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Constitution, Articles of Confederation, Rules, and Membership List of The Provident Society of Philadelphia, dated 1793-1808

small folio, 48 pages (includes 35 pages concerning the Provident Society of Philadelphia, 8 pages of writing not pertaining to the Provident Society such as later penmanship exercises, later receipts, etc, and 5 blank pages), contemporary quarter leather and marbled boards with red leather front cover label. Some pages missing. The lower edges worn with slight loss of a few pages' text. some foxing and stains, uniform light toning. The articles of incorporation dated April 3, 1793, with certificate laid in, missing seal, entries written in ink, in a legible hand.

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This manuscript is a remarkable record of the Provident Society and contains its Constitution, Articles of Confederation, Rules and Orders, and membership lists (names and addresses) of the Provident Society of Philadelphia from 1793 to 1808. The Society was organized for the mutual benefit of its members. It includes the Articles of Incorporation dated 3 April 1796, laid in and signed by A.J. Dallas (Alexander James Dallas), Secretary of the Commonwealth (later U.S. Secretary of Treasury), who then sent it to Matthew Irvin, Master of Rolls, who also signed it. The articles of incorporation were examined by justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and signed by four of them, Thomas McKean, Edward Shippen, J. Yeates, and Thomas Smith. The Pennsylvania State Attorney General, Jared Ingersoll, also examined and signed the document. 

The three men who signed the articles for the Provident Society, presumably the founders or first officers, were engraver John Vallance, school master Matthew Huston, and house carpenter Laurence Justice. 

The volume also includes three pages which carry the Rules and Orders of the Society. Following there is a list for 213 members between the years 1793 to 1808. The list includes the names of the members, the date they joined, and for many of them, the address where they lived. They are all Philadelphians of the period. Many of the members lived in the southeast corner of the city and the then adjacent district of Southwark (today the neighborhood of Queen Village) and appear to be working men, tradesmen, or shop owners. The society offered its members sick and death benefits, provided they were members for a certain period of time and their dues were current

The Provident Society of Philadelphia was founded in 1793 (incorporated 1796), the year that the Yellow Fever raged through Philadelphia. In all likelihood, the epidemic helped the society grow. According to a contemporary news article about the society (Democratic Press, 6 April 1810) on the celebration of its seventeenth anniversary, the emblem of the society was a bee's hive with bees buzzing around it. The symbolism was meant to show that cooperating together the members could help one another. The toasts given at this occasion had obvious pro-labor and patriotic overtones.

John Vallance (c1770-1823), one of the founders of the Provident Society, and who served as President for a number of years, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied engraving under John Trenchard (1747-?). Trenchard came to Philadelphia from Penns Neck, New Jersey, and was working as an engraver and seal-cutter by 1777. He learned to engrave with J. Smither in Philadelphia, and engraved a few portraits and a number of views in and about Philadelphia. In 1787, Trenchard was the illustrator for the firm that established the Columbian Magazine.

Vallance's first wife was Elizabeth Trenchard, a likely relict to John Trenchard. When Trenchard left Philadelphia for England permanently in 1793, Vallance formed a partnership with James Thackara (1767-1848), who also worked under Trenchard, the firm was designated as "Thackara & Vallance." Vallance engraved portraits and a large number of encyclopedia plates for Dobson's "Encyclopedia," amongst other engravings.

John Vallance was also one of the founders of the Association of Artists in America organized in Philadelphia in 1794 and was Treasurer of the Society of Arts in 1810.  He was a member and contributor to the Bible Society, as well as to the St. Andrew's Society. He married his second wife Margaret Pratt (1783-1827) in 1802. When he died at the age of 53 on 14 June 1823, he left a widow, seven daughters and one son in modest means, which was improved by Henry Pratt, a wealthy merchant and first cousin to the widow Margaret's father. Henry gave each of the seven daughters a small brick house and a good boarding school education.

The Vallances were buried at Old St. Paul's Cemetery in Philadelphia. John Vallance was the grandfather of political economist Henry George whose father Richard Samuel Henry George married Catharine Pratt Vallance, one of John Vallance's daughters.

Vallance gave a discourse before the Provident Society on 3 April 1810, at the time he was its President. John Wellwood Scott (c1777-1842), the society's Treasurer, also delivered a discourse before the Provident Society of Philadelphia, the following year. Scott was the printer for these discourses. On 11 Jan 1811, a local newspaper (Democratic Press), gave an account of the financial condition of the society. The group had almost $1200.00 invested in bonds, deeds, etc., and were taking in just over $300.00 in quarterly payments by members, with several hundred dollars of interest and initiations coming in. Funeral expenses and sick benefits paid to members, or cash payments to widows and orphans in 1811 came to about $500.00.

It is unclear when the Provident Society closed its doors. By 1824, there is another organization in Philadelphia calling itself the Provident Society of Philadelphia. This society's mission plan was to help the poor find work. The history of this later group states it was established in 1824, it appears to be a separate organization with a different mission.