The Locals of Brooklyn
© Calvet M. Hahn 2002
What we call Brooklyn today was divided into nine towns at the time of the Brooklyn locals of which Brooklyn proper was the largest. What was then Brooklyn was a relatively small town in the 1840s. In fact it only had 23,300 inhabitants in 1834 which rose to 138,000 by 1850. It had one major newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, founded in 1841 with Walt Whitman as one of its early editors.
The first local was Boyd’s. It was established almost simultaneously with his New York operation on June 17, 1844, as an advertisement in the New York papers of July 1, 1844 notes the service is to begin on Wednesday July 3rd with a 3¢ rate. The earliest use is a prepaid conjunctive cover with the American Mail Company (one of four such recorded) with a Boyd’s Brooklyn handstamp of July 11, 1844.
However, on September 28, 1844 an advertisement of Brooklyn service called for a 2¢ charge. The rate may have changed earlier. John Bowman has done a census of the Boyd Brooklyn covers and records a total of twenty of which seven may have been in the 3¢ rate period.
The latest is an example, with an 8¢ rate that came down from Troy (6¢ for the independent mail conjunctive use and 2¢ for Boyd) for delivery in south Brooklyn. It was written May 15, 1845, discusses a new firm, and was handstamped by Boyd’s Brooklyn office on the 20th. Note particularly the break in the rim just before the ‘P’ of POST and the rim irregularity opposite the ‘M’ of MAY.
A third 1844 example, (figure 3) was written on Sunday November 24th and sent by ‘express’ from his younger brother, who was staying in a hotel, to Rev. Duffield in Brooklyn and handstamped the next day with the Boyd’s Brooklyn oval. It was vandalized at some point and an adhesive removed with strong solvents and the 20½¢ rate practically obliterated. It comments on the just concluded 1844 election won, to the writer’s despair, by James Polk. If I had to guess, I would say this came down from Boston with either an American Letter Mail or a Wyman’s adhesive, probably the later; however see lot 728 in the Golden sale in the same hand addressed to Mrs. Duffield of 9/23/44 that came up from Philadelphia apparently by American Letter Mail.
Jones City Express Post
A competitive post with Boyd’s Brooklyn was the Jones City Express Post, which is known from February 17, 1845 to August 10, 1845, although a cover of January 29,1846 was Golden lot 1282 if the Jones adhesive originated. One is known stampless with a JONES/CITY DISPATCH handstamp marking to Daniel Mathews 2 Clinton Place, N.Y. in the Boker holding, while I also record a manuscript of 1845. Seven covers and two fronts are recorded with adhesives.
The proprietor is believed to be George G. Jones an engraver who was at Clinton and Jamaica Road in the 1844 Brooklyn directory. He is listed in later directories as manager of the 1855-1856 Metropolitan Errand and Carrier Express of Manhattan accordin to Abt’s notes.
In 1845, Hale also established an office in Brooklyn and took advantage of the patriotic fever to use a spread eagle handstamp of which only a handful are known. The earliest use of the ‘spread eagle’ linen marker was a use by Hale on January 7, 1845, poorly struck on a cover to New London ex-Middendorf, where it was illustrated, while the latest seems to be March 2, 1845, ex-Doane, to Springfield, MS. (figure 4).
An undated front with one of the better strikes is seen in figure 5. This linen marking seems to have first come into use as a example of patriotic sentiment over Polk’s Manifest Destiny doctrine during the debate over the annexation of Texas in early 1845.
Boyd’s Brooklyn local did not issue adhesives, but it spawned a line of adhesive-issuing descendents. The first was Wellington Walton, whom I believe along with Perry was Boyd’s agent in Brooklyn at 195 Gold St. Walton issued the 142L1 first recorded by William P. Brown in his publication in 1871. The rate was 2¢. Current records indicate 7 adhesive covers.
There are 4-5 stampless examples recorded, the earliest of which are two Valentine covers presumably of 1846. There is the ex-Mason Valentine cover to Miss Pitcher, figure 6. A second example of the same date in the Golden sale is a Valentine example to Miss Berg at Smith and Warren streets. Both show the identical breaks found in the latest Boyd example. Also known is a second Valentine to Miss Berg, but at 4 Gold St., that sold in the Siegel sale of 6/30/1960 as lot 81.
