Montgomery, New York: 1847. Envelope or Cover. This two-page letter is enclosed in a stampless folded cover. The letter is datelined “Montgomery March 23d 1847. The envelope bears a circled “5” rate handstamp in red and red circular “Montcomery / N.Y.” postmark with the “N” reversed. (See p 251, volume one ASSC, 1991.) Docketing reads, “Asks for employment in the service of the Society.” In nice shape. Transcript included.
In this letter Robbins requests either full-time employment as a teacher for the Society or part-time employment as a colporteur to distribute religious tracts
“Having lately discovered a hope of salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus . . . and following deep interest in the answer of Christ and a desire from the fact that I have conscarated myself to his service to use my feeble powers in this extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom and to the colony of the Great God. . . I am induced to offer myself to the Board of Comissioners for home Missions. . .. My age is 20 years, my parents are most unable to give me a liberal education but are willing and desirious that I shall do the best I can for myself. I have been engaged for a year or two past educating myself having in view the ministry of the Gospel from the first. I am now pursuing an Academical course of studies in Montgomery during this interval of my teaching a common school. I am entirely dependent on my own exertions for a living alone among strangers. [I wish] to be in the employ of the Board as Colporteur during the vacations in my Academical course. I also wish to know whether I could not be placed in some school and having a permanent place. . ..”. Very good. Item #009678
Online records indicate that Robbins was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, so it is most likely that his request was to the American Home Missionary Society, a Protestant organization jointly formed in 1826 by members of the Presbyterian, Congregational, Associate Reformed, and Dutch Reformed churches with the objective "to assist congregations that are unable to support the gospel ministry, and to send the gospel to the destitute within the United States." (See The Home Missionary, Volumes 23-24 and The New York State Register for 1858, both online.
Colportage is a publishing system based upon the use of traveling carriers, known as ‘colporteurs’ or ‘colporters’ to distribute books and religious tracts. It first became common in Europe as a method of selling unauthorized religious materials during the religious controversies of the Reformation. In addition to controversial works, these book peddlers also spread cheap editions of popular works to an increasingly literate rural population which had little access to city book shops.
The American Tract Society, established in 1814 and still in existence today) was the most prolific publisher of its time and has distributed many, many millions of religious publications over the years. It is possible that the American Home Missionary Society distributed tracts in conjunction with the American Tract Society network.