Sunday, June 20, 2021

Favorites - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to this week's edition of Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog - the place where I get to share something I enjoy and we all have a chance to learn something new!

Before I start with this week's topic, take your troubles and worries and put them in a file folder.  Or, if you do things all electronic now, put them in an electronic folder.  Name that folder "Not Today" and put it in a random drawer or directory.  If you are like me, you have so many files and folders that you may never see this particular one ever again!

If that doesn't work, put the folder some place "special" so you can remember where you can find it in the future.  If you are like me (and so many other people in the world) you won't be able to find that "special" place when you go looking for it.


I have had people ask me what my favorite postal history items are in my collection more than once, so I thought those who read the blog might enjoy it if I showed three favorite items and give my reasons for selecting them as favorites here.

But, first, you need to understand that my favorites change over time as I discover new things.  And second, you probably won't be surprised if I tell you I have a LOT of favorites.  You can take a guess that if I feature a particular item and give it its own blog post, it may well be a favorite of mine (or maybe it became one as I gave it the attention a blog requires).

So, here is the rules of the game:

  1. I can't select a cover that has been featured in its own Postal History Sunday blog.  So, even though the item in this blog post is one of my all-time favorites, I can't show it this time (you'll just have to visit the blog post I linked in).
  2. I can't pick more than one item with a 24 cent 1861 stamp on it.  Again, even though this has been the focus of my collecting for a long time, I only get ONE slot.  This is made easier by the fact that I do have a number of blog posts that show other favorites with 24 cent stamps on them (such as this one). 
  3. I can't have the same reasons for picking each of the three items I choose for this article.

Let's Get the 24-cent Item Out of the Way

I actually surprised myself a little with this selection because I do have many others that would make me very happy to show you in this slot.

This is an 1865 letter mailed from New Orleans (USA) to Leipzig, Saxony.  At the time, Saxony was part of the German-Austrian Postal Union (GAPU) and it qualified for the 28 cent rate per 1/2 ounce via the Prussian mail services.  It actually has 30 cents in postage applied (one 24-cent stamp and two 3-cent stamps), so it qualifies as an over-payment for the rate required.  

So, why is this one a favorite of mine?

Some of the basics that make a cover attractive to me are here.  The markings are clear.  The hand-writing is legible and, actually, pretty nice.  The overall condition is actually quite good for an item that is 150 years old.  But, I have other items that fit the same criteria.  There must be something more.

First, you won't be surprised if I tell you I like this because the item has multiple story lines I could choose to dig into.  For example, if you look at the top, you will see the words "per Fung Shuey x first Mail."  This docket was intended to instruct the post office that the sender wanted this letter to go on this particular ship as it left New Orleans for New York City.   Most examples in my collection show dockets identifying the ship that would carry the letter across the Atlantic.  It isn't often that I can catch an instruction for steamship carriage for a different leg of the voyage.  

The Fung Shuey was part of the Cromwell Line of steamers.  Records I have found are unclear as to whether this ship was chartered from another company or owned by the Cromwell Line.  However, one source indicates that it was chartered starting in 1865.  With a January trip, it is actually possible that this would have been taken on the first voyage the Fung Shuey took on behalf of Cromwell - wouldn't that be neat?

The New York Times on May 19, 1865 summarizes some of the available passenger lines to the Southern states and includes the following paragraph:

The Cromwell line of steamers for New-Orleans direct have been running to that port ever since 1862, and consists of four screw steamers, the Star of the Union, George Washington, George Cromwell and the Fung Shuey. These steamers leave Pier No. 9, North River, every Saturday, at 3 P.M., and are thoroughly adapted to the New-Orleans trade, invariably passing the bar at the mouth of the Mississippi without detention. The accommodations for passengers on this line are unsurpassed; fare to New-Orleans, $60. H.B. CROMWELL & CO., No. 86 West-street, are the agents.

Another newspaper clipping from the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Oct 9, 1866 illustrates the other end of a journey from New York City.

If we put two and two together, we can guess that travel was typically about six to seven days between locations.  The letter in my collection backs that up with a January 21 departure from New Orleans and then a departure to cross the Atlantic from New York City on January 28.

The other reason for liking this one so much?

There happens to be some postal historian history attached to this item as well.  It should be no surprise to you that I am only the latest caretaker of this artifact of history.  This item has connections to other postal historians that also favored material with the 24 cent stamp who have gone before me.  As I began the process of learning about my area of interest, I came across the names of Leon Hyzen, Clifford Friend, and William Herzog.  It was records of their collections that informed me as to what might be available in the world that I could study and collect.

This particular item was part of the well-respected Leon Hyzen collection and was listed in an article in 1982 as being a rare shade of the 24-cent stamp by Herzog.  While the status of this item being a rare shade can be debated*, it is the connection to these individuals that makes this item special for me.

* more in a future blog

There you have it.  It's a favorite because it looks nice, it illustrates an aspect of its travel that I don't see with most items in my collection and it makes a connection to others from a prior generation who liked some of the same things I do. 

