Guide to the Papers of the Franks Family
1711-1821, [1965-1968]

*P-142

Processed by Rachel Pollack and Deena Schwimmer

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Rachel Pollack as an MS-Word document. July 2003. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 2002 by Tanya Elder. October 2003. Description is in English.
March 16, 2005. The collection was partially reprocessed and the MS-Word finding aid was revised and updated by Deena Schwimmer. The electronic finding aid was updated by Tanya Elder to reflect these changes. In addition, boilerplate entities were removed and a new stylesheet attached. Links to letters and transcriptions added by Marvin Rusinek.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Franks Family
Title: Franks Family Papers
Dates:1711-1821, [1965-1968]
Abstract: Originally from England, the Franks family were colonial merchants who settled in New York City during the 1700s. By the end of the century, they had mainly disappeared as Jews. This collection documents parts of their life through correspondence, legal documents, and financial records. The correspondence is primarily written by Abigail Franks in New York to her son, Naphtali, in England. Also included in the Papers are notes and correspondence of Dr. Leo Hershkowitz, who co-edited a book on the letters of the family entitled the Lee Max Friedman Collection of American Jewish Colonial Correspondence: Letters of the Franks Family (1733-1748), written with Isadore S. Meyer in 1968.
Languages: The collection is in English and Hebrew.
Quantity: .5 linear ft. (1 manuscript box, 1 oversized folder)
Identification: P-142
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Note:

The collection is opened to the public. Please use photocopies of materials where noted. The greater part of the collection has been digitized and is linked through the collection finding aid and the Center for Jewish History's Digital Collections.

Return to the Top of Page

Biographical Note

Franks Family

This biographical sketch discusses various members of the Franks family who are represented in the collection.

Bilhah Abigail Levy (circa 1696-1756), called Abigail, was born circa 1696 to Moses and Rachel Levy, German Jews who had immigrated to London and then moved to America at the turn of the 18th century. It is uncertain whether Abigail was born before or after her parents' immigration to America. Upon arriving in America, Moses Levy soon became a pillar of the Jewish community and a wealthy merchant, as well as the owner of a fleet of trading ships. Abigail Levy Franks received a formal, classical education, rare for a Jewish woman in the 18th century who was expected to devote all her time to home and family life. She prided herself on her attendance at Shearith Israel and her strict observance of the Sabbath and dietary laws. Suspicious of the kitchens of relatives, she even sent kosher food to her son Naphtali in London. Though highly involved in secular society, Abigail Franks, always remained conscious of her identity as a Jew and tried to teach her children the same.

Jacob Franks (1688-1769) also emigrated from England to New York in the 1700s and boarded in the Levy household. In 1712, Franks wed sixteen-year-old Abigail Levy. They were married for forty-four years and had nine children. The Franks family was one of the leading families in Colonial New York, not only within the small Jewish community but also within the larger elite secular social circle comprised of prominent Protestant families such as the Livingstons, DeLanceys and Van Cortlands. Jacob Franks was acknowledged as a linguist and Judaic scholar. An eminent and wealthy merchant, he engaged in the slave trade, privateering, general commerce, and shipping. He was also very involved in the Jewish community and the construction of the Shearith Israel synagogue as well as president of the congregation in 1730.

Naphtali Franks (1715-1796), called "Heartsey," a Yiddish nickname meaning "dear heart," was the eldest son of Jacob and Abigail Franks. In the 1730s, Naphtali was sent to his father's relatives in London to enter the family merchant business and to ensure he marry a Jewish woman. He married his first cousin, a daughter of Jacob's brother Isaac Frank (?-1736) and became an important member of the London Jewish community.

Phila Franks (1722-1811), a daughter, shocked and saddened her parents by revealing she had secretly married a non-Jew. Oliver DeLancey, Phila's husband, was a wealthy merchant, a famous politician, and a member of one of New York's most powerful families. DeLancey remained a Loyalist during the American Revolution serving as a senior officer in the British Army in America. The DeLanceys went to England where DeLancey died in 1785. Phila continued living in England where her daughters married prominent men and her sons made names for themselves.

Another daughter, Richa, close in age to Phila, was probably born some time before 1717. She was courted by a member of the Gomez family, a leading Sephardic family in New York. However, Abigail Franks regarded the man as a "stupid wretch" and Richa rejected his proposal. She also rejected the proposal of another Christian man. Whether or not Richa ever married is disputed. Another son, Moses (1718-1789), was known as the artist of the Franks family. He also participated in the family merchant business and later relocated to London where he moved in the high social circles. Moses also married a first cousin, the daughter of Jacob's brother Aaron Franks (1692-1777).

