EXTREMELY FINE. ONE OF THE FINEST OF ALL "SOUTHN. LETTER UNPAID" COVERS AND OF GREAT HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. SENT BY JAMES HENRY GATLING TO HIS BROTHER, RICHARD JORDAN GATLING, FAMED INVENTOR OF THE "GATLING GUN", WHICH WAS PATENTED IN THE YEAR THIS COVER WAS MAILED.
This cover was mailed in Murfreesborough, North Carolina, on June 28, 1861, by James Henry Gatling to his younger brother, Richard, in Indianapolis. It passed through Nashville and reached Louisville around July 4. Two days later, it was marked with the "Southn. Letter Unpaid" and "Due 3" handstamps, as well as the "Louisville Ky. Jul. 6, 1861" double-circle postmark.
At this time, Richard Gatling was in Indianapolis to establish a business for his new invention, the "Gatling Gun," the first successful machine gun. According to Gatling, he invented the rapid-firing machine gun to reduce the size of armies and, therefore, decrease the number of fatalities due to disease. In 1857, he wrote: "It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine -- a gun -- which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished." After developing and demonstrating a working prototype, in 1862 he founded the Gatling Gun Company in Indianapolis. The first six production guns were destroyed during a fire in December 1862 at the factory where they had been manufactured at Gatling's expense. Undaunted, Gatling arranged for another thirteen to be manufactured at the Cincinnati Type Factory. While General Benjamin F. Butler bought twelve and Admiral David D. Porter bought one, it was not until the end of the war that the U.S. Army officially purchased Gatling guns. In 1870 he sold his patents for the Gatling gun to Colt. Gatling remained president of the Gatling Gun Company until it was fully absorbed by Colt in 1897. The hand-cranked Gatling gun was declared obsolete by the U.S. Army in 1911. [Reference: Wikipedia]
Richard's older brother, James Henry Gatling, began a life-long fascination with flight by observing birds and building kites as a child. Gatling finished building North Carolina's first airplane in 1873. Twin wooden propellers were powered by cranking a handwheel, and more cockpit levers operated the front elevator, vertical rudder, and wings. Using poplar and thin pieces of oak, Gatling built a fuselage and wings light enough to be sustained by muscle power alone. Gatling supposed that once his plane was airborne, the machine wouldn't require as much of his energy. Gatling planned to fly the craft from atop a twelve-foot high platform on his gin mill to a road a mile away, now Highway 258. On a Sunday afternoon in 1873, his farmhands pushed him off the platform while Gatling cranked the handwheel. The plane was aloft only a short distance before Gatling crashed into an elm tree at the edge of his yard. He received minor injuries, but never flew again. His plane was destroyed in a fire in 1905. [Reference: http://www.archives.ncdcr.gov/ffc/Flight/Aviation/James_Henry_Gatling.html] Special
SpecialRoutes Census No. SLU-19 (illustrated on p. 15). Illustrated in Ashbrook Special Service (No. 67, Oct. 1956, p. 542, photo 267). Ex Knapp, Kimmell, "Old Oak" and Birkinbine. With 1976 P.F. certificate