When William Penn was granted sole proprietorship by Charles II of England of an area almost as big as England itself in 1681, this real estate transaction became one of the most significant documents in the early colonial history of North America.
And talk about advertising--over a period of 3 years, 8 promotional pamphlets appeared, 3 being translated into a foreign language and one being translated into 3 languages. How would you like your listings to be so widely translated and promoted in an age before electronic communication?
Penn sold over a half-million acres in the first year, but counting on Quaker honesty was not his most brilliant idea. In issuing deeds, metes and bounds were not specified, and purchasers could select their locations. As a result, with the help of a dishonest deputy named Charles Ashcombe, nearly every regulation Penn had laid down for field work was breached.
The surveys, both authorized and not, almost invariably granted more acreage than authorized. When informed of the mess he was making, Penn, in effect, said, “Bad, boy, stop doing that.” And then he returned to England. Thomas Holme, Penn’s honest surveyor general, was left to untangle the mess and deal with an uncooperative Ashcombe.
The attached map, which I found in the Winterthur Portfolio 6 in an article by Walter Klinefelter, used information gathered by Holme. North is to the right, and the northernmost part of Delaware is to the left. Note that Delaware was called the "lower three counties of Pennsylvania" at this time.
Now, I work in both Delaware and Pennsylvania, and it is interesting that banks require a survey in Delaware, but not in Pennsylvania. I wonder if this is part of William Penn's legacy.