David Franks (1720-1793), youngest son of Jacob and Abigail Franks, was born in New York on September 23, 1720. He moved to Philadelphia as a young man where he became a successful businessman and a member of the elite society, marrying into one of Philadelphia's Christian families. He remained a Loyalist during the American Revolution and was jailed for a short time by Congress as an enemy to the American cause. After his release he went to England for a time, then returned to Philadelphia to continue in his brokerage business. By most accounts he died in October 1793 from a yellow fever epidemic; according to others, he died in England in 1794.

Abigail and Jacob Franks had two other daughters, Rebecca (circa 1733-1803) called Becky, and Poyer (circa 1734) possibly named Abigail, although virtually nothing is known about them. Aaron (1732-1738) and Sarah (1731-1733), two other children, died in childhood.

David Salisbury Franks (circa 1740-1793), son of Abraham Franks, was one of the first Jews to settle in Montreal. (The precise relationship between the Montreal Franks and the New York Franks remains the subject of much scholarly debate). David Salisbury Franks joined the American colonists in their battle against the British in Canada. Following the colonists' defeat there, he retreated to Philadelphia and joined the Continental Army. David Salisbury Franks served as an aide-de-camp to Benedict Arnold, the military governor of Philadelphia, and was later cast under suspicion of disloyalty when Arnold's treason became known. Franks was subsequently cleared of all charges, promoted, and took part in numerous highly important diplomatic missions for the United States, including one to Paris where he delivered to Benjamin Franklin the treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War and established American independence. However, his association with Arnold continued to plague him, and his political enemies were able to use it to have him dismissed from the diplomatic corps in 1786. Franks fought to have his reputation restored, and did subsequently hold other government positions. He died in poverty from yellow fever in 1793, and was rescued from Potter's Field by a Christian neighbor, who had him interred in Christ Church's Burial Yard in Philadelphia.

Isaac Franks (1759-1822), cousin to the Levy-Franks, fought in the battle of Long Island in the Revolutionary War, and was an aide-de-camp to George Washington, with whom he maintained a lengthy relationship. He later settled in Philadelphia, and was involved in numerous business endeavors. It was to Isaac Frank's house in Germantown, Pa. that Washington relocated the seat of government during a yellow fever epidemic in 1793. In 1794, Franks received a Lt. Colonel's commission from Pennsylvania's governor, henceforth becoming known as Colonel Franks.

John Franks (dates unknown), of Halifax, may or may not have been related to the Franks family.

References

Adler, Cyrus, and A.S.W. Rosenbach. "David Franks." Jewish Encyclopedia Online. 2002. Jewish Encyclopdedia. 28 July 2003. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/>.

Feldberg, Michael. "The Temptations of Marrying Out... In Colonial New York." Jewish World Review. 2001. 24 July 2003 <http://www.jewishworldreview.com/>.

Gardner, Albert Ten Eyck. "An Old New York Family." Art in America. vol. LI, no. 3. June, 1963.

Hershkowitz, Leo, and Isadore S. Meyer, eds. The Lee Max Friedman Collection of American Jewish Colonial Correspondence: Letters of the Franks Family (1733-1748).

Karp, Abraham J. The Jewish Experience in America. 5 vols. New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1969.

Marcus, Jacob Rader. Early American Jewry. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951-53.

Marcus, Jacob Rader. The Colonial American Jew, 1492-1776. 3 vols. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.

Smith, Ellen. "Franks, Bilhah Abigail Levy." Jewish Women in America. 2 vols. Ed. Paula E. Hyman and Deborah Moore Dash. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The core of the Franks Collection consists of 31 letters written over the period of 1733-1748 from Abigail Levy Franks, and one from Jacob Franks, to their son Naphtali in London. The collection also contains business and personal material of various other members of the Franks family. While the collection does not contain extensive information about every member of the Franks family, the material, especially Abigail Franks' letters, offers information about immediate and extended family members, and provides an insightful look at life in colonial New York in general, and in the Jewish community, specifically.

