Members Show-and Tell

Dec 1 , 1997

This meeting took place December 12, 1997 and was attended by Gene Reed, who came up from New Jersey, along with Gerald Moss from Delaware.  Moss showed four covers from the Tredegar Iron Works of Richmond—the key source of cannon for the Confederacy as well as the iron plates used for the Confederate iron clad, Merrimac.  Helen Galatan Stone showed her Philadelphia illustrated covers, while Ted Israel showed an interesting selection of Confederate provisionals and handstamped paids, going into the history of several of these.  In this respect Calvet Hahn had several examples of handstamped Paids that were currently going through the expertizing process of the CSA and the PSE committees, which showed members some of the analytic approaches taken by the various expert committees to ‘authenticate’ a new provisional.

Hahn also made a presentation of ‘death’ as a topic, showing an eye witness account of the Battle of Long Island in the revolution and reports of deaths in that battle, the well-known George Turner’s ‘death’ cover of 1812, one of the earliest handmade U.S. black border mourning covers, a Boyd ‘free’ to the newspapers cover with a poem on the ‘death of a bird’, a Harnden card used to carry a coffin back from the Civil War battlefield, several express company examples carrying ‘sickness and death’ news and Julia Grant’s franked mourning cover.

DEATH COVERS—Death On Long Island

                                                © Calvet M. Hahn 1997

Following the retreat from Boston, Sir William Howe took his troops to Nova Scotia beginning March 17, 1776 and then from there to New York arriving in the Narrows July 2nd.  He landed 15,000 men on Staten Island, which was to become the British base to capture New York.  On August 22nd, the troops were landed at Coney Island and began their march north through Brooklyn to the Battle of Brooklyn Heights.  By noon on the 17th, Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis turned the American lines at the Heights and the Americans lost half their forces.

Clinton rather than attacking decided to besiege Washington, who under the cover of night on the 29th withdrew across to Manhattan, preserving a large portion of his army.  New York, however, was untenable with Brooklyn Heights in British hands and Washington gradually began to pull his forces up into the northern end of the island preparatory for the forthcoming battle of Washington Heights, near Columbia University today.

The British crossed the East River at Kip’s Bay, location of Postmaster General Finley’s summer home and a few blocks south of the Collectors Club. The nearly trapped Washington as he moved his troops up Broadway; however, the legend goes that the officers of the British forces stopped at the Murray plantation for tea (the Collector’s Club is located on Murray’s Hill) and the bulk of the American forces successfully reached Harlem.

The letter shown was written at New York September 1, 1776, immediately after the fall of Brooklyn. It needs to be remembered that there was no dictionary at this time and writers wrote as they spoke, accent and all.  Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary in England had not really penetrated America and was more an encyclopedia than we consider dictionaries today. Webster’s firs American dictionary was still decades in the future (1828).  The text is transcribed as best I can read it. Note the double ‘g’ in Long Island a typical New York pronunciation as well as other accents as spoken. Note also the old style of capitalizing important words, typical of writing in German.