EXTREMELY FINE. THE FINEST OF THREE RECORDED COVERS SURVIVING FROM THE FIRST DAY OF THE PONY EXPRESS. AN IMPORTANT AND WELL-PRESERVED ARTIFACT OF THE LEGENDARY PONY EXPRESS.
The widely-publicized launch of the Pony Express occurred simultaneously in San Francisco and St. Joseph, Missouri, on Tuesday, April 3. With a large crowd gathered at the offices of the Alta Telegraph Company at the corner of Montgomery and Merchant Streets in San Francisco, the mail bag was ceremoniously given to a rider (believed to be James Randall), who galloped away toward the docks. This was essentially for show, because the mail had to be carried by steamer to Sacramento before it started the 1,840-mile journey by horse. Although the Antelope was regularly used for carrying the express mail between San Francisco and Sacramento, that vessel was under repair when the first Pony trip took place, and the steamer New World was used instead. The trip up river in a hard rain took ten hours to reach Sacramento, arriving at 2:40 a.m. on April 4. The first actual Pony rider was William Hamilton, who rode out of Sacramento with the mail at 2:45 a.m. The last rider reached St. Joseph in the late afternoon of April 13, exactly ten days after departure. Historians are uncertain whether Johnny Frye or William Richardson carried the first Pony mail into St. Joseph.
The Alta California reported that the April 3 Pony Express mail contained 56 letters from San Francisco, to which 13 letters were added at Sacramento, one letter more at Placerville and an additional 15 pieces in the form of telegrams and newspaper reports, for a total of 85 pieces. It is not known how many letters were delivered or picked up along the way.
There are two known covers surviving from this eastbound First Trip mail: the cover offered here and another addressed to A. A. Low & Brothers in New York City (ex Dale-Lichtenstein, now in the Walske collection). The “APR 3” date in the Running Pony oval on the Latham cover offered here is more clearly struck than the strike on the Low & Brothers cover. In addition to the two eastbound covers, there is a westbound First Trip cover addressed to Frederick Billings--the attorney of Billings, Montana, fame--which has a clear strike of the St. Joseph non-pictorial oval datestamp. The two-line frank on this 10c entire is recorded on three 3c and six 10c entires.
The cover offered here is addressed to Senator Milton S. Latham, who went to California in 1850 and was elected to Congress on the 1852 Democratic ticket. After his term expired, he declined to run for re-election and served as collector for the port of San Francisco. In 1859 he was elected governor, but he resigned five days after taking office to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Senator David C. Broderick was killed in a duel. Latham was a friend of William H. Russell, the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Co. president. Latham was a strong supporter of COC&PP in their effort to secure the contract for the Central Route. He was among the few individuals later permitted to send Pony Express letters free of charge.
This cover is recorded in the Nathan-Boggs and Frajola-Kramer-Walske books. We do not have any details of its sale history prior to its last appearance in our sale of the Hall collection in 2000 (Sale 830, lot 797), where it realized $180,000 hammer. Since our sale of the Hall collection, the Low & Brothers cover realized $260,000 hammer and the Billings cover realized the same hammer price in the May 13, 2004, H. R. Harmer sale of the Dale-Lichtenstein collection.
FKW Census E2. Trip ET-1. Ex Hall.
EXTREMELY FINE AND PRISTINE COVER WITH A PERFECT STRIKE OF THE ST. JOSEPH RUNNING PONY OVAL. ONE OF SIX RECORDED PONY EXPRESS COVERS SIGNED BY SENATOR LATHAM--THIS IS THE ONLY ONE ON WHICH THE EXPRESS FEE WAS CHARGED AND ONE OF THREE WITH THE ST. JOSEPH RUNNING PONY HANDSTAMP.
Senator Milton S. Latham went to California in 1850 and was elected to Congress on the 1852 Democratic ticket. After his term expired, he declined to run for re-election and served as collector for the port of San Francisco. In 1859 he was elected governor, but he resigned five days after taking office to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Senator David C. Broderick was killed in a duel. Latham was a friend of William H. Russell, the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Co. president. Latham was a strong supporter of COC&PP in their effort to secure the contract for the Central Route. He was among the few individuals later permitted to send Pony Express letters free of charge. However, in this case he paid the $5.00 express fee.
Senator Latham’s letter includes interesting comments on the Democratic Convention in Charleston:
“...I am in no way responsible for the acts of our Delegates at Charleston. They never consulted me in any manner & at C. seem to have been led by Austin Smith who was as fiery as the extreme Southerner... Don’t show this letter to anyone. You may rely upon it, the Democracy are hopelessly split forever. There are four candidates in the field & the Republicans have every prospect of success.”
