Iowa: 1832-1846.

(C-0284) Below is the earliest stampless cover in our collection. From Dubuque/Delaware County pioneer, G. D. Dillon, writing to his wife, Mary, in Dubuque. The letter was written June 17, 1840. Click here for more.

The following two stampless covers are associated with Gilman Folsom of Iowa City. Dates: November 1841 and July 1844.

(C-0260) Stamp-less postal letter, dated Sunday, November 28th, 1841From Winthop Folsom of Dorchester New Hampshire (mailed in West Romney, NH), addressed to Gilman Folsom, Esqr, Iowa City, Iowa Territory.
(C-0023) Stamp-less postal letter, dated July 7th, 1844From Winthop Folsom of Dorchester New Hampshire (mailed in West Rumney, NH), addressed to Gilman Folsom, Esqr, Iowa City, Iowa Territory.
(C-0259) Stamp-less postal letter, dated June 13th, 1844From John H. Lines, Clerk of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, addressed to The Secretary of Iowa Territory (Samuel J. Burr), Iowa City, Iowa Territory.
(C-0259) Line’s letter was received in Iowa City, then returned by Barr (SB) to Lines in Lee County (for correction?), and apparently re-mailed by Lines (with 2nd marking of 12.5 cents) to Iowa City, with the date of arrival (postmarked August 30, 1844) in Iowa City.
(C-0022) February 10, 1845 stamp-less postmarked letter – Iowa City – Johnson County – Iowa Territory  This rare letter set is addressed to the Sheriff of Muscatine County in the city of Bloomington, (Muscatine) Iowa. It is a two page letter/court document from the District Court in Johnson County – Iowa Territory and was most likely drawn up in the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City. The issue at hand is money still owed to William Green by four brothers (Carothers et al) surrounding the purchase of two pieces of Muscatine County land (near Nichols, IA) first negotiated in January 1843. The letter was written by and has the wax seal of Stephen B. Gardner (SGB), Clerk of the District Court, Johnson County, Iowa Territory, and page two includes the embossed seal of the Supreme Court of Iowa Territory, witnessed by the Honorable Judge Joseph Williams on February 7, 1845. This set also includes a third page, a response from Sheriff George W. Humphrey, signed March 28, 1845. This set is a true postal treasure dating back to the days when Iowa was a U.S. Territory (1838-1846).

The United States issued its first postage stamps in 1847. Before that time, all domestic mail was “stampless” with the rates, dates and origin of the letter being either written by hand (manuscript) or sometimes in combination with a handstamp device. Postage rates varied according to the distance a letter was to be carried from the post office where it entered the mail to its final destination. These “zone” rates were relatively stable from 1816 to 1845, with a single (1 ounce) letter rate as follows:

Not over 30 miles, per oz.: 6 cents. 31 to 80 miles, per oz.: 10 cents. 81 to 150 miles, per oz.: 12½ cents. 151 to 400 miles, per oz.: 18¾ cents. Over 400 miles, per oz.: 25 cents.

There were “double” and “triple” rates as the letter’s size increased. So our letter, marked “Double 20” meant the Postmaster used the 6 cent rate (up to 30 miles) x 2 = 12 cents being paid for posting this letter from Iowa City to Bloomington, Iowa. Interestingly, the mileage from Iowa City to Muscatine (Bloomington) is 41 miles, but the property in question is near Nichols, IA which is on the western side of Muscatine County, only 22 miles from Iowa City. Apparently, the Postmaster in Iowa City was being generous with the Territorial Court Clerk, only charging him for 20 miles of postal service.

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