In addition to the breaks discussed there is an additional break over the ‘B’ of Brooklyn suggesting this may be from the 1847 Valentine season. Otherwise, the latest known dated example is seen as figure 7. It is ex-Mason and Hall and addressed to Augustus Campbell 22 Sackett St. The date is July 21, 1846. Perry reported a handstamp in red on a May 9, 1846 cover, which I have not located.
Donald Patton and the old Scott Specialized stated Walton sold his post to Henry C. Kidder ‘in late 1847’. Kidder lived at 269 Washington St. in Brooklyn according to the 1847 Brooklyn city directory. In my 1970 Essays monograph, I illustrated figure 8, the new earliest black Kidder item, ex-Hollowbush, with a March 11, 1847 date with an adhesive removed. It was written March 10th at 7 Washington Square and addressed to Eben. Meriam in Brooklyn Heights.
Two days later, March 12, 1847 we find figure 9 showing the same breaks but strengthening of the rim. It is initialed in brown pen by Kidder, has a Kidder’s handstamp PAID, and shows that the rate has now risen to 3¢ prepaid. It is a letter from E. C. Finn secretary of Wm. Bradford & Co. of Brooklyn asking for insurance of $10,000 for eight months and is addressed to the L. I. Insurance Co. at 41 Fulton St. in Brooklyn.
From the Hollowbush holding, we find, figure 10, the latest black Kidder’s large oval. It is a cover addressed to Lt. Samuel Knox on the U.S. Navy Sloop Albany and New York, which originally had a Boyd stamp and his Type C oval handstamp (Abt’s latest is March 9, 1848–Golden lot 599?) and PAID/J.T.B. (my records on this small 16-x 9-mm handstamp do not show it was used after December, 1848 disagreeing with the Bowman/LeBel Penny Post dates. I would date this cover as November 11, 1848 based on the less complete Kidder’s handstamped ovals than the ones found on the Golden examples of February 14 (ex-Mason), and the ex-Caspary one of June 20, 1848. (This latter has the earliest 2¢ Kidder adhesive I record if it originated.)
I leave it to my colleague to discuss the 2¢ Kidder’s adhesives, one of which is found in a bright light blue on lot 656 of the Middendorf sale with a new unlisted red Kidder’s 2¢ handstamp in the format of the first of the Brooklyn City Express Post items operated by the Snedecker brothers (Isaac C. and George H.). The blue seems much lighter than those of the normal light blue Kidder’s (93L1) and may represent a different printing.
I record three other examples of this marking on stampless covers, one is March 12, 1849 and the second is dated July 13, 1849 (Golden lot 1289 unillustrated) while the third is seen as figure 11 and is July 1851 sent to cover a bill for June 30th of that year. It reads KIDDER’S CITY/2 Cts/EXPRESS POST. It is this handstamp that seems to appear on the back of the September 1, 1850 Kidders cover illustrated in Patton with what Lyons terms is the reprint position 8 adhesive initialed ‘I. S.’ in his Identifier.
Brooklyn City Express Post
Isaac C. Snedecker seems to have worked for or with Kidder probably beginning in mid-1848 as seen by Golden lot 1290 with the late Kidder handstamp and the earliest of the adhesives initialed ‘I. S.’ by Snedecker. However the Brooklyn city directory lists his as a letter carrier from 1848 to 1851 and employed as the ‘express office’ at 69½ Fulton Street in 1852. Snedecker no longer uses the Kidder handstamp after November 1848 but continues to use up the supply of Kidder adhesives, initialing them. By March 12, 1849 he has the new Kidder handstamp made and there seems to be a new printing of the Kidder adhesives (Golden lot 1291, Middendorf lot 656, and Hall 704). The supposed ‘Y. S.’ initials on the Ackerman/Hall copy (Hall lot 704) of March 10 seem to me to be a ‘pd’ as in the case of the Middendorf example. Plating the New York City postmark dates this cover to March 1849.
