1859. Envelope or Cover. This lot consists of two items: a copy of the Post Office Departments decision not to renew the mail contract of the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company’s mail contract and a letter from the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company to the “President and Directors of the Louisiana State Bank” informing them of the Post Master’s decision.
The Post Office Departments notification letter from the 1st Assistant Postmaster General is dated 16 September 1859. This termination letter reads in part:
“As the contract with your Company for transporting the Mails on route No 8162, between New Orleans and San Francisco via the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, will expire by express limitation, on the 30th instant, it will be impossible [for you] to complete a trip commenced at New Orleans on the 217th inst. only three days previous to its termination; and I am therefore directed by the Post Master General to inform you, that having heretofore declined to renew your Contract for that service and being unwilling to grant any extension thereof, no Mail will be despatched on the 27th inst. from New Orleans. . ..”
The follow-on letter dated 22 and 23 September 1859 from Emile La Sére, the president of the company notifies the Louisiana State Bank of the Post Office Department’s decision. It reads in part:
“I have to apprise you of a Communication received this day from the 1st Asst. Post Master General relative to our Mail Contract with the U.S. Government and of which I beg leave herewith to hand your enclosed Copy.
“The Board of Directors entirely dissent from the view assumed by the Post Master General, of the contract entered into with this Company and have immediately so informed him by telegraph. . .. The Board claims that the Contract is not completed until after the performance of the trip hence to Minatitlan on the 27th and from San Francisco to Ventosa, thence to . . . this Company and the Owners of the Propeller “Habana” and the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. [If not completed,] this company becomes liable in damages to these parties, respectively in the sum of Ten Thousand and Three Thousand dollars. . .. Under these circumstances [are] you willing to pay over the last instalment of $1,500 lately granted . . . as a loan by your Institution to enable [us to] carry out this part of the contract. . ..
“And in conclusion I would beg leave to further to state, that although the Post Master General may decline or demur paying the stipulated Contract price for the performance of this last trip, the Board feel nevertheless persuaded that were Congress appealed to, the sum justly earned would not be withheld.”. Very good. Item #010144
Creating a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was considered in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistador Hernando (Hernán) Cortés after his genocidal destruction of the Aztec Empire. And over the ensuing years, due to the short distance between them at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, the idea became attractive to various global powers including Spain, England, France, the Netherlands and finally the United States, as it would save costs, time, lives and cargo, as ships would not need to sail around the Cape. However, it wasn’t until 1842, that Mexican President López de Santa Anna seriously considered the project. A number of foreign firms proposed plans, and in the end a U.S. firm based in New Orleans, the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company, was awarded the concession. As part of the agreement, the company was be allowed to transport mail and freight over the route free of customs or other charges by the Mexican government. Passengers, mail, and freight embarked on the Steamship Quaker City at New Orleans for Minatitlan on Mexico’s east coast where all were then loaded on a company vessel, the Suchil, for a trip over the Coatzacoalcos River until they reached the company’s log road near Suchilapan del Rio and taken by carriage to a west coast port near Venosa for final transport to San Francisco by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.
By the end of 1858, United States mail was transmitted from the East to West by four overland and two ocean-going routes (including the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company) all run at considerable expense to the federal government. While East-West communications had never been better, the Post Office Department was hemorrhaging funds. Expenses for the service were ten-times higher than revenues they brought in. In 1859, the incumbent Postmaster General died unexpectedly, and his successor made it one of his goals to eliminate what he saw as wasteful cost associated with mail transport to and from California. To that end, slashed the budget and eliminated all of the routes until only the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company and the Butterfield Overland Mail Service remained. A legal technicality prevented him from defunding Butterfield, but as soon as the Louisiana Tehuantepec Company’s contract expired, he shut them down too. Butterfield’s service was insufficient to handle the existing requirements, and they became even more overwhelmed with the discovery of gold at Pike’s Peak and silver in the Washoe hills of Utah (now Nevada). This opened the door for private competition and in 1859, the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company which was renamed a year later to become the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company, which is better known as the Pony Express.
(For more information, see Spitzzeri’s “Across the Isthmus to California: News of the Tehuantepec Route Across México. . ..” at the Homestead Blog, Gordon’s “From the Crescent City to Jaguar Hill. . .,” Moore’s “Correspondence of Pierre Soule: The Louisiana Tehuantepec Company” in the February 1952 issue of The Hispanic American Historical Review, and Godfrey’s Pony Express National Historic Trail Historic Resource Study.)
Unique. Nothing similar is for sail in the trade, none has ever appeared at auction per the Rare Book Hub. Neither is anything similar held by an institution per OCLC, however it is possible that the Judah P. Benjamin Papers (he was a member of the company’s board) at the American Jewish Historical Society may contain something similar..