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The 7¢ Vermillion Stanton Envelopes (part 2)

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New Release Date for 7 Cent Envelope

While the formal announcement of the 7 cent envelope (which eventually was to be the 7 cent Reay, Scott no. U88) had been made September 1, 1870, there was no incentive to push the work forward until Reay officially had a contract and hostilities were over. Once mail service resumed - as it did in September 1870 - it was more important to push the release of the 7 cent stamp (Scott nos. 138, 149). As a result, the new announcement for the 7 cent envelope did not take place until May 1, 1871, at which time Terrell issued a circular offering the "Stamped Envelopes and Newspaper Wrappers of the issue of October 1, 1870," e.g., the new Reay contract, with a schedule to take effect on and after July 1, 1871. This announcement set the new issue dates for all of the new Reay envelopes. In the attached schedule the 7 cent Third Quality no. 3 amber envelope (3-3/8 x 5-1/2 inches) was made available to the public at a price of $7.24 per 100. The most significant points in this circular are the following three paragraphs:

"Owing to a change of contractors and of contract prices, it becomes necessary, under the law [ed. - the 1853 law] requiring that 'Stamped Envelopes shall be sold at the cost of procuring and furnishing the same, to change the schedule of rates at which Stamped Envelopes and Newspaper Wrappers of the issue of October 1, 1870 are now sold to the public.

The change will take effect on the 1st day of July, 1871, and all Stamped Envelopes and Newspaper Wrappers supplied by the Department on and after that date, must be sold at the prices specified by the now schedule a copy of which accompanies this circular.

Envelopes and wrappers furnished prior to the 1st July next, whether they be of the present or previous issue, must be sold at the rates at which they were obtained from the Post-office Department..."

What this announcement amounts to is:

  • the first announcement of the availability of the Reay envelopes, which were apparently not ready until about May 1, 1871,
  • a notice that prices might be different for the Reay and Nesbitt envelopes,
  • that, while orders might be filled before July 1st with the new envelopes, it would be on a fill-in basis similar to the situation that had prevailed on the National Banknote stamps between January 1, 1870 and the April announcement of the issue.

Hahn, previously cited, discusses the implications of this point in detail.

German Rate Changes

On March 31, 1871, an additional article to the NGU postal convention was signed at Washington, DC. It was signed at Berlin on May 14th, and set forth a new 6 cent direct rate to Germany via the Baltic Lloyd line as soon as that line began to operate. The new rate was announced on June 21, 1871 for the proposed sailing of the Humboldt on July 13th, but the vessel did not inaugurate service from New York until July 22nd. This was the beginning of the end of the 7 cent direct mail rate for which the 7 cent envelope had originally been intended.

On August 21, 1871, Mr. Blackfan announced that a new arrangement had been made with Germany to "take effect on the 1st of October" by which postage on prepaid letters via closed mail through England was reduced from 10 to 7 cents per half ounce. Unpaid letters were double-rated. This created a new use for the 7 cent stamp and letter. On August 30th, Blackfan announced that the direct mails via Bremen and Hamburg would be reduced from 7 to 6 cents per half ounce. This ended the 7 cent direct rate structure for which both the stamp and envelope had been initially proposed.

The sum of these announcements meant that prior to the new October 1, 1871 closed mail via England 7 cent rate, there were the following direct sailings that required either a 7 or 6 cent rate respectively:

  • After October 1, 1871, all direct mail was carried at the 6 cent rate, obviating the need for the 7 cent stamp and envelope as previously noted, but the new closed mail rate via England generated a new need for the two items.
  • This new rate structure continued until the introduction of the General Postal Union rate of 5 cents, effective July 1, 1875. Lurch argued that it was essential to realize that used 7c envelopes must be postmarked between October 1, 1871 and June 30, 1875.

I concur that any late uses do not belong in a used envelope collection as a showing of the proper use. Nevertheless, there is a group of 7 cent envelopes used considerably out-of-period. They can be described as "cute," "late uses," or "philatelic." However, while any 7 cent envelope used is a rarity, with only 36 reported, and another six to a dozen probable, these out-of-periods miss the pail.

A Brief Look at Other Rates

The actual use of the 7 cent envelope, rather than its intended use, was primarily for the closed mail via England treaty rate. The Baltic Lloyd 6 cent rate that covered "Germany, Austria and Luxemburg" according to the July 21, 1871 announcement and extended to Norway on August 2nd was not involved.

As stated, the 7 cent closed mail rate included Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg. This also meant such places as Heligoland, parts of Poland occupied by Germany or Austria, Hungary (under the Austro-Hungarian customs union), etc. A notice of December 12, 1871 added Denmark, effective January 1, 1872, while on March 14th, the rate was extended to Greenland and the Faroes.

