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
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.