Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
January 11, 1798 Stampless Cover
From Ship's Captain - George J. Tyler at Lisbon, Portugal
To Brown and Ives - Merchants - Providence Rhode Island
Via Captain Kempton to Norfolk, Virginia

This letter was written on an extremely thin onion skin type of paper and was very hard to read due to the writing on the opposite sides showing through and partially obscuring what was written on the other side. However, with the help of my trusty magnifying glass, I did manage to decipher it. (It took me a week of going over it. The few words that I was unable to read, I have marked in bold red script.)

The letter concerns goods shipped by Brown and Ives to Portugal and the purchase of salt for the next leg of the voyage. Several other matters are discussed, including French Privateers, tobacco prices and doing business in Spain. All in all, this is the most interesting early Brown letter I have come across so far.

The letter was sent by ship, Captain Kempton commanding to Norfolk, Virginia and thence overland to Providence, Rhode island.  The Feb 25 Date stamp indicates it arrived in Norfolk on that date and the script 29 at the top right is for the 29 cent single weight ship letter rate established in 1792 for a letter traveling over 450 miles from port of arrival to its final destination. The Brown and Ives Captain, George Tyler is evidently also from Providence, RI as he asks to notify his parents that he is well. 

NOTE: I originally thought that the script "Via Norfolk" referred to Captain Kempton's ship, however after further research I find that Captain Ephraim Kempton died on October 30, 1798 in Norfolk, Virginia and the inland distance of over 450 miles indicates that the letter traveled from Norfolk or another city in that area to Providence. The date to the left of the rate script indicates that the letter was received by Brown and Ives on March 15.

The firm of Nicholas Brown and Company was renamed Brown and Benson after George Benson joined the company. The original firm was founded by the four Brown brothers; Nicholas Sr., Joseph, John, and Moses. After the death of Nicholas Sr. in 1790, his son Nicholas Brown, Jr. took over the reins of the firm which was then joined by his sister's husband Thomas Poynton Ives and in 1791 the firm became known as Brown and Ives.

See below links for further information: 
The History of Brown and Ives with Brown family Genealogy 
1789 Brown and Benson Letter from Champion and Dickason - London 
1834 Brown & Ives Letter from Amsterdam Factor
1852 Brown & Ives Letter from Baring Brothers - London, England 
Brown and Ives Family of Providence - Covers & Letters 

Complete Text of Letter Follows:

 Lisbon January 11, 1798

Msrs Brown and Ives,
I wrote you on the 6th and 9th insts. by the brig dispatch; Cap' Rinker via Philadelphia which letter I hope may safely arrive. I have now to advise you, the ship was discharged this day. The salt is promised us. Our assessment will be made out tomorrow and presented for payment and doubt not it will be punctually honored when presented and at present see not the least obstacle to prevent our leaving the 17th with wind and weather permitting.

In my last, I mentioned that I had it in contemplation to remit the proceeds of my cargo in the same manner as last voyage. At present I am of same opinion, but would advise you in time in regards to insurance. French Privateers have here sent in home prizes to the (-?????-). As that coast is thoroughly guarded by English business, probably more of them will be sent in ere long. The French, I think will never pretend to molest an American vessel loaded with salt if the vessel is protected by the best of papers legally attested to.

Note: The United States almost went to war with France during this period over the depredations of French Privateers and impressments of American Seamen. Eventually we did get in a war (War of 1812) over this issue, but with the British, who were also engaged in stopping our ships on the high seas and impressing our sailors into their service.

Tobacco at this period would answer exceptionally well at any market in Europe. At Bordeaux, I have been credibly informed it has been sold at 50 crowns the (-?????-). At Gibraltar it commanded 40 dollars. In Spain we learned it was formerly perpetual slavery to carry and land, it is now permitted to be sold. The King purchases and gives 40 dollars a (-?????-). with liberty to carry the dollars from the Kingdom, but how long this license will last, no probable time can be set.

It is my opinion, a cargo of tobacco will answer well to be delivered in April or May next, either at Gibraltar or Spain. If so, I am entirely without doubt you will answer at this place by Captain Cunningham who sails from Boston on the 14th.

I shall advise you of the sailing of our own cargo and amount of it. & depend Gentlemen, I shall write you every conveyance. I shall use all dispatch of economy it requires, etc.


                                                      I am Gentleman your
                                                      Obedient Servant
                                                      George J. Tyler

Please inform my parents , I am well.

Our rice sold at $4,600 (-?????-). The Portuguese inventoried, delivered from on board at the invoice weight & (-?????-).

RI Historical Society
Stampless I
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Stampless V
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Brown & Ives Letters
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Joseph Tillinghast
Free Franked Letters
DeWolf Family Letters

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