Envelope or Cover. This stampless letter from George Davis, a merchant in Sweden, to his mother in New York measures 26” x 13” unfolded. It was datelined “Gothenburg June 26 1820” and privately carried to Boston where it was rated at 19 cents, 17 cents for inland postage plus a 2-cent ship letter fee. There is a red Boston postmark in the lower left corner. In nice shape. A transcript will be provided.
Davis reports difficulty selling his cargo, likely coffee or sugar, during Europe’s political turmoil and fear of Napoleon’s military campaigns which some thought directly threatened American merchants.
“We arrived in gothenburg. . .. The King of Swedland has been Murdered in his Coach and [I can] not sell anything. Our Supercargo has gone on to Copenhagen to see about Carrying the Cargo to Hamburg. There is a report that Bonaparte is on his way here and has given orders to seize all American Property. . .. There is no less than 50 to 60 American vessels here.”. Very good. Item #009875
It was not the Swedish King, who had been assassinated; it was Count Axel von Fersen. Sweden had been long beset by political violence, and in 1810, its physically incapacitated King gave control of the country to Crown Prince Christian August. Within a month, the Crown Prince died under mysterious circumstances, thought by many to be poisoning by von Fersen. As Von Fersen rode in the funeral procession, a mob pelted him with stones while the military escort turned away. Von Fersen tried to escape but was unmercifully beaten until Otto Johan Tandefelt jumped upon his chest, crushing his ribcage.
Von Fersen had served in the American Revolution as Comte de Rochambeau’s aide and was present at the Siege of Yorktown. Although Tandefelt was convicted of murder, the King allowed him to emigrate to America under the name of Pettersson. Sweden avoided Napoleon’s invasion by declaring war on Great Britain and turning over all British-owned property in Pomerania to France. The U.S. cargo ships anchored at Gothenburg were not unusual; the U.S. exported coffee, sugar, and cotton to Sweden during this time. Also, as many European import goods were not available during the Napoleonic Wars, some merchants purchased inexpensive Swedish iron rather than return home emptyhanded.
(For more information see "Charles XIII" in the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica v 5.), “The Franco-Swedish War” at WordDisk online, and Fleisher’s “The beginning of the transatlantic market for Swedish iron” in Scandinavian Economic History Review v 1, n 2.)
An uncommon first-hand report on the impact of Swedish economic and political issues upon U.S. merchants. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub shows no auctions of similar items, however two small collections of von Fersen papers were sold in 1923 and 1947. OCLC identifies no similar items held by institutions.