The letters contain a mother's instructions and advice to her son, her personal feelings and dilemmas, family happenings and dynamics, business, references to Jewish holidays and observing dietary laws, gossip, politics, and news of the day. Abigail Franks' letters clearly indicate her classical education with references to authors, requests for books and usage of Shakespearean quotes. The letters offer a glimpse into the active mind of a Jewish society woman of Colonial New York.

In addition to the Franks' letters, the collection includes legal documents, wills, poetry, land holdings and speculation documents, a copy of a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) Box 1, Folder 5, bills of sale, military records, and correspondence pertaining to business and personal affairs of various Franks family members.

Of special note is a Bible owned by David Franks, inscribed as "David Franks, my book, 1732-33," which possibly was a gift upon his becoming Bar Mitzvah. The collection also contains various items relating to the Revolutionary War service of members of the Franks family, including a letter from Myer Hart, an agent for David Franks, certifying that the British prisoners under David Franks' care had been well treated, a handwritten copy of a narrative of Isaac Franks' Revolutionary War activities, and a Revolutionary War bill and cash account of Major General Benedict Arnold listing David Salisbury Franks as a payee.

Included in the collection are the handwritten notes and research of Professor Leo Hershkowitz conducted in order to publish the edited version of the Franks Family letters.

This collection is valuable to researchers studying the Franks family, Jewish-Christian relations, politics, business, Jewish involvement in the Revolutionary War, society, and Jews and the Jewish community in Colonial New York.

Return to the Top of Page

Arrangement

The material is arranged by member of the Franks family represented in the collection. Professor Hershkowitz' notes are in a separate file.

The summary of Franks family letters is arranged in chronological order.

Return to the Top of Page

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Please use photocopies of materials where noted. The greater part of the collection has been digitized and is linked through the collection finding aid and the Center for Jewish History's Digital Collections.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

AJHS Archives:
Papers of Max Kohler (P-7)
Lee Max Friedman, Franks Family Research Collection (P-619)

AJHS Library:
Herskowitz, Leo and Isadore S., eds. Letters of the Franks Family (1733-1748). Waltham, MA: American Jewish Historical Society, 1968

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Franks Family Papers; P-142; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Return to the Top of Page

Acquisition

The majority of the collection including Abigail Franks' letters was donated by the Estate of Dr. Lee Max Friedman in April 1957. Various other items were donated by Mendes Cohen, Bert Handelsman, M. Jastrow, Simon Rosendale, and the Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Foundation. George Crogan letter to David Franks was purchased by the Society.

Return to the Top of Page

Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Collection Box List, 1711-1821, [1965-1968]

The language of the collection is in English and Hebrew.
.5 linear ft. Box 1
Arrangement:

Materials are arranged by Franks Family member and Dr. David Hershkowitz.

Scope and Content:

See collection Scope and Content Note.

Franks Family Letters

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Bilhah Abigail Levy Franks (1696-1756)1733-1741
  

¤Letters to Naphtali ("Heartsey") Franks.
(1 of 2)
Restricted - user copies available

[See also Summary of Franks Family Letters]

 
12Bilhah Abigail Levy Franks (1696-1756)1741-1748
  

¤Letters to Naphtali ("Heartsey") Franks.
(2 of 2)
Restricted - user copies available.
[See also Summary of Franks Family Letters]

 
13Bilhah Abigail Levy Franks (1696-1756)1732-1748
  

¤Photocopies of letters to Naphtali ("Heartsey") Franks.

 
14John Franks (dates unknown)1758
  

¤Business Correspondence to Mr. Enoch Hobart.

 
15Isaac Franks (?-1736)1720, March 7, 1760
  

¤Photostat of ketubah to Sinca Hart, Daughter of Moses Hart, 1720.

¤Litigation of the Will of Moses Hart, March 7, 1760. [See also Oversized Material]

 
16Aaron Franks (1692-1777)May 2, 1751
  

¤Photostat of complaint. [See Oversized Material]

 
17Jacob Franks (1688-1769)1687-1749
  

¤First page of prayer book from Amsterdam, 1687, with signature of Jacob Franks and Myer Hart.

¤Letter to son Naphtali in London, November 22, 1743.

¤Recognizance of Abraham De Lucena, regarding Jacob Franks, November 10, 1711.

¤Power of Attorney given Jacob Franks by John Wenham, 1749. [See also Oversized Material]

 
18David Franks (1720-1794)1762-1792
  

¤Page from religious book with 1738 signature Order to Jacob Franks for payment, 1762.

¤Letter from Bartram Galbraith to Jonathan Logan regarding a real estate transaction involving David Franks and Nathan Levy, 1767.

