VERY FINE. ONLY SIX INTACT COVERS ARE KNOWN WITH LANGTON'S HUMBOLDT EXPRESS STAMP. ONE OF THE GREAT RARITIES OF WESTERN POSTAL HISTORY.
The Humboldt Express was the last of seven successive Western express services operated by Samuel W. Langton, who has been described by historians as the most energetic and persevering of the numerous expressmen of the period. Langton launched the Humboldt Express in February 1860 and oversaw its operation until his accidental death in 1864. Service was provided between the Humboldt mines in Nevada to Carson City, the state capital. For transportation across this difficult route, 25c was charged in addition to the $2.00 per letter fee. To facilitate prepayment of this surcharge, Langton issued the 25c Brown adhesive stamp. The stamp, with its exceptionally detailed depiction of a stagecoach drawn by a four-horse team, is widely regarded as the finest example of a pictorial stamp issued by the numerous local posts operating in the United States between 1842 and the 1870's. The style, lettering, color and lithographic technique used to print Langton's stamp are identical to those of the Wells, Fargo & Co. Pony Express stamps of the same period, and it is accepted, though unproven, that the issues of both companies were made by the same printer (Britton & Rey of San Francisco).
We record the following Humboldt Express 25c Brown covers: 1) Unionville (blue oval) to J. S. Bendle, Bidwell's Bar Cal., "Care of Capt. Singer", U34 with Langton frank, ex Brown, Moody, Simpson, Hertz, Siegel Sale 896, lot 660, realized $42,500 hammer); 2) Star City (blue oval) to J. S. Bendle, Bidwell's Bar Cal., "Care of Capt. Singer", U35 with Langton frank, repaired, PFC, ex Dale-Lichtenstein; 3) Unionville (blue oval) to J. S. Bendle, Bidwell's Bar Cal., "Care of Capt. Singer", U34 with Langton frank, ex Caspary, Nathan; 4) Star City (blue oval) to G. Borzo, Placerville Cal., U34 with Langton frank, WF Nevada Jun. 10 oval, ex Jessup, Hawley, Polland, Jacobitz; 5) Unionville (red oval) and "Paid" in oval tying 25c, to Charles Lott, Oroville Cal., U34 with WF frank and WF Carson City May 11 oval, the cover offered here, PFC, ex Haas, Edwards (Siegel Sale 764, lot 2131, realized $75,000 hammer); and 6) Star City (blue oval) to S. W. Holladay, San Francisco, U34 with Langton frank, 3c 1861 tied by "Paid" and WF Nevada Jul. 11 (1863) oval, with enclosure, PFC, ex Hall, Kapiloff. In addition to these six intact covers, there are two restored fronts or pieces and a few faked examples. Our census has been compiled independently of the Gamett census and more recent Lyons census, which contain incorrect sale history data for #1 and #2 above.
The placement of the stamp over the Langton red oval handstamp and the use of the "Paid" oval are indicative of an unusual method of franking. The reverse of the top of the stamp, when gently lifted away from the cover, shows red ink offset on the gum, indicating the oval marking was freshly applied when the stamp was affixed. The "Paid" is heavily impressed, and its outline can be seen on the back. The same Paid is found in blue on an off-cover 25c stamp in the Hall sale (Siegel Sale 830, lot 676), and overlays confirm that the red and blue strikes were made from the same device. In our opinion, this cover represents a genuine use of a prepared Langton's Humboldt Express and Wells, Fargo & Co. conjunctive frank. The Unionville office handstamped the Wells, Fargo & Co. entire with its oval marking, then applied the 25c stamp (partly over the oval) and cancelled it with the matching red "Paid". The combination frank was sold by the Unionville office with the stamp affixed and precancelled. Langton's Humboldt Express carried it from Unionville to Carson City in Nevada (about 185 miles), and Wells, Fargo & Co. carried it from Carson City to Oroville, California (another 175 miles). The fact that the stamp is affixed over the red oval and has offset on back are strong indications the stamp was used on the cover in the manner described. It is also likely that many Pony Express and Virginia City Pony Express stamps were affixed by the offices, not the sender.
Illustrated in Letters of Gold (p. 200). Ex Haas and Edwards. With 1971 P.F. certificate