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 3.


The Stamps of the Hartford Letter Mail

Although the Hartford Letter Mail operated closely with Hale & Company, they issued their own adhesives. A plate of twelve individual engravings, arranged in two rows of six subjects, was prepared, presumably by one of several of the skilled local engravers, and printed at the Brown and Parsons print shop. The origin of the design, which features two cities separated by water, a steamboat and a striding man carrying a bag inscribed “MAIL,” is unknown.  

The stamps were printed from this single plate of 12 in black on yellow glazed paper. The author has examined two stamps that had in the past been characterized as being on buff colored paper, one being the ex Boker listing example, but both stamps have been chemically treated and were actually printed on yellow glazed paper. The stamps were also printed in black on pink glazed paper and enlarged images of each are shown in Figure 4. Although an 1895 account suggests the pink stamps may have been sold for ten cents each this author's research concludes that both were more likely sold for five cents each.  

Figure 4. Enlarged images of the two Hartford Letter Mails stamp issues; black on yellow glazed paper and black on pink glazed paper. Both examples are from the plate position 6, the top right corner position of the plate of 12 subjects arranged in two rows of six. The left stamp has “Hartford” precancel and right stamp has a “West” precancel. The right stamp shows evidence of the “t” in “West” that was written on the adjoining position 5 stamp. 

The two different paper colors were evidently used to keep the accounting separate. A study of known genuine examples on cover confirms that the stamps on yellow paper were all used on the Phillips Express route to New York City while the very few genuine covers bearing stamps on pink paper were used on the Thompson's Express route via Springfield to Boston. Although the sample of confirmed genuine uses on cover is very small, it is possible that the pink stamp was first issued after the December 9, 1844 completion of the railroad between Hartford and Springfield. If so, it might account for the extreme rarity of the pink stamps and would indicate that their service did not originally include steamboat service to Springfield.  

The February 12, 1845 folded letter, Figure 12, sent from Newington to Philadelphia confirms the five cent value of the yellow stamps as it mentions: 

We have received no letter free. I bought a card of tickets at 5 cents each one of which I stick on every letter to you which answers your postage. On your letters to us (which would have come via Hale’s) I pay for each one 6 cents & I do not recollect one exception. I wish you to see we are not deceived. 

The stamps were first plated to their correct positions by F.W. Hunter as shown in Figure 5. This plating was later confirmed by George Sloane and Elliot Perry independently. A second complete plating that incorporates six positions from the Preston “card of tickets” is shown in Figure 6. An annotated plating guide is provided in section 6. 

Figure 5. The original plate reconstruction “compiled by F.W. Hunter” that correctly placed in sheet layout the twelve types previously identified by Tapling. 

Figure 6. An enlarged plate reconstruction that includes six examples from the “Preston Pane” each of which has the “Southern” precancel vertically at right. These stamps are positions 5, 6, 8 to 10 and 12. The stamps remain on their six original folded letters from same correspondence. 

The Precancels 

This author defines a precancel as a cancel applied to a stamp before use on a folded letter or cover. The manuscript cancels on the majority of Hartford Letter mail stamps clearly fall into this classification. The manuscript precancels were applied while the stamps were in sheet form as evidenced by overlap cancels such as that found on the position 11 stamp in Figure 6. This stamp shows a portion of the precancel that was applied to the adjacent stamp in position 10.  

The handwriting on all the precancels can be accurately ascribed to one of four different people (agents) as shown in Figure 7. These are identified arbitrarily as agents A to D. The yellow stamps, for use on the route to New York are reported with four different precancels: bearing the word "South" in two different styles, the word "Southern" in a third style, and the word "Hartford" in the same third handwriting style. The pink stamps, for use on routes via Springfield, exist with three different precancels, with the word "West," with the word "East" or with the initials "We" (West). Only a few examples were sold without these precancels and those either remained uncanceled or were pen canceled upon use.

Figure 7. The seven different precancels that appear on Hartford Letter Mail stamps. 

It should be noted the pink stamps with “West” precancels were probably intended for use on letters from Hartford, via Springfield, to Albany while those with “East” were intended for use to Boston.  

This author believes there to be approximately 100 of the yellow Hartford Letter Mail stamps known off cover and only about 10 of the pink stamp off cover. These numbers do not include the several examples of each that now appear on folded letters to which they did not originate. Surprisingly, the only multiples that are known of either Hartford Letter Mail stamps are two vertical pairs of the yellow stamp. These are used on separate folded letters which will be discussed in the postal history section.

Richard Frajola (Feb 2015)