Sale 1263 — The George J. Kramer Collection of U.S. & C.S.A. Telegraph Covers
Sale Date — Wednesday, 28 September, 2022
Category — Pony Express & the Telegraph
A RARE TELEGRAPH MESSAGE TO CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR DOWNEY FROM GENERAL CURTIS, ANNOUNCING THE PREPAREDNESS OF CALIFORNIA STATE MILITIA TO MARCH TO CARSON VALLEY TO DEFEND AGAINST ATTACKS BY PAIUTE AND SHOSHONE INDIANS. DATED THE DAY AFTER PAIUTE WAR CHIEF NUMAGA ANNIHILATED MAJOR ORMSBY'S MILITIA AT THE FIRST BATTLE OF PYRAMID LAKE.
Following the Paiute Indian attack on Williams Station on May 7, 1860, a militia force of 105 men was assembled from towns in the Washoe mining region of what is present-day Nevada. This force was placed under the command of Major William Ormsby, a former Pioneer Stage agent and previously a member of William Walker's filibustering expedition into Central America. On the morning of May 10, Ormsby led his men northeast along the Carson River toward Williams Station. After two days and nights of extremely harsh weather, the ragtag army followed a path from the Truckee River to a place just a few miles south of Pyramid Lake. It was precisely where Pauite War Chief Numaga wanted to meet his enemy. The ambush quickly turned from a fight to slaughter. Three quarters of Ormsby’s men were killed, including Ormsby himself. Another 29 were wounded. Scalps were taken, bodies mutilated and horses stolen. News of the disastrous battle was brought to Virginia City by a volunteer on horseback who had deserted his post. As reports of the First Battle of Pyramid Lake spread, fears of an Indian Armageddon caused widespread panic. Families took refuge in secure buildings. The residents of Silver City built a wooden cannon, but fortunately for them never fired it. Officials sent desperate pleas to California and Washington to send troops.
This telegram, sent from Sacramento the day after Ormsby's defeat, was in direct response to the news. The California militia and U.S. Army regulars were eventually combined under the command of Colonel John Coffee "Jack" Hays, a former Texas Ranger and experienced Indian fighter. In his message to Governor Downey, General Curtis confidently states that the various militia groups are ready to march "at any moment."
Original documents related to the Paiute Indian War are extremely scarce, and this is of particular interest to Pony Express students and collectors, because the message is written on the Alta California Telegraph Company form. It was prepared at the San Francisco office from a telegram transmitted by wire from Sacramento. This office was the home base of the Pony Express in San Francisco, from which point the messengers would depart and arrive.
Ex "New Helvetia" collection. Described in Nathan-Boggs Pony Express book (pp. 9-10)
VERY FINE. ONE OF NINE RECORDED EXAMPLES OF THE “CENTRAL OVERLAND PONY EXPRESS COMPANY” FRANK, OF WHICH SIX ARE 10-CENT ENTIRES. PONY EXPRESS COVERS WITH ORIGINAL LETTERS ARE ALSO VERY RARE AND DESIRABLE.
The updated FKW census lists nine entires with the two-line frank, which identifies the company as the Central Overland Pony Express Company (COPEC). 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, six are 10c values. The presence of manuscript station markings on several of these COPEC franks, including the cover offered here, supports the theory that they were mainly used by telegraph operators and by relay station agents for way mail received along the Pony Express route.
This cover was sent from Placerville on October 25 and placed in the way-mail pocket of the mochilla that contained the Wednesday, October 24, mail from San Francisco. It passed through Fort Kearney on November 3 and arrived at St. Joseph on November 5. The sender, F. W. Bye, might be connected with Henry & Bye, commission and forwarding agents based in Placerville in 1860.
FKW census E31. Ex “Alyeska.” For a photo of the contents please see website PDF.
VERY FINE COVER WITH THE $1.00 RED STAMP ISSUED BY WELLS FARGO & COMPANY FOR THE OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACT PERIOD BEGINNING IN JULY 1861.
Commencing July 1, 1861, the Pony Express was authorized by Congress to carry mail at the rate of $1.00 per half ounce. An additional fee was charged by Wells Fargo & Co. to carry mail from San Francisco to the western terminus at Placerville, which is represented by the printed frank on this entire. The contract also stipulated the mandatory U.S. postage charge of 10c per half ounce.
This cover beautifully combines all three postage elements of the contract period and was carried on the eastbound Pony Express trip departing San Francisco on July 31, 1861, which picked up the Sacramento mail on August 1 (including this cover) and arrived in St. Joseph on August 12. Although the Scott Catalogue lists the July 1861 issue Pony Express stamps (143L3-143L6) with other private post issues, we wish to emphasize that these stamps were issued under the terms of a government mail contract; therefore, they have semi-official status.
Accompanied by a Sacramento Daily Union newspaper clipping of July 30, 1861 announcing "By Telegraph to the Union Arrival of the Pony Express". The clipping shows the progress of the telegraph at this point in 1861 by stating "by telegraph from St. Louis to Fort Kearny, thence by Pony Express to Middle Gate Station, thence by telegraph to Sacramento". It goes on to describe the Battle of Manassas (First Bull Run), which occurred on July 21, 1861.
FKW census E130. From our 1967 Rarities of the World sale. Ex Griswold.