Home > History of Wine > John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading listing Madeira for General George Washington

John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading listing Madeira for General George Washington


The image in today’s post features a bill of lading from John Searle & Company to General George Washington.  A bill of lading is a document used in international commerce to detail the goods being shipped as well as transfer title.  I often look at these bills when I study early Presidential wine orders.  They sometimes contain additional information that has not been transcribed such as the markings used to identify the goods.  These markings often take the form of the recipient’s initials and the type of wine if several were being shipped.

John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading. [2]

John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading. [2]

This particular bill covers two pipes of Madeira, two baskets of Portuguese figs, and a box of citron.  The letter that accompanied the bill of lading describes the Madeira as, “Two other Pipes of very choice Particulr Madeira Wine, of a fine Amber Colour, High Flavour, & Three years Old”.  What I find interesting about this bill are the initial “HE” and “GW”.  “GW” are clearly the initials of George Washington.  But what of “HE”?  John and James Searle were agents in Madeira for Mayne, Burn, & Mayne so those do not match.  The answer lies in the bill itself which declares the goods for “His Excellency General Washington, Esq.”  Thus “HE” stands for His Excellency.


[1] “To George Washington from John Searle, 15 July 1783,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11598, ver. 2014-05-09). Source: this is an Early Access document from The Papers of George Washington. It is not an authoritative final version.
[2] John Searle & Company, July 16, 1783, Bill of Lading. George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799. URL: http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw4/092/0600/0687.jpg

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