Rhode Island Stampless
Covers & Letters
July 8, 1851 Cover with Black Paid
to Mr. Henry Luther in Providence
from Samuel Mumford in Newport
(Scroll Down for Background History and Text of Letter)
The above cover is marked
and contains a Newport,
Rhode Island July 8 CDS.
The 3 cent rate
domestic mail traveling less
than 3000 miles
was set by the
Postal Act of March 3, 1851,
effective on June 30.
Under this Act, mail that was
was charged a
5 cent rate.
The cover also contains the script,
Can you just imagine, with all of our currently required zip
code and address information of today; addressing a letter to a
boarding house, "Near the
First Baptist Church?"
This letter is from a Mr. Mumford,
evidently a friend of Mr. Luther's and possibly
the family doctor. The letter details the actions of the
Jamestown Council in regards to Mrs. Luther,
who is to be committed to the Butler Hospital for the
Insane in Providence, Rhode Island.
Although, not specifically stated; one can assume that Mr.
Luther is no longer physically able to care for Mrs. Luther as
evidenced by the mention of his affliction in the
letter and the fact that his address is a Boarding House
The Butler Hospital for the
Insane was the first hospital in Rhode
Island that was established exclusively for
mentally ill patients. The hospital was a direct result
of Dorothea Dix's and Thomas R. Hazard's,
Thomas R. Hazard Stampless Letter and
efforts on behalf of the poor and insane.
In 1844, Dorothea Dix began writing articles in
the Providence Journal, describing the
sub-standard and neglectful care that people with mental illness
received in the state of Rhode Island. She then persuaded
Cyrus Butler, a wealthy Providence industrialist
to donate $30,000 towards the construction of the
new hospital. Nicholas Brown II
(Brown and Ives)
also provided a grant.
Brown Family Letters for
In 1846, Dr. Luther
Bell traveled to Great Britain to gather ideas to aid in
the planning for the new hospital. The hospital was
established in 1847 on a site overlooking
the Seekonk River. Butler Hospital is thought to
be America's first hospital devoted entirely to
the treatment of the mentally ill. It set the
standards for humane treatment of the insane in a
clean and safe environment and
acknowledged their legal rights. The report of
Thomas Hazard on the status of the poor and insane
was promulgated by the Rhode Island General Assembly
in 1851 and offered a guide on the
humane treatment of mental patients. This report was the
blueprint for treatment at Butler.
Today Butler Hospital is
one of seven teaching hospitals and is affiliated
with the Brown Medical School. The school conducts
research in the areas of body dysmorphic disorder,
depression, smoking cessation, and
Samuel S. Mumford was
born in 1813. He was a member of the Washington
Encampment of Free Masons and is listed in the 1850 census for
Newport, Rhode Island.
The complete text of the letter
July 7th 1851
My Dear Friend
I received your letter today
by your son, and I was very sorry to hear of your affliction but
hope you will recover and be the better for it. As regards Mrs.
Luther, the council have decided to send her to the Butler
Asylum next Thursday afternoon if she can be brought in by Mr.
I told Mr. Seatle you would not mind paying the expense of a
carriage to bring her in town, and she may perhaps stay with
Mrs. Burdick one night before coming up to rest here. Bathsheba
and Mrs. Clarke are on Jamestown waiting. I think there is now a
better prospect in store for you, a little relief from care and
trouble, which you are most certainly entitled to from the most
noble manner which you have stood up, under trials which many
would have sunk under and given up in despair. Still, perhaps
you have hours of sunshine and relief. Mrs. Luther will be
better off at the asylum and you can write her often, and that
will be some satisfaction to you. I met the council this
afternoon and Mr. Seatle was there, and told me of the above
arrangement, which will help make you feel better. Please write
me soon. Yours very Respectfully,
Saml S. Mumford