William H. Russell. One of the three co-founders of the Pony Express, "Free W. H. Russell" free frank (for Pony Express fee) on 3¢ Red on Buff Star Die entire (U27) addressed in his hand to Judge William A. Carter, the station agent at Fort Bridger, Utah Territory (later in Wyoming Territory), "The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, St. Joseph, Mo. Sep. 30" (1860) oval datestamp applied at origin, receipt docketing on back "Recd. Oct. 6th /60" which confirms a six-day Pony Express trip starting at St. Joseph on Sunday, September 30, 1860, reduced and opening faults at right
FINE AND ATTRACTIVE WESTBOUND PONY EXPRESS COVER FROM WILLIAM H. RUSSELL, ONE OF THE THREE FOUNDERS, TO JUDGE WILLIAM A. CARTER, KNOWN AS "MR. FORT BRIDGER." ONLY THREE PONY COVERS ARE RECORDED WITH WILLIAM H. RUSSELL FRANKING SIGNATURE.
Only three of the 16 recorded Pony Express covers with any form of free frank are signed by William H. Russell (FKW W2, W15A and W24). All were carried on westbound trips. The earliest (FKW W2) is the Stebbins Line Telegraph imprint cover with a St. Joseph Running Pony oval dated May 6 (1860), which our firm sold in the William H. Gross United States Stamp Treasures sale in October 2018 (Sale 1188, lot 51). The cover listed as FKW W24 is a plain envelope addressed to J. E. Bromley, the division superintendent at South Pass, with a November 22 (1860) St. Joseph Running Pony oval, which was sold in our 2009 sale of the Thurston Twigg-Smith collection (Sale 979, lot 8). The cover offered here was recently listed as W15A in the online FKW census on the basis of the receipt docketing dated October 6, 1860. It traveled over the 1,041-mile route from St. Joseph to Fort Bridger in six days, a speed attainable only by the Pony Express.
The addressee, William A. Carter (1818-1881), was born in Virginia and served as a soldier and sutler in Florida during the Seminole wars. He came to Fort Bridger in 1857 with the Utah Expedition and remained there until his death, with active interests in provisioning, mining, lumbering, and ranching. He served as postmaster and probate judge. In 1860 and 1861 he was COC&PP's Fort Bridger station agent on the Central Route. Carter's ledger of Pony Express arrivals and departures is in private hands.
FKW Census W15A. Illustrated in Coburn, Letters of Gold (page 254). Ex Haas.
William H. Russell. One of the three co-founders of the Pony Express, autograph letter signed "W. H. Russsell Prst." on printed letterhead of "Office of The Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Co., Leavenworth City, Kansas," dated July 31, 1860, to Judge William A. Carter at Fort Bridger, informing Carter of the new $2.50 rate per quarter-ounce:
Sir, We have reduced the Tariff on letters to $2.50 pr 1/4 oz & pr addil. weight or fractions given by the regulations of the P.O. Dept. Very respectfully, W. H. Russell Prst.
Notations at lower left with names and numbers in odd arrangement (possibly a code)
A RARE LETTER FROM WILLIAM H. RUSSELL, ONE OF THE PRINCIPALS IN THE PONY EXPRESS, TO JUDGE WILLIAM A. CARTER, THE STATION AGENT AT FORT BRIDGER, WITH SIGNIFICANT CONTENT RELATED TO THE EARLY OPERATION OF THE PONY EXPRESS.
This notice from William H. Russell, president of the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company, is dated July 31, 1860, and was probably sent with the westbound Pony mail that departed from St. Joseph on Thursday, August 1, 1860, and arrived in San Francisco on August 12. It would have reached Fort Bridger around August 6. The new fractional rate of $2.50 per quarter-ounce--half of the current $5.00 per half-ounce rate--took effect in San Francisco with the Pony trip departing on August 15. The first California newspaper ad with the "change of tariff" appeared on August 15 in the Daily Alta California.
