This page last updated: 22 September 2007


::: PRE-POSTAL MAIL - Via California and Mexico Covers :::

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On May 10, 1844, the French ship Lion left Honolulu Harbor for Monterey, Alta California. According to The Polynesian, she carried letters for the East to be forwarded by T. O. Larkin at Monterey. Larkin was the U. S. Consul at Monterey, the capital of Alta California, then still under Mexican rule. Overland mail routes across the continent were years off in the future but the published correspondence to and from Larkin shows Californians frequently used the via Mexico route.

John Ricord signed the letter. Ricord arrived in Honolulu during February, 1844, and immediately took up the post of Attorney General. He addressed his letter to his mother, Elizabeth Ricord, who lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (the first page of the letter is missing but the page with his signature remains intact). On this cover are found the oval forwarding handstamp of Thomas O. Larkin, a manuscript forwarding notation applied on August 3, 1844, by Wm. Dimond, U. S. Consul at Vera Cruz, Mexico, and a circle date stamp of New Orleans, dated August 21. At New Orleans, the cover was rated with a blue "52" representing a 2 ship fee and the U. S. double zone rate of 50 for over 400 miles. Just to seal the proof, in June, 1844, Larkin sent two dispatches to Secretary of State John C. Calhoun. One dated June 20, 1844, mentions the Lion being at Monterey. That dispatch and another dated June 24, 1844, were received at Washington on August 31, ten days following the New Orleans date stamp on the cover under study (an exactly correct transit time for that period). So at last we have a cover representing this unusual route. So far I am unable to identify the ship carrying this cover and Larkin's dispatches from Monterey to Mazatlan or the ship carrying them from Vera Cruz to New Orleans.

The Ricord cover:

Ricord cover

John Ricord's signature

Ricord signature - 150

Thomas O. Larkin's oval forwarding handstamp
(strengthened in part by some early collector or dealer)

Larkin oval on Ricord letter

William Dimond's manuscript forwarding notation dated August 3, 1844

Dimond ms on Ricord letter

New Orleans date stamp, SHIP mark and rate; the "Double only" is in Ricord's hand

Ricord letter NO cds and PAID
Ricord letter rate detail

The Wyllie cover:

Wyllie to Stevens 25Jan48

Another cover is recorded going via California and Mexico. This cover was sent on January 25, 1848, by Hawaiian Foreign Minister Wyllie to Thomas S. Stevens, who had departed Honolulu December 20, 1847 on the ill-fated ship Maria Helena. Unbeknownst to Wyllie, the Maria Helena was shipwrecked on Christmas Island [See description of the Maria Helena shipwreck at Pre-Postal Mail] when Wyllie dispatched his letter to Stevens on January 25, 1848. Referencing the sailing dates, we can tell this letter was sent either on the Wilhelmine, departing Honolulu February 1, or the Starling, departing Honolulu February 4. Both vessels traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico, via Monterey, California. Unlike the Ricord cover, which certainly was unloaded and reshipped at Monterey, the Wyllie cover probably remained aboard whichever vessel carried it while anchored at Monterey.

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