THE 1847 ISSUE CROSS BORDER-COVERS:
OLDIES YES, BUT ARE THEY GOODIES?
The New York Hypothesis
The essence of the New York thesis is that of the postage due letter. In the past I have discussed the problems of buying an example of the 1847 stamp issue in the New York Post Office by quoting comtemporary accounts of the trip up to the third floor rear office of the clerk, which was the only place they were on sale. You could not obtain an 1847 stamp at the general delivery window. Thus, it is unlikely that someone who had to pick up a letter would make the trip to the third floor rear office to get a stamp first. Further, if he had stamps in his office, he would be likely to save them for use in the collection boxes rather than utlilize them for the trip to the postoffice where cash payment was just as easy.
Even had the Buckland letter gone through general delivery, it would be unlikely that a stamp would be applied. However, it is almost a certainty that this letter was carrier-delivered and not a general delivery item, due to the use of a street address in the address panel as discussed in the cited carrier article website presentation where the five ways a letter could be handled upon arrive at the New York postoffice.
While the evidence was not quite hard enough for a sworn statement, it is hard enough to state that the probability is extremely high that any letter with a street address, as in this example, was delivered by a carrier.
In the 1840s, carrier delivery occurs when a letter is street-addressed unless the addressee has specifically filed a request not to have delivery made. Thus this letter would be grouped with a number of other letters and given to the carrier involved along with an account of the total postage due on the letters. He would attempt delivery, collecting the postage plus his 1¢ fee. If unsuccessful, he would take the letter back a second time. Only if delivery was impossible would it go to a different departrment to be advertised, and a fee for such was marked on the face of each letter involved.
Even for old-time customers it was unlikely that a carrier would prepay the letters at the general post office. Not only would it create a second accounting system which would complicate mattrers badly, it would also be too risky. Postage due accounts had existed in the carrier offices in the early days—at least of the carrier’s penny. However, with the New York fire of December 1835 a change had occurrred, for many downtown firms lost their records and the carriers were unable to collect the outstanding debt or else the firms went bankrupt and the carrier had to pay the unpaid postage due balance difference.
In the city, carrier activity was a family affair and carriers served for many years. Thus in 1849 many of the carriers on duty had either lived through the financial debacle of carrier credit of 1835 or had relatives who had. Even if a carrier was predisposed to pay for the letter in advance, he would be unlikely to make the trek to the third floor rear office where stamps were sold to do it, when a cash transaction would work just as well.
It is equally incredible to assume that the recipient would pay with a stamp when he also had to pay the 1¢ carrier fee in cash. And, even if the recipient did have a stamp and desired to use it, how can one explain the fact that the 10-cent 1847 stamp on this cover is cancelled by a circular grid of the central post office—even when it is the incorrect cancelling device for the carrier delivering the letter to use?
Without going through a series of tortured analyses of ways to get a stamp on a cover in New York, it should be clear that receipt cancellations are uncommon in the early classic period, which covers the 1847 stamps. The application of a stamp upon receipt (and only 1.3% of all letters in the period of use of the 1847 stamps bore them according to post office records) is so rare that one very knowledgeable expert admitted he could not put his finger upon any known example. Except for such examples as forwarded or advertised letters, the mere application of a handstamp upon receipt in this time period is most uncommon.
An expert in U.S. stamps would not necessarily know the intricate operations of post office accounting procedures and letter-handling techniques in the New York Post Office. In fact, it would be unusual for an expert to have this knowledge for it is postal history knowledge, not knowledge of the advanced stamp collector.
The converse would be true of the details of printing and gumming of a stamp. The expert stamp collector would have this type of information as part of his ordinary equipment, while the postal historian expert might well flounder in analysis that called for such knowledge.
Combining the philatelic knowledge of the extreme rarity of possible use of 1847 stamps as payments upon receipt, together with the great improbability from the postal history view of such a procedure, we can develop a practical certainty that no 1847 adhesive would be appled to a letter from Canada addressed to a New York street address on the New York end of the route. An expert certifying otherwise is risking his reputation, knowingly or unknowingly.
The Canadian Alternative
If we are to assume that this cover is genuine than the 1847 can only have been applied in Momtreal. Certainly, it is known that stamps were applied there on letters going to New York so there is no theoretical barrier to such a situation. This then would have to be one of the rare cash and stamp prepayment items with the U.S. stamp applied abroad.
