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 2.


The History of the Hartford Letter Mail

The earliest evidence of an Independent Mail operation in Hartford is found in a newspaper notice that appeared in the July 5, 1844 Hartford Daily Courant: 

Independent Mails 

Hale & Co., as may be seen by reference to an advertisement, have made arrangements to take Letters, independent of the Government mails, on all main routes, North, South, East and West. It is a convenience to the business public, as they deliver Letters, immediately on their arrival at their localities, and carry them much cheaper than the Government Post Office Rates, and although it has been in operation only a few days, we understand they have been very generally patronized.

The Hale & Co. advertisement mentioned in the article is shown in Figure 2 and corresponds nicely with the earliest reported Hale folded letter from Hartford (Gutman, Figure 39) which bears an "H" precancel adhesive and was used on a folded letter to New York on July 25, 1844. The advertisement gives the Hale & Co. address in Hartford as 7 Central Row which location was next door to the Post Office at 9 Central Row and across the street from the statehouse.  

Figure 2. Hale & Company advertisement in Hartford Daily Courant. Advertisement is internally dated to run from July 12 (1844) and ran until September 25, 1844.  

The May 1844 Geer's Hartford City Directory published two months prior to the Hale notice lists two businesses operating from this 7 Central Row address. They are Phillips & Co. New York Express and Thompson's Springfield, Boston and Albany Express. These are the two firms that provided the actual letter mail service to and from Hartford under the protection of the Hale's covering banner. From Hartford Phillips carried the letter mail along with his express matter to and from New Haven and New York City where it could connect with other Hale service providers for onward distribution. Thompson provided the courier service for the Hale letter mail to the north to Springfield and from there west to Albany or east to Boston as required. 

There are few facts known about the arrangements made by Hale & Co. with the various express companies that actually carried the letter mail for them. Most of the express companies did not wish to expose themselves to potential post office fines and seem to have found ways to profit by the increase in business while shielding their primary express income, in essence becoming sub-contractors to Hale for carrying their letter mail. The system generally utilized by the express companies allowed income distribution based on a web of agents and expresses working in conjunction with each other. Often, an express company would gain exclusive rights for carriage over a specific route or over the rails of a single railroad. Both Phillips and Thompson had been granted such exclusive rights from railroads and steamboat companies serving Hartford when Hale started operations. In the case of Hale’s Hartford office they almost certainly used Phillips for mail to and from New York City and Thompson for mails to or from Hartford transiting through Springfield.  

If this was the scenario employed by Hale & Co. in Hartford, the logical person for them to work with was Francis A. Fuller (see biography in section 5). The 1844 Geer's directory lists Francis Fuller as being employed by Phillips Express while also serving as the Hartford agent for Thompson's Express. Fuller was therefore in the unique position of being able to organize express service to, from, and through Hartford to points both north and south. This fact, coupled with subsequent events including Fuller's name being mentioned in an 1895 philatelic article as one of two progenitors of the Hartford Letter Mail, lead this author to conclude that Fuller was indeed the prime mover. 

A revised Hale & Co. advertisement that first appeared on September 27, 1844, shown in Figure 3, supports this scenario. The advertisement is identical except that it lists an additional new address at end of the second paragraph. This 139 Main Street address appears in the (May) 1845 Geer's Hartford City Directory as being the address of both Phillips Express and Thompson's Express.

Figure 3. The Hale & Co. advertisement that ran in Hartford Curant from September 27 until October 24, 1844. 

This alteration of the Hale advertisement comes less than one month after the earliest reported genuine use of the Hartford Letter Mail stamps (Figure 8) and this address is certainly the address of the new Hartford Letter Mail.  

The Hartford Letter Mail issued two adhesive stamps, one on yellow paper for use to the south and to New York City as well as a second, printed on pink paper, for use on letters to the north via Springfield to Boston or Albany. The mode of transport employed on the route between Hartford and Springfield changed from steamboats operating on the Connecticut River to trains after the completion of the railroad on December 9, 1844. The Hartford Letter Mail operation continued until the end of the Independent Mail Company period on June 30, 1845.

Richard Frajola (Feb 2015)