¤Business letter, 1770.

¤Miscellaneous business documents and correspondence, 1762-1775.

¤Account with Joseph Simon regarding supplying British Prisoners at Lancaster, PA, 1777.

¤Meyer Hart's certificate regarding David Franks' treatment of British Prisoners, 1778.

¤Transcript of order for Arrest of David Franks, February 8, 1778.

¤Affidavit regarding age of Phila Franks DeLancey, 1792.

 
19David Franks (1720-1794)1744-1776
  

¤Letters of Administration to David Franks and Nathan Levy regarding Estate of William Hale, 1744.

¤Sworn deposition by James Lowry of Lancaster County, PA, Indian trader, regarding business transaction involving Joseph Simon, David Franks, and others, 1754.

¤Handwritten journal containing copies of three indentures, one partnership agreement, and one Power of Attorney, 1776.

 
110Jacob Franks (1688-1769)undated, 1687
  

¤Letter from George Croghan, December 27, 1772 (includes transcription).

¤Letter from George Croghan, January 9, 1775, regarding a contract in which Barnard and Michael Gratz are mentioned.

 
111David Franks (1720-1794)1732-1733
  

¤Bible, with inscription, 1732-1733.

 
112Moses Franks (1718-1789)1760-1802
  

¤Kings Warrant for payment to Sir James Colebrooke, et. al., contractors for supplying British forces in North America, Signatures appearing include King George II, Duke of Newcastle, Moses Franks, 1760.

¤Photocopies of two letters from James Parker to Moses Franks, 1762.

¤Letters of Administration for the estate of Moses Franks, 1790.

¤Business letter to David Vanderheyden Sr., in Albany, regarding sale of "Furs, Castorum and Jenseng," 1765.

¤Copies of other correspondence and documents 1760-1802. [See also Oversized Material]

 
113Moses Franks (1718-1789)undated
  

¤Poetry, poem to Abigail Coxe [photocopies], undated.

 
114Isaac Franks (1759-1822)1784-1821
  

¤Letter from William Murren, 1784.

¤Letters from Jacob Morris, 1784-1786 (3 items).

¤Fragment of letter to Treasurer of State of New York Narrative of Isaac Franks' Revolutionary Service, 1818.

¤Letter from Judges of Supreme Court of PA to Isaac Franks in his capacity as clerk, 1821.

 
115Isaac Franks (1759-1822) 1788-1807
  

¤Accounts for settlement regarding Franks' service at West Point during Revolutionary War, 1788, 1812.

¤Documents regarding land and property transactions, 1788-1794. [See also Oversized Material]

¤Stock transaction record, 1807.

 
116David Salisbury Franks (1720-1794) undated, 1788
  

¤Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), bill from Benjamin Dunn,1778, and cash account, undated, both listing David S. Franks as payee.

 
117Dr. Leo Hershkowitz 1965-1968
  

¤Notes and correspondence.

 
Return to the Top of Page
 

Oversized Materials, 1745, 1749, 1751, 1760, 1788

Scope and Content:

Material represents material moved to oversized location due to size. Materials located in one oversized folder.

Box TitleDate
OS 1 1) Litigation of the will of Moses HartMarch 7, 1760
OS 1 2) Complaint filed against Aaron FranksMay 8, 1751
OS 1 3) Power of Attorney document given to Jacob Franks by John WenhamAugust 29, 1749
OS 1 4) Indenture document between Rachel Levy, Abraham Myers Cohen, Jacob and William Walton, executors of the Last Will and Testament of Samuel Myers Cohen, grantors and Moses Benjamin Franks, grantee1745
OS 1 5) Isaac Franks, original land sale transaction documentMay 19, 1788
Return to the Top of Page
 

Summary of Franks Family Letters, 1732-1748

The letters are in English and Hebrew.
Scope and Content:

The Roman Numerals are taken from Leo Hershkowitz' book, The Lee Max Friedman Collection of American Jewish Colonial Correspondence. One letter, dated January 1, 1746, is not included in this book, and therefore has no numeral assigned to it. (Letters corresponding to Roman Numerals II, VII, XV, XIX, XXIX, and XXX are not in the possession of the American Jewish Historical Society and thus are not included in this description.)

The majority of letters found in this summary are located in Box 1, Folders 1 and 2.