A new red handstamp of 30 x 19-mm reading BROOKLYN CITY/2 CTS/ EXPRESS POST is introduced by 1851, figure 12. The earliest 28L5 seems to be found on a letter dated December 8, 1851 (lot 221 in the John Kaufmann sale of 11/14/72). It is barely tied by a black PAID and also bears a black Brooklyn City 30 x 19 mm oval. A second smaller darker red version of 27 x 19-mm is introduced by 1852, figure 13, and is seen as late as July 6, 1853 (Caspary lot 659) as well as with a pencil 3¢ rate on a Valentine (Golden lot 835). A black version is known on an undated cover with the 28L5 adhesive and a black large PAID (Golden lot 837). This handstamp was supposedly used as late as April 5, 1860 according to lot 1678 in the Schwartz sale on a cover to John Dikeman with a 28L3 adhesive.
Snedecker had a brother George H. Snedecker who was a paper carrier from 1846 to 1851 according to the Brooklyn directories living at 169, 173, and 191 Gold Street (the old Walton address was at 195 Gold) until 1850. In 1854, Isaac Snedecker moved to 6 Court St. In the 1855 directory the address of the local is given as 6 Court with H. Mellish listed as proprietor. The same address shows up in 1856 but without a manager or proprietor. Henry J. Mellish is listed at 182 Bridge Street as a mechanic, thus he many have briefly owned or managed the local.
Rogers Brooklyn City Express
Benjamin K. Rogers, an ex-Boyd employee, is the next proprietor. He was listed as a city express in Manhattan at 90 Wall Street in 1852, living at 413 Hudson as a stationary proprietor and again in the 1853 directory. In 1855-8 he was living in Brooklyn. On September 11, 1855 he announced taking over the Snedecker operation at 69½ Fulton Street. Over sixty boxes were located in the principal drug, stationary, and grocery stores in Brooklyn and Williamsburg. He asked 2¢ prepaid for his stamps and issued the 28L3, but also used 28L5 and the rare 28L6 according to McNish.
In the summer of 1858, Rogers took William McNish into partnership and retired himself in 1859.
McNish’s Brooklyn City Express
McNish was a letter carrier according to the 1860 Brooklyn directory and an express man at his home at 278 Smith St until 1865. In an extensive report of the history of this post written in the summer of 1880 that he gave Jesse Furlong is an account of this post, which was published in 1889. McNish reported operating from 69½ Fulton Street using four carriers daily and four box collectors. There were four daily collections. In St. Valentines week and in the spring and autumn he increased this to eight and averaged some 2,500 letters daily and always used a stamp. He claimed to continue to use the 28L3 briefly and to have issued 28L4; this latter only during 1861 just before selling the post dating lot 832 in the Golden sale to 1861. With both adhesives, the red handstamp is now found without the rate in the center.
Lawrence’s Brooklyn City Express
McNish sold the business to Jacob Lawrence in the summer of 1861. Lawrence was a newspaper carrier who operated the local from the same address until he, in turn, sold it in 1863. According to McNish Lawrence used an altered version of the 2¢ plate changed back to 1¢ and printed late versions of 28L1 and 28L2. The ex-Chapman cover Golden lot 828) to John Staff with a almost lavender blue adhesive together with a Boyd handstamp with ‘M’ in the center has to date from this period as this Mary Blackham Boyd handstamp didn’t come into use until 186l.
Doremus’s Brooklyn City Express Post
Gilbert Doremus was a newspaper store proprietor at 69½ Fulton St. who operated the local in 1863, possibly with Waitstill Doremus, a son or other relative, until he discontinued it sometime the following year. He still used the new printing of the 28L2 adhesive done by Lawrence, an example of which would be the July 21, 1863 cover to Olmstead at New Haven (lot 829 in Golden). When the post was discontinued there were many unredeemed 1¢ remainders.
