Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
1817 Letter - John Maybin, Philadelphia to Nicholas Peck & Son, Providence

Letter concerns safe arrival of the Peck & Son Brig
Francis at Philadelphia 
(Scroll Down for Text of Letter and Background History)

181/2 Cent Rate Marking with "PHIL 12 MAY" Town Cancel

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The Town Postmark is the 1816 to 1834 type of Philadelphia cancel in Red-Brown and has "PHIL" in an arc at top with day and Month below. The rate of 181/2 cents is the correct rate for a single sheet letter weighing less than one ounce and traveling a distance between 150 and 300 miles, (Philadelphia to Bristol, RI). The rate was set by the Postal Act of April 9, 1816 and became effective on May 1, 1816. This zone rate was changed by the Postal Act of March 3, 1825 to 183/4 cents which was in effect until July 1, 1845.

The letter from Mr. Maybin informs Msrs Peck and Son that their brig Francis arrived safely and discusses the cargo of coffee and Lignum Vitae and logwood The letter also discusses prices for other types of cargo and the small chances of getting another charter or freight for the ship. Mr. Nicholas Peck and Son were Bristol, RI shipping merchants and their cargos included lumber, grain, molasses, nails, produce, rum, and tobacco. They were also involved in the Slave Trade.

The Letter text and a short biography of Nicholas Peck follows below.  

Philadelphia May 12th 1817

Mesr Nicholas Peck & Son
                            Dear Sir,
                                         On Saturday I rcvd your esteemed favor of the 6th instant advising that you had received letters from Capt. P. Davenport mentioning that he should sail with your Brig Francis from Port Au Prince
(Haiti) to this place -- I have the pleasure of to announce the safe arrival of Capt. Davenport with your Brig yesterday Sunday. She has on board for your custom -- some Coffee, Lignum Vitae and Logwood -- The Captain is now entering his vessel -- The coffee if lands before I hear from you -- I suppose will have to be put in store until I know your pleasure respecting it. The price in the market will depend upon the quality say 17 to 21 cents, Lignum Vitae 20 to 23 dollars -- The demand for vessels just now is very small, we have a great deal of commerce in port, and little for it to do -- Flour is on the decline the factors now ask 131/4 to 131/2 dollars for super fine, Rye flour 73/4 to 8 dollars -- Freights to Europe 4'6 to 5' Sterling a barrel, the owners of vessels offer to take it at cost now. There are but few shipping -- I will advertise your Brig for Freight or charter until discharged and if Freight can be got if even small I think it better than to load on your own accounts --  but your information from abroad will perhaps be better able to govern you, than any information I have -- For my own part I am, and never was more at a loss, than at the present time, to give advice, relative to commissions -- When anything is done you shall be advised. When your courier writes from Fredericksburg I will carrier send with them.        

  With Due Respect I am Dear  
  Sir your obedient and Humble Servant  
  John Maybin

NOTE: In the early 19th century, Lignum Vitae was used to treat tropical diseases. It was also popular as a treatment for syphilis, rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory problems, skin disorders, and gout. It was used in cough medicine, as a local anesthetic and as a help for herpes. In short - it seems to have been used as a cure-all for quite a few common ills of the day.

Nicholas Peck
was born in 1762, the son of Jonathan and Mary Throop Peck. He was a successful merchant engaged in maritime commerce out of Bristol, Rhode Island. Besides regular cargos of lumber, produce, tobacco, etc., Peck was also engaged in the Triangle Trade, (Rum, Slaves and Molasses)

Nicholas Peck and Son, were partners in several joint ventures with other Rhode Island merchants, including John Brown (of the Providence Browns) and Charles Collins, (Brown and Collins were also in the slave trade). 

Nicholas Peck had a reputation for sending unseaworthy craft to sea. One of his ship's masters, Nathaniel Gladding told Nicholas, "It would have been a hundred or two dollars in your pocket if you could believe those who had experience of the sea knew as much about them as yourself, but tis a distemper I despair your ever being cured of."

Nicholas was married to three wives; Elizabeth Smith, Jemima Gorham, and her sister Sally Gorham. He had three sons, John, Nicholas Jr., and Viets. Nicholas Peck died in 1847.

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