American Postal History before the U.S. Post Office
By: Ed Siskin

Mar 8 , 2011

Ed Siskin, our speaker for March, delivered a fascinating presentation on “American Postal History before the U.S. Post Office”.  Ed started off with an explanation of how letters written during the Colonial days used words and phrases that seemed very different from more modern writings, particularly since there was no dictionary and most words were written phonetically.  He then displayed examples of very early letters, including the three earliest pieces of surviving mail, written in 1512 from San Juan, Puerto Rico (now in government archives).

Other great items shown in his electronic presentation (most of which were once in his collection) included: 1634 folded letter from St. Mary’s, MD; 1677, NYC to Boston, carried by ship; 1694, Cohanzy, NJ; and a 1707 free-franked letter from Boston. Ed also gave a detailed description of Old Tenor currency, issued by Massachusetts in 1690 and representing the world’s first paper currency.  This paper money was essentially an IOU for future taxes.  Given the many questions raised during his interesting talk, Ed’s one-hour presentation seemed to move rather quickly and he ended his presentation with the 1710 Act of Queen Anne, promising to come back at another time with a continuation of his talk on Colonial postal history.