[ Benjamin Seaton and 'The Seaton Tool Chest'. ] Autograph Letter Signed to Benjamin Seaton from his father Joseph Seaton, regarding preparations for a voyage to New York, with directions regarding 'the mattrassses' and 'the trunk'.

Rev. Joseph Seaton (1742-1811) of Smarden, cabinetmaker and church elder; his son Benjamin Seaton (1775-1830) [ The General Baptist Chapel, Chatham, Kent ]
Publication details: 
Chatham. 30 July 1797.
SKU: 20266

An interesting letter relating to a notable artefact, described by Christopher Schwarz as 'one of the more interesting mysteries in the history of woodworking: the 'Seaton Tool Chest', now in the Guildhall Museum, Rochester, is the subject of 'The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton' by Megan Fitzpatrick (1994; revised edition, 2012). In 1796 the tools were presented by the writer of the present letter to his son, the letter's recipient, who constructed the chest (probably the 'trunk' referred to in the present letter) to house them. This letter proves Schwarz's suggestion that Benjamin was probably 'preparing to emigrate to America'. In fact Benjamin remained in Chatham, and although he continued his father's business after his death, the expensive tools in the box appear unused. 3pp., folio. On bifolium. In good condition, on lightly-aged paper, with slight loss (involving a few words of text) at corner of second leaf. Expertly repaired with archival paper. Addressed on reverse of second leaf to 'B Seaton | at Canterbury | or elsewhere | to be forwarded soon as possible'. The letter's valediction reads: 'I am your Affecte. Father | Joseph Seaton', and is addressed to 'Dear Ben:' Joseph begins by telling his son that Samuel Dendy came from London in the morning, and informed him that 'The capt. of the Belvidera told him yesterday they should absolutely clear at the custom House on tuesday next – I sail for Gravesend &c on wednesday – how long they will be in getting to the Downs is uncertain'. Dendy has 'orders for the mattrasses at Mr Smiths' and Seaton will 'see them on board'. He discusses his son's bedding for the journey, including a 'crankey pillow', and the details of the ship's movements and his son's, at Deal, the Downs, and Chatham. 'Wm. Ellis went with me last night to carry the box & trunk – to the coach office – I asked him if he should like to go along with you – he said yes – I asked him on what terms, he answered (he has 1 year & half to stay of his time:) he would bind himself to you for 3 years – in consideration of his freightage & expenses over - & your providing for him board – During the time – when you get over you will see how it answers respecting yourself – I will then know how it will answer for any body else'. The letter continues with reference to the son's 'Sister Hemsley', the weather, the procuring of money for the son's journey. 'If you don't think it best to come to Chatham again I wish you a safe arrival at New York - & tho' this is a trying circumstance - & of your own scheming I wish it may answer your every good design'. He exhorts him to show 'industry, frugallity [sic] & prudence' as a means of avoiding 'plunging yourself into difficulties'. He suggests that he associate with 'those who are in better circumstances - & know more than yourself | I doubt not Mr Titford remembers your mother – when she liv'd at Cranbrook – you remember Borneo who liv'd next to Mr Elliotts – but don't get too much acquaintance with uncertain charrters [sic] – if Mr Fenn has not laid in, a few nutmegs & a little sugar – you had better do it - & a bottle of Daffies Elixir – Nancy – your Mother – Y& all the rest of us join in Love'. He has given Dendy 'a few lines' to give to 'Mrs. Boorman'. He concludes with a biblical quotation, and the postscript: 'let us know when you sail from Deal & write as soon as you get to New York'. 'The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton’ stimulates much discussion on the Net, is the subject of a book published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Museum), who were lent the object for display in 1994/5.