The recipient, William A. Carter (1818-1881), was born in Virginia and served as a soldier and sutler in Florida during the Seminole wars. He came to Fort Bridger in 1857 with the Utah Expedition and remained there until his death, with active interests in provisioning, mining, lumbering, and ranching. He served as postmaster and probate judge. In 1860 and 1861 he was COC&PP's Fort Bridger station agent on the Central Route. Carter's ledger of Pony Express arrivals and departures is in private hands.
Illustrated in Frajola-Kramer-Walske, The Pony Express: A Postal History (page 25). Ex Haas.
PAID./Central Overland Pony Express Company. Two-line frank with manuscript “$2.50” quarter-ounce rate and “Placerville, Cal. Oct. 25” (1860) station agent’s way-mail marking on 10¢ Pale Green on Buff Nesbitt entire (U18a) to Mrs. Frances Bye, Wellsville, Ohio, “The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, St. Joseph, Mo. Nov. 5” oval datestamp applied the day of arrival (the entire trip was 12 days), lightly-inked strike of “Saint Joseph Mo. Nov. 8” double-circle datestamp (date is unreadable, but the other two recorded covers from this trip are dated November 8), with original letter enclosure from F. W. Bye to his mother, Frances, datelined “Placerville Oct. 25th 1860” and stating that a $100 draft is enclosed, conservatively treated to remove staining, minor sealed half-inch tear at top
VERY FINE. ONE OF NINE RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THE “CENTRAL OVERLAND PONY EXPRESS COMPANY” FRANK, OF WHICH SIX ARE 10-CENT ENTIRES. PONY EXPRESS COVERS WITH ORIGINAL LETTERS ARE ALSO VERY RARE AND DESIRABLE.
The updated FKW census lists nine entires with the two-line frank, which identifies the company as the Central Overland Pony Express Company (COPEC). In fact, there was no such company, but rather The Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company owned and operated the Pony Express. Of the nine entires, six are 10¢ values. The presence of manuscript station markings on several of these COPEC franks, including the cover offered here, supports the theory that they were mainly used by telegraph operators and by relay station agents for way mail received along the Pony Express route.
This cover was sent from Placerville on October 25 and placed in the way-mail pocket of the mochilla that contained the Wednesday, October 24, mail from San Francisco. It passed through Fort Kearney on November 3 (see news report below) and arrived at St. Joseph on November 5. The sender, F. W. Bye, might be connected with Henry & Bye, commission and forwarding agents based in Placerville in 1860.
FKW Census E31. Ex “Alyeska.”
The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, St. Joseph, Mo. Nov. 23 (1860). Mostly complete strike of oval datestamp applied on arrival to way-mail cover carried on the Pony Express trip that started in San Francisco on Saturday, November 10, 1860, and arrived in St. Joseph on November 23, addressed to Charles White, Whitestown, New York, sender's directive "By Pony Express", 3¢ Dull Red, Ty. III (26) affixed by St. Joseph office over manuscript "1/4" quarter-ounce weight notation ($2.50 rate), cancelled by grid with matching "Saint Joseph Mo. Nov. 24" double-circle datestamp, stamp has margin defects including piece out at lower right, cover slightly reduced at left
VERY FINE OVERALL APPEARANCE. AN EXTREMELY UNUSUAL PONY EXPRESS COVER WITH UNITED STATES POSTAGE AFFIXED ON ARRIVAL--THE COVER WAS PLACED INTO THE MOCHILLA SOMEWHERE ALONG THE ROUTE OF THE PONY TRIP THAT STARTED IN CALIFORNIA ON NOVEMBER 10, 1860.
This cover was placed in the way-mail pocket of the mochilla that contained the November 10, 1860, mail from San Francisco. Its sender's name and mailing location are not known, but it must have originated within the distance limit for the 3¢ rate. Postage was probably paid in cash, and upon arrival in St. Joseph, the receiving office applied the November 23 oval datestamp, then affixed the 3¢ stamp. The St. Joseph post office applied the November 24 datestamp and cancelled the stamp before sending the cover on the eastbound train.
Pony Express way-mail covers are rare. A similar way-mail cover with two 3¢ stamps is listed as FKW E17, but it differs from the cover offered here in two respects. First, the Fort Bridger office applied a manuscript express marking, establishing the origin point. Second, it is impossible to tell whether the two 3¢ stamps (double rate) were affixed at Fort Bridger or at St. Joseph. On the cover offered here, the stamp is affixed partly over the St. Joseph oval, which proves it was not on the cover when it arrived at the end of the Pony trip. This is the only cover we have seen on which the adhesive stamp was applied at the receiving office.