The use of 1847 U.S. stamps from Canada is a very popular use, quite desirable, and a use that has often tempted the faker. Thus, in examining the weight of evidence for the Canadian application of a U.S. 1847 stamp, I prefer to follow the assumption that an item is bad until proved otherwise, rather than the converse. This rule is a good one to follow in most other cases as well.
In her article, ‘Which Twin Is the Phony?’, Mrs. McDonald has listed some tests for cross-border covers with 1847 stamps. These include the following:
1) Any cover with the amount of U.S. postage expressed—whether in manuscript or by handstamp, is suspect. It is usually decisive evidence she feels.
2) The method used to cancel the stamp and the Canadian PAID should be the same. Any difference is suspect.
3) On New York City destination mail, covers with the Canadian PAID not crossed out are very likely to be good. (It might be added that a cross-out in ink can be removed and must be diligently watched for.)
4) When the New York City encircled 10 is struck over the Canadian PAID, special scrutiny is called for (no matter what guarantee is given) as this is typical of stampless covers of the period.
5) Special attention should be given covers from companies known to have sent their mail collect.
6) Covers where the 1847 stamps are cancelled by the scarce New York City circular seven-bar grid should be closely examined. This is a danger sign, but not one sufficient to condemn a cover alone.
I would tend to agree with Mrs. McDonald’s strictures and add another of my own. That is, ‘paid to the lines’ means precisely that and that its appearance upon a cover with a U.S. stamp is another danger sign when the cover originated in Canada.
In the case of the Buckland cover, there are a number of danger signs. This cover is: a) specifically marked ‘paid to the lines.’
- b) The encircled 10 rate in red is the typical New York marking for postage due letters from Canada in this period, e.g. stampless covers, and it is here used to strike out the Canadian PAID.
- c) When stamps are found properly used on cross-border covers, the cancellation is typically the encircled ‘10’ in red on those with the New York City destination and not the circled grid, as here.
- d) There is no logical use for two different devices to be used for cancellations on the same cover at New York. It might be proposed that the encircled ‘10’ was struck on the stamp, but that ther application was so light that someone else struck the stamp with another canceller—the grid circle—four to five times!
- e) The tying grid cancel is applied so heavily that it is probably impractical to determine if the stamp earlier ha a manuscript cancel which was removed—there is a light touch that might indicate this—or another cancellation, which was obliterated. The adhesive looks almost as though a square canceller was used across the mid-face; also at least one expert who looked at this cover sees whiat might be a faint encircled ‘10’.
- f) At least several qualified people have noted a different shading in the red color on the encircled ‘10’ canceller—known and properly used on both stampless and stamped covers from Canada to New York—and the circled grid, when a red filter was used.
In favor of assuming the stamp legitimately belongs on this cover is the fact that it has obviously been there a long time—the ‘provenance factor.’ Too, there is a fold in the cover, which suggests the stamp was there originally. Further, the manuscript cancellation of ‘4½’ which represents the Canadian rate to the border, also apparently ties the stamp on the downstroke, e.g. the stroke beginning on the stamp. While there is a definite thickness of ink that could be caused by an attempt to extend a manuscript cancel onto the stamp, as welll as what appears to be a difference in ink color of the pen marking on the stamp and the cover, this might be explained as one expert put it, by the fact that the cover color of a blue shade and the white stamp paper would give the appearance of different ink colors. In photographs of other covers there does not appear to be such a thickness—naturally, the color difference cannot be analyzed from photos alone. Thus, as it is very difficult to do detailed analysis from the typical photo, the extra ink thickening at the border between the stamp and cover here can be regarded only as disturbing, not definite, evidence.
There are no traces of removal of the stamp that are obvious either on the front or back of the cover when examined in either natural or ultraviolet light, or under magnification. Too, there is a similar shade of discoloration on the back of the cover sheet where the encircled ‘10’ was applied and where the grid cancellation on the stamp was placed.
Summarizing the evidence on this cover, it is clear that the negative factors involve postal application of an 1847 stamp in Canada, chiefly of a postal history nature, while the favorable factors are more of a stamp/cover specialist nature. As my purpose is to bring a body of postal history knowledge analytic technique before the reader or viewer, any given cover discussed is only illustrative and the reader can weight the evidence as he or she wishes.
