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Philadelphia Despatch and Bloods Introduction

Advertisement announcing the formation of the Philadelphia Despatch Post,
from the Philadelphia Public Ledger of December 8, 1842

The local post established in 1845 by Daniel Otis Blood and his brother, Walter, was the most successful and longest surviving of the numerous private mail concerns in Philadelphia. Its history from 1842 through 1862 has been explored by several postal historians, and the bibliography provided below is an essential source of information. We offer only a brief overview of this complex operation.

The Scott Catalogue places the Philadelphia Despatch Post under the D.O. Blood &Co. heading, although the Philadelphia Despatch Post existed as an independent firm for nearly three years prior to the formation of Blood’s Despatch. There is some logic to this arrangement, because the Philadelphia Despatch Post is tied to the lineage of Blood’s. However, researchers are still searching for documentation that establishes the exact timeline and specific participants in this transition.

The formation of the Philadelphia Despatch Post was announced by Robertson & Co. in an advertisement in the Philadelphia Public Ledger on December 8, 1842. This ad is reproduced above from a photograph in the Abt files. The address given is 83 South Second Street. Steven M. Roth has pointed out that this address is where James Halsey was listed as a shoemaker in the 1843 city directory (he is listed in 1844 at a different address). It has been reported that Halsey managed the post and is the person who sold it to Blood in July 1845.

The first stamps issued by the Philadelphia Despatch Post are the Red and Black handstamped adhesives (Scott 15L1 and 15L2), which are similar in appearance to the Bermuda provisionals issued by William B. Perot. The stamps were made from the circular datestamp device, which reads “Phila. Despatch Post”, and each one was handstamped “Paid”, “3” and initialled “R &Co.”. The advertised price was 3712 per dozen. The adhesives were used concurrently with handstamped markings on stampless covers. The latest recorded stampless Philadelphia Despatch Post cover is dated March 5, 1845 (ex Middendorf).

The Striding Messenger stamps (15L3-4) issued by the Philadelphia Despatch Post were lithographed by Thomas Sinclair, a local printer. The first printing was issued in late 1843 and appears on covers dated as early as October 10, 1843 (source: Hahn, Penny Post, Oct. 1995). This remarkable image — the world’s first pictorial stamp — depicts a giant messenger stepping over the Merchant’s Exhange Building, which housed the government post office (shown in a contemporary illustration below). Robertson &Co.’s Striding Messenger stamps were initialled “R&Co.”. After the sale to Blood, the same stamps were initialled “D. O. B. &Co.”. The subsequent issue, lithographed by Wagner &McGuigan in 1845, has the name “D. O. Blood &Co.” added to the background.

The Merchant's Exchange Building,
depicted on the Striding Messenger stamp (Scott 15L3-15L4)

Blood’s Despatch prospered from 1845 through 1860. It moved to different locations and changed ownership during this period. By carefully adhering to the restrictions on post roads, Blood’s Despatch was able to survive the government’s effort to close down private posts. However, in 1860 the Post Office sued Blood’s proprietor, Charles Kochersperger, claiming that his letter-carrying business was illegal. The judge’s decision in this landmark case left the government with no choice but to seek legislation to declare the streets of a city or town to be post roads. Congress passed the bill in 1861. Blood’s continued in 1860 and 1861, but the firm’s closing was announced on January 11, 1862.

 

Selected Blood’s Bibliography

W. Otis Blood Sr., “Recollections of Blood’s Despatch Post”, The Penny Post, Apr. 1995

Calvet M. Hahn, “The Beginning of Adhesive Postage in the U.S.”, The Penny Post, Oct. 1995

Edward T. Harvey, “Blood’s Despatch”, Chronicle 144

Robson Lowe, “Philadelphia Local Posts”, Chronicle 90

Robson Lowe, “Blood’s Penny Post”, Collectors Club Philatelist, Vol. 43, No. 4

Donald S. Patton, “The American Local and Carriers’ Stamps”, The Philatelist, 1960-61

Steven M. Roth, “Bloods Despatch Revisited”, The Penny Post, Nov. 1991

Norman Shachat, “Some Comments on Blood’s Despatch Revisited”, The Penny Post, Aug. 1992

 

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