*The British and the colonies continued to use the Julian Calendar, which has March as the first month of the new year, until 1752, though many people in the colonies changed the date on January 1st. More frequent was the use of a stroke, as in 1746/47, without which it is difficult to determine the precise year. The actual dates of these letters can be determined from the context of the letters, however.

Summary of Franks Family Letters, 1732-1748

Folder TitleDate
IAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748May 7, 1733
  

Abigail begins her correspondence with her son Naphtali ("Heartsey") who has just arrived in London to enter into the family merchant business. Abigail instructs her son to show proper respect for the relatives who have shown him hospitality. She stresses that he must mind his behavior at all times.

 
Folder TitleDate
IIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748October 7, 1733
  

Abigail scolds her son for not replying to his sister's letters, that he "must have caught distemper on his side of the water." She mentions his sister's success in her studies and boasts about an invitation her daughter received inviting her to a friend's home in Harlem to escape the summer heat.

 
Folder TitleDate
IVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748October 16, 1733
  

This letter appears on the reverse side of the last letter. Abigail thanks Naphtali for some books he sent to her: "I could with cast pleasure imploy three hours of the twenty-four from my Family Affairs to be dipping into a good author." She also implores him to be wary of his cousin Colly because of Colly's bad temper and lying habit.

 
Folder TitleDate
VAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 16, 1733
  

Abigail scolds Naphtali about not answering an important letter written to him by her friend wanting information on the newly arrived English governor. Abigail and her friends have concluded that the new governor is inefficient. She describes the current politics as a "perfect war" between her friend Lewis Morris who was dismissed from his post in lieu of the new governor.

 
Folder TitleDate
VIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 9, 1734
  

Pleased with the news that Naphtali is behaving properly with his London relatives, Abigail compliments him. She also reminds him of his cousin Colly. She does favorably comment, however, that Colly does not spend his money on the 'evil' vices of "Gaming and Drinking." Abigail also conveys her concern for city politics and mentions various articles appearing in the weekly newspapers about the debates on the proposal to turn the Supreme Court into a Court of Equity and discontinuing trial by jury. Abigail briefly acknowledges the need to be inoculated against the current smallpox epidemic. She ends her letter with some family news, a reminder to study and a request for new reading glasses.

 
Folder TitleDate
VIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748April 11, 1735
  

Abigail discusses the current politics and briefly remarks on family news.

 
Folder TitleDate
IXAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 15, 1735
  

Abigail issues another reminder to Naphtali to be on good behavior. She conveys the latest family news, a daughter's music lessons and her own surprise at her stepmother Grace Mears' second marriage.

 
Folder TitleDate
XAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 12, 1735
  

Abigail remarks that "a good beginning makes a good end" and compliments Naphtali on being a serious young man. Her thoughts are with those parents who have the misfortune of dealing with their children's bad behavior. She reports on the dissention in the New York political arena and her concern for England. She also touches upon other miscellaneous topics and happenings from her dislike of cooking, her enjoyment of green tea, her son David's move to Boston, her dislike of the behavior of the English princess, her embarrassment on her stepmother's recent marriage and a description of the book she is reading.

 
Folder TitleDate
XIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748October 25, 1736
  

Abigail's reference to the required Bills of Lading and appropriate identification marks indicate some early shipping practices. She adds a list of sent items including a recipe for preserving mangoes, peaches and pickles, some of the shipped goods. She also informs Naphtali on the latest political upheavals.

 
Folder TitleDate
XIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 3, 1736
  

Abigail expresses worry over the health of her brother-in-law Isaac, with whom Naphtali resides, and her brother Asher's bankruptcy. The volatile political situation in New York makes her uneasy due to the imminent appointment of a new governor.

 
Folder TitleDate
XIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 5, 1737
  

Jacob's brother Isaac dies in London and Abigail comments on the valued help Naphtali extended during Isaac's last days. She continues that Jacob Franks was quite inconsolable. She mentions that Isaac bequeathed money to the Franks and forgave Jacob his debts. Abigail bashes her stepmother Grace Mears as a "vile woman" because she is suing Abigail's brother for spending his father's money, which Grace Mears claims is part of her inheritance. Abigail then reflects on the intermarriage of a niece and blames the girl's family for wanting to arrange a marriage. She notes the particularly cold past winter and requests that he send her Scotch, snuff and two pairs of spectacles.

 
Folder TitleDate
XIVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748November 20, 1738
  

Abigail mentions her reading material, the latest news among her circle of friends and a notes again the behavior of Colly while she stresses the importance of the impression one gives in public.

