Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
March 23, 1837 from Benedict Arnold Green in New York
to Brother John W. Green, Providence via Steamboat

(Explanation of  Rate, Cover Markings and Letter Text Follows Below)

This Stampless Folded Letter (SFL) was sent from New York City via Steamboat by Benedict Arnold Greene  to his brother John W. Greene in Providence, Rhode Island. Benedict was a crewmember (most likely first or second mate at this time) on a ship getting ready to depart New York with cargo for St. Petersburg, Russia. The letter is marked with the 183/4 cents rate that became effective as of May 1, 1825 for mail traveling a distance between 150 and 400 miles.

Steamboat Mail was officially recognized by the Post Office in 1825 and a fee of 2 cents was paid to the Ship's Master by the Postmaster of the receiving Post Office. Unlike Ship Mail; this fee was taken from the regular rate charge and not added on as an additional fee charged to the recipient. (Thus, the 183/4 rate on this letter is correct.)

The Origin Marking - Steamboat Mail was applied to mail that was picked up and carried on inland waterways, rivers, canals, and in some cases along coastal waterways by steamboats that were not directly contracted to the Post Office Department.

The Steamboat Marking on the cover above was applied at the Point of Origin, (Point where the letter entered the mail system), which in this case would have been Providence, RI.  This Steamboat Marking was used by the Providence Post Office from 1832 to 1852, measures 43 x 4 mm and was produced in both red and black.

John Wickes Green was born on October 7, 1809; the son of Robert W. Green He married Mary Almira Low of Old Warwick on October 3, 1831. He worked as a clerk in the Providence Post Office for 7 years during the late 1830s/early 1840s and in 1845 assumed a position as keeper of the Warwick Neck Lighthouse in Narragansett Bay. He resided in Oakland Beach, Rhode island and was the father of 6 children; Mary, Isabel, Harriet, Ellen, John and Robert

Captain Benedict Arnold Greene was born in Old Warwick, Rhode Island on January 17, 1812. He married Abigail Adams on October 19, 1837 and was the father of four children; Robert, Julia, Moses and Walter. He eventually rose to become a ship's captain and died at sea on January 12, 1858 while commanding Rufus Greene's bark Maryland out of Providence, RI on a return voyage from Zanzibar, Africa. 

I had almost decided not to transcribe the text on the letter above, as the first several lines all dealt with  with the writer's being sick or as he put it "unwell." However, I kept reading and was delighted with the rest of the content. This letter turned out to be a gem and was full of interesting information. The writer was evidently an officer on board a merchant ship plying the Atlantic Crossing and the letter contains information concerning cargo and other aspects of the mercantile trade of the period that I found absolutely fascinating. The letter text has been transcribed below for your reading enjoyment.
Full Text of Letter Follows:

Dear Brother,
               I received your letter a week ago yesterday. I was unwell at the time. I was taken sick 3 days after we arrived and I was unwell for ten days. I was in most shocking ruin for eight days although my appetite was good all the time. I presume it was owing to change of diet of a long voyage as it is very often the case and a week ago last Saturday, I met Margaret, (whom I found) gave me some strong Sage Tea for a treat and in the night, I kicked all the covers from me and when I awoke, I was most froze for our cabin is cold as a barn.
(This could refer to his fever breaking.) I caught a severe cold although I had none before. Last Saturday I was perfectly well and have been ever since. I have not received the letter (he crossed out letter and wrote in paper) paper you was agoing to send me. It had not come to Richard & Richardson yesterday. I went to the Post Office - it was not there. I presume you have not sent it. 

Concerning General Jackson's Farewell Address, I could not get time to go myself. Captain Clarke went for me. He said there was none printed, but would be the first of this week. They print no more than they have orders for and those are $1.50 per fifty and you requested me to give only 75 cents, therefore I thought you would not wish for them. It is more than I would give for them.

NOTE: President Andrew Jackson gave his farewell Address to the Nation on March 4, 1837
See: Jackson's Farewell Address.

I now get $35.00 per month, money enough to cloth me and do not see any prospects of ever getting more. We finished discharging (Cargo) last Monday and there has been a lighter (barge) load of logwood alongside for two days for us to take on, but it has rained all the time. We are bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. We are chartered; shall probably be gone near five months.  We shall not be so deep (vessel's draft due to loaded cargo) as our two last cargos were, if she was I would not go on her for I have suffered enough from wet feet for the last eight months. 

Our cargo for home is hemp with iron enough to ballast her by 50 tons. It will be a very pleasant voyage for the summer season. The sun will not be out of sight more than one hour in 24. (Evidently they will sail via the great circle route which would put them near the artic circle.) I can not come home this time for it would cost me 50 to fix myself up to come and return. I think I shall come home on my return or at least such is my anticipation. 

Concerning my grandfather's estate, I hardly know what to say, if he sells I think our share will be but small. I was hoping father would come down as he can't be very busy at this time. 

Give my best respects to father and to Sarah and Gracie. Tell them I have two beautiful accordions for them which I got in ????. One with 17 knobs and 4 stops, the other with 12 knobs and 2 stops. I get them out every once in awhile and play on them. If there is any school for them to learn to play on them, providing and they wish to learn, I will pay whatever it costs them to learn.

I should like to know if Captain (Tollen or Tolben) has gone to sea yet. If so, what has he gone in. I do not know as I have anything more to say at present. Write soon for we shall probably go away in about 10 days. My respects to all my many friends.

  Your Affectionate Brother,

B. A. Greene 

I do not know whether there is a steamboat for Providence tomorrow or not. I shall send this by the first boat.  
P.S. The skin is all coming off my fingers where I froze them off Sandy Hook.
(New Jersey shore at entrance to New York Harbor

RI Historical Society
Stampless I
Stampless II

Stampless III
Stampless IV
Stampless V
Stampless VI
Brown & Ives Letters
The Hazard Family Letters
Joseph Tillinghast
Free Franked Letters
DeWolf Family Letters

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