Benjamin Chew Jr. was long-time attorney for Richard and Mary Penn. Over the course of many years, Richard Penn's financial situation worsened--for a time, he relied upon his cousin to provide him with financial support, and later, he caused a great rift in the family by seeking compensation for property he felt he was owed by his father's will. He associated with agents who were able to persuade him to become involved in land ventures that were not to his benefit.
Among some documents relating to land deals and legal disputes, were these little drawings and detailed instructions for the design of cavalry uniforms. Benjamin Chew III petitioned the governor of Pennsylvania to fund the manufacture of these fancy uniforms for the 25 members of the Pennsylvania Lancers. Apparently, Colonel Chew picked out the cloth for the jacket and pants, and carefully specified the type of cotton that would be used to create the accents.
Sometimes working in the conservation lab is like being in National Treasure. A map from 1775, showing property division between Richard Penn and Mary and Sarah Masters, came into the lab needing paper mending. The map had been mended previously with paper similar to paper the map was made from.
Since the beginning of the project, we have been anxiously awaiting the completion of the mold room repairs so that we could hire a preservation technician. The mold room was renovated and now we are lucky enough to have the very brave and cheerful Anni Altshuler cleaning the mold from various sections of the Chew Papers. So far, she has been really helpful in getting us through our backlog of materials that have been simply awaiting her arrival.
We have a few lingering leaks here in the processing room. Friday, we had a stream of water fall from the ceiling above our processing table. (Luckily, Natalie heard the dripping and we raced around to get plastic over things before anything got wet!)
I find it interesting that the voices of the Chews' children turn up in the collection, usually in the form of writing exercises, like the one below, or a section written on a parent's (usually a mother's) letter to a family member. These glimpses of children are formal since formality was expected in such exercises. However, they do indicate that the Chews' children were eager to please the adults around them and to communicate with loved family members, whether a father away on business or an out-of-town aunt or uncle.
The Chew papers demonstrate the hazards of archival work. Many of the boxes were likely stored in the basement at Cliveden for decades. As we sort through them, we face what at times may be centuries worth of dust, dirt, and sometimes mold. For archivists without allergies, wearing masks and/or gloves are important precautions to take when handling these materials. Archivists who are particularly sensitive to dust or mold should take more care to protect themselves from allergens.
Sorting through some folders of (mostly) Benjamin Jr's legal papers, I came across a random folder of material dealing with the Pennsylvania-Maryland boundary dispute. In it was an 18 page letter addressed to "Countryman Hickinbotham". The letter is unsigned, but after reading through it, I found the letter it was answering, which was addressed to "Mr. John Ross". The letter, from Charles Higinbotham, discusses an attack on some of his countrymen who were encamped along the Susquehanna River. In this attack, a Captain Croasap's house was burned and some of his men were injured.