 
Folder TitleDate
XVIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748July 6, 1740
  

Abigail briefly acknowledges some international rivalry and military preparation and recruitment of militia. She then discusses details of the family business, family gossip as well as "Publick News."

 
Folder TitleDate
XVIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748August 3, 1740
  

Abigail begins with the big news of Rachel Levy's marriage to Isaac Mendes Seixas and the larger conflict between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. She then launches into a discussion of the unsuccessful attack planned by the British General Vernon upon the Spanish West Indies. She blames defeat on failure to combine land forces. She reflects, "they would not find the Americans soe readily disposed to follow the blot of a drum." She informs Naphtali that the militia is encamped in the "Field," or the present day City Hall Park. She concludes with news and regards to her English family.

 
Folder TitleDate
XVIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748August 31, 1740
  

Abigail complains about the apparent boarders living in her house, "Every room in our house is filled." She grumbles about getting along with an ill-mannered Sam Levy: "Family woes with family members having ill characters." She comments on the general state of people's attitudes, that "they are Soe Stupid to think all Villainy is to be forgiven Provided they can call themselves good Jews…As if religion gave a sanction to wicked[ne]ss." She cautions Naphtali against intimate interaction with people of this nature.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748April 26, 1741
  

Abigail refers to a government contract between Naphtali and a Simson Levy to carry supplies for the King's Navy between New York and Jamaica. She expresses concern for Sam Levy and Moses Salomons who had dealt in South Carolina ride and run up a huge debt. She then casually mentions a losing shared lottery ticket, referring to the game of chance very popular among eighteenth century Englishmen. Abigail reminds him to pay visits to her London acquaintances and sends regards to her family.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 21, 1741
  

Abigail writes of the infirmities of aging and recommends "Temperance and Content" as preventive medicine. She praises the required Sabbath day of rest as necessary for her husband's health. She describes politics in New York as a "melancholy" business with a reference to the "Negro Plot" of 1741. She is displeased that some of her earlier requests to Naphtali were not fulfilled. She then asks Naphtali to send a coal crate and a specific present for a friend. She promises to send the apples and expects to receive the items she requested.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748September 6, 1741
  

Abigail chastises herself upon not writing to both Naphtali and her London friends and asks Naphtali to convey her apologies. She concludes: "According to the Custom of this season I Shall End my Letter with my prayers that ye Allmighty Disposer may write you in the book off Life Happyness and Every Other Felicity You wish or want." (The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur was to fall three days later. This is one of the only reference Abigail makes to religious observances.)

 
Folder TitleDate
XXIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748October 18, 1741
  

Always courteous, Abigail sends compliments to her friends and family in England and thanks Naphtali for the medicine he sent. She complains about not being able to travel to London because of her children. She describes the travails of raising children: "If parents would give themselves leave to consider the many difficulties that attends the bringing up of children…care of there infancy that's the least but its after they are grown up and behave in such a manner as to give satisfaction…is to hear they doe well wich is a pleasure I hope to have…" She then discusses matters of marriage and business affairs.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXIVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 13, 1741
  

Abigail reprimands Naphtali for not answering letters sent to him by family and friends. Abigail mentions that she has sent him the promised "sweetmeets" but was disappointed that she did not receive her requested items. She then briefly shares the latest social news.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 20, 1741
  

Abigail directs Naphtali to distribute the food she sent him to various friends and relatives. She sends regards from the family and mentions family news and squabbles with relatives. She sends regards to her English relatives.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXVIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 3, 1742
  

Abigail jumps from topic to topic, first addressing Naphtali's newfound vindictiveness against his former partner Simson Levy who absconded with their funds after becoming bankrupt. Abigail then advises him to be cordial to the governor's two daughters who are returning to London. She discusses her interaction with the new governor: "I will Endeavor to be Civill but I have not soe much Complisance as to flatter and Cringe not Even if I was dependent my Sould could not Stoop Soe Low as I have an honest Surliness in my Disposission that I bleive would make me not Very Agreeable with Some your Side of the watter." Finally, she expresses concern at the shipping losses in Jamaica, as she condemns the English minister for misconduct and mistakes: "Let him take the consequence, noe evill minister should be screened from justice."

