New York City to Warwick, Rhode Island via Providence: 1802. This stampless folded letter has no rate marking but bears a relatively scarce New York City “clamshell” postmark dated “OCT/11”. There is a stain at the top center of the letter, however, the address and text are quite legible. A small piece of the letter is missing, no doubt torn when Governor Greene hurriedly broke the wax seal to receive this update on his daughter’s health. The letter reads
“I am sorry to write you that Mrs Ward lays sick with a nervous fever which is now in the 10th day – it is natural that I should be apprehensive for her safety. Our Doctors think the Symptoms yesterday and this day more favorable than when I wrote you on the 9th. / Your ever obedient Son / S Ward / 11 Octor 1802.”. Item #009754
While serving with distinction as an officer during the American Revolution, Samuel Ward, Jr., the son of a former colonial governor of Rhode Island (Samuel Ward), married Phebe Greene, the daughter of the second state governor of Rhode Island (William Greene). After the war, Samuel and Phebe settled in New York City, where Samuel became a highly successful merchant though trade with Europe and Asia. He was elected to be a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1815. Following his service as the second governor of Rhode Island, Greene retired to his estate in Warwick where he died in 1807.
Typhoid Fever, referred to in early America as “nervous fever” because victims were usually beset by delirium, stupor, and disordered sensibilities, is an often-fatal illness which was spread by poor sanitary systems. Although it periodically ravaged early American cities, there is no record of an epidemic occurring in New York during 1802. However, a serious outbreak occurred in Philadelphia that year. Mrs. Phebe Greene Ward, must have recovered as she lived until 1828.
(See ancestry.com and Wikipedia for more information about all of the Greenes and Wards.)
This is a terrific letter between and about members of the two most important early Rhode Island families made even better by its account of a nearly fatal bout of Typhoid Fever and the use of a fairly scarce New York postmark.
Nothing remotely similar is for sale in the trade. Neither has anything similar appeared at auction per the Rare Book Hub, nor is anything similar held in an institutional collection per OCLC. Stained, so priced accordingly.