FINE AND RARE EXAMPLE OF THE "SOUTHERN LETTER UNPAID" MARKING ON A COVER ADDRESSED TO KENTUCKY. ONE OF THREE RECORDED WITH THE INCORRECTLY-DATED LOUISVILLE DATESTAMP.
By Postmaster General Blair's order of May 27, mail service to disloyal Southern states was discontinued. On or about June 8, mail exchange between Louisville and Nashville was also banned. Starting June 13, the Louisville postmaster, Dr. John J. Speed, decided to hold the northbound mail received from Nashville, rather than divert it to the U.S. Dead Letter Office. Speed sent a request to Washington D.C. for instructions on how to handle the mail that was rapidly accumulating. Speed received instructions from the U.S. Post Office Department, which were wired on June 24, advising him to "forward letters from the South for the loyal states as unpaid after removing postage stamps..." Since it was impractical to remove stamps from all of the letters (although apparently that was attempted at first), Postmaster Speed created the "Southn. Letter Unpaid" marking to explain to the addressees that the U.S. stamps applied by the senders were invalid for postage.
This cover was mailed from Salem Va. on July 2 and arrived at Louisville on approximately July 5. However, the postal clerk applied the June 29 marking in error, neglecting to change the date slug in his handstamp. There are two other covers listed in the Special Routes census that also arrived after June 29 but received the June 29 datestamp.
A total of 29 "Southn. Letter Unpaid" covers are recorded in the Special Routes book (No. 25 has been deleted as a fake since publication).
Census No. SLU-20. With 1994 C.S.A. certificate
A FINE AND RARE EXAMPLE OF THE "SOUTHERN LETTER UNPAID" HANDSTAMP.
Postmaster General Blair's May 27 suspension order prohibited post offices from forwarding southbound mails to disloyal Southern states. However, northbound mail continued to be sent via Louisville. With the resignation of W. D. McNish as Nashville's Federal postmaster on June 12, "Louisville held the mails still being sent north by the discontinued post office at Nashville. This held mail later became the well-known 'Southern Letter Unpaid' mail" (Walske). On June 24, Dr. J. J. Speed, the postmaster at Louisville, was advised to forward letters from the South to the loyal states after removing postage. With approximately 5,000 such letters accumulating at Louisville by this date, Postmaster Speed employed a more practical means of invalidating postage by creating the "Southern Letter Unpaid" handstamp.
Immediately after receiving instructions from Washington to forward the held mail, the Louisville post office began marking letters. Some of these have circular datestamps (June 27, 28 and 29 being the most common dates), while others have no Louisville datestamp.
Special Routes Census No. SLU-21. With 1988 P.F. certificate.
EXTREMELY FINE. A RARE JUNE 1, 1861, FIRST DAY OF THE CONFEDERATE POSTAL SYSTEM AND ESPECIALLY DESIRABLE FROM A FLORIDA POST OFFICE.
With 1986 P.F. certificate