Sale 895 — 2005 Rarities of the World
Sale Date — Friday, 3 June, 2005
Category — 1847 Issue On Cover (Used To Belgium)
EXTREMELY FINE. THE ONLY RECORDED 5-CENT AND 10-CENT 1847 COMBINATION COVER TO BELGIUM. A MAGNIFICENT FRANKING, PAYING THE UNITED STATES DOMESTIC RATE AND TRANSATLANTIC PACKET POSTAGE DURING THE RETALIATORY-RATE PERIOD.
The so-called Retaliatory Period resulted from Great Britain's effort to maintain its monopoly on transatlantic mail carriage through the subsidized Cunard steamship line, which operated without competition from 1840 through 1846. In response to the emergence of subsidized American packets in 1847, the British issued an order (effective June 9, 1847) authorizing its receiving offices to collect the usual British packet postage on letters delivered by American mail steamers. The order effectively treated prepaid American packet letters arriving in England as if they had been sent unpaid, and the British collected sea postage from the addressee when no service had been rendered.
The United States vehemently protested the British order through diplomatic channels, but efforts to persuade the government to rescind the anti-American postal tariff were unsuccessful. In December 1847, U.S. Postmaster General Cave Johnson petitioned Congress for power to levy like charges on mail carried by British steamers to or from the United States, but he was not authorized to do so until June 1848. On all Cunard sailings from June 24, 1848 (the Caledonia from Liverpool) through December 31, 1848 (the Europa arriving at New York), American packet postage was charged whether or not one of the American vessels was used. Beginning with the departure of the Europa from New York on January 10, 1849, earlier rates were restored, and soon after the new U.S.-British treaty rate was effected.
This cover to Belgium reflects the dispute between Great Britain and the United States, because it had to be carried to Liverpool for further transit to Ostend and Gand, Belgium. The well-informed sender designated the sailing of the Cunarder Niagara from Boston and prepaid 10c domestic postage plus the 24c British packet rate (1c overpayment). The letter originated in Charleston and was put on the Spofford & Teleston Line's Northerner, a contract mail steamer bound for New York. On arrival in New York it entered the foreign-mail office as a fully-prepaid letter. On arrival at Liverpool, the American prepayment was ignored, and "1/8" (one shilling, eight pence) for British packet service was debited to Belgium. This amount, re-stated as 20 decimes Belgian currency plus 4 decimes internal postage, was collected from the addressee (approximately 48c).
This remarkable cover, bearing both first issues of the United States -- including a strip of the 10c -- was discussed in detail in Ashbrook's Special Service (Photograph No. 60) and is signed by him on back. It has at various times been described as one of the most important and valuable covers in classic American philately.
Illustrated in Brookman (p. 79), Hargest (pp. 101-102) and Winter (pp. 11-12). Ex Waterhouse, Gibson, Brigham, Pope, Kapiloff and Craveri. With 1998 P.F. certificate