The November 1871 United States Mail & Post Office Assistant (USM&POA) reported a 7 cent newspaper rate to Italy, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Rhodes, Turkey, and other points via NGU closed mail through England. Alexandria, Norway, and Sweden had this newspaper rate direct via the NGU. In June 1872 the newspaper rate covered Denmark, the East Indies, Norway, and Sweden (both direct and closed mails) as well as Turkey. On August 5, 1872, the 7 cent newspaper rate was extended to Spain, Russia, and Constantinople via the English closed mails for the NGU.

A third group of possible 7 cent envelope uses involved multiple rates. A 14 cent new open mail rate to Egypt, Tunis, and Tripoli via the Italian mails was announced on January 20, 1871. By November 1871 there was a 14 cent direct mail rate to Greece. A 21 cent rate for the German mails via Brindisi for Aden, Ceylon, India, the East Indies, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama, Australia, etc., was announced October 12, 1871. Earlier, on October 26, 1870, Blackfan announced a 28 cent rate via NGU mails through Brindisi for the British East Indies, except Ceylon. There were also 28 cent rates to Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay and St. Helena, the Cape of Good Hope, and much of the Far East during the 7 cent envelope era. Envelopes could just as easily be used for the 22 cent rate to Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador with a 15 cent stamp added or with two 10 cent stamps to pay the 27 cent treaty rate to China. It was also possible to use the envelope as part of a postage and registration fee domestically or going abroad. In sum, there were many opportunities to use the 7 cent envelopes as part of a combined rate using either the 7 cent stamp or other combinations.

Essay Evidence

The 7 cent Reay envelope should have been available by May 1, 1871 when Terrell made his announcement of "availability by July 1, 1871." However, there is reason to doubt that it was, and it is probable that no exact information on the date has survived. At the top of any specialized collection is the design source of the material - the essays, proofs, and trial colors, if any. Such material is available for the 7 cent envelopes, albeit most of the surviving items are unique.

The most spectacular pieces of which I know come from Herman Herst, Jr., discovered sometime in 1967 while he was in Shrub Oak, NY These pieces were reportedly in the effects of the grandson of the person in the Post Office Department who arranged for the 7 cent envelopes, presumably Terrell's grandson or great-grandson. Norman Lurch, who originally acquired the material, was told that the family was from St. Louis, MO, and that there were only five pieces. Three were on card and two on paper.

The premier piece is a card proof, approximately 2x3 inches, which has a manuscript notation reading:

"Changes Suggested June 7, 1871
with the initials "W.H.H.T." affixed at the bottom. The suggested changes included a shortening of the bust at the back and changes in the beard. A second card proof has even more severe beard changes and a sharper cut-back of the bust in the back but is undated and unsigned. Neither change was apparently acceptable to Reay and the original Laubenheimer design remained intact. The proofs have almost complete circles of red ink around the design as if to highlight it."

The existence of the June 7th design, with Terrell's notes on changes, makes it clear that the design had not been finalized when the announcement of issue of the new Reay envelopes was made on May 1, 1871. We have no evidence that it might not have been available in approved format by July 1, 1871. What we do have is a summary of the envelopes "manufactured" in the same fashion that the John Luff records on "Statistics of Manufacture" were compiled for the National Banknote stamps. Ed McGovern compiled this envelope record and it is divided into plain envelopes and those where printing (such as return addresses) was requested. On a quarterly basis of envelopes "issued" to post offices, we have the following:

"Refer to original article for number breakdown."

From this record we know that the 7 cent envelopes were not sent to the post offices until after July 1, 1871, but that they were available for the new October 1871 7 cent via British closed mail rate. We also know that there were only two printings of 11 request" envelopes - in the fall of 1871 and the winter of 1874.

In addition to the essays and proofs that came from the St. Louis find, I have written reference to a wax impression from this die as well. William B. Maisel and group updated the classic Mason catalog of postal stationery dies proofs and essays in 1989 but without additional details.

A hub die proof does exist. It is 137x115mm and is reportedly unique. Mason originally listed it as no. 56, issue of 1871, and was probably printed between mid-June and late September 1871. It was last publicly offered according to my records in the Carl E. Pelander sale of October 17-18, 1941, where it was lot 617. Lurch attributed it to the Leighton & Wells sales (H.R. Harmer, Inc., April 21-24, 1958) as part of lot 347. The catalog noted the size was 136xll8mm, while the Pelander sale reported 136x115mm. The hub die proof lot in the Wells sale noted a 136xll8mm size. Because of the slight difference, it is possible that two such hub die proofs exist although I doubt it. A similarly described piece is also known in the Lanton sale (Eugene Klein no. 103, January 21, 1938) as lot 299 (Mason no. 56) with a 137x120mm. measurement. Are these all the same piece? I think so.

