Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Return to the Hobby

Winter is here and the farmer gets to spend some time on his postal history hobby.  I enjoy finding interesting items that might have a story to tell.  I also like to uncover the details that pertain to the workings of the mail system that had to do with each item getting to its destination.  After the story is uncovered to a level that will allow me to feel comfortable that I have a decent understanding, I work on designing a page on which the item will reside.

In short, the hobby allows me to exercise a need to learn new things in a topic area I enjoy and it provides an opportunity create something interesting as a result.

The final step is to enjoy the page that is created and to share it with others.  This blog post highlights a few pages I finished at the end of last Winter and was part of a small exhibit of early French postal history that I put into the Cedar Rapids Stamp Show (where it won the Grand Award!).  While I am not in it for awards, it is nice to get some recognition.  An earlier blog post from September called Stories of a Moment in Time has a couple of other pages from that exhibit along with an Italy page that I like.

If you have perused some of my other posts on the blog related to postal history, you know that I favor the 1860's and the decades surrounding it.  In the past couple of years, I have been fortunate to be able to locate and acquire some nice items with French stamps from that period.  And before you ask - no, they didn't cost lots and lots of money.  Perhaps, $10-$30 seems like a lot to pay for some old paper to you.  But, then, I ask you - what do you do for fun and what is the cost you pay?  Do you feel you get enough enjoyment for that cost?  I feel that I am getting a good return of enjoyment for my investment, so there really isn't an issue here, is there?

The page above illustrates one of the special rates for what I would typically refer to as "printed matter."  This would include things like periodicals, sheet music and other papers that had no personal correspondence.  In this case, it seems logical that this envelope held some legal paperwork regarding real estate.

Typically, these items were sent in unsealed envelopes or in a wrapper that would allow the post office to inspect the contents to be sure the regulations were being followed.  After all, they were getting a discounted postage rate that was well short of the normal letter rate.

I do tend to favor mail that originates in one country and then travels to another.  The item above left France and went to Naples, Italy.  The inset map shows (roughly) the status of rail lines in Italy at the time this piece of mail traveled from Marseilles to Naples.  A marking on the back of the envelope says "Modane-Torino Amulante," which indicates that it crossed from France into Italy at that point.  An Italian postal official placed this mark on the back of the envelope (and all others riding with it) to provide evidence as to when and where this item traveled.  From that point, we cannot say for certain which of the train routes were taken to Naples.  However, I suspect it may be possible to find references to train schedules in Italy in papers of that time.  Unfortunately, I do not read Italian, so we may just let that detail go!
Perhaps it is more interesting to many who read the blog to see something that left France and came to the United States.

One of the things that makes this pair of envelopes interesting to me is that one shows correct payment that was accepted (the first one) and the other shows an item that did not have enough postage on it.  In that second case, the short payment resulted in the recipient having to pay the full amount due (30 cents in the United States, which was equal to 160 centimes).

Before you go and do other "internety" stuff, I'd like you to notice that the top letter has a docket that says "Duplicata 9 Novembre 1859" at the top of the letter.  It still was not entirely uncommon for people or businesses to send more than one copy of important business letters via different ships or mail services.  While it had become a good deal less common by this time, there were still instances of mail being lost at sea.

And now - back to your regularly scheduled farm blog!

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