Bush’s Brooklyn City Express
Another local is the ex-Hollowbush Bush’s Express whose handstamp is seen as figure 14. This copy is dated January 2, 1850 and is used in conjunction with the 30-mm brown circle CITY DESPATCH POST/Jan 5/9 CLOCK/P.O., the latest known City Despatch P.O. marking. We now have one adhesive (157L1) discovered in 1949 by Eugene Costales and 3-4 handstamps, two of which were in the Golden collection and are Valentines addressed to Mary Richards 367 Remsen and Mary Thompson 105 Willow St. respectively, while a third seems to be the March 30, 1848 example addressed to Charles Williams that is ex-Mason. The rate was always 2¢. John O. Bush, probably the proprietor, is listed as a carrier of newspapers from 1851 to 1858 living at 86 Varick in Manhattan from 1853 onward according to Perry’s research.
George Hussey’s Brooklyn Operation
Hussey did deliver to Brooklyn and used a 3¢ handstamp to handle this mail, two examples of which are seen as figure 15. A stamped example was recorded in Byways of Philately on 8/28/1858, while the second of these has contents dating it as April 28, 1862.
Coater & Ray’s Valentine Express
George Sloane first reported this local on June 11, 1955 as part of the Hollowbush holding. He had the Long Island and Brooklyn Historical Societies attempt to locate any reference to it, but none were found. David Jarrett when he obtained the local also attempted research in city directories etc. with no results. It is a 2¢ rated Valentine addressed to Catherine Backhouse, Carlton Ave, near DeKalb in Brooklyn, figure 16.
Brooklyn City Post
Another rare and unresearched local is the Brooklyn City Post. The physical Valentines are the only evidence we have, one of which is addressed to Mr. Joseph Wellman, 53 Atlantic St., South Brooklyn, figure 17, ex-Malcolm, and Jarrett. The second is ex-Golden and also has a handstamped PAID. It is addressed in red to Miss Burnham, 81 Butler St., Brooklyn.
Robison & Co. Letter Express
A unique example on cover was first reported in the 1864 Mount Brown catalog and was acquired subsequently by Ferrari and Caspary. It was supposedly used in the 1855-56 period and is addressed to Jas. H. Watson, 231 Henry St., Brooklyn. It is illustrated on page 291 of Patton. The 1¢ adhesive is black on greenish gray, although several other versions were listed in catalogs of the 1860s; they reflect six early forgeries by S. Allan Taylor and others. The adhesive is tied by a blue handstamp PAID and there is an oval handstamp reading ROBINSON & CO./LETTER/EXPRESS., also in blue. Perry found three expresses in New York directories, which he believed might represent the local at a different time. The only local that might be one of these is in my collection and dates into the 1870s as it is struck in magenta ink and reads ROBINSON’S /DISPATCH on a cover to Messrs. J. W. Wilson & Co. 27 Beaver St.
Pip’s Daily Mail
This is reported on the authority of William P. Brown as narrated to Coster. It is a 1¢ label lithographed on soft thick roughish paper. Brown state he acquired the adhesives in 1862-3 from George Abrahams a stationer at 86 Hamilton Ave. South Brooklyn, who was the distributor and presumably successor to Pips. No covers are known and only one used example. the buff, with an 1860s New York City double circle c.d.s. is known. The adhesives are known on white, buff, yellow, dark blue and rose. All known examples seem to have come from Brown.
According to the information obtained personally from the proprietor along with unissued stamps by Phillip LaTourette, a New York stamp dealer with a philatelic interest in such late locals, this is a local of December 1882 established by Edwin Pidgeon in the Willoughby Building 119 Fulton St. in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall area and suppressed after a few months. The typographed stamps, sold at 80¢ a hundred were issued in rose and red rouletted 12 and a late (never issued) printing of dull purple brown. Stimmell and others maintain the latter is a forgery based on Moens; it seems to me equally likely that the Moens illustration is based on the LaTourette item and that it is a genuine second printing, which was as stated never issued. If the type had been put away, then reused later the differences are not illogical. No covers are known. An indistinct killer is reported.
Another late example is the Brooklyn Circular Distributing Bureau. An example from the 1870s or 1880s was offered as lot 220A in the John Kaufmann sale of 11/4/72. It bears the black on lavender adhesive reading BROOKLYN/CIRCULAR/DISTRIBUTING BUREAU/448/Fulton Street. and is addressed to Knowlton & Marceau, 367 Fulton St.