Contact Siegel
6 West 48th Street
9th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Contact by phone:
New York: (212) 753-6421
Dallas: (214) 754-5991

Sale 1211 — The William H. Gross Collection: United States Postal History

Sale Date — Tuesday-Wednesday, 29-30 October, 2019

Category — Civil War Postal History

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 1211, Lot Number 374, Civil War Postal History, A uniquely franked Adams Express Company through-the-lines cover to France, graphically demonstrating the refusal of federal postal authorities to recognize postage stamps originating from the states in rebellion


5¢ Brown, Type II (30A), horizontal strip of three, well-centered, rich color and proof-like impression, trivial toned specks, tied over several perfs at lower left by blue "Louisville Ky. Aug. 13, 1861" duplex datestamp and grid cancel (datestamp struck again at lower right), used with 3¢ Dull Red, Type III (26) and 12¢ Black, Plate 3 (36B), 12¢ interpane margin at right, tied at upper right by "Adams Express Co. Louisville, Ky. Aug. 12, 1861" circular datestamp on blue folded letter in French to Paris, France, datelined "New Orleans, August 7, 1861" and addressed to "Monsieur G. d'Arnaud de Vitrolles", pencil "40" express rate (25¢ express fee plus 15¢ postage to France) --carried to France on the Havre Line Fulton, departing from New York on August 17, 1861, and arriving at Havre August 29--red "New York Paid 3 Aug. 17" 3¢ credit datestamp, ultramarine Havre arrival datestamp (August 29), red "PD" in frame handstamp, Paris receiving backstamp


Jamet (Paris) sale, 12/28/1955

Louis Grunin, Christie's Robson Lowe sale, Part Two, 10/7/1987, lot 136, to Dr. Martin

Dr. Alfred S. Martin, Siegel Auction Galleries, Sale 893, lot 51, to Schwartz

Barry K. Schwartz, Siegel Auction Galleries, Sale 981, lot 4123, to William H. Gross


Stanley B. Ashbrook, Special Service, #67, p. 544, photo 270

Lester G. Brookman, United States Postage Stamps of the 19th Century, Vol. I, p. 248, fig. 389

National Postal Museum, 1957 Perforation Centennial, p. 90, fig. 6

Steven C. Walske and Scott R. Trepel, Special Mail Routes of the American Civil War, census no. N-AD-65


Signed by Stanley B. Ashbrook

The Philatelic Foundation (1991)


Extremely Fine


Southern "Contraband' on an Adams Express Cover

This cover is remarkable in three respects: first, it is a rare Adams Express Company cover carried across the lines of war; second, it is addressed to another country; and, third, it shows how stamps from the South were considered to be contraband and were not accepted as federal postage.

The dateline inside tells us that the letter was written on August 7, 1861, in New Orleans. By then, Louisiana was a Confederate state. The steamers that carried mail to Europe departed from Boston or New York, so the writer had to send the letter north. That was a challenge, because the mail routes had been shut down by federal authorities since late May and early June. Express companies were the only ones transporting mail across the lines, for a price.

The letter was carried by Adams Express to Louisville, arriving August 13, about ten days before stamps currently in circulation were demonetized. The exchange period in Louisville began August 22 for three days; after August 24, no stamps other than the new 1861s would be accepted. Although the 3¢ and 12¢ 1857 Issue stamps were still valid when this reached Louisville, the fact that they originated on a letter from a Confederate state rendered them invalid, and the Adams office had to affix the strip of 5¢ stamps at lower left to prepay the 15¢ treaty rate to France.

At the New York foreign-mail office, the clerk bagged the letter for the Havre Line Fulton sailing on August 17 and applied a 3¢ credit to France. Later in 1861 both of the Havre Line's ships, the Fulton and Arago, were commissioned as transport ships during the war and were not returned to mail service until late in 1865.

A history of the Arnaud de Vitrolles family may be found at . A cover from the same correspondence with the same August 7 dateline was sold in the Gross U.S. Treasures sale (Sale 1188, lot 62). It was carried by Adams Express, but reached Louisville on August 21 and was stamped with the new 30¢ 1861 Issue. At New York it was put on a Cunard steamer. The two covers were sold to Mr. Gross in the Siegel sale of the Barry K. Schwartz collection (Sale 981, lots 4123 and 4124). They tell a remarkable story of Civil War postal history.

E. 50,000-75,000
Copyright 2020. All rights reserved by Siegel Auction Galleries Inc. Information and images may be used with credit to Siegel Auction Galleries or subject to guidelines and restrictions.
Website Terms of Use and Privacy Policy