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Wells Fargo & Company Pony Express, $4.00 Black (143L5). Position 15, full margins to touching or just into frameline, sharp impression, gum spots around edges, tied by full clear strike of blue "Pony Express, San Francisco, Aug. 10" (1861) Running Pony oval datestamp, large blue "Wells, Fargo & Cos. Express, S.Frco. 10 Aug." double-circle datestamp on 8.25 by 3.5 inch legal-size cover addressed "To The Hon. Fifth Auditor of The Treasury, Washington, D.C." with sender's directive "'By Pony'--Voucher by regular mail" in the same hand, return address at upper right in a different hand "U.S. Consulate, Honolulu H.Islands", green seal on back with embossed "CONSULATE U.S.A. HONOLULU, OAHU H.I." and American eagle, two strikes of "Forwarded by McRuer & Merrill, San Francisco" double-line oval handstamp on back--carried from Honolulu to San Francisco on the American bark Yankee, which sailed on July 18 and arrived on August 7; then carried on the Pony Express trip that departed from San Francisco on Saturday, August 10, and arrived in St. Joseph on August 22, entered mails with green "St. Joseph Mo. Aug. 22" circular datestamp, carried to Washington D.C. free of postage (official mail), opened on three sides, minor nicks and tears around edges
VERY FINE. THE FINER OF TWO RECORDED $4.00 BLACK PONY EXPRESS COVERS, BOTH ORIGINATING IN HAWAII. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT COVERS IN UNITED STATES POSTAL HISTORY.
The first Pony Express stamps--the $2.00 Red and $4.00 Green--were issued in April 1861 after Wells Fargo & Co. became involved in operating the express. When the $1.00 per half-ounce contract rate took effect on July 1, 1861, a new set of stamps was ready, comprising the $1.00 Red, $2.00 Green and $4.00 Black.
This cover was used in 1861 to send documents from the U.S. consul in Honolulu, Hawaii, to John C. Underwood, the fifth auditor of the United States Treasury in Washington D.C. It has a nearly identical mate, with the same postal markings applied on the same days, and also bearing a $4.00 Black Pony stamp (they form a pair, Positions 14-15, with this stamp on the right). The only differences between the two covers are the color of the consulate label--green on this cover and red on the other--and the notation "By Pony--Vouchers by regular mail" on this cover. The other cover shows effects of a chemical agent on the address.
Each of the $4.00 Black Pony covers has the oval backstamp applied by McRuer & Merrill, the Honolulu resident agent in San Francisco and owner of the Regular Despatch Line, whose ships transported mail between Hawaii and San Francisco. McRuer & Merrill is listed in the 1861 Langley San Francisco city directory (Valentine & Co., publishers) as follows: "McRuer (D.) Co. & Merrill (John C.), auction, shipping, and commission merchants, agents Honolulu packets, 117 and 119 California, dwl 18 Laurel Place." It seems likely that McRuer & Merrill paid for the stamps in San Francisco. The presence of the large Wells Fargo & Co. double-circle datestamp on each cover is unusual for Pony Express mail, and it was probably applied by the Wells Fargo clerk before the Pony stamps were affixed.
This $4.00 Black Pony cover (green seal) was in the Henry Needham collection, sold by Eugene Costales in the late 1940s and early 1950s. John R. Boker Jr. reported that he acquired all of the Needham material with the exception of the $4.00 Black Pony cover that Costales promised to Alfred F. Lichtenstein. A pencil source notation on back "Costales 1/5/53 ULSS" is dated after Lichtenstein's death in 1947, so this was acquired by his daughter, Louise Boyd Dale. The cover sold to George Kramer in the May 2004 H. R. Harmer sale of the Dale-Lichtenstein Pony Express collection for $525,000 hammer.
The other cover (red seal) reached the market through H. P. Atherton. In a 1932 advertisement, he stated "For Sale--A perfect $4.00 Black W-F Pony Stamp used on a large Envelope bearing a red seal of The U.S. Consulate at Hawaii, on the reverse. Price on application. H. P. Atherton, 1562 Main St., Springfield, Mass." The "red seal" identifies that cover as the one sold by Atherton, and the Halls' notation on back identifies him as the source in 1932. When the Hall collection was sold by the Siegel firm in 2000 (Sale 830, lot 822), the red seal cover sold for $325,000 hammer to Thurston Twigg-Smith, and when his collection was sold by Siegel (Sale 979, lot 36), it sold for $550,000 hammer.
FKW Census E140. Illustrated in Needham-Berthold, Handstamped Franks: Used as Cancellations on Pony Express Letters 1860 and 1861 and the Pony Express Stamps and Their Use (reprint of Collectors Club Philatelist articles, July and October 1927), Knapp, Pony Express (page 20, figure 7), Frajola-Kramer-Walske, The Pony Express: A Postal History (page 62), Walske-Frajola, Mails of the Westward Expansion, 1803 to 1861 (page 230), and Gregory, Hawaii Foreign Mail to 1870, Vol. II (page 438, fig. 20-47).
Ex Needham and Dale-Lichtenstein. With 2000 P.F. certificate.