Any one title on the resume of Alexander Hamilton (d.1804) is worthy of recognition in the history books and would have brought him lasting notoriety. The full list of his positions and achievements is much too long to list here, but the highlights of this Founding Father’s career include establishing the Federalist political party, founding the Nation’s financial system, founding the U.S. Coast Guard, serving as the first Secretary of the Treasury, founding the First Bank of the United States, establishing the New York Post newspaper, creating the U.S. Mint and serving as a Congressman from New York. His military service included participation in numerous Revolutionary War battles, highlighted by four years as George Washington’s chief staff aide. His top rank was Major General and during the “Quasi-War” of 1798-1800 he was appointed Senior Officer of the United States Army, a position he held from 12/14/1799 to 6/15/1800.
It was during the period of the “Quasi-War” against France that Hamilton signed the offered “free frank” envelope, which is addressed to “Major John Adlum”. Known as “the father of American viticulture”, Adlum fought in the American Revolution with the rank of Corporal until captured by the British in November of 1776. He was released in 1777 under the condition he would no longer participate in the war. In 1795 he was appointed a judge in Lycoming County, PA. and also commissioned a Brigadier General in the Pennsylvania militia. He retired from these positions in 1798 and took up farming in Maryland, but was then commissioned in January of 1799 by the federal government as a Major in the newly established Provisional Army, which was disbanded in 1800. Adlum later joined the U.S. Army in 1807 as a Lieutenant and rose to the rank of Captain the following year. He fought against the British again in the War of 1812, but it is his 1799-1800 rank of Major that concerns us here.
As noted above the offered Hamilton signed free frank is addressed to Adlum with the rank of Major. Measuring 9x7 is sheet of stationery addressed in full at center as “Major John Adlum, Commanding Officer, Reading Pennsylvania”. Hamilton’s stately (“7-8”) strength signature appears at top right as “A. Hamilton” below a notation in his hand that reads “On public service”. Though the last three letters of Hamilton’s surname are overlapped by a sizeable “PAID” stamp, his signature remains readily discernible and very pleasing. A cancellation stamp to the left of Hamilton’s signature shows a partial date of “Jul 20”, which follows a timeline established at the bottom of the page by a written notation that reads “From Genl. Hamilton July 19th”. When held up to light, an elaborate watermark is revealed at the point of this writing, with the residue of a circular sealing wax impression just below it. Ironically this watermark is topped with "fleur-de-lis" pips as part of its design. While this antique document remains fairly crisp and clean, there are added sections of paper restoration on the bottom edge and a 1-1/2 x 1-1/2” section of paper loss at top center. Additionally several original period compacting folds are present, as expected with a document of this nature. Full photo LOA from JSA.