The McConnell Cover:
The article by Larry Lyons in the April 2001 issue of The Penny Post conveys a lot of information about the Adams City Express stamps, covers and the variety of reprints made for George Hussey in the 1860’s. However, this author takes issue with Mr. Lyons’ premise that the McConnell cover owned by Elliott Perry for more than 40 years is fake.
Specifically, Mr. Lyons claims that the Adams City Express Post 2c Blue stamp is a Hussey reprint added to a genuine stampless cover. The Philatelic Foundation issued certificate 351974 dated April 11, 2000, stating "it is a reprint which did not originate on this cover", an opinion that Mr. Lyons encouraged and still supports. The cover and certificate are currently under "reconsideration" review by the P.F. Expert Committee.
This author’s opinion is that the stamp is original and was genuinely used on the cover in April 1852. Readers are advised that this author has a profit interest in the outcome of the authentication process and stands to benefit from a "genuine" P.F. certificate. However, the strongest advocate for the McConnell cover was Elliott Perry. Perry’s observations and opinions will be presented in this article, and they are certainly above the slightest suspicion of self-interest.
Humble Origins of Perry’s McConnell Cover
Mr. Lyons makes reference to two letters to Eugene Costales, in which Perry states his opinion that the McConnell cover is genuine, largely due to the source of the McConnell correspondence.
In fact, Perry’s letters to Costales, who edited the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalogue for many years, mention the McConnell cover at least nine times between 1959 and 1969. Perry and Costales were trying to sort through the Adams 2L1-2L4 listings, to determine a reliable method for distinguishing Hussey reprints from originals (Mr. Lyons covers some of this work in his article).
The McConnell cover was Perry’s evidence that the 2c Blue from the plate of 100 (10 x 10) was actually used in 1851-52, but he cautioned Costales about listing it in the catalogue for fear that there was no reliable method to identify off-cover 2c Blue stamps from the 10-by-10 plate as reprints vs. originals.
Perry’s frequent references to the McConnell cover include the following information verbatim (significant content boldfaced for emphasis):
[August 3, 1959] "When opportunity offers other material will be examined and if the results are satisfactory I will approve listing the 2c blue if you concur, next year. Two covers are known to me. One was in the Ackerman collection. It went from New York to Phila. in March 1851. The stamp is pen crossed in violet or purple crayon and does not ‘tie’ — hence its use on the cover is not readily provable. The other cover went from New York City to an upstate town at about the same period. The stamp is pen crossed in ink and not tied, but it was found in original correspondence under circumstances which hardly admit even slight doubt that is wholly authentic. The price at which the correspondence was sold shows that the finder had very little idea of the value. Another cover was worth several times his price for the lot. It bore three 1c 1857 which had been a vertical strip from Plate 2, with the big crack running thru all three stamps, which were torn apart and affixed to appear as a horizontal strip. You may have seen that cover. I suppose it is unique. No other covers in the correspondence had special value."
[October 15, 1966] "I know of one 2c blue on white which I am satisfied is correct. The stamp is pen-cancelled and not tied, but it is on a cover which was found in an original correspondence which, in my opinion, eliminated any chance of fraud. The same correspondence contained a cover bearing what appeared to be a horizontal strip of three 1c 1857 with the big Plate 2 crack on each stamp, but had been a vertical such strip. The correspondence was in a small shoe box and was sold for less than that one cover was worth. The letters went from New York to a small place in Orange County, N.Y."
[June 19, 1967] "The Ackerman cover has a blue stamp cancelled by purple pen cross at upper left and New York pmk of Mar. 3, 1851 at U.R. The stamp is #25 on the 10x10 sheet. Another cover was found in original correspondence some forty years ago. It is pen crossed in black at U.L. and is not tied. Ms. "Paid" at upper right for postage paid in cash and a red New York pmk including slanting PAIDover 3 cts. used on such mail. (*the pen canc. stamp is from position #83 on the 10x10 sheet). Another cover in the same correspondence is a small white envelope and has the same New York pmk clearly struck. The man who sold the correspondence certainly had no idea that it contained an extremely rare stamp and there is no reason to suspect chicanery."
The small white cover Perry describes and a Boyd’s cover from the McConnell correspondence are shown in Figures 2 and 3.
[November 29, 1967] "I have no doubt that the 2c blue L8 on the McConnell cover is genuine, but have never regarded the same stamp on the cover Ackerman had with great respect. However, both stamps plate on the 10x10 sheet, as do two other singles...(*) Probably I have had the blue 2c on the McConnell cover at least forty years. Have never asked to have it listed and don’t now. Whether you do or don’t is quite O.K. with me."
[June 8, 1969] "Now in regard to the L8 in blue on covers. I do not wish to appear ungrateful for your desire to help me unload them or either of them for cash. What I anticipate is that if the blue is listed as a genuine variety it will be inviting trouble. How can we be sure that all the 2c in blue from the 10x10 sheet are originals?"
[Undated] "Regarding the C.E. 2c blue on cover, I would prefer to let the P.F. see the Ackerman cover and a single off cover, before they see the McConnell cover — if I let them. You may be the only person who has ever seen either of them since they came to me. In the past forty years I have neither offered either of them for sale, nor shown them, and I am not keen to turn them into cash...A single in blue and the Ackerman cover are enclosed. Ackerman may have had it when I first knew him, around 1915. I have no idea where he obtained it. The McConnell cover came to me in a small shoebox of covers, mostly 3c 1851-57-61, for which the owner asked only a few dollars...[continues with description of 1c 1857 Plate Crack cover]."
