This page last updated: 16 October 2009

::: Privately Handled Mail in the Middle Treaty Period :::

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Private letter bags were handled by merchant firms in Honolulu and San Francisco from the early days after the Panama Route began. Their activity during the early part of the Treaty Period is discussed in the Early Treaty Period.

In the Middle Treaty Period, the San Francisco firm of G. B. Post & Co. continued to operate the Regular Despatch Line of sailing vessels. That line was begun in the Early Treaty Period with Honolulu merchants H. T. Fitch, R. Cody, and others. Post's business began to fail, and he sold his interest in the RDL in mid-1856. With G. B. Post's withdrawal from the RDL, letters carried in private letter bags lost the distinctive G. B. Post & Co. octagonal forwarder mark. Other San Francisco merchants were operating private letter bags with corresponding Honolulu merchants. Charles Brooks and J. C. Merrill & Co. forwarder marking devices made to show when one of those firms handled a letter. As was true in the early treaty period, inbound letters carried in the private letter bags outnumber outbound letters probably because people in San Francisco were in the habit of taking their letters directly to merchant letter bags instead of to the post office, while people in Honolulu used the post office more regularly. Privately handled letters sometimes were transported by private hands part of the way and in official mail bags another part of the way. For illustrations of forwarder marks see Hawaii Forwarder Agent Marks, and San Francisco Auxiliary Marks, Forwarder Marks and Cancel Examples.

55 - Dec 29 from Valparaiso PER SCHR_ 'FORWARD' entire back - Peters

This letter originated in Valparaiso, Chile and is dated December 29, 1855. It was carried in the official mail bag to San Francisco via Callao and Panama. At Panama it entered the United States mail and was placed aboard a San Francisco bound Pacific Mail steamship. On the trip from Valparaiso to San Francisco, the cover was enclosed in another envelope addressed to a San Francisco merchant (probably G. B. Post & Co.). On reaching San Francisco, the outer cover was delivered to the addressee from the post office and the addressee removed the enclosed letter addressed to Krull & Moll in Honolulu, and had it placed in the G. B. Post & Co. private letter bag for conveyance to Honolulu. At G. B. Post's office, the cover was marked with the "PER SCHR. 'FORWARD'" vessel marking, and sent to a Honolulu merchant (probably H. T. Fitch). The Forward arrived in Honolulu on March 10, 1856. The marking is unique to this cover.

55 - Jul BK FRANCES PALMER, Rumsey #33, lot 1370

The letter shown above originated in France and, like the first cover shown above, was carried to San Francisco enclosed in an outer envelope, probably sent in the official letter bag. This letter was addressed to the San Francisco firm of Morgan, Hathaway & Co. Morgan, Hathaway took the letter to G. B. Post & Co. for conveyance to Honolulu in that firm's private letter bag. G. B. Post & Co. stamped the cover with its octagon forwarding mark and applied the "BK. 'FRANCES PALMER.'" vessel marking. The bark Frances Palmer arrived at Honolulu on September 17, 1855.


Above is an example of a letter originating at San Francisco. This letter was received in Honolulu on May 13, 1856, brought to Honolulu in a private letter bag aboard the bark Fanny Major. The sender, F. A. Hammond, delivered this cover directly to the G. B. Post & Co. office in San Francisco instead of taking it to the San Francisco Post Office. G. B. Post & Co. marked its octagon forwarding mark and applied the vessel marking "BARK 'FANNY MAJOR." at its office. On reaching Honolulu, the letter bag was delivered to a merchant correspondent of G. B. Post & Co. who had a key to the letter bag.

55 - Aug 30 Melchers wrapper - obverse
55 - Aug 30 Melchers wrapper - reverse

Shown above are front and back images of a prepaid newspaper wrapper sent to Germany. Initially, the newspaper was handled privately by Melchers & Co. of Honolulu, who stamped its oval mark on the wrapper (right image). From Honolulu, the newspaper went to San Francisco in a private letter bag aboard the American bark Yankee, departing Honolulu August 30, 1855 and arriving San Francisco September 15. On reaching San Francisco, it entered the United States mail and was sent on to Bremen via Panama, New York and England in the official mail bag. The Aachen open mail postmark shows the newspaper entered the Prussian mail on October 30.

Inbound and outbound letter:

62 - Jul _ to Mrs L L Gulick - Brooks

Docketing information written on this cover shows it was handled privately throughout. First, it was forwarded to Honolulu by the San Francisco firm of Chas. W. Brooks & Co. The Gulicks had left Honolulu for a mission station in the Marquesas Islands. The next ship for the Marquesas Islands was the Morning Star, departing Honolulu April 2, 1862, and this letter was in the missionary letter bag.

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