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…of a different stripe…

The case was heard in the December 1800 term of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania — and it’s exactly the kind of thing a genealogist hopes to find.

George Keppele and Henry Zantzinger had been business partners in Philadelphia, apparently in a dry goods business. Keppele died, apparently in late 1798 or very early 1799, when Henry began to sell off the good as the surviving partner in the business.


Ads like this one — dated 22 January 17991 — ran in the newspaper every day for two solid weeks in late January and early February 1799.2

But, according to the Supreme Court case, George’s widow wanted Henry to account to the estate for George’s share of the partnership assets. Henry, apparently, hadn’t been all that cooperative. So the widow, Ann Keppele, got a writ of quod computet against Henry — that’s an order for a full accounting3 — and auditors were appointed. Twice, Henry didn’t show up to meet with the auditors, and his excuses were lame.4

The particular published opinion in this case — to be found on, that fabulous resource from Harvard Law School with a boatload of published court cases from all over the United States from colonial times almost to the present5— focused not on the merits of the dispute but on a technical issue.

Which means from a genealogical perspective we’re going to want to try to find out if the underlying case file still exists to get all the juicy details. Since this is Philadelphia, that usually means in-person research at the Philadelphia City Archives. What this published case does is give us a hint that there could be a case file that we want to try to find.

And what it also does is raise a question that even The Legal Genealogist didn’t know the answer to.

The technical issue in the case was how much Henry should have to post by way of bail to ensure that he would actually show up with the partnership books and cooperate with the auditors. Ann’s lawyer wanted it to be $20,000; Henry’s lawyer said the facts actually showed that George’s estate owed Henry so there shouldn’t be any bail at all — or at least not anything approaching $20,000.6

And in the course of making his case for the high amount, Ann’s lawyer cited another case where the amount was set at twice what was sought in the lawsuit. The demand there, he said, was for 100 pounds “and the defendant found mainpernors in 200 pounds.”7

Whoa, whoa, hold on, waitaminnit.

What the heck is a mainpernor?

I mean, seriously, I’ve heard folks who post bail called bondsmen or sureties. But mainpernor? Wazzat?

It turns out that there are flavors of bail that we’re going to run into and this is one of two key flavors.

Bail in a case like this would be the “sureties who procure the release of a person under arrest, by becoming responsible for his appearance at the time and place designated. Those persons who become sureties for the appearance of the defendant in court.”8 Mainpernors are “sureties for (someone’s) appearance at the day” appointed by the court.9

Um… and?

Here’s the and part: “‘Mainpernors’ differ from ‘bail’ in that a man’s bail may imprison or surrender him up before the stipulated day of appearance; mainpernors can do neither, but are barely sureties for his appearance at the day. Bail are only sureties that the party be answerable for the special matter for which they stipulate; mainpernors are bound to produce him to answer all charges whatsoever.”10

Now think about that for a minute. Someone who goes bail for another person can march his tail back to the jail at any time and hand him back into custody, and is only on the hook for the specific issue set out in the papers. But a mainpernor is on the hook for any issue or charge pending, and doesn’t have the luxury of turning the dude back into jail if he starts getting nervous about whether the person is going to show up or not.

So yes it tells us something about the relationship of the person and his bail surety whenever we find someone going bail for someone else. There’s a level of trust involved there that certainly suggests some relationship — a FAN club11 (friends, associates, neighbors) relationship at a minimum.

But it tells us something more about the relationship if the amount was put up in a case by a mainpernor. There’s an even higher level of trust involved there, because the mainpernor has fewer options to protect himself and more obligations, since the amount posted will potentially cover more liability than just a single claim. That higher level of trust may well give us a clue to a family relationship.

So when we come across a reference to a situation where it looks like bailing out, but the word use is mainpernor, I for one am going to take an even closer look at the potential relationship of the parties.

Because that’s a bailing out of a different stripe.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Bailing out,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 10 Feb 2022).


  1. Advertisement, Gazette of the United States and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, 22 Jan 1799, p. 3, col. 5; digital images, ( : accessed 10 Feb 2022).
  2. See ibid., issues of 22 January-7 February 1799.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 987, “quod computet.”
  4. Keppele v. Zantzinger, 3 Yeates 83 (Pa. Sup. Ct. 1800).
  5. Judy G. Russell, “Reading the law again,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Aug 2018 ( : accessed 10 Feb 2022).
  6. Keppele v. Zantzinger, 3 Yeates 83 (Pa. Sup. Ct. 1800).
  7. Ibid.
  8. Black, A Dictionary of Law, 118, “bail.”
  9. Ibid., 742, “mainpernor.”
  10. Ibid.
  11. See Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle) (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012).
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