As his own words testify, Perry never doubted that the McConnell cover was genuine, which made him certain that the plate of 100 (10 x 10) produced some 2c Blue stamps that were issued by the City Express Post and used in 1851-52. However, Perry cautioned Costales that there might be "trouble" if Scott listed the 2c Blue, because there was uncertainty whether or not all stamps from the 10 x 10 plate were originals. This is a significant point that Mr. Lyons does not make clear in his article: Perry might have been wary of a 2c Blue listing, but he had no doubt that the McConnell cover was a genuine usage. Despite the benefit he would receive if the 2c Blue were listed by Scott, Perry took a scholar’s more cautious approach.
A Thorough Examination of the McConnell Stamp and Cover
Mr. Lyons examined the McConnell cover at the P.F. and compared the stamp to examples in his extensive reference collection. He concludes in his article that the stamp on the McConnell cover is "the reprint in blue on creamy wove paper" and adds "I have matched the stamp on the cover to my reprints."
In his article Mr. Lyons accurately conveys previously-published information from the Thomas Wood records of stamps printed for Hussey. He also identifies eight "reprint" varieties from examples in his own holdings. We can immediately rule out the four 2c Black varieties. We can also rule out the 2c Blue varieties from the plate of 50 that never produced original stamps, because the stamp on the McConnell cover is Position 83 on the plate of 100. There is only one variety listed by Lyons that is Blue from the plate of 100: he identifies it as #3 on his list, "Blue on creamy wove (gummed)" paper with a thickness of .07-.11mm.
Among the author’s reference collection of City Express stamps and reprints there is a complete sheet of 100 (10 x 10) of the 2c Blue on paper that could be described as white or possibly "creamy white". It is ungummed and has an embossed stationer’s crest at upper left. Whether this is a "reprint" as Mr. Lyons states or a remainder—that is, a sheet from the original printing left over after the post ceased to exist—this author cannot state for certain. Perry was also unsure whether stamps from the plate of 100 were necessarily reprints, remainders, or both.
A comparison between the stamp on the McConnell cover (removed for examination) and the sheet of 100 in blue is shown in the illustration in Figure 4.
The McConnell stamp is somewhat stained and toned, which would be expected if originally used on the cover. The illustration in Figure 5 shows the back of the stamp after removal from the cover. The iron gall ink of the "X" has bled through and caused the paper to crack in places.
The sheet of 100 is in pristine condition. Comparing the blue inks and paper under strong light (reflected and transmitted), it is possible that the McConnell stamp matches the sheet of 100. Under ultraviolet light, the McConnell stamp is darker from staining, but some spots show the same reddish purple fluorescence of the sheet.
If Perry’s theory that the 10 x 10 sheet was a remainder and not a reprint, then one would expect the McConnell stamp to match the reference sheet.
Mr. Lyons does not give much weight to the "X" cancel and its effect on the stamp and cover, but the cancellation and aging of the ink are positive indicators of genuineness. The author will now focus on this aspect of the McConnell cover.
A significant fact, not noted in Mr. Lyons’ analysis nor evident in the grayscale illustration, is that the address is in blue, but the "Paid" at upper right is in brownish-black ink that matches the "X" on the stamp (see Figure 6). Covers carried by a carriers or local posts frequently have a pencil or pen notation applied by the postman who delivered the cover to the post office, indicating that money was received to pay the regular postage. This way, the letters and money could be separated, but when the letters were taken to the post office later, the postman would know which ones were prepaid. The McConnell covers shown in this article have such "Paid" markings. In the case of the 2c Blue, it is significant that the "Paid" ink and handwriting is not the same as the address. Clearly, someone received the cover, cancelled the stamp with an "X" and wrote "Paid" at the upper right to indicate they received cash for regular postage.
The universally-accepted genuine cover with a 2c Black City Express stamp is the ex-Golden cover to C. T. Morhous. It is also a "to the mails" usage, but regular postage was not prepaid. The 2c stamp is cancelled with the same brownish-black "X" found on the McConnell cover, but there is no "Paid". A detail of the stamp and "X" cancel is shown in Figure 7 for comparison.
Clearly, these factors support the presence of the 2c Blue on the McConnell cover, even if Perry’s provenance is disregarded.
Mr. Lyons mentions the bleed-thru of the "X" but did not give the readers a clear impression of what this iron gall ink has done to tie the stamp to the cover. The illustrations in Figure 8 show that the stamp paper has been "burned" by the oxidation of ink over time, and this burn has affected the cover beneath the stamp.
Ink "burn" is not just bleeding. It actually makes the paper brittle. Although certainly not a selling point with condition-conscious collectors, the burn from the "X" on the McConnell stamp and its effect on the underlying cover indicate that it has been affixed to the cover for a very long time. Mr. Lyons states that the fake Wilsen cover has the same effect, but this is not accurate. The ink tying the stamp on the Wilsen cover is feathered, but does not have the oxidation burn of aged iron gall ink.
The Difference Between Knowing and Presuming
It has been written in the art world that to call a fake genuine is a serious error, but to brand a genuine work as fake is an unforgivable sin.
Although the Hussey reprints and existence of manipulated Adams City Express covers have clouded the field, the provenance of the McConnell cover, as documented by Elliott Perry, and the characteristics of the stamp, cancel and cover are overwhelming evidence in support of its genuineness.
Perry believed that the McConnell cover was real and that it meant some 2c Blue stamps were issued and used. The author concurs.
While Mr. Lyons and others are entitled to their opinions, they should not so readily dismiss the testimony of a scholar such as Elliott Perry. They should also be careful not to presume to know that all of the 2c Blue stamps from the plate of 100 are reprints, dismissing the possibility that some are remainders of an original issue. Perry, although he believed the McConnell cover proved that some 2c Blue stamps were original, was unwilling to make the claim that all of them were original. Perry’s approach should be a model for today’s philatelists.
This Web Site is Copyright © Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. - All Rights Reserved