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  • In the letter, dated 1801, William Shepard describes to Justin Ely the vibrant life-style in the new capital city of Washington, DC.

    William Shepard (1737-1817) Federalist Representative from Massachusetts (1797-1803). During the American Revolution he was a Minuteman officer and an officer in the Continental Army. Following the war he served as a major general in the Massachusetts militia that suppressed Shays’ Rebellion.

    William Shepard

    Col. William Shepard was at the Battle of Trenton, N.J. with George Washington, and his likeness appears in the painting The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776, by John Trumbull

    Autograph Letter Signed “Wm Shepard”, one page, folio, Washington, December 18, 1801 to Justin Ely of West Springfield, Massachusetts. With address panel on verso addressed in his hand and bearing his franking signature “Wm Shepard Member Congress” with Washington City Dec 18 Postmark and “Free” cancellations.

    A brief, but excellent account about life in the early days of the new capital city, which by all accounts was basically a rustic hamlet with some impressive public buildings. Shepard opens noting the presence of “a paper which contains the Proceedings or nearly all which has taken place since we have been in session [not present]…” He then describes his new home to his western Massachusetts correspondent: “…the weather hear [sic] is moderate and dry the Roads are much better then [sic] they was the last winter their [sic] is not any snow on the ground– Boarding on the Capatol [sic] hill is very high I could not get a room their [sic] to my Self and my Board under fifteen dollars a week and find my own wood, candels [sic] Lyquor [sic] and washing – I board two miles from the Capatol on the Road leading to George Town – am in one mile of the town am Boarded here at Eigh dollars per week and have a room to my self – but I find my own Wood Lyquor candels and washing…”

    An inauspicious beginning for the new capital city, which had been in planning since Congress resolved to locate the capital on the Potomac in 1790. The adjustment must have been particularly difficult for those members of Congress who had enjoyed the excitement and refinement of Philadelphia, which had served as the federal capital from 1790 to 1800. Development of the new city proved painfully slow: the cornerstone of the White House was laid in 1792 but when John and Abigail Adams took up residence in November, 1800, the building was still not complete. As Shepard vividly illustrates, there were virtually no services yet to speak of in the city, and boarding proved exceedingly expensive for member of both houses. Dwarfed by Alexandria, its neighbor across the Potomac, Washington remained a small town of several thousand up until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 when the size of the federal bureaucracy ballooned to manage the hundreds of thousands of men under arms. Usual folds, a few minor marginal chips at top left, a few very minor toned spots, else very bright and clean and in very fine condition.

  • Weight

    1lb.

    Height

    16"

    Width

    9.75"

    Depth

    .1"

    Weight

    1lb.

    Height

    16"

    Width

    9.75"

    Depth

    .1"

    Artist / Maker

    William Shepard

    Date

    19th Century

    Kind

    Books, Maps, Documents and Manuscripts, Collectibles, Memorabilia

    Origin

    American

    Size

    M (up to 30 in.)

    Support

    Paper