“TO DAY WE HAVE ENDORSED Mr. WM FLEMMING’S DFT TO YOU . . . FOR NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS ON A/C COTTON TO HEYAN MACGEE. . ..” An uncommon, triple-rate Express Mail letter used to provide timely and detailed purchasing instructions in the rapidly fluctuating cotton market
New Orleans to New York City: 10 January 1837. Unbound. This two-page stampless folded letter was sent by U.S. Express Mail from New Orleans to New York City in January of 1837. It measures approximately 16” x 10.5” unfolded and bears a manuscript $2.25 rate mark, a manuscript “Express Mail” annotation, and a blue New Orleans postmark.
The letter contains detailed information and instructions regarding a number of intended cotton transactions including a $9,000 endorsed draft referenced in its first sentence. James Henry informs his brother, Henry Stanton, that he had sent three additional checks totaling $12,970.30 by Express Mail from Mobile, Alabama.. Very good. Item #009790
Leverich & Company was a commercial firm established in the 1820s by four brothers. Charles Palmer and Henry Stanton Leverich operated out of New York City as shipping merchants, commission agents, and investment bankers, primarily for Southern sugar, cotton, and molasses planters and producers. James Harvey and William Edward Leverich worked out of New Orleans. Charles P. Leverich later became president of the Bank of New York.
The $2.25 triple-express rate (3 x 75 cents) charged by the post office indicates that this one-sheet folded letter would have contained two inserts, likely the nine-thousand-dollar draft it mentions plus another check or draft, and that it was sent a distance of over 400 miles. As Milgram notes in Express Mail of 1836-1839, “Even in our day of postal inflation, these triple charges would be astronomical and are even more so when one considers the purchasing value of the dollar in 1837.” However, this express service was worth the cost when cotton fortunes hung in the balance as it ensured letters from New Orleans would reach New York City perhaps as much as two weeks before regular ship mail.
As noted by Milgram, this letter would have been carried by ship from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama. From Mobile, it would have by carried by horseback rider through Georgia and South Carolina to Blakely Station in North Carolina where it would have been loaded onto a railroad train bound for Petersburg, Virginia. From Petersburg, it would have once more been carried by horseback to Philadelphia where it would complete the rest of its journey to New York City by train. The entire trip would have taken 6 days and 23 hours.An uncommon triple-rate Express Mail letter regarding incredibly valuable cotton transactions. The Stamp Auction Network reports no triple-rate Express Mail letters were offered at auctions in the past 25 years. Additionally, Milgram’s study identifies only two triple-rate letters; one from New Orleans to Hartford, Connecticut and one from Cuba to New York via Charleston, South Carolina.