In the top portion of the composite image above is an enlarged example of the signature of Cornelius Harnett superimposed on a portion of page 74 of the Wilmington Town Book 1 . He abbreviated his signature as “Corn. Harnett”. Page 74 shows a handwritten copy of minutes of the Wilmington Board of Commissioners and reveals an ordinance adopted by Harnett and other members of the board. At the bottom you can see their actual signatures. This was done while Cornelius Harnett was serving as a commissioner for the town in 1754 and 1755. The signature of all would have made John Hancock proud. Compare the last paragraph of the handwritten minutes above with the following printed transcript that appeared on page 75 of the Wilmington Town Book:
Ordered that any person, who shall hereafter have Occasion for one of the Town Ladders to Sweep their Chimneys, shall first acquaint one of the Commissioners therewith, and shall return the same to the Court House, in three hours after giving such Notice to said Commissioner under the Penalty of five shillings Proclamation money for every such offense. And that no person shall presume to take any or either of the Sd [said?] Town Ladders for any other use whatsoever under the penalty aforesaid.
Harnett was 31 years old at the time. He obviously went on to more important matters. But we can marvel at his excellent handwriting which shows that he received a first class education. The children of today, even though they outshine their elders with computers, are not taught cursive writing at the level we see on display in these town minutes of 1754.
1. Lennon, Donald R., and Ida B. Kellam, eds. The Wilmington Town Book – 1743-1778. Raleigh, NC: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1973. Print. 250+. 74-75.
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