Amsterdam, New York: 1869. Envelope or Cover. This five-page undated letter was sent by Miss Emily Borchert, a teacher at the Amsterdam Academy in Amsterdam, New York to a friend in Bath, England. It is enclosed in its original mailing envelope along with a 2¼” square illustration of the school clipped from a business envelope. The envelope is franked with a blue-green 12-cent stamp (Scott #117, cat val $450) was used to pay the newly established transatlantic rate established by the US-North German Union Convention of 1867. Dates of its New York Foreign Mail postmark and its London receipt handstamp indicate that it was carried on the Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaf (Hamburg-America Line or HAPAG) ship, Allemania to Plymouth. Opened for display in a postal history exhibit with a 1 ¼” closed tear but still in nice shape.
Emily’s letter reads In part:
“I left dear old England and . . . you must think me either lost or too happy to think of old friends, but, alas! This is not the case. I arrived safely in New York, although I had been seasick the whole time. . .. I ought to be satisfied but when I overlook the life, the customs, and the way in which the American people live and act. I am quite disgusted, and very sorry to have left the old country. . .. Rich people in America are very different from those in England, and it is a great risk for a foreigner [to board with a family. . ..] The little picture I send you [will give] a better idea of the house [where I stay]. . .. Amsterdam is 200 miles from New York City and about the same from Niagara Falls. I was charmed . . . in seeing so fine a country, . . . the more it seemed a pity that in general the people are so locominded not to seek after something better but money. . .. New York may be the worst place of all. . ..
“I live among honest people and hope not to see much of the wickedness. This is an advantage of a school and its life. Dr. Harsell is the director and [seems] to be both kind and [tries] to satisfy [the] teachers. Besides him there is another gentleman . . . and four Lady teachers. . .. They can do whatever they like when the school hours are past, boarders are but few, and the charge over them is easy enough as now of all the scholars of both sexes are taken under 13 years of age. The number of them is about one hundred. . .. They have to pass every year three public examinations. . ..”. Very good. Item #010151
The school where Emily taught was established under the charter of the New York Legislature in 1839 as the Amsterdam Female Seminary. Although its boarding department was only for girls, its day school also admitted boys. In 1865, it relocated to a hill about two miles from the railroad station. An attractive new building was built at the cost of $40,000, and its name was changed to Amsterdam Academy. Eventually, it merged with the Amsterdam School District in 1895 and served as the district’s first high school.
(For more information, see Snyder and von Hasseln’s Amsterdam, “Mail From the US To Germany Before the Universal Postal Union” at the Rumsey Auction website, and “The Town of Amsterdam” at Montgomery.nygenweb.net.) It seems likely that Miss Borchert soon returned to England as searches of 1870 or 1880 Census at ancestry.com turn up no results..