VERY FINE APPEARANCE. ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE USAGES OF THE CALIFORNIA PENNY POST COMPANY FRANKED ENTIRES. EXAMPLES WITH ADHESIVE STAMPS FOR GOVERNMENT POSTAGE ARE RARE, THIS BEING ONE OF THREE WITH FOUR 3-CENT 1851 STAMPS. ANY PENNY POST ENTIRE WITH THE ADHESIVE STAMP TIED BY A COMPANY HANDSTAMP IS EXCEEDINGLY RARE.
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.
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 a thorough census of covers or 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.
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. Although the Scott Catalogue and other reference books (Nathan, Haller) have laid some groundwork in classifying all of the Penny Post stamps and entires, more work is needed to complete the listings and explain the usages. 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 usage and certain enigmatic covers have yet to be explained to our satisfaction. The cover offered here, for example, is a very rare use of the 5c frank on a plain envelope (34LU9) with U.S. postage paid by the 3c 1851 Issue. The 5c Penny Post rate covered delivery of the letter from the San Francisco office to the addressee. Why 12c government postage was required is not obvious from the cover itself. Perhaps the sender or Penny Post office in Stockton applied enough postage to one envelope to cover four letters for delivery in San Francisco. Our records contain photos of two other Penny Post entires with four 3c 1851's, one used from San Jose (Oct. 25, 1855) to San Francisco (stamps pen-cancelled), and the other from San Francisco with uncancelled stamps (entire with "Circular" imprint). It seems unlikely that these three covers were heavy enough to require 12c postage.
A pencil note on back in Edward S. Knapp's hand reads "P.P. can(cel) on 3c is a rarity. This cover one of the few examples known and one of the rarest items from Dr. Chase's collection--1929". The Scott footnote to 34LU1-34LU15 states "The U.S. adhesives are seldom cancelled with the Penny Post cancellation. When they are, the cover sells for more."
Illustrated in Letters of Gold (p. 65). Ex Chase, Knapp, Hindes and Haas (who acquired it in our 1971 Rarities sale for $2,100 hammer)