Special Collections & Archives Highlights: William Penn Land Grant

William Penn signed land grant

Pennsylvania land grant to John Tizacke, signed by William Penn, 12 May 1684

In 1681, Charles II of England granted William Penn approximately 45,000 square miles of land in the New World—the region now known as Pennsylvania. Penn, though a well-known dissident and Quaker, had maintained a civil relationship with the Stuart ruler, and the land is said to have been given to Penn as settlement for a debt of £16,000 owed to his father, Admiral William Penn, a long-serving naval officer. This was by far the largest and most liberal land grant given by the Crown.Badge_final

Penn, long an advocate for religious tolerance, sought to create in Pennsylvania a haven for Quakers and others facing religious persecution across Europe. This indenture, or deed, effectively sells 1,000 acres to one John Tizacke for the small sum of five shillings, to be held free and clear after one year’s rent of “one pepper corn.” Even today, a “peppercorn” is the legal term for a nominal payment that creates a legally binding transaction.

John Tizacke (or Tyzack)detail1_sm came from a family of glass-makers from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the English county of Northumberland, and he was a documented Quaker. He and his wife, Sarah, were members of the Gateshead Society of Friends, and John was reportedly jailed and tried for attending a Quaker meeting and refusing to swear an oath of conformity per the Quaker Act of 1662 (swearing oaths is antithetical to Quaker beliefs). One can only imagine that he was grateful for the opportunity to emigrate to Pennsylvania.

Penn's signature

Penn’s signature

Since Penn’s desired glass-making industry in Pennsylvania was largely unsuccessful until the Revolutionary period, Tisacke returned to England by 1691, but there are numerous records of his having become something of a real estate mogul, with his name appearing on land transaction documents both in Philadelphia and in England.

This indenture is largely printed on parchment, or vellum, with the names and locations filled in by hand. The fading that can be seen in Penn’s signature is characteristic of the corrosive effect of iron gall ink– the standard writing medium from the fifth through the nineteenth century–which eventually disintegrates the fibers of paper or parchment. This is one of several Penn family deeds held in Special Collections.

William Penn's seal

William Penn’s seal


Penn, William, and Mary Maples Dunn. The Papers of William Penn. Vol. 2. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

Soderlund, Jean R.. William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 1680-1684: A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.

“The Travels of John Tyzack, Broadglass maker.” The Tyzacks. http://www.tyzack.net /all4.html (accessed April 15, 2014).

This entry was posted in General Item and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.