Original White House, the deed for the sale
Philadelphia man ready to sell massive personal collection of historical treasures
PHILADELPHIA – An unusual gift of a friend decades ago led to an interest in James Journey that turned into a 30-year treasure hunt.
A friend gave him a mid-19th century land title. The gift, he said, “was as a work of art.” His interest was aroused, and he began a years-long effort to unravel the mysteries of the colonial era.
The Philadelphia real estate broker owns an impressive collection of historical documents – there are about 2,000 pieces in his collection – most of the country acts that are centuries old. The yellow, wrinkled pieces of parchment to tell the stories of early American history.
James Journey, 73, shows Fox News to share his vast instrument collection.
There is a document on parchment, George Washington’s first presidential residence or “white house” located in Philadelphia, the nation’s first capital, on the Market and Sixth Street. Journey, 73, also has the deed to the house, where a 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson wrote the first version of the Declaration of Independence.
Many of the documents are sealed with decorative pressed or flattened red circles stamped wax to indicate a formal agreement. Seemingly banal passages can unfold in the rich stories of a developing country, depending on the signees.
He said that he fell in love with the characters, and the detail in each document.
“If I were not a broker, I would be a detective,” he said. “I love to find out what happened and how it happened, so I keep digging until I get the right answer.”
He said that he felt the historical land deeds need to be collected, so that he began to travel to his local bookstore to see if he could find it.
“I got $20,000 on my first major find,” said Trip. “I found a store, and they had documents stacked to the ceiling. I bought them all.”
His passion brought him from bookshop to bookshop anywhere in the northeast.
He spent countless hours doing research on his findings. But, he said, is he ready for the treasure hunting days behind him.
Journey of the deed to the land on the Sixth and Market Street, which would later became the first presidential mansion for George Washington.
Trip said the conservation of 50 collections is a huge undertaking, and it is time they switch to someone who can properly care for them.
“Maybe a university they want,” Trip said. “My only wish is that [actions] go to a good home, where their historical value can be appreciated.”
He could probably get a lot for them – it is unclear how much they are worth – but for him it is about more than money. He wants his extensive collection to inspire younger generations.
“Young people don’t understand the sacrifices for them. Maybe if they did, they would appreciate this country much more,” he said.
Lee Arnold, director of the Historical society of Pennsylvania, said collections, depending on the deed signature, can be very valuable.
“A collection of the instruments has a much greater historical value than just a single instrument, and can give you insight into both the collector and his collection,” Arnold said.
For the Journey, each collection of his tells a story.
“I was all over the place, when I first started and then I realized that I had a few documents related to Robert Morris, so I started to research his country and today I have one of the best domestic collections,” he said.
Morris, Journey favorite colonial character, is best known for the financing of the American Revolution. An American banker and founder, Morris loved his friend George Washington and his troops fed, clothed and armed during the long war with England.
Most of the facts are printed on vellum, a fine parchment made from the skin of an animal. While the documents appear to be very durable, if folded, or in an unsuitable environment, they can tear or discolor.
“I keep [deeds] safe as I can in plastic and in cool areas, but I am not a professional,” Trip said. “But it is time to get them to professionals, so that they can care for them.”
Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.