TOWNSEND, David (1753-1829)
Principles and observations applied to the manufacture and inspection of pot and pearl ashes
Boston: Isaiah Thomas & Ebenezer T. Andrews, 1793. 8vo. (8 5/8 x 5 1/4 inches). 48pp. Partially unopened. (Chips to title without loss to text, small clipped portions at head of terminal two leaves without loss to text).
[With:] Small archive of manuscript material relating to Townsend's service as an Inspector of pot ash, including a document signed by John Hancock. Comprised of:
1) Autograph document signed by Samuel Danforth, attesting that he is personally acquainted with Dr. David Townsend and that Townsend "is well acquainted with the principles of Chemistry in general and that from his particular application, he is well qualified to execute the business of a Assay of Pot & Pearl Ashes." Boston, 16 June 1791. 1 p.
2) Manuscript document signed by Justice of the Peace Samuel Bannett, attesting that Dr. David Townsend has "made oath that he would faithfully perform the duties of the Office of Inspector of Pot Ashes & Pearl Ashes to which he is appointed..." 16 July 1791. 1 p., lower blank portion of sheet clipped.
3) Manuscript document signed by John Hancock, as Governor of Massachusetts, an act concerning the fees for inspecting pot and pearl ashes. Boston, 26 March 1793. 1 1/4 pp.
4) Manuscript contemporary true copy of the above by John Avery Jr.
5) Manuscript document signed by N. Goodale, Clerk of the District of Massachusetts, acknowledging that David Townsend has registered the title of his "Principles and observations applied to the manufacture and inspection of pot and pearl ashes". 10 November . 1p. Paper covered wax seal.
6) Autograph letter signed from Samuel Eliot to David Townsend, thanking him for sending a copy of his pamphlet "which as far as I can judge must be greatly serviceable to the manufacturing & commercial interests of the State..." 29 May 1796. 1 p.
Scarce early American work on the manufacture of potash with an interesting related archive of manuscript material concerning the author, including a document signed by John Hancock.
In the mid-18th century, the manufacture of potash became a burgeoning cottage industry. Potash, a mineral rich substance derived from leeching, boiling and distilling burned out ashes from wood and plants, was used extensively in the colonies to make soap, glass and gunpowder and was also an important fertilizer. In 1790, the very first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins for an improved furnace in manufacturing potash, attesting to its importance. The United States would be the world's leading producer of potash into the mid-19th century. This rare pamphlet by Townsend, the Inspector of Pot and Pearl Ashes for Massachusetts, reviews the various manufacturing processes in the early period.
Townsend graduated from Harvard College in 1770 and studied medicine under General Joseph Warren. At the Battle of Bunker Hill, he accompanied Warren as surgeon in Bunner's regiment. During the war, he was commissioned surgeon to the sixth regiment of foot, commanded by Colonel Asa Whitcomb and later was senior surgeon to the General Hospital, Northern department. He served with the Continental army under Washington during the harsh winter at Valley Forge. On October 9, 1781, he was made surgeon-general of the hospital department. For many years and up to the time of death he was physician in charge of the U. S. Marine Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Dr. Townsend was an active member of the Massachusetts Medical Society from 1785 to 1824, when he retired. Following the Revolution, Townsend was one of the charter members of the Society of the Cincinnati, being secretary of the Massachusetts chapter from 1817 to 1821, vice-president from 1821 to 1825 and president from 1825 to 1829.
Evans 26270; Rink, Technical Americana 3169; Sabin 96377.