Welcome again to Postal History Sunday on the GFF Postal History blog. This is the place and time where I share something about the postal history hobby I enjoy and, perhaps, you end up learning something new that interests you.
Take those troubles and worries and put
them into a box. Then, put that box into another box and put THAT box
into ANOTHER box. To keep this postal history related, you should then
mail that box to yourself and when it arrives.... smash it with a
hammer (who can name that animated movie reference?). Oh wait, we don't
want to smash potential postal history. Removed the lid with the
stamps, address and postal markings first. Then, you can smash what
remains with a hammer.
Worcester, Mass to London
This particular post is going to focus on two letters to the same individual. The first can be seen below:
This letter was mailed on Dec 19, 1865 at Worcester, Mass and it left the next day on a Cunard Line steamship named Asia from Boston. The Asia landed at Queenstown (Cobh, Ireland) on December 31 where it unloaded this letter in the bag of mail destined for London. That bag of mail went by train to Kingston and crossed the St Georges Channel to Holyhead. From there to London, it was mostly railway until it was taken out of the mailbag and marked with the receiving exchange mark (the red London marking on the left side).
I often find I get a better appreciation for things once I see a map and I can place where everything belongs in my head. Feel free to click on the map to see a larger version if you want more details. Kingston is the port by Dublin and Queenstown is the port by Cork (Cobh). There was a regular steamer service between Kingston and Holyhead that carried passengers, goods and, of course, the mail.
Oh, and before I
forget, the cost of mailing a letter from the United States to England
was 24 cents as long as it did not weigh more than 1/2 ounce. That
explains the 24 cent stamp on this envelope.
Some time ago, a couple of people asked if I would write about how I find some of the things for my postal history collection. While this post won't focus entirely on that, it makes some sense to talk about how I found the two envelopes I am featuring in this post.
Back when eBay was new(er), it was not unheard of to be able to find reasonably priced stamps and postal history. You just needed to know which categories to look and what keywords to use when you were looking. At one point in time, there was a postal history category for the United States inside of a larger "stamps" category. I regularly searched for items with a 24 cent stamp and almost always got the same list of the same offerings - all of which did not interest me.
But, one day I saw a auction lot that showed this item as the main photo, so I went to look at it. I found out then that there were actually two covers in the lot - and the price was very, VERY reasonable. I did not hesitate on this one (and you'll see why later). The price would have been good even if it were only this first piece.
The Honorable P.C. Bacon goes to Europe
I was able to find a biography of the Honorable Peter Child Bacon ( b. 11 Nov 1804, d. 7 Feb 1886) in this book that included the histories of several Massachusetts towns. (reference #2) P.C. Bacon was married to Mary Louisa Batchelder
(b. 15 May 1815, d. 9 Jun 1886) and they appear to have had four sons
and one daughter, though I have not dug any more deeply to confirm that
Photo is reported by wiki to be from the first source listed at end of blog, I have not personally confirmed this - that's for another day.
P.C. Bacon was a lawyer for a well-known and respected firm that bore his name and worked out of Worcester starting in 1844 (with prior work in Oxford and Dudley). He was the first representative from Worcester in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1848, when the city was first incorporated. The resource linked above suggests he was elected as mayor of Worcester in 1851 and 1852 while another source lists him as the third mayor of Worcester, serving from 1849-51.
Apparently, the Honorable P.C. Bacon took a trip to Europe towards the end of 1865, returning in January of 1866. While in Europe, it was common for a traveler to maintain a line of credit with a financial house for ease of travel and the coverage of expenses (without carrying all of the money you might want with you for the entire trip).
In addition to
providing the monetary services, some financial houses would also
provide mail forwarding or mail holding services for the traveler. This
gave his family, friends, and business associates a method for reaching
him if they needed to. (just a reminder, no phone service in 1865...
but I think you knew that!)
But, what happens when P.C. Bacon goes home?
line of credit with the financial house was purchased for a period of
time that covered the travels of an individual and any services rendered
could be paid for by using the balance of the account. So, if the
traveler went to Paris for a week, they could use their balance with the
financial house and direct mail to be forwarded to them in Paris. But,
what happens if a letter arrives and the line of credit was closed
because the traveler had returned home?
The second envelope - the one that did not even get top billing in the ebay lot - illustrates exactly what happens.
This is the key marking on that cover that tells me what the Honorable P.C. Bacon was going to have to pay the United States post office in order to read the letter that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean twice. The marking is in black ink - just one indication that the item was received unpaid. But, what can make it confusing is that it gives us two possibilities for the amount to pay.
Death of Lieut. Bacon
We have to record, as another of the sad fatalities of this war, the death of lieut. Francis Bacon, son of Hon. Peter C. Bacon, of this city. He was killed at Chancellorsville, in the last great fight on the Rappahannock. He is spoken of by those who knew him best as a young man of more than ordinary promise. Two years ago, at the age of 19, he was among the first to go into the service as a private in the third battalion of Rifles; and soon after the expiration of the term of three months, for which that corps was enlisted, he entered the Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment; and not long ago was appointed and commissioned a lieutenant in the 102d New York regiment. His early death, at the age of 21, is a loss to his friends and to the army.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that we can take any of the storylines and dig into them deeper if we wish. The Bacon family was prominent enough that there are multiple opportunities to explore their lives and what they experienced. Baring Brothers had a long and involved history in banking, so if that story takes hold, we could certainly do much more with it. But, from my perspective, the simple fact that a letter crossed the Atlantic Ocean in both directions to get to the recipient makes for a compelling story all by itself.
4. Elwell, Craig K, Brief History of the Gold Standard in the United States, Congressional Research Service, June 23, 2011.5. The website, Rosters and Genealogies of 15th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, lists resources for some of the information used to create their site. Site referenced Mar 12, 2021.