Smithsonian National Postal MuseumTitle: The Pichs CollectionSan Carlos Institute
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Smithsonian National Postal Museum The Pichs Collection, Exploring Cuba's History Through Postage Stamps
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Postal History
Aviation History

International Mail (3)

Cuba maintained an extensive trade with the United States in the nineteenth century. Cuba was part of the “triangle trade,” where wood staves, lumber, flour and meat were carried to the West Indies and Cuba, and exchanged for sugar, coffee, rum and molasses. These in turn were taken to England to be exchanged for iron, tea and silk goods for the return trip to the United States.

Tome I, p9: San Jago de Cuba to Philadelphia. 22 July 1836.

This folded letter addressed to Philadelphia was written from “S. Jago de Cuba, July 22, 1836.” It was not handed in to the post office, but given to the captain of the vessel, Emily. A brig Emily, of 188 tons, is recorded as having been constructed at Philadelphia in 1809. This may be the vessel involved. Newspaper records show that a brig Emily arrived at the port of Philadelphia on Monday, August 15, under the command of Captain Stotesbury, 16 days from St. Jago de Cuba, with sugar, coffee, etc., consigned to the merchant house of J.B. Bernadou.

Upon arrival at Philadelphia, the captain was required to take any mail he carried to the post office. Judging by the addressee’s docketing date of receipt on January 2, 1837, Captain Stotesbury apparently mislaid the letter when he arrived in August, and only brought it to the post office months later when he came across it again.

When it was deposited, the rating clerk marked it with Philadelphia’s distinctive double octagonal rate mark “6.” This was according to the Postal Act of March 3, 1825, still in force. Section 15 stated that every single weight letter brought into the United States in any private ship or vessel, shall be charged with 6 cents postage if delivered to the post office where the same shall arrive.

The earliest date recorded for this blue “6” marking is December, 1836. Since this letter is docketed as having been received by the addressee on January 2, 1837, that authenticates the usage of this new handstamp within the first month of its initial application.

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