FKW Census E39A. With letter of opinion from Richard C. Frajola stating "it is a genuine usage carried by the Pony Express" and explaining how the 3¢ stamp was applied by the St. Joseph office before this way-mail cover was placed into the mails.
California Pony Express Paid. Red double-line oval handstamp on blue folded invoice datelined "Havana 5 September 1860" from Levy Hermanos (Levy Brothers)--detailed invoice for 137,550 cigars in 15 cases, billed at $3,480.23, including shipping and customs duty--addressed to St. Losky, Levy & Co. in San Francisco, sender's directive "pr Pony Express" and "Paid" notation, blue "Forwarded by Duncan Sherman & Co. New-York" oval handstamp applied by commercial banking firm in New York City which received invoice from Cuba and forwarded it through the New York office of the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company, postage paid by 3¢ Dull Red, Ty. III (26) affixed over part of the written word "Express" and effectively tied by faint ink bleed, left uncancelled since this invoice was carried in a package of letters to St. Joseph for the next Pony trip, wedge-shaped sealed tear at bottom of address panel below blue oval
VERY FINE. AN EXTRAORDINARY COVER, WHICH TRAVELLED ON AN OCEAN STEAMSHIP FROM CUBA TO NEW YORK CITY, THEN BY TRAIN TO ST. JOSEPH, AND FROM THERE 1,800 MILES WEST TO CALIFORNIA BY PONY RIDERS, AND FINALLY BY RIVER STEAMBOAT FROM SACRAMENTO TO SAN FRANCISCO.
This folded invoice dated September 5, 1860, was written by the Levy Brothers firm in Havana, Cuba, and addressed to St. Losky, Levy & Co. in San Francisco, a major importer of Cuban cigars (see advertisement below). In 1855 the firm's principal, Julius Levy, had been convicted of illegally smuggling 67 cases of cigars into the United States (U.S. vs. Julius Levy), but the firm continued on for many years, operating a legitimate importing business.
The Levy Brothers employee wrote instructions on the address panel to send the invoice by Pony Express and marked it "Paid," presumably enclosing a form of payment for the express and postage charges. Assuming that it was mailed from Havana on or shortly after September 5, it was probably carried on a vessel arriving in New York City around September 10-11. There is nothing to indicate exactly when Duncan, Sherman & Company applied their oval forwarding handstamp, but they handed the invoice to the New York office of the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company, which was then located on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street. At this time the COC&PP vice president, Jerome B. Simpson, was the firm's New York agent. Simpson was implicated in the Indian Trust Bond scandal in the late fall of 1860, and left New York City.
Based on the September 5, 1860, dateline and a New York September 10-11 steamship arrival date, it is assumed this made the Sunday, September 16, Pony departure from St. Joseph, which reached San Francisco on September 26.
FKW Census W13. Illustrated in Frajola-Kramer-Walske, The Pony Express: A Postal History (page 79). Ex W. R. Parker and Haas. With 1988 P.F. certificate.
Sender's "Pony Express" Directive. Mostly complete blue folded letter addressed to B. Eugene Auger in San Francisco with "13th Novb" (1860) date notation at lower left of address panel, from Cesar Auguste Robert with report on wine market in France, blue "Cesar Aug. Robert New-York" double-oval handstamp, no other markings
VERY FINE. A RARE EXAMPLE OF PONY EXPRESS MAIL ORIGINATING OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
Cesar Auguste Robert, whose blue oval handstamp is struck at lower left, was a New York importer/exporter specializing in California and French wines. The addressee, B. Eugene Auger, was a French immigrant who became a successful wine merchant and producer in California. Robert and Auger engaged in extensive business correspondence related to the wine business.
This letter originated with Robert in France on November 13, 1860. It was probably carried from Le Havre to New York on the November 14, 1860, sailing of the Havre Line's Arago, which arrived on November 28. The Havre Line's two ships, Arago and Fulton, were commissioned as transport ships during the Civil War and did not return to service until late in 1865.