Thorp-BarteIs lists a trial color, struck from an untrimmed die on card, "cerise on white (die 45)" that is probably the finished card item reported among the five essays discussed above. No other pieces are known to any of the current specialists and none appear in the leading stationery auctions, the Barkhausen (Harmer June 14-15, 1955 11 and III sales), the Siegel Marcus White (December 10-11, 1970 and March 3-4, 1971 sales), nor the W. Parsons Todd Part II sale (Siegel January 10-11, 1978).

There are Reay design 7 cent specimen envelopes. One is the Thorp-Bartels no. 307 Specimen form 12 (311/2 x 3V2 mm) of the die 45 amber paper size 3, knife 28 square gum, watermark 2, variety B-1. A second type (Thorp-Bartels no. 308) Specimen form 14 (41x4mm) is known. It is knife 29 with the other characteristics being the same so that it is variety B-2. Knife 29 has a 14mm throat in the folding while knife 28 has only l0mm or less.

The most recent Haller catalog, Private Printed Franks on U.S. Gov-ernment Envelopes, confirms that the Reay envelope comes with a Wells-Fargo type E imprint (see p. 118), which is not known used. Lurch indicated to me that three mint examples are known with his copy being originally from the Thomas Doane Perry collection (lot 1327 of the December 8-10, 1958 sale). It was illustrated in his 1966 Linn's article and is Thorp-Bartels no. 307 with the imprint measuring 72xl8mm with the legend on the left reading "if not delivered within 10 days, to be returned to." The envelope measures 83x139mm. I have traced it to a Eugene Costales Wells Fargo auction held May 28-29, 1945.

There were two imprintings of 500 each (a box) on the Reay envelopes. As noted above, the first was "issued" in the fall of 1871 and the second in the quarter ending March 31, 1874. The legal requirements for imprinting changed by the time of the Reay contract so that the imprint could now not indicate the sender's occupation. This meant that on the 1871 imprinting, if not on both, the government imprints were apparently only the "if not delivered ... return to" variety. Consequently, Wells Fargo imprints could not be done by the government but would have had to be done privately.

Other than the unused Wells Fargo imprints, at least five used imprinted covers are known (one is a late favor use) and several unused. In private correspondence to me, Lurch estimated that 25-50 covers were imprinted by Wells Fargo. However, Calvet Hahn suggested that with three survivors this appears to be too low and that a figure of a half box is more likely, if not a full box. He was also the first to comment upon the relationship between the imprints and dates of issue, noting that the first 500 imprints were knife 28, and that uses would more likely be 1871 or 1872 than 1873. He added that the survival ratios of imprinted covers is in the ballpark of one percent, which fits other cover survival patterns fairly well. All used imprints and the Wells Fargo are knife 28. There is an unused knife 29 imprint.

In reviewing the draft of this manuscript, Hahn also observed that although the knife numbers were assigned arbitrarily based upon date of discovery, there did appear to be a sequential use, at least in the case of the Reays's (over 10 cent) and that knife 29 was not used on the 1, 2, and 10 cent. It appears to have been used on later printings of the remaining values, e.g., Specimen 14, etc. He concluded that the earliest uses come from knife 28 and the first imprinting should be from that knife exclusively. There is an unused knife 29 imprint.

The 7 cent Reay envelope is known both as an amber shade (knives 28 and 29) as well as a rare very light amber shade (knife 29). A used example of the very light amber is known on a cover from stamp dealer Durbin (of Durbin & Bogert), posted in Philadelphia on April 2, 1875, and sent with a 3 and 10 cent banknote to a stamp dealer in Brighton, England, registered. A possible very late use of the very light amber (Thorp-Bartels no. 308a) is found on a registered printed matter cover to Belgium in 1908. The in-period use cover suggests the light amber was probably the 250-envelope printing by Reay issued by September 30, 1874. The light ambers are knife 29.

The description Of Thorp-Bartels no. 308a is "exceedingly light shade of amber, almost white"; the covers described above are of an amber shade. However, there is another item allegedly on "white paper." In a note I have located on an envelope wrapper marked J.M.B. (J. Murray Bartels), it is described as really creamy white, not pure white. In the William Weiss, Jr. sale of December 1, 1990 (lot 371) is an apparently white Reay 7 cent envelope imprinted privately by the Star Stamp Co. of Reading, PA, "Established 1869." This is an apparent previously unrecorded type, for it is not "very light amber." A used example was apparently sent to Denmark in the summer of 1874, so this would have been printed earlier.

Mr. Hahn drew my attention to the previously overlooked preceding lot in the same sale that contained two Reay 7 cent "official" sized envelopes, using knives 25 and 26 (sizes used for no. 2, or "lady's" sized covers). While it is likely that part of the description is wrong, the envelopes are on "white paper" as is the Star Stamp item. All three items would most likely be from the later Reay printings.

On to part 3.