This cover left St. Joseph on May 13 and arrived by Pony Express at Sacramento on May 22. It is one of the earliest westbound Pony covers recorded (the third in the FKW census).
There are fifteen recorded Pony Express covers with any form of free frank for postage or express charges. Of these, six are signed by Latham (FKW E94, W3, W5, W7, W48 and W62). The eastbound cover (E94) has the San Francisco Running Pony oval. Only three of the westbound Latham covers have the St. Joseph Running Pony oval (W3, W5 and W7). One of the other covers carried a telegram sent by Latham, but the transmittal envelope was neither signed nor addressed by him (W47). The cover offered here is the earliest of the Latham covers, and it was charged $5 for the express fee, in accordance with the stated company policy. Subsequently, the fee was waived on letters sent by Latham.
FKW Census W3. Trip WT-7. Illustrated in Nathan-Boggs book (p. 10). Ex Hall.
VERY FINE. ONE OF TEN RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THE RUNNING PONY HANDSTAMP STRUCK IN CARMINE--THIS IS THE EARLIEST OF THE SIX EASTBOUND COVERS. ONE OF THE FINEST PONY EXPRESS COVERS EXTANT.
The St. Joseph Running Pony handstamp was normally struck in black, but the FKW census records ten covers with this marking struck in the distinctive Carmine color (listed below). They are dated from August 12 to September 13, 1860, and all but two are struck on the backs of the covers. Four have 10c adhesive stamps (Scott 35), each with the Carmine Pony on the back.
This cover was sent from San Francisco on August 4, 1860, after the new re-calibrated Pony Express rate of $2.50 per quarter-ounce was announced at St. Joseph. Because news of the rate change took approximately two weeks to reach the West Coast, it was not implemented in San Francisco until the August 15 eastbound trip.
The “U.S.A.” designation in the address and “To be forwarded” instructions make it almost certain that this cover originated outside the United States, probably from a travelling member of the prominent Coffin family, several of whom were whaling captains.
FKW Census E12. Trip ET-19. Illustrated in Needham-Berthold article (Collectors Club Philatelist reprint). Ex Dr. Paine, Emerson, Hall and Gruys.
VERY FINE. ONE OF THREE RECORDED PONY EXPRESS COVERS WITH THE 12-CENT 1857-59 ISSUE. AN OUTSTANDING CLASSIC COVER.
The FKW census lists three 12c 1857-59 covers carried by Pony Express:
1) E37, San Francisco Nov. 7, 1860, arrived St. Joseph on Nov. 19, ex Chase, Philstrup, Edwards (Christie’s, Oct. 29, 1991, realized $80,000 hammer), illustrated in the Ashbrook book
2) E39, San Francisco Nov. 10, 1860, arrived St. Joseph on Nov. 24, ex Emerson, Jeffreys, Grunin (Christie’s, Mar. 25, 1987, realized $110,000 hammer)
3) E40, San Francisco, Nov. 21, 1860, arrived St. Joseph on Dec. 3, ex Knapp and Hall (Siegel Sale 830, lot 800, realized $70,000 hammer), the cover offered here
The 2c overpayment of the usual 10c transcontinental postage has been interpreted in the past as an indication that the covers originated in Hawaii and a 2c ship captain’s fee was added to postage. We have personally handled all three covers and found no indication of Hawaiian origin. The narrow date range indicates a more plausible explanation that the San Francisco post office ran short of 10c stamps.
Eugene Kelly & Company was a prominent banking firm. In June 1860 the banking firm of Donohoe, Ralston & Company was opened in San Francisco. The principals were Joseph Donohoe, William Ralston, Eugene Kelly and Ralph Fretz. Eugene Kelly & Company in New York served as the East Coast representative. William Ralston, the renowned California financier, lost all of his wealth in the aftermath of the Panic of 1873. He drowned while swimming in San Francisco Bay, which was attributed to a stroke, but thought by many to have been suicide.
FKW Census E40. Trip ET-50. Ex Knapp (“1555” lot label still affixed) and Hall.
VERY FINE. ONE OF NINE RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THE “CENTRAL OVERLAND PONY EXPRESS COMPANY” FRANK, OF WHICH ONLY THREE ARE PRINTED ON 3-CENT ENTIRES. THIS IS ALSO THE EARLIEST RECORDED USE OF THE SACRAMENTO PONY EXPRESS MARKING (AND THE ONLY STRIKE IN BLACK). A REMARKABLE AND EXTREMELY RARE COVER FROM SEVERAL PERSPECTIVES.