Allowing time for Robert's New York office to process the mail received from the Arago, this could have been transported to St. Joseph for the Thursday, December 6, 1860, westbound Pony trip. The December 6 mail was received in San Francisco on December 20, a slightly longer trip due to winter weather. However, Auger's name does not appear in the Daily Alta California's published lists of addressees for the Pony Express arrivals in December 1860 or January 1861. Since this letter bears no markings, it is possible that it was bundled with other letters and sent to another addressee in San Francisco for distribution. This type of mail without Pony Express markings is not listed in the FKW census--only a few are known.
"Pony Express Paid $2.50, Silver City March 7th/61". Manuscript express marking and "X" cancel on 10¢ Green on Buff Nesbitt entire (U16) with red Wells Fargo & Co. printed frank, addressed to Ephraim Brigham in Natick, Massachusetts, "Via Carson City UT Mch 7/61" manuscript express marking in a different hand--at Carson City the cover was placed into the way-mail pouch of the mochilla carried on the Pony trip that departed San Francisco on Wednesday, March 6, 1861, passed through Carson City March 7, and arrived in St. Joseph on March 20--entered the mails with green "Saint Joseph Mo. Mar. 21" double-circle datestamp and matching grid cancel, tears in backflap and also into red frank and embossed stamp at right (skillfully sealed)
VERY FINE APPEARANCE. ONE OF SIX RECORDED PONY EXPRESS COVERS ORIGINATING IN NEVADA AND THE ONLY ONE FROM SILVER CITY. THIS IS THE EARLIEST RECORDED USE OF A WELLS FARGO & COMPANY FRANKED ENTIRE FOR PONY EXPRESS MAIL.
The Pony Express mochilla had four pouches. Three were used for mail originating at the San Francisco and St. Joseph offices. The letters were bundled and wrapped in water-resistant oiled silk, then placed in the pouches, which were locked for the entire trip (only certain offices had the key). The fourth pouch was used for way mail, which was collected at stations along the route and placed into the pouch by the station agents.
Carson City was located on the Pony Express route in Nevada Territory, which was established as a territory on March 2, 1861, just five days before this cover was given to the Pony rider. The Carson City marking uses the "U.T." designation for Utah Territory. Before Nevada Territory was established, the Washoe region was considered part of western Utah. Carson City became the first territorial capital.
Silver City was located about 11.5 miles northeast of Carson City. In 1861 Silver City had a population of 1,200 and served as a vital link between the Comstock mines and the processing mills located near Dayton and along the Carson River. This cover was given to Wells Fargo & Co.'s office at Silver City and prepaid $2.50 for Pony Express service (quarter-ounce rate). The red printed frank paid for express service from Silver City to the Pony station at Carson City. John W. Grier was the first Wells Fargo agent for the area in and around Silver City, a position he held until his death in 1885.
Pony Express way-mail covers from Nevada are very rare. This cover came to light shortly before it was acquired by George Kramer in a 2006 Schuyler Rumsey auction. It was added to the FKW online census as E60A, and is the first recorded and only known Pony Express cover from Silver City.
FKW Census E60A. With 2006 P.F. certificate.
California Pony Express, New-York, Apr. 6 (1861). Partly clear strike of ultramarine oval datestamp on 10¢ Pale Green on Buff Nesbitt entire (U16a) with Wells Fargo & Company black printed frank, addressed to James Pullman, Sansome and Sacramento Streets, San Francisco, no indication of $2.00 rate (Rate Period 3) and no government post office markings, carried by Wells Fargo to St. Joseph where green "Pony Express, The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, St. Joseph, Mo. Apr. 14" large oval within circle datestamp was applied before the cover was carried on the Sunday, April 14, westbound trip to San Francisco, some minor toning around edges
VERY FINE. THIS IS THE EARLIEST RECORDED WESTBOUND PONY EXPRESS COVER FROM THE PHASE II OPERATIONAL PERIOD AND RATE PERIOD 3. THE USE OF THE WELLS FARGO & COMPANY BLACK FRANK IS VERY UNUSUAL--ONLY ONE OTHER IS RECORDED (AN EASTBOUND USE).
