This Land Grant Signed by Benjamin Franklin Remarkably Remained With the Original Land Owners and Heirs Until its Acquisition by Raab
It’s not every day that a previously unknown document bearing Benjamin Franklin’s signature comes to light, which is why we at Raab were excited to receive a call from the descendants of an 18th-century Pennsylvania land owner, a descendant whose family remarkably still owned that very plot of land, or a portion of it.
What the heirs showed us proved to be an exciting historical find: an official document from 1788 granting a parcel of land in western Pennsylvania to Benjamin Chew. The document was signed by Benjamin Franklin in his capacity as a governor.
Who was Chew? During the Revolutionary era, Benjamin Chew (1722-1810) was an attorney, scholar, and later chief justice in Pennsylvania. He knew and was known to America’s Founding Fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. The piece of land Chew acquired in 1788, located in western Pennsylvania, was dubbed “Chew’s Addition.” Chew’s primary residence was Philadelphia, and his historic home, Clivden, is a National Trust site today. The parcel designated in the land grant was an additional piece, and the commonwealth made clear in this document that it retained gold and silver rights to it.
As the land got handed down and transferred, so did this original land grant. Kept safe–and secret–over the past 235 years, the document has never before been offered for sale. When the descendants of the owner of that plot of land came to us seeking authentication and advice, we were delighted to be among the first to set eyes on a “new” Benjamin Franklin autograph.
As with our other recent discoveries–a Lincoln letter from 1861, a George Washington letter from 1777, and an Einstein letter from 1950, just to name a few–this land grant signed by Franklin had long been treasured by one family over generations. Now, for the first time, someone else has the chance to cherish and preserve it.