The American Postal Laws and Regulations (PL&R) published in 1847, contains several items possibly relating to such cross-border covers. Canada’s first PL&Rs were contained in the Canadian Postmaster General’s report of the year ending April 5, 1852 and presumably were operative from April 6, 1851 when the official transfer of control over the post office passed to Canada. (The British Act was passed July 28, 1849 and the Canadian enabling act was passed August 8, 1850, with terms specified to begin April 6, 1851 although the Governor in Council of Canada could make necessary arrangements earlier for the transfer, e.g. after August 10. 1850.)
In the U.S. PL&Rs of 1847 we find Regulation #476 lists the various exchange offices for mail. It notes,
“Also, New York City and Albany, by special arrangement with Toronto, Kingston, and Montreal.”
Thus Montreal and Toronto letters would come direct to New York for processing as a border exchange point. As Mrs. McDonald pointed out, mail from Quebec, Bytown and other points northeast and north of Montreal was sent to Montreal where it was put into the through-bag if it was addressed to New York City.
These 1847 U.S. PL&Rs also contain data on the handling of paid and unpaid letters (Regulation #477) and the accounting rules (Regulation #479):
“Letters received from the British Provinces for offices in the U.S. are to be rated at the first post office in the U.S. at which they are received, with the proper postage from the U.S. line to the office addressed, except where the letters are prepaid for the whole distance at the offices mailing them in the Provinces.
Postmasters bordering on the Canadian frontier will keep an exact account of the postage on all letters, newspapers, pamphlets, &c. passing into those Provinces, and keep an account of the postage on all letters, &c., received from those Provinces, separate and distinct from the accounts of other mails received at, and sent from, their respective offices.”
Inasmuch as Regulation Section #480 provides for a separate compensation for postmasters receiving Canadian letters, you can be sure that the accounting regulations were carried out.
Regulation #501 deals specifically with the cancelling device for stamps. It reads,
“Stamps so affixed are to be immediately cancelled in the office in which the letter or packet may be deposited, with an instrument to be furnished to certain of the post offices for that purpose. In postoffices not so furnished, the stamps must be cancelled by making a crosss (X) on each with a pen. If the cancelling has been omitted on the mailing of the letter, the Postmaster delivering it will cancel the stamp in the manner directed, and immediately report the postmaster who may have been delinquent to the Department.”
The following Regulation #502 deals with the accounting procedures for stamps:
“Stamp letters and packets will be entered in the post bills, and also in the abstracts of mail sent and received, as prepaid by stamps. The amount of stamp letters sent will, in the computation of the postmaster’s commissions, and for that purpose only, be added to the amount of postage received.”
Regarding therse instructions, it can be seen that a properly applied stamp in Canada should either be cancelled in Canada or immediately upon receipt in the U.S. “by an instrument to be furnished for that purpose.”
If we examine covers bearing stamps applied in Canada to the U.S. it appears that Canada either cancelled the stamps of both countries (as in the 63-day period when both Canadian and U.S. stamps could be applied) or the red encircled ‘10’ rate was used as the appropriate device in New York. According to the new 1847 cover census book, there are about 4 recorded combination covers bearing U.S. 1847 stamps and the 3d Canadian Beaver stamp to cover the inclusive 10¢ or 6d rate that began April 6, 185l and lasted until June 30, 1851 when new U.S. rates were introduced. All, of course, fall after the issuance of the Canadian Beaver on April 23, 1851. Four are illustrated in Boggs (figures 33-36). Figure 2 shows the ex-Dale Lichtenstein example that was Bogg’s figure 36, one of two (the other, Boggs figure 35, is a part-cover) cancelled in Canada.
Ashbrook on pages 469-470 of his Special Services, discusses several covers from the Caspary sale with U.S. 1847s used from Canada in this period but without the Canadian Beaver so that the U.S. stamp paid the Canadian postage and not just the ‘border to New York City’ rate. One, lot 118 was a ‘charge box 186’ cover from Montreal February 18, 1850 with two single dark brown singles killed by three strikes of a circular grid from the Kennedy correspondence. The second (lot 119) is a 5¢ pair on cover to E. F.Morgan in New York from Montreal May 2, 1851. The stamps are killed with the Montreal target grid. For the record, it might be noted that the entire concept of Mr. Ashbrook’s Special Service was inspired by the analysis of an 1847 U.S. stamp on a cover used from Canada that Lester Brookman showed him.
