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Adams | John

Signed John Adams Free Frank Envelope




Signed envelope from former president John Adams addressed to his nephew, William Cranch, a United States Circuit Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

Envelope with backing paper measures 5″ x 3.75″. Postmark in red ink reads: “Boston, MS / Apr 1” with additional “Free” stamp. Envelope reads: “The Honble. William Cranch / Alexandria. District of Columbia” in another hand, with the signature “J. Adams” in the center. Writing is clear in dark ink, Adams’ signature showing a tremor. Includes a fragment of a letter on verso, dictated by Adams and transcribed in a different hand. Stabilized by backing paper, short closed tears along edges of both paper and envelope. Small loss at center of envelope, not impacting legibility. Wear to bottom right corner. Housed in a custom blue cloth clamshell case, title in gilt on morocco label affixed to front cover. Full piece measures 10″ x 7″ x 1″. A notable association piece.

As a young man, John Adams (1735-1826) met his future wife, Abigail Smith, through his close friend and colleague, Richard Cranch. Cranch was courting Abigail’s sister, Mary. Adams and Cranch both married into the Smith family, remaining connected as brothers-in-law until Cranch’s passing in 1812. Richard and Mary’s son, William Cranch (1769-1855), studied law and was appointed to the US Circuit Court of DC by his uncle, President Adams, in 1801. The two shared frequent correspondence, especially after Adams left office and retired to Quincy, Massachusetts.

The style of the postmark and the use of “Honorable” show that this signature occurred sometime after 1801, following Adams’ presidency and the appointment of Cranch to US Circuit Court Judge of DC. Although a specific date is unknown, we estimate the letter to have been sent sometime between 1811 and 1812, due to Adam’s advanced age creating the tremor in his penmanship and the frequent mention of “Richard” in the visible portion of the letter.

Additional information

Location Published

Boston, MA


John Adams



Date Published

c. 1810




Very Good


Adams | John

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