Van Koppersmith – Philadelphia Ship Letters

Jan 1 , 2004

Past U.S. Philatelic Classics Society president Van Koppersmith lead the January 13th seminar on Philadelphia ship mail from 1792 to the 1860s. After discussing three pages of rate tables, Van showed three of the four recorded types of in-ship ‘4’ rates of 1792-98. He then showed examples of the manuscript ship rate markings, noting that Philadelphia used a Franklin dater but not a town postmark at the time. The first Philadelphia circle of 1799 was shown along with a straightline SHIP (an arc version was introduced 8/14/1804 and the FDC was shown). He also showed eight versions of the new “6” in-ship markings, which were used from 1799 to the Civil War. The holding was notable for the number of covers where the ship carrying the letter was designated.

A very early use (February 12, 1800) of the uncommon outgoing Post Paid Ship Letter of London (1800-1819) combined with the first type of crowned Liverpool ship letter (1800-1804) was shown. The London ship letter office at Lombard St. had opened 9/13/1799. The outgoing rate of 6d on this letter was half the packet rate. An 1802 companion prepaid ship letter from Hull sparked spirited discussion of rates and delays. This letter to 31 market St. was probably carrier delivered in Philadelphia.

Among the rarities shown were a Philadelphia 1827-30 MAIL ROUTE (of which less than ten examples are known) and a Batavia Indonesia originated cover with the red full-rigged ship. It’s believed that the latter marking was introduced along with the Philadelphia octagon postmark in 1834. About 40 examples are known. There is also an 1839 blue rigged ship of which at least three are known.

The attached pages provide a wealth of rate information and details about these rare markings, along with scans of scarce covers.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7

Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15