Frajola World Covers




Hartford Letter Mail
(Table of Contents)


Section 1. Express Companies serving Hartford

Section 2. History of the Hartford Letter Mail

Section 3. Stamps of the Hartford Letter Mail

Section 4. Covers of the Hartford Letter Mail

Section 5. Biographies of the Originators

Section 6. Plating Guide and Enlargements

Section 7. References

Combination PDF file of all sections

Section 1.


The Express Companies Serving Hartford before July 1844

The express business in Hartford, Connecticut was thriving prior to commencement of the first independent letter mail companies after December 1843 and it was these express companies that actually carried the letter mail for the Independent Letter Mail companies. The map in Figure 1 shows the transportation routes serving Hartford. The New Haven, Hartford & Springfield Railroad was chartered in May 1833. The section of the line connecting New Haven and Hartford was completed in December 1839 but the railroad north to Springfield, originally chartered as the Hartford & Springfield Railroad in Massachusetts, was not completed until December 9, 1844. Prior to completion of the rail link between Hartford and Springfield, steamboats operating on the Connecticut River were used seasonally. 

Figure 1. This map shows the principal transportation routes used by the express companies in January 1844. Railroads are shown in red and steamboat / steamship routes are shown in blue.

To set the stage for what follows, the express arrangements will be summarized. In January 1842, Harnden & Company Package Express and Foreign Letter Office and Adams & Company Express were the two major express concerns operating in Connecticut. Adams dominated the express traffic along the Connecticut coast and used (Benjamin) Beecher's Express in New Haven to handle express matter between that city and New York City by steamers. The more important express operator for Hartford businesses in 1842 was Harnden. In an advertisement, keyed to run from July 29, 1842 as published in the New York Evening Post on August 31, 1842 includes: 

From New York To New Haven, Hartford and Springfield - Daily

Messrs. Harnden & Co., having purchased of Messrs. Hurlbut & Co., the former proprietor of the New Haven and Hartford Express Line, their right and interest in said line, and having arranged with the Steamboat and Railroad Companies on the said route for the exclusive privilege of running Express Cars thereon, would respectfully inform the public that they are now prepared to receive and forward daily (Sundays excepted) parcels, packages, bank notes, specie &c, to collect notes, drafts, bills and to transact all business in each of said places, of a like nature to that which in now done by their establishment. A special messenger will accompany the cars which contain iron safes. .....


J.M. Thompson, General Agent, 10 State street, Springfield

G.A. Hamilton, State street, Hartford

W. Webb, 55 State street, New Haven

Harnden & Co, 3 Wall street, New York

 According to the new Harnden advertisements that began appearing on May 13, 1843, their agent in New Haven, W. Webb, was replaced by James Bailey. The following month a notice appeared in the June 3, 1843 Hartford, Connecticut Courant that J.M. Thompson & Co's. Express (Thompson) had purchased from Harnden the right of running an Express line from Hartford to Boston and Albany and the intermediate places. Thompson was later to play an important role in the Hartford Letter Mail.

In a similar development, Daniel Phillips (see biography in section 5), an ex Harnden employee and previously a partner in the Clark & Phillips New York Express, that operated from Hartford, via New Haven to New York City, introduced a new advertisement in November 1843. The advertisement that appeared in the New Haven Columbian Register states:

Phillips & Cos Express (late Harnden & Co's). The agency having transferred from Mr James S. Bailey to W. Webb, hereafter all packages for Hartford & East, should be marked "Care of Phillips & Co" and left at 56 State street before 11 o'clock A.M., W. Webb, Agent

A final express company that was active on the New Haven to New York steamer route in this precursor era was Beecher's Express. Between 1842 and the end of 1843, Beecher's Express advertised their express service between New Haven and New York City in direct competition to Harnden and later in competition to Phillip's Express. Beecher's ads disappear after December 30, 1843. It appears that Webb and Plant purchased a secondary route between New Haven, via Naugatuck, to Waterbury from Beecher and that Beecher sold his primary line between New Haven and New York to Phillips.

In summary, the active expresses serving Hartford in early 1844 included Thompson operating between Hartford and Springfield by steamboat and Phillips’ operating between Hartford and New Haven by rail and from New Haven to New York City by steamer. These were also the expresses that were soon to carry the Hartford Letter Mail Mails.

Richard Frajola (Feb 2015)