully executed forgeries with which the courts have had to deal, and many months were spent in the investigation and trial which finally ended in conviction. (From Thirty Years a Detective, Allan Pinkerton).

As the investigation proceeded, Pinkerton and his operatives began to focus on the paper used for the allegedly forged will, as well as the rules which were drawn at a local paper wholesaler. In fact, “Mr. Crane” (we don’t know which) was called to testify, and authenticated the paper as Crane’s Parchment Deed.

By an ingenious and scientific course of investigation we were able to determine, beyond a doubt, that the paper on which this forged will was written, was not really manufactured for some months after the date on which the will purported to be executed. It is true it was manufactured by the same firm, from the same materials, bore the same trade-mark, and was intended to be the same paper in every respect, but it was ascertained that by some little derangement in the setting of the machine which ruled the lines upon the paper, there had been caused a scarcely noticeable difference in the two papers. This once proved, it became necessary to more fully establish the question of a conspiracy to defraud, and finally, one of the parties to the forgery was induced to disclose the whole affair, and the entire scheme of these unscrupulous men was fully divulged. In the end the fraudulent will was set aside, the heirs came legally into their estate, and the guilty forgers were condemned to imprisonment.

Click here to learn more about this colorful and influential man, whose company continues to this day.

One last note. A letter to Crane from the firm of J.G. Ditman & Co., Wholesale Paper Dealers and Manufacturers in Philadelphia regarding the case, was written on paper with this Crane watermark. More on that later.

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Declaration by a Dedicated Patriot

In colonial times, word took a while to travel from place to place. Important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, first had to be printed, then copies made to be brought to cities all around the brand-new nation so that all could read or hear.

In the case of Boston, it took a full two weeks from the time of the signing of the Declaration to the time when it was read on July 14, 1776 from the east balcony of what is now known as the Old State House.


Old State House Crafts

This joyous task fell to Col. Thomas Crafts, one of the most ardent and long-standing of the patriots of Boston. Crafts grew up in Boston’s North End, a block away from Paul Revere. Crafts, a decorative painter, was one of The Loyal Nine, the nucleus of artisans and “mekanics” who grew and evolved into the Sons of Liberty.

Other members of the Loyal Nine, or “Loyall Nine,” were John Avery, a distiller and club secretary; John Smith, a brazier; Thomas Crafts, a painter (and Liberty Paper Mill customer); Benjamin Edes, printer of the Boston Gazette (another customer); Stephen Cleverly, a brazier; Thomas Chase, a distiller (and customer), Joseph Field, a ship captain; George Trott, a jeweler; and Henry Bass, a cousin of Sam Adams. Avery, a Harvard graduate, gave the group a respectable patina. Edes, as a printer, gave the group the means to get its message out.

The Loyal Nine was formed in 1765 to provide vocal opposition to the Stamp Act. Their first public act was to hand in effigy at Boston’s Liberty Tree Andrew Oliver, who had been chosen to administer the Stamp Act.


In  1773, he was among those who tossed tens of thousands of pounds of Tea into Boston Harbor. At the onset of the war, he joined Paddock’s Artillery Company, which was to become The Massachusetts State Train of Artillery, a company that included his fellow North-ender Paul Revere.

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One Great Moment in U.S. History

It’s been great fun scouring the ledger book of Crane’s Liberty Paper Mill for intersections with American history. It’s great fun when you find such a connection with one of the mill’s customers. But the most fun I’ve had so far is to find three Liberty Paper Mill customers at the same place and the same time, making their mark on one of the most important moments in American history.

The customers:

Paul Revere


William Conant


Richard Devens


We all know about Paul Revere, so I won’t go into any detail. Suffice it to say he was a fiery patriot, silversmith and engraver, and he was charged with delivering messages from Boston to other revolutionary hotspots and returning with responses.

But he is best known for his Midnight Ride to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams in Lexington and the keepers of a large store of munitions in Concord that the British had started their way.

The ride was to be initiated when movement was observed. According to The History of Old Charlestown:

According to Revere, it was with Col. Conant that he planned the hanging of the signal lanterns in the steeple of the North Church, to give warning of any movement of the British army toward Concord, where the patriots had gathered their stores. Revere says: “I agreed with a Col. Conant and some other gentlemen, that if the British went out by water, we would show two lanterns in the North Church steeple, and if by land, one, as a signal.”

Upon receiving the word that the British army was leaving Boston, Revere gave the word for the signal to be given and was rowed across Charlestown Neck. He arrived at Colonel Conant’s house where another Liberty Paper Mill customer was also waiting.

Richard Devens, who would become commissary general for George Washington’s armies, was already good at procuring items for the cause. In this instance he had gone to the stable of another Liberty Paper Mill customer – John Larkin – who was away at the time, and procured Larkin’s finest horse.


So from creating the warning system, to sending Revere on his way upon the finest horse around,  patriotic customers of The Liberty Paper Mill played crucial roles.

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Crane’s Celebrity A-List

Oh, you thought I was going to list all those famous celebrities who use Crane stationery? Sorry, but I’m not going there.

But as a historian, I have my own Crane’s Celebrity A-List.

Back in 1770 – that’s two years after Boston was invaded by the British – Daniel Vose, a shipping magnate; a man by the name of Lewis, whom we know nothing about; and 23-year-old papermaker Stephen Crane took over what had been the first paper mill in Massachusetts in the Boston suburb of Milton. You might guess their political leanings, as they named their business The Liberty Paper Mill.

It was here that paper was made for the newspapers and broadsides espousing the cause of American freedom. It was here that cartridge paper was made first for the Minute Men, then the Revolutionary Army. And it was here that Crane’s first currency paper was made to help finance the Revolution.

The most treasured artifact in the Crane Museum of Papermaking is the ledger book from The Liberty Paper Mill, from 1770 to 1793. Entries read like a who’s who of area printers, publishers, merchants and patriots. More than a dozen members of the Boston Tea Party, including cousin John Crane, purchased paper from the Liberty Paper Mill. I can go on and on, and someday, I’ll be able to do the research necessary to tell the whole story, but for now, here are a few members of the A-List:

Paul Revere is best known for his Midnight Ride. He was also a silversmith, and due to his engraving skills was commissioned in 1776 by The State of the Massachusetts Bay to engrave currency now known to collectors as “Sword in Hand Notes.” The paper was picked up at the Liberty Paper Mill under armed guard and delivered to Revere for his artistic touch.


Isaiah Thomas was only 21 when he began publishing The Massachusetts Spy, which strongly supported the cause of independence. The British considered Thomas so dangerous that he later recalled “he had the honor of being included with John Hancock and Samuel Adams in a list of twelve persons who were to be summarily executed when taken.” In 1775, he was forced to move his press out west to Worcester, and was able to continue publishing with paper from The Liberty Paper Mill.

Henry Knox was a Boston bookseller as the American Revolution approached. In 1775, General George Washington inspected a rampart at Roxbury designed by Knox and was instantly taken with the young man’s abilities. Knox soon became Washington’s Chief of Artillery, and earned a place in history in the winter of 1776 by carting 60 tons of captured cannon from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Dorchester Heights, driving the British from Boston Harbor.

And to close, here’s one of my favorites. Want to guess where Paul Revere kept his horses?

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