A FINE AND EXTREMELY RARE EXAMPLE OF TRANSATLANTIC MAIL CARRIED FROM LONDON TO NEW ORLEANS VIA TAMPICO AND BROWNSVILLE DURING THE PERIOD WHEN COSTA'S EXPRESS WAS IN OPERATION.
On October 15, 1861, Antonio Costa announced a post office-endorsed foreign-mail private express service out of New Orleans. In his circular, he stated, "The undersigned, now suffering in common with others, the inconvenience of blockade and non-intercourse with foreign countries; has, by the advice and approval of J. L. Riddell, Post Master at New Orleans, taken all needful measures to establish at his own expense, a monthly mail between New Orleans and the Mexican port of Tampico, to connect with the regular British Mail steamers touching at that port." J. L. Riddell also added a postscript stating that, "Letters intended for this Mail, may be enclosed along with the money required per tariff above, and the outer envelope addressed to Costa's Foreign Mail, care of Postmaster, New Orleans." The tariff indicated was $1.00 to Europe, including C.S.A. postage.
The cover offered here was very likely carried by Costa's Express for some portion of the route. The unusually lengthy delay between the August 16, 1861, origin date in London and February 24, 1862, postmark date at Brownsville is explained by the special circumstances affecting transit. The Cunarder Asia departed Queenstown on August 18 and arrived in New York on August 29. Although the sender probably intended for the New York forwarding agent to send it by Adam's Express, the express routes had been closed down only a few days earlier on August 26. Facing this new circumstance, the forwarder probably decided that the best course of action was to send the letter to Havana, where it could be forwarded to Tampico. We can reasonably speculate that the New York forwarder held this letter (and another known with identical routing and dates) until he became aware of Costa's Express, which started advertising in New Orleans on October 15 (news would have reached New York later). There appears to have been another delay incurred somewhere en route to Brownsville. The trip from New York to Tampico via Havana took about 14 days, and from Tampico to Brownsville another 16 days. The Brownsville February 24 postmark date indicates a departure from Tampico on February 8. The letter could have been held by the forwarder at Tampico during the Siege of Matamoros (October-December 1861), then given to Costa to safely carry to Brownsville, where it entered the C.S.A. mails. The receipt docketing date of March 15 coincides with the arrival date on a cover carried by Costa's Express, illustrated on page 166 of the Special Routes book.
Illustrated in Huber and Wagner The Great Mail (p. 153) and Special Routes (p. 156). Ex Skinner.