“Baloon Mail”, R. W. Hume of Leith, Comic Envelope No. 2, Unlisted state. R. W. Hume.
“Baloon Mail”, R. W. Hume of Leith, Comic Envelope No. 2, Unlisted state

“Baloon Mail”, R. W. Hume of Leith, Comic Envelope No. 2, Unlisted state

[Edinburgh, Scotland]: R. W. Hume of Leith, ca 1840-41. Envelope or Cover. Unused.

The front panel features Britannia and an eagle seated in the basket of a balloon throwing letters to the people on the earth below, some of whom are represented by a sly woman who may have been struck by one of Cupid’s arrows and a Jim Crow caricature with the caption, “Postmaster for the Colonies;” a small bag of rice also appears in the design. One rear flap shows a postman in seven-leagued-boots delivering mail.

The second, a man carrying a bundle labeled “The Budget” riding a bear.

The third, a man riding backwards on a mule.

The fourth flap provides humorous instructions for use: “Steam Engines not exceeding 100 horse power charged one penny! Eagles' feathers and bags of Rice, if prepaid, carried free!! No Coffins, except lead ones, taken by Post. Persons sending ships' masts are advised to cut them in two, waiting till the receipt of on half is adknoweldged 'ere sending the other. Colonial letters mus be marked Baloon Letters. Never post your letter till the mail has left; leaving it un-addressed also facilitated its transmission.”

“The Mulready Envelop and its Imitations, Caricatures, &c.” in the American Journal of Philately, 15 Aug 1891, suggests that the bag of rice, man on the bear, and eagle all refer to Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, who was the Comptroller General of the Exchequer and, no doubt associated with finances relating to the Mulready envelopes.

Very good. Item #009554

When Sir Rowland Hill introduced uniform penny postage in the United Kingdom 1840, he initially thought that the vast majority of correspondence would be on postal stationery and that few people would use their own paper and envelopes to be franked with stamps purchased at a post office. So, after an unsuccessful open public competition to create a suitable design, the Lords of the Treasury commissioned William Mulready to do the job.

Mulready's allegorical envelope featured Britannia in the center dispatching winged messengers throughout the empire, which was represented by people in native costumes and exotic animals. The Times found the design to be ridiculous, noting “We have been favoured with a sight of one of the new stamp covers, and we must say that we have never beheld anything more ludicrous than the figure or allegorical device by which it is marked. . ..” The public agreed, and a few quick-thinking stationers began to print and market satirical caricatures.

The most concise reference to these parodies is Bodily, Jarvis, and Hahn’s British Pictorial Envelopes of the 19th Century.

Bodily reports no known examples of this unlisted state with the simple imprint “Published & Sold by R.W. Hume. Leith”. An example of this lettersheet sold for £700 in a 2013 Argyll-Etkin auction. The tips of two flaps have been trimmed, but the illustrations were not affected.

Price: $600.00

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