1827 Ltr: Savannah, Ga Portrait Artist Peter Laurens Orders Oranges, Lemons,acid For Sale
1827 Stampless Letter: Peter Laurens, Savannah, Georgia to E. Silsby, Boston, [MA] Cover is addressed to "E. Silsby Esq. Boston" Has manuscript "29" and light Savannah Ga postmark. [see #6] Recipient Enoch Silsby (1788-1841) was a Boston merchant involved in the transatlantic trade and the cotton business particularly in Savannah. His papers are at Winterthur and Mystic Seaport. The author was Peter Laurens (?-?) who first appears in Savannah, Georgia in c.1825 when the Savannah Georgian newspaper of May 25th reports he is operating a "Mineral Apparatus" to produce soda water and is also selling syrups and ice cream. He is open 3:00 PM to midnight. In 1826, he was fined $1.00 for vending without a license. In November, 1827 the Georgian reports he is now serving oysters and venison steak at the LaFayette Coffee House and later claims his general refreshment room is not surpassed ".... by any establishment of a similar nature in the United States". In March, 1828 the sheriff is selling "....all Confectionaries, Groceries, Furniture..." to satisfy debts Laurens owes. After his business fails. Laurens apparently re-invented himself as a portrait artist and he painted from c.1833 to c.1860. One source claimed he appealed to middle class taste and pocketbooks. Note some examples of his work. #3 is Jane Stillwell [Mrs. Gilbert Butler], wife of a Savannah builder done in c.1840. #2 is the builder Gilbert Butler c.1840. #4 is 20 year old Julius A. Ferrill who sat c.1860 and died at the Battle of Manassas. Laurens who seems to have been self taught as an artist had a murky past. One source says he was born in the United States but another claims he immigrated from France.[The closing of the letter appears to be in French?] Besides art, Laurens seems to have returned to retail selling at the Savannah Theatre [see #5 from internet] by at least 1836 and he was fined again in 1841 for selling without a license but paid a $5 fine and never did get a license as friends in high places protected him from a bigger penalty. He also was a theatre agent. He seems to have been in Savannah during the Civil War but then disappears. He was never recorded in the Census. "Sir Please to Ship me By the first Opportunity Forty Boxes of Very fresh Oranges of the Latest importation Twelve Boxes of Lemons 4 Drums of Smrna [Symrna] Figs [all for his soda water/syrup/ice cream establishment] and One or two Corboy [case] of Vitriol [Vitriol(acid) was used in making soda water] from the [?] Chemist up Washinton Street [possibly referring to Joseph M. Smith, Apothecary and Chemist, 138 Washington Street Boston] and Forward yours on the accs To Mr. S.B. parkman. [S.B. Parkman (? - 1838) was a cotton merchant and bank president in Savannah who would have known Silsby. He and many of his family were killed in the explosion of the SS Pulaski off the North Carolina coast in 1838] Youle [?] much oblid yours Very [ ?????] Looks possibly French. E. Silsby Esqr Boston Peter Laurens" A great 1820s Georgia letter from a man who made a living selling "luxury goods" to the citizens of ante-bellum Savannah. IMPORTANT I received information on Laurens from the Telfair Museums in Savannah. They have three of his pieces. I am going to send a xerox of the letter to them for their help. Sent folded.
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1827 Ltr: Savannah, Ga Portrait Artist Peter Laurens Orders Oranges, Lemons,acid: $43