Lot 77 of 395:
New York Millionaire Cult Dupe who Slandered Sojourner Truth  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$84
$120 - $180

Two Autograph Letters Signed - New York Millionaire Cult Dupe who Slandered Sojourner Truth

Folger, Benjamin H.

New York and Sing Sing


1832 and 1838


Two autograph letters, signed: New York, Nov. 28, 1832 and Sing Sing, Nov. 14, 1838. 2pp. and 1 pg. + stampless address leaves.

To Edward B. Huntington, Norwich, Conn. and C.G.Havens, Counselor at Law, New York. The first letter concerns settling the “doubtful debts” of Folger’s New York business partnership, which he was dissolving after some “warm” arguments of “severe language” with his partner, who accused Folger of defrauding him to start a more profitable enterprise. In the second letter, six years later, he settled a small debt, noting that he did “not wish to be known as the present owner”. The real reason the wealthy Folger liquidated his New York City business and retired to his 29-acre estate on the Hudson River at Sing Sing was that he and a business colleague, Elijah Pierson, had become the first true-believing devotees of Robert Matthews, a “half-crazy knave and abominable humbug” (to quote P.T.Barnum) who called himself “Matthias The Prophet” and convinced Folger to establish a messianic “Kingdom of Matthias” on his country property. Joining them as cult disciple was Pierson’s Black cook and housekeeper, 35 year-old Isabella, a devout Christian who had escaped from slavery with her son. The cult survived for two years until Pierson died – when the disenchanted Folger accused “the Prophet” of poisoning Pierson for financial gain, with Isabella as alleged accomplice. After Matthews was acquitted in a notorious murder trial, Isabella sued Folger for slander, and, amazingly, won her case, receiving $125 in damages. The once-wealthy Folger, embarrassed (and financially ruined) by public ridicule, happily faded into obscurity. But Isabella, renamed Sojourner Truth, as an itinerant Methodist preacher who wandered New England preaching against slavery, became one of the most famous African-American women of the century.

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Lightly yellowed; very good or better.

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