American Revolution Passport Arnold
Passport. Philadelphia: 19 April 1779. Autograph note signed “B Arnold MGenl” allowing the passage of Capt. Francis Mountanye to the camp at Raritan “to endeavor to effect his Exchange with the Commissary of Prisoners.” 5 1/2 x 6 3/8 inches (14 x 16 cm). American Revolution Passport Arnold
A very rare passport signed by Arnold in April 1779 – just ten days after his wedding to Peggy Shippen and during the period that he first made himself available to the British as a spy. Placed in command of Philadelphia in June 1778, a city evacuated by the British but still deeply loyalist, Arnold was sharply criticized for his extravagant entertaining and conspicuous activities about town. Joseph Reed who presided over the Executive Council of Pennsylvania presented eight charges of misconduct against Arnold, who immediately demanded an investigation. The Congress decided on a Court Martial, which was delivered to Arnold from General Washington on April 20th, the day after this passport was penned. American Revolution Passport Arnold
Peggy Shippen, Arnold’s nineteen-year-old wife, had been courted by British officer John Andre during the occupation of Philadelphia the previous year and she is a likely source of Arnold’s introduction to Andre, who had become the British head of intelligence. The timing of this current passport is particularly evocative of Arnold’s descent into treason as his first communication with Andre took place at this precise time. Arnold would avail himself to the British through Joseph Stansbury sometime before May 10th, and his potential uses are discussed at length in an extant four-page letter from Andre to Stansbury. American Revolution Passport Arnold
In that letter, Arnold’s role in effecting prisoner exchanges is offered up, and at the end of the letter Stansbury is told that secret correspondence would be carried by “exchanged officer & every messenger remaining ignorant of what they are charged.” While Captain Francis Mountanye, the subject of this document, has proven difficult to find in listings of exchanged British soldiers, the timing of the passport is uncanny. American Revolution Passport Arnold
It is interesting to note that in 1780 Arnold would serve Andre with a fake passport to get through American lines in advance of the planned surrender of West Point.
Benedict Arnold (14 January 1741 – 14 June 1801) was an American military officer who served during the Revolutionary War. He fought with distinction for the American Continental Army and rose to the rank of major general before defecting to the British side of the conflict in 1780. General George Washington had given him his fullest trust and had placed him in command of West Point in New York. Arnold was planning to surrender the fort there to British forces, but the plot was discovered in September 1780, whereupon he fled to the British lines. In the later part of the conflict, Arnold was commissioned as a brigadier general in the British Army, and placed in command of the American Legion. He led the British army in battle against the soldiers whom he had once commanded, after which his name became synonymous with treason and betrayal.
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
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