The Phase II (Interim) operational period and Rate Period 3 started in St. Joseph on April 1, 1861, and the first westbound trip left on Thursday, April 4, followed by trips on Sunday, April 7, and Thursday, April 11. No covers from these three trips are recorded. The cover offered here is the earliest recorded westbound mail to which the new $2.00 per half-ounce rate and Phase II handling procedures applied.
Wells Fargo & Company became involved with the Pony Express in April 1861 and issued stamps for use in the West and a franked entire for use in the East. The first Pony Express frank--Type I--was printed in red on the 10¢ Green on White Nesbitt entire (U15). Several unused examples of the Type I frank are known, but only two used examples are recorded, dated with the "California Pony Express New-York" oval on May 7 and June 22, 1861 (FKW W41 and W43). The rarity and dates of use of the Type I frank suggest it was used briefly and with limited distribution before the Type II franked entire was issued after July 1.
This cover is a fascinating Interim Phase usage. The black frank is found on only two Pony Express covers. The other is on the 3¢ Star Die entire to France with a $1.00 Red Pony Express stamp and blue San Francisco Running Pony oval dated July 27, 1861 (E126). It was sent unpaid to France, and the 3¢ embossed stamp counted for nothing. The cover offered here is a westbound use, and the sender presumably used the 10¢ franked entire to pay postage and the Wells Fargo fee during the Interim Phase.
A puzzling aspect of this cover is the lapse between the April 6 New York date and the April 14 St. Joseph date. Typically, there is a difference of four or five days. A few covers are known with an 8-day difference. In this case, the mail might have just missed the April 11 departure and was datestamped for the next trip on April 14.
FKW Census W38. Illustrated in Walske-Frajola, Mails of the Westward Expansion, 1803 to 1861 (page 228).
Wells Fargo & Company Pony Express, ($1.00) Red Type II East-to-West Frank, 10¢ Green on Thin Hard White Entire (unlisted in Scott). Boldly struck "New-York Sep. 20" (1861) circular datestamp and duplex grid cancel, printed address to the "Agent of Pony Express, St. Joseph, Mo." and handwritten address to F. Gilbert, "Melodeon," San Francisco, unusually complete and clear strike of "Pony Express, The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company, St. Joseph, Mo. Sep. 25" large oval in circle datestamp applied one day before westbound Pony departure on Thursday, September 26, 1861, which arrived in San Francisco on October 8 or 9 (based on 12-13 day trips at this time), small part of top right corner repaired but not affecting 10¢ embossed stamp
VERY FINE APPEARANCE. ONE OF 21 RECORDED TYPE II EAST-TO-WEST PONY EXPRESS ENTIRES AND ONE OF THE MORE DESIRABLE EXAMPLES THAT HAVE A ST. JOSEPH PONY EXPRESS DATESTAMP.
In anticipation of the government contract set to go into effect on July 1, 1861, Wells Fargo & Co. produced a special franked envelope for Pony Express mail from the East. After seeking approval from the Postmaster General, the 1861 10c "Pumpkin" entire with the Type II printed frank was ordered from George F. Nesbitt & Co. (New York). On August 12, 1861, Wells Fargo announced in the New York papers that "Pony Express Envelopes" were "Now ready and for sale at our office." Although this announcement refers only to "envelopes," in fact both the franked entires and $1.00 adhesive stamps were put on sale in August 1861. The earliest recorded Type II envelope is dated August 14, 1861.
Based on an article in the San Francisco Bulletin 9/13/1861, the Type II franked envelopes were problematic, because eastern post offices were sometimes sending them in the "through" mail to San Francisco, instead of directing them to St. Joseph for the Pony Express. As a result, they would arrive by regular mail ten days after the Pony Express for which they were intended. This might explain why some examples of the Type II franks are found without a St. Joseph Pony Express handstamp. The presence of the St. Joseph Pony Express datestamp, as found on the cover offered here, confirms that this was carried by Pony Express riders.
FKW Census W59. Ex Lichtenstein (Costales sale, February 10, 1947, lot 424).