 
Folder TitleDate
XXVIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748August 29, 1742
  

Abigail expresses continued concern about the rumors of Spanish invasion of Georgia and the Carolinas, where Moses Salomons is now living to escape his financial problems in New York. She blames English government mismanagement of the Spaniards' boldness. Abigail worries over her son David's new business venture and hopes it does not turn out like Moses Salomon's failure. Finally she mentions her grief over Uncle Asher's death.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXVIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 5, 1742
  

Abigail extends congratulations to Naphtali on his marriage to Phila Franks, his first cousin, daughter of Isaac Franks, Jacob Franks' brother. She talks about the importance of marriage but would not consider "any worthless body" for her children and is please on his match.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748June 7, 1743
  

Abigail writes of her ongoing shock at the secret marriage between her daughter Phila to Oliver DeLancey, a non-Jew. Although Abigail considers Oliver to be a "man of worth and character," she continues, "I shall never have that serenity nor peace within." As worldly as Abigail was, she always considered herself a Jew and dreaded intermarriage.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748November 22, 1743
  

This letter is from Jacob Franks, Naphtali's father. He writes about trade and shipping, the commodities he deals with and other business arrangements. He mentions that Abigail continues to refuse to see Phila and that Phila intends to live in London. Jacob was concerned that General James Oglethorpe of Georgia owes him money but that the debt was paid. He says that guns are much in demand and would like to receive a supply. He then requests that Naphtali send him a pair of staves, or rollers, for the Torah scroll in the synagogue.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXIIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748November 25, 1745
  

Abigail's grief at Phila's intermarriage has been compounded by her son David's marriage to a non-Jewish woman and the subsequent baptism of his daughter. Abigail briefly mentions family affairs.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXIVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748December 4, 1746
  

Upon receiving the news that Naphtali is now a father Abigail questions whether or not she should continue to address him as "Heartsey." She discusses the problem of Jacob trying to advance his son Moses as a shipping agent. She recounts that she has "lost the taste of Morth and Mussick" and refers to a "small pox" epidemic in the country. She ends her letter by saying that she "had the compliments of half the synagogue to wish me joy and there compliments to you…a kiss to the dear mama and son."

 
Box TitleDate
Not numbered Abigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748January 1, 1746 (1747)*
  

This short letter concerns itself with the death of Naphtali and Phila's first child. Abigail expresses her concern over hearing the news, and muses that as "with Aaron, it is the Lord's doeing and wee must be silent". She writes that she wishes she could take back the congratulatory letter she sent (Letter XXXIV). She closes by promising to write at length soon, as the ship master who will take the letter to England is waiting to depart.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXVAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748January 4, 1747 (1748)*
  

Abigail comments on the cold weather and mentions that she has sent Naphtali trees and other seeds because of his interest in botany and she asks him to send her "Colli flower and arrychoak seed." Abigail refers to the difficulty Jacob Franks has had in procuring commissions for Moses and consequently Moses will be returning to London, much to the relief of Abigail who is happy to have Moses leave "this degenerate place" (New York).

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXVIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748April 29, 1748
  

Abigail expresses well wishes for her daughter Phila who lives in London by sending her folderes of fruit. She then turns her attention to the various world conflicts and that she would be rejoiced to see the prophet Isaiah's prophecy fulfilled, that "all warlike Instruments where Converted to Implements of Husbandry." She then sends regards to all three children, Moses, Phila, and Naphtali, now living in London.

 
Folder TitleDate
XXXVIIAbigail and Napthali Franks Summary of Letters, 1735-1748October 30, 1748
  

Abigail confides that she refers to her exchange of letters with Naphtali as "conversing" and that she finds it satisfying. She is sorry to hear that a female relative died because of the loss to her children. As for the husband, she quotes a Spanish saying, "a pain for a (lost) spouse hurts a great deal, but lasts a short time." She says she lacks any understanding in Naphtali's interest in trees but she hopes the ones he requested will arrive shortly. (Naphtali gained admission to the Royal Academy because of his aptitude in botany.) Abigail is concerned that her son Moses has not yet settled into a business and Abigail says she would be mortified to have any of her children remain a dependent. She is happy that Phila is well. She refers to her age as fifty-two in two weeks, referring to her brother Isaac in London who claimed he was much younger than Abigail but was actually two years older. She writes, "tell him I would not expose his age as he is upon his preferment but do it in revenge of his making such a jest of America and all things in it." Abigail concludes with family news and a congratulations on the peace treaty ending the War of the Austrian Succession.

 
Return to the Top of Page