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Sale 988 — The Steven C. Walske Collection of Civil War Special Routes

Sale Date — Thursday, 27 May, 2010

Category — Across-the-Lines Private Express Mail: Whitesides Express

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 988, Lot Number 89, Across-the-Lines Private Express Mail: Whitesides ExpressWhitesides Express, Whitesides ExpressWhitesides Express. Black-on-white adhesive label affixed to back of cover to Miss Mary C. Stebbins in Otto N.Y., from an unknown origin in the Confederate States, sent to Nashville inside another envelope, carried across the lines by Whitesides, this interior envelope stamped with three 1c Blue, Ty. II Plate 12, Ty. V (20 two, 24), tied by lightly struck "Franklin Ky. Aug. 6" (1861) circular datestamp, opened out for display, long sealed tear along top through one 1c stamp, others have minor perf faults


The label reads: "PRIVATE LETTER MAIL./Direct each letter to your correspondent as/usual, envelope that with 15 cents in money and/direct to/B. WHITESIDES,/Franklin, Ky./Letters exceeding half an ounce or going over/500 miles must have additional amount enclosed./For single Newspapers enclose 10 cents."

An advertisement for express mail service to the seceded states was first published by M. D. Whiteside (without the "s") on June 22, 1861, in the Louisville Daily Journal. M. D. (Marquis de Lafayette) Whiteside was the nephew of Berry Whitesides, whose initial and name with an "s" appears on this label. The late Scott Gallagher visited Franklin, Kentucky, and interviewed descendants of Berry Whitesides, who explained the relationship between M. D. and Berry and confirmed the existence of a contraband and letter express operated by the two during the spring and summer months of 1861.

It is significant that the advertisements under M. D. Whiteside's name specify lower rates than those printed on this Berry Whitesides label (10c vs. 15c for letters, 5c vs. 10c for newspapers). The Berry Whitesides rates on the label are identical to the American Letter Express rates advertised on June 15, which leads us to speculate that either a) Berry ran his express independent of M. D.'s, at least for a while (thus the difference in name), or b) Berry had labels printed with the higher rates, which were lowered to compete with American Letter Express and Adams Express.

The section on M. D. Whiteside's Express from Brooks American Letter Express Company is quoted below:


It was natural that the instant success of the new concern should lead to competition. It already has been pointed out that the Adams Express Company and M. D. Whiteside were interested in the venture.

Just seven days after the first messenger left Louisville -- on or about June 22, 1861 -- both advertised in Louisville newspapers that they, too, were ready to carry the mail.

The Adams Express Company messenger rode the stage coach and delivered his mail at each coach stop.

Whiteside had his messenger use the Upper Turnpike out of Louisville to Franklin, Ky., where he lived. He travelled from Louisville to Bardstown, Ky., to New Haven, Buffalo, Glasgow, Scottsville, and Franklin, Ky., and thence to Gallatin, and Nashville, Tenn.

His main stop was Franklin, since it was only four miles from the State Line. He used a Confederate friend and sympathizer to carry the mail across the border to Tennessee. Sometimes the messenger himself picked out certain letters to deliver personally since be knew they contained United States currency or checks to pay for United States stamps -- which certain Southern Postmasters were selling at a discount of 50 per cent. The messenger received 10 per cent for his services.

This smuggling commonly was known as the 'Grapevine'.

Whiteside later expanded his activities to smuggle slaves, arms, ammunition, lead, copper, and so on.

The route between Louisville and Nashville described by Brooks is shown on the map. There are no recorded southbound Whitesides Express covers, and they might be impossible to identify if labels were not applied to southbound mail. The two recorded Whitesides Express covers each have the printed label. The other cover originated in New Orleans on June 10 (1861) and reached Nashville just as the last regular mail was being carried by the U.S. mail agent. It is addressed to Louisville and was apparently given to Whitesides by the Nashville postmaster rather than included with the regular mail. On arrival, it was marked "Due 3" by the Louisville post office. The cover offered here was carried by Whitesides to Franklin, Kentucky, and was posted there with the 3c U.S. postage fully prepaid.

This cover (Special Routes Census No. N-WE-2, illustrated on p. 51) was discovered only about ten years ago and was sold by private treaty to Steven Walske. Therefore, this is its first auction appearance. The other cover (Census No. N-WE-1) was sold in Siegel Sale 801 as part of the D. Scott Gallagher collection and realized $15,000 hammer.

E. 10,000-15,000
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