It's Just Pretty (to a Postal Historian)

Sometimes an item becomes a favorite because I just like looking at it.

This item was mailed by being folded over and then having a wrapper band placed around it.  The postage was then used to hold the folded content in place within the wrapper.

This is, again, a piece of mail from 1865 - which just happens to be a coincidence.  And it illustrates a local letter that was also sent as a "registered" piece of mail (note the Charge marking).

The condition of this item is excellent and it is a favorite of mine, in part, because it looks different from much of the rest of my collection.  How often does one find a rose-colored wrapper band holding an official notice?  Not often.  

The thing is - the simple use of the stamps to help hold the wrapper and content together certainly invited the recipient to tear things apart to read what was there.  Either they did not bother, or, they took great care as they gently unfolded it (as I did to scan the insides) and then refolded it. 

Since I collect paper items from a time where colored paper was very much an exception, getting a splash of something different attracts the eye and makes it hard to forget this item.  But, looks aside, there is also a fair amount of digging I can do as I learn the stories that surround this piece of postal history.  I haven't done that digging yet.  Once I do, I doubt it will become any less of a favorite.

Puzzles are of Interest

The third favorite item I selected for today is one I enjoy because it masquerades as one thing, a fairly astute postal history dealer recognized it as another thing - and it turns out that neither of these descriptions tell the whole truth.

The busy looking envelope shown above has a 1 penny red stamp from Great Britain and was mailed in 1859.  The penny red would be the stamp used for all of the regular mail within the United Kingdom.  So, if you see that stamp, all by itself, on an envelope or folded letter AND you are a postal historian, you tend to assume it is a typical (and common) letter mailed from one location in the United Kingdom to another.

And - oddly enough it IS that.  Sort of.  Look just to the left of the stamp and you will see a round marking that reads London S JA 18 59.

You see, the item was mailed from London on January 18, 1859 and it was received in Leamington on January 19.  The penny red stamp was placed on it to pay for that mailing service and it was accepted and delivered as it should have been.

The thing about it is...  that is not the beginning of the story.

Here is what the person who sold me the cover noticed:

The conclusion they reached was that this item was mailed from Hamburg and the postage was paid in cash, not in stamps.  Once this letter reached London, the person it was mailed to was at a new location.  So, the people at the old location put a 1 penny red stamp on it to mail it to that person at their Leamington address.

Once again, this is true.  But, it is ALSO not the beginning of the story.

I'd already seen one clue that there was more to this story, but we'll get back to that.  Instead, let's look at the back of the envelope.

The lower left marking reads KDOPA Hamburg with a date of 1-16 (January 16).  The "KDOPA" references the Danish post office in Hamburg.  You see, the free city-state of Hamburg hosted post offices for many countries within its borders.  This tells me that the letter probably did NOT originate in Hamburg, but that it either started in or went through Denmark or it was carried on a Danish ship.  Hmmmm.

Then, I noticed the marking at the top left that reads Christiansand January 13 (the date is very hard to figure out).  This city is a southern port city in Norway.  That means the letter may have started out in Norway.  Not Hamburg.  Not Denmark.  Double Hmmmmm.

Which brings me back to this:

Some of you may have noticed there is a second marking by the London marking.  This one reads Svinesund and I think it may read January 12.  Below is a quick snapshot from Google maps.  The red dot is where Svinesund is located, on the border of Norway and Sweden.

Svinesund is a body of water known as a sound.  The sound separates the town of Halden in Norway form the town of Strömstad in Sweden and is part of the Idde Fjord.  At the time this letter was written the Svinesund marking could indicate a letter from either Norway or Sweden, we really can't tell.  But, we can assume it boarded water transport at this time.

Sadly, this is where the trail runs dry.  There are no additional markings that tell me exactly where this letter originated and there are no contents with the envelope to give me further clues.  

What we can say is that this letter likely originated somewhere near Svinesund, it then went to Christiansand in Norway.  From there, it went by water either to some point in Denmark or it went directly to Hamburg on a ship that had a contract with the Danish postal services.  

This piece of a postal history is a gift that keeps on giving.  I think I can still uncover more details about how the item went from Hamburg to London and I have not yet figured out how much was paid in postage (among other things).  It is a favorite because I have made progress on a puzzle that I think others have missed and the roller coaster ride that is my discovery process is ongoing - so there is more fun to come!


And there you have it.  Three favorites - all with different reasons to receive the honor (such as it is).  I did, sort of, break the rule that they couldn't have the some of the same reasons for being a favorite because I learned something new from each of them and that is often good enough reason for me to like a piece of postal history. 

Thank you for joining me once again on a Sunday (or whatever day of the week you happen to visit and read).  I hope you enjoyed your time here and I do hope you learned something new in the process.

Feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions and (of course) make corrections if you see I've interpreted something wrong.  After all, I like learning something new too.

Have a great weekend and a fine week to follow!

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