VERY FINE. A REMARKABLE USE OF THE CALIFORNIA PENNY POST COMPANY FRANKED ENTIRE. EXAMPLES WITH ADHESIVE STAMPS FOR GOVERNMENT POSTAGE ARE RARE. THIS USE FROM ST. LOUIS SENT WESTWARD TO SAN FRANCISCO IS UNIQUE.
The California Penny Post Company was established in June 1855 by Henry L. Goodwin (sometimes reported as "J. P." Goodwin). The Penny Post advertised service in several larger California towns and cities, offering to carry letters to and from the local post office, to bring letters to one post office and deliver them to the addressee from the receiving office, and to run an express service between towns after the government mails were closed for the day. A specific rate was charged for each service, and these rates are reflected in the stamps and entires issued by the Penny Post. For a relatively short-lived operation, the Penny Post produced a large variety of stamps and printed envelopes to facilitate prepayment and collect-on-delivery mail.
Almost immediately the Penny Post incurred the wrath of the San Francisco postmaster, and Goodwin became involved in protracted litigation trying to fight the government. Most writers have reported that the Penny Post closed down after twelve to eighteen months, but we have never seen source documentation to establish exactly when service ended. There is one June 1, 1856, Penny Post entire with the name of the post and "Penny Postage Paid 7" crossed out (Siegel Sale 773, lot 219), which might be evidence that the Penny Post closed before that date.
The printed franks are found on plain envelopes and U.S. 3c stamped envelopes. The rates correspond to the company's advertisements, but the application of these rates, patterns of use and certain enigmatic covers have yet to be fully explained. The most comprehensive study of this company's history and census of covers were recently self-published by Richard C. Frajola and can be found at his website: http://www.rfrajola.com/cpp/CP2.htm
The cover offered here is a very rare use of the 5c frank on a plain envelope (34LU9; Frajola Type 3A) with U.S. postage paid by the 10c 1855 and 3c 1851 Issue. The 5c Penny Post rate covered delivery of the letter from the San Francisco office to the addressee. Very few Penny Post covers originating outside of California are known. The gap between the Feb. 23 origin date (indicated by the docketing) and the St. Louis Mar. 1 postmark date is intriguing. Perhaps the letter was written by someone travelling eastward from California, who carried with him a Penny Post entire and used it to mail the letter at Saint Louis. Another possibility is that the letter originated in the East, the entire (furnished by the California correspondent) was pre-stamped with the 10c for the transcontinental rate, then carried by a westward-bound traveler to Saint Louis and mailed from there. This latter scenario might explain the additional 3c stamp, possibly applied in response to a persnickety postal clerk who questioned the legitimacy of the 10c stamp.
Ex Dale-Lichtenstein. With 2004 P.F. certificate.