The FKW census lists eight entires with the two-line frank, which identifies the company as the Central Overland Pony Express Company (a ninth 3c entire with this frank, dated April 20, 1860, recently entered the record). In fact, there was no such company, but rather The Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company owned and operated the Pony Express. Of the nine entires, only three are 3c values (E28, E52 and the newly-recorded April 20 entire). The presence of manuscript station markings on several of these COPEC franks supports the contention that they were mainly used by telegraph operators and way stations along the Pony route.
A valid question is why the Pony Express frank would be applied to 3c entires when the 10c over-3,000 miles rate usually applied to eastbound Pony Express mail. The answer is that prior to the Act of February 27, 1861, letters that stayed under the 3,000-mile distance limit only required 3c U.S. postage, even if they crossed the Rockies. The Act of February 27 eliminated that loophole by requiring that any letter which crossed the Rockies have 10c postage (letters carried privately were treated as though the post office carried them for the entire distance).
This cover was datestamped January 7 at Sacramento, two days after the Pony mail is reported to have left San Francisco on January 5, 1861. This is odd, since it normally took less than ten hours to make the steamer trip up river to Sacramento. By this date the actual Pony trip would have started from the western terminus at Folsom, probably on January 7, based on the Sacramento marking. The St. Joseph postmark on this cover has always been described as January “28”, but we believe it is a blurry “22”, which would point to a 15-day Pony trip, which is more in line with typical winter journey times.
Churchill Crittenden was the son of Alexander P. Crittenden, grandson of Judge Thomas Turpin Crittenden of Kentucky, and the great grandson of Major John Crittenden of the Revolutionary Army. Churchill’s mother came from a line of Rhode Islanders. He was born in Texas on May 17, 1840. In 1851 A. P. Crittenden moved his family from Texas to California, travelling by wagon across the plains. This letter was sent to Churchill in January 1861, shortly after he attended Hobart College in Madison, Indiana, from 1858 to 1860. When the Civil War began, Churchill contacted his father in San Francisco to ask for permission to enlist in the Confederate Army. Churchill served as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General James J. Archer from June 1862 until he joined the 1st Maryland Cavalry on August 4, 1862, while in Richmond. He and a fellow soldier were captured by a party of Union soldiers under the command of Colonel Powell on October 4, 1864. Powell ordered both men taken to a ravine to be executed without trial of any kind, in retaliation for some of his men being shot while burning homes. Powell had issued orders declaring that for every Union soldier shot by bushwhackers, he would hang or shoot two Confederate soldiers held by him as prisoners. In several of the letters, Churchill’s brother James describes how observers reported that Churchill met his death in a notably gallant fashion. He refused to run when ordered to do so, telling his captors, “If you intend to shoot me, just do it,” and then calmly seated himself on a rock to await his fate.
FKW Census E52. Trip ET-63. Illustrated in Letters of Gold (p. 256). Ex Parker and Kramer. With 1998 P.S.E. certificate.
VERY FINE APPEARANCE. AN ATTRACTIVE AND RARE PONY EXPRESS COVER BEARING AN UNUSUAL COMBINATION OF THE SAN FRANCISCO RUNNING PONY OVAL AND THE SAME OFFICE’S OVAL HANDSTAMP WITH A DATE.
FKW Census E32. Trip ET-43. Ex Lichtenstein and Barkausen.
VERY FINE. ONE OF SIX RECORDED PONY COVERS WITH THE NEW YORK RED “PAID” OVAL HANDSTAMP USED IN COMBINATION WITH THE ST. JOSEPH RUNNING PONY OVAL.
There are three interesting features of this cover. First, westbound Pony covers are rarer than eastbound, and only twelve are listed in the FKW census with the New York oval “Paid” handstamp, of which six are struck in combination with the St. Joseph Running Pony oval. Second, this cover demonstrates the “under 3,000 miles” loophole that allowed westbound mail to be sent in bundles from the East Coast to St. Joseph by mail with only 3c U.S. postage. This loophole was closed by the Act of February 27, 1861, which eliminated the mileage provision and required 10c postage on any letter crossing the Rocky Mountains. A third unusual feature of this cover is the date change in the St. Joseph oval. Close examination reveals that the “SEP” month slug was used in the oval and was over-struck by “OCT” in a separate operation. October 4, 1860, is the correct date.
FKW Census W17. Trip WT-41. Illustrated in Pony Express--The Great Gamble, Roy S. Bloss (endpapers). Ex Caspary, Beals and Kramer. With 1996 P.F. certificate.
AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE PONY EXPRESS COVER, ADDRESSED AND FRANKED BY WILLIAM H. RUSSELL, ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE PONY EXPRESS, TO JAMES E. BROMLEY, THE DIVISION SUPERINTENDENT FOR THE PONY ROUTE BETWEEN HORSE SHOE AND SALT LAKE CITY. ONE OF THREE RECORDED PONY EXPRESS COVERS BEARING WILLIAM H. RUSSELL’S FRANKING SIGNATURE.
