Sale 817 — The David Golden Collection of U.S. Carriers and Locals
Sale Date — Monday, 15 November, 1999
Category — Masons New Orleans City Express (New Orleans LA)
EXTREMELY FINE. A REMARKABLE AND INTRIGUING USE OF THE MASON'S CITY EXPRESS POST 2-CENT STAMP -- THE LATEST OF THE SEVEN RECORDED MASON'S COVERS (SIX OF 102L2), USED ONE DAY AFTER NEW ORLEANS INAUGURATED ITS OFFICIAL CARRIER SERVICE. THE ONLY "WAY" OR "ADVERTISED" COVER KNOWN WITH THIS RARE STAMP.
This letter was definitely carried by a coastal vessel from Mobile Bay into the New Orleans harbor. It was accepted by the New Orleans post office as a way letter and charged the appropriate 5c postage plus 1c way fee. The address is explicit in detail, even including the 3rd Municipality designation, which was used to divide carrier responsibility (reference: Perry-Meyersburg, Chronicle 127 and 128). However, the addressee, Carl Marten, could not be found at 68 New Levee Street, which runs parallel to and one block south of Tchapitoulas. The letter was returned to the post office and advertised in the local newspaper, a standard procedure of undeliverable mail. The "ADV.I" handstamp indicates the 1c fee for advertising a letter. That much of the story is certain.
Less certain is exactly when the Mason's stamp was applied: either before attempted delivery to 68 New Levee or after advertising by the post office. The New Orleans postmark date on this cover, August 9 (1851), is exactly one day after the postmaster formally announced the commencement of carrier delivery by the newly-organized carrier department. It has been claimed that this letter was stamped by the post office with Mason's adhesive before the first attempt to have the carrier department deliver the letter to 68 New Levee. When it could not be delivered, the letter was returned to the post office with the stamp uncancelled. The implication of this is that Mason was an official carrier on August 9, 1851. A February 20, 1985, note from Richard Frajola states more explicitly "This is the period when Mason's were acting as U.S. carriers and is the only such usage on record." As noted in the previous descriptions, we are unaware of any official documentation of Mason's appointment as carrier. One piece of circumstantial evidence is the postmaster's mention of "a carrier's stamp of 1c, for the prepayment of the carriers' charge of that sum..." in the August 8, 1851, notice, which predates the availability of the Franklin carrier stamp in New Orleans (received October 19). Until further evidence is produced, one must resist the urge to conclude that Mason's stamps were the ones referred to in the postmaster's announcement.
An alternate explanation for this usage is that the sender affixed the stamp, intending for Mason to take it from the post office to the addressee, a service that Mason provided and evidently the New Orleans postmaster condoned. A bit of physical evidence supporting this contention is the identical color and consistency of the red wax used to affix the stamp and seal the letter. If the stamp were affixed to the letter upon arrival at New Orleans before August 8, 1851, it would very likely have been given to Mason's for delivery. However, with the new carrier department up and running when this letter arrived, perhaps the postmaster ended his practice of allowing Mason to pick up letters bearing his stamp or directed to his care. This scenario would explain the absence of a Mason's handstamp and the uncancelled stamp. It would also explain the absence of Mason usages after this August 9, 1851, cover. Until more evidence becomes available, it is the theory we favor most.