EXTREMELY FINE. THE FINER OF TWO RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THIS SPECTACULAR STEAMBOAT MARKING, APPLIED TO MAIL CARRIED BY THE KNICKERBOCKER ON THE LONG ISLAND SOUND BETWEEN NEW YORK AND STONINGTON.
This extraordinary cover is accompanied by an eight-page analysis, dated January 5, 1978, from Calvet M. Hahn to the cover's owner in 1978, Louis Grunin. The key points of Mr. Hahn's analysis are summarized below.
The Knickerbocker was an 858-ton steamer built in 1843 by Smith & Dimson for Daniel Drew and Isaac Newton. The engine was formerly in the DeWitt Clinton. Advertisements indicate that the Knickerbocker had 60 private staterooms, berths for 500 people and several large parlor rooms for families. The steamer's maiden voyage was on August 21, 1843, for the People's Line on the Hudson River, running between Albany and New York City. Beginning on April 1, 1846, the Knickerbocker was moved to the Long Island Sound, where it ran the regular route between Stonington and New York City, providing a water connection to the Stonington & Providence and Boston & Providence railroad lines. In 1848 it was moved to the Norwich line. According to an advertisement in the New York Courier & Enquirer (appearing from April 11 to June 30, 1846), the captain of the Knickerbocker was S. Thayer, and the steamer departed from Pier 3 on the North River on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from Stonington on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The unusual use of the "New-York Ship" datestamp and "Steam Boat" straightline on this cover originating in New York City is explained in Mr. Hahn's analysis as follows: "Mr. Claflin [the sender] probably put this letter in his pocket to drop into the pier box as he passed on his way home to Brooklyn, on May 18, 1846. It would be easier than sending someone to the post office. If he dropped it into the box on the 18th [Monday in 1846], rather than being viewed as incoming mail it would have been handled as outgoing mail by the Independent Line and put on board the Knickerbocker for Stonington. In Stonington the error would have been spotted Tuesday morning the 19th and put back on board for return to New York. Upon return it would have been taken with other letters to the ship letter office and postmarked Wednesday morning the 20th and despatched via land mail to Ohio. It could not have made it back earlier as the Knickerbocker departed on its return at 8 p.m. Tuesday the 19th from Stonington."
Mr. Hahn surmises that the "Father Knickerbocker" handstamp was used to advertise the new service which began on April 1, 1846. It is similar to name-of-packet and illustrated packetboat markings on Mississippi River steamboat mail. Mr. Hahn speculates that the rarity of this marking is due to the fact that most letters went via Providence direct on the New Jersey Steam Navigation Line's vessels.
Ex Knapp, Klein, Simmons and Grunin. With 1978 P.F. certificate.