|One example of someone using initals as their mark|
While working with a collection of legal documents from the 1730s to the 1820s I discovered something interesting about signatures in early America. Previously I had been familiar with the idea of someone making a mark when they are unable to write their name. However, I had always assumed that these marks are almost always simple x’s . Working with the Hanson collection, my assumption has been proved over-simplistic. While it seems that many people chose to make their mark with an X, others were able to sign their initials.
|A woman was asked to witness, |
despite her inability to write
|L S, most likely meaning Legal Signature|
It would be interesting to make a closer study of these marks, to see if any patterns emerge, in terms of who can sign their names and who cannot. I think that such a study might provide interesting insight into literacy in Early America.