Extremely Rare Oregon Territory $20 Bond circa 1831The American Society for Encouraging the Settlement of the Oregon Territory $20 Emigrant Bond
A rare part-printed circa 1831 form with serial number 52 and measuring 21 by 17 centimeters and grading Very Fine. It is signed by General John McNeil as president and Robert P. Williams as secretary. Both signatures have been ink cancelled. There is a die-cut and stamped starburst seal of the Society dated 1831 at upper left. There are three binding holes at the left margin, a lightly penned "18" in the right margin, a vertical center fold shows splitting and there is a deft repair on the blank back. It is a boldly printed and attractive certificate that would show that a potential emigrant to Oregon had paid his $20 "pledge" to the Society and was able to embark upon an overland voyage to the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers (modern-day Portland, Oregon). Payment of a $20 pledge entitled an emigrant to a lot of seaport land or 200 acres of farming land, provided he or his assigns continued to occupy the land for two years. This Society was the brainchild of Hall J. Kelley, who wrote the 1831 tract, A General Circular to All Persons of Good Character Who Wish to Emigrate to the Oregon Territory. Kelley was the main promotional agent for the Society. He envisioned it as similar to a joint stock company, whereby those emigrants who signed the "covenant" would help underwrite the journey westward for the entire group. Both Kelley's idea and the Society ended up failing. Many of Kelley's planned members joined the 1832 Nathaniel Wyeth journey instead. Kelley finally did get to Oregon in 1834 and Kelley Point in Portland is named in his honor.
A few of these bonds survive in institutional collections, including serial number 59 in the Graff Collection at Chicago's Newberry Library and serial number 55 at Yale University. Very few of these Oregon bonds are in private hands. Worldcat (the world's largest bibliographic database) lists ten bonds in various university libraries. This example is the only one to have been offered in the numismatic community. It comes from the John Ford Collection where it was treated as a circulating note as it represents fiscal paper from the very earliest days of the Oregon Territory. This exact piece brought $6325 in the 2007 Ford XX auction, lot 3179. Ford acquired this historical item in September 1965.
This bond is signed, but not fully issued. It is one of the earliest fiscal items a collector could ever hope to obtain on the Oregon Territory. It is in a very nice presentable condition even though the bond has been completely severed along the vertical fold and professionally reattached.
Overall, a rare opportunity for one fortunate bidder to acquire an early numismatic item from this territory.
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000.
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