Yokohama to New York: 1905. Envelope or Cover. This train wreck cover was salvaged from the wreck of the Twentieth Century Limited that occurred on June 21, 1905 at Mentor, Ohio. It shows water, fire, and smoke damage along its edges and bears a label reading “Post Office, New York, N.Y. The enclosure was damaged in the wreck of the ‘20th Century Limited’ train on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern R. R., that occurred at Mentor, Ohio, Wednesday, Jun 21, 1905. William R. Willcox, Postmaster.” It is franked with two Japanese stamps (Scott #s 96 and 103) that may have been reattached by postal authorities. A circular, red “Winclkler & Company” sealing label is on the reverse. The reverse also bears two New York receiving stamps dated June 24 attesting to the speed in which the mail was recovered and forwarded. The envelope has been opened along the top and both sides, likely to facilitate display. Very good. Item #009334
At the time of the crash, the Twentieth Century Limited had only been in operation for about three years and was the finest and fastest train in the country, travelling between Grand Central Terminal in New York and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago. It catered to an upper-class and business clientele and even included an on-board secretarial service and barbershop. On the night of June 21st, as the train was traveling through Mentor, Ohio at 70 mph, it hit a switch that had been intentionally turned to route it onto a dead-end freight-house track. The engine careened past the end of the tracks and flipped over about 50 feet from the depot. “The heavy tender was hurled entirely over the engine and was buried in the depot. The combination car was hurled with terrific violence on top of the engine and tender and in a moment was enveloped in flames. The Chicago sleeper, immediately behind the combination car, crashed into the depot, which collapsed on top of the coach. . . . An instant after the crash of the wreck the boiler of the great engine burst with terrific force, scattering fire and steam in a manner that made escape for the imprisoned passengers impossible. The combination car was at once enveloped in flames and steam. The cries of the passengers were heard for a moment above the awful roar, but they were beyond all aid.” Passengers screamed for help as they lay crushed, maimed, scalded, and burning inside the wreck. 21 of them died horribly as bystanders were, for the most part, unable pull them out of the cars. Envelopes rescued from the wreck occasionally turn up at auction, however this is the only piece of international mail to survive that we have seen.