Both stampless covers and the illustrated covers, figures 13-through 36 in the original Boggs or the more recent Quarterman reprint of part thereof, can be helpful to the sutdent if he keeps in mid the fact that certain of the correspondences illustrated there are known to have been tampered with in relation to the addition of stamps and that therefore the authenticity of each cover pictures in that book can no longer automatically be assumed to be acceptable, although each may `be.
The first major problem is whether or not covers from Canada had to be wholly prepaid, or whether payment to the lines was acceptable in late 1849 and early 1850. Mrs. McDonald illustrated two such covers in her article cited earlier, both of which she interprets as having U.S. postage due only. In my own holding I have several similar examples such as a July 16, 1849 letter where the black ‘PAID’ Canadian handstamp is crossed out and a U.S. rate is applied at the exchange point of Sackett’s Harbor.
I also own a pair of Money Letters originating in Canada and going to New York on which the manuscript ‘4½’ Canadian postage ‘to the lines’ is marked in pen and the handstamp PAID of Canada is crossed out and a red encircled ‘10’ is used to show the due rate in New York. Figure 3 is the 1848 one. It has the U.S. rate unpaid. This is a period when it was not possible to prepay the U.S. portion by cash. The cover bears a red boxed 60 x 10mm MONEY LETTER as well as the open circle red 25mm MONTREAL/DE13/1848/L.C. and italic red PAID as well as a manuscript 4½ in red ink representing 4½d currency, the rate from Montreal to the lines. The PAID is struck out in the blue ink of New York and a red 19mm encircled 10 applied to cover the U.S. 10¢ due.
Figure 4 shows a companion 1849 cover after the Postmaster General’s instructions about complete prepayment or complete postage due rates. Note that it has the same red boxed 60 x 10mm MONEY LETTER and the same red 25mm open circled MONTREAL/DE 29/1849/L.C. just dated later as well as the red italic PAID and the red pen 4½ rate. There is a red 27 x 8mm ‘Too Late’ as well, indicating this letter did not make the anticipated sealed bag. The Montreal PAID is struck out by the red 19 mm encircled 10 rate for the U.S. 10¢ postage due. This letter is docketed as arrriving January 3, 1850. It might be noted that this cover travelled in the identical bag as the Buckland cover.
As both covers have the same rate handling and one is of December 13, 1848 when repayment of U.S. postage in cash was forbidden and the other is of December 19, 1849 after the change in instructions by the U.S. Postmaster General, it is clear that both covers had to be handled as unpaid letters.
Referring to the Boggs’ book illustrations, Figure #18, a stampless cover, shows the manner in which prepayment of both U.S. and Canadian postage was separately noted prior to the November 16, 1847 elimination of cash prepayment of U.S. postage. Boggs’ figure 19, also stampless, shows the ‘due’ handling of the U.S. postage after that date. Boggs’ figures 21, 28, 29 and 32 show similar ‘due’ U.S. markings on stampless covers during the 1848-1851 period.
Figure 5 shows a stampless cover prepaid at Montreal on September 24, 1849 and addressed to a lawyer at Albany, NY. It was prepaid to the border as denoted by the manuscript paid in the upper left corner by the writer and the red PAID handstamp and red manuscript 4½ rate. When it got to Albany, the manuscript and handstamp paids were crossed out and a black manuscript ‘5’ applied for the rate from the border to Albany.
The conclusion, therefore, to be drawn from the above-cited illustrations is that despite any ruling by the U.S. Postmaster General in his instructions of 1849, part payment ‘to the lines’ was acceptable by the Canadian authorities on Canadian letters to the U.S. Thus, a situation existed whereby a partially prepaid cover could be improved by a skillful faker who would add a U.S. 1847 stamp and create a tie. Even 50 or 75 years ago, a U.S. stamp with the unusual ‘used abroad’ feature would have commanded above average philatelic interest, and obviously such an item could hardly be collected except on cover.