William H. Russell (1812-72) is best known for his role in starting the Pony Express. Russell was born in Vermont and moved with his family to Missouri in 1828. He worked his way up to manage one of the largest businesses in Western Missouri. By 1845 he owned 3,000 acres and a 20-room house in Lexington with slave quarters and stables. In 1855 the War Department awarded a two-year exclusive contract to Russell, Majors and Waddell to operate wagon trains carrying supplies to forts west and southwest of Ft. Leavenworth. However, in 1857 they began to spiral downward after Mormons destroyed a large supply train under contract with the War Department. The loss incurred during the Mormon War left Russell, Majors and Waddell in debt, and the government was unwilling to compensate them for $500,000 in claims. Faced with this gloomy financial picture, Russell turned his attention to obtaining a government contract to carry mail along the Central Route.
In 1858 Russell and John S. Jones, along with several other partners, started a stage and express operation called the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company. L&PP acquired the bankrupted Hockaday line in May 1859 and invested heavily in reorganizing the stage route between St. Joseph and Salt Lake City. The burden of debt soon became too great for Russell and his partners. In October 1859 the assets and liabilities of L&PP were assumed by a new partnership between Russell, Majors and Waddell. For Majors and Waddell, the assumption of their partner’s debt must have been a bitter pill, because they had cautioned him not to over-estimate the revenue that could be generated by the L&PP stage line. Late in 1859, Senator William M. Gwin approached Russell about establishing a Pony Express to help promote the viability of the Central Route. Russell, seeing this as a strategy to winning the mail contract, embraced the Pony Express and persuaded his reluctant partners to support the enterprise.
Russell’s high-risk business strategy led to mounting debt. In December 1860 he was indicted in the Indian Trust Bond scandal, but the case was dismissed on a legal technicality. In January 1861, Russell and his partners lost control of The Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company to its principal creditor, Ben Holladay. Over the next decade Russell failed in several business ventures. On September 10, 1872, he died at the age of 60.
James E. Bromley was superintendent for the Pony Express between Horse Shoe and Salt Lake City. Bromley came to Utah in 1854 where he settled at the mouth of Echo Canyon at the confluence of the Echo Canyon River and the Weber River. There he built Weber Station, which became a Pony Express station in 1860. It was the main stopping place between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City. After the Pony Express, Bromley ran mail stages, dabbled in other businesses, and eventually settled into ranching on his old property at the mouth of Echo Canyon. In 1868 Bromley sold his land to Brigham Young Jr.
This cover from COC&PP president Russell to superintendent Bromley was carried on the Pony trip that left St. Joseph on November 22, 1860. It is one of three covers recorded in the FKW census that have Russell’s free frank.
FKW Census W24. Trip WT-55.
EXTREMELY FINE. A VERY RARE FREE-FRANKED COVER CARRIED BY THE LEGENDARY PONY EXPRESS. THIS IS ONE OF TWO RECORDED PONY COVERS FRANKED BY TERRITORIAL DELEGATE ISAAC STEVENS--ONLY THIS COVER IS ADDRESSED TO WASHINGTON TERRITORY.
According to Appleton’s, Major General Isaac I. Stevens (1818-62) served two terms as Washington’s first territorial delegate to Congress from December 1857 to March 1861. Stevens had a long career as a public servant, including service in the Mexican War and in the U.S. Coastal Survey office. In 1853 he was appointed governor of Washington Territory, in which capacity he conducted explorations for the northern route of the Pacific Railroad. During this period he was also superintendent of Indian affairs and negotiated a number of significant treaties with Native Americans in Washington Territory. In 1856 Stevens became involved in a bloody confrontation with Native American tribes who rebelled against the white settlers. After suppressing the rebellion and slaying the tribal chiefs, Stevens arrested whites alleged to have sympathized with the Indians. When a territorial judge, Chief Justice Edward Landers, issued the writ of habeas corpus, Stevens declared two counties under martial law and had Landers arrested and held prisoner until the end of the war. Soon after Stevens joined Congress and succeeded in vindicating his treaties and actions in the Indian war. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Stevens became an officer in the Federal army. He was killed at the battle of Chantilly in September 1862.
This letter was carried on the westbound Pony Express trip that departed St. Joseph Mo. on December 6, 1860, arriving in San Francisco and entering the mails on December 21. During this period, westbound covers were carried in bundles by mail to St. Joseph to take advantage of the 3c under-3,000 miles rate. However, in this instance, the Stevens free frank meant no postage was required (but the express fee was paid).
FKW Census W26. Trip WT-59. Ex Gruys. With 1996 P.F. certificate.