Rhode Island Stampless
Covers & Letters
1848 Stampless Folded Letter from
Deborah (daughter) Philadelphia, PA
To Peleg S. Thompson (father) in Bristol, Rhode Island
(Scroll Down for Background History and Complete Text of Letter)
This letter was sent at the 5 cent
rate from Philadelphia to Bristol,
Rhode Island for mail traveling less than
300 miles. The rate was set by the Postal Act of
March 3, 1845 effective on July 1, 1845.
The letter was sent prepaid, however during this time; the rate
was the same for mail sent prepaid or collect. The Postal
act of March 3, 1851 provided for an additional
penalty fee for those letters not sent prepaid and the
Postal Act of March 3, 1855 made prepayment
of domestic mail compulsory. The Blue Philadelphia CDS
with the double line Paid stamp is listed as being
in use from 1845 to 1851.
The letter was sent to Peleg S.
Thompson in Bristol, Rhode Island from his
daughter Deborah in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. It contains some interesting family updates
including the building of a new schooner to be
named the "Alex Mitchell" and it's first charter
to deliver goods to a lighthouse off of Cape
May, New Jersey. The letter also mentions a friend named
Caleb Dodge who can provide transportation for a
family member on his freight barge. The
Dodge family are an old and well known family of
New Shorham (Block Island), Rhode Island.
They were among the original families that settled on the
island. As can be imagined from their choice of abode, many of
them were seamen and ship's captains.
Deborah's father, Peleg Thompson
is listed in the census of 1850 as living with his
son Edward Thompson, whose occupation is listed as
ship's carpenter. Peleg was born in 1789
and at the time of this letter would have been 59 years
old. Deborah's husband, Elliot, also
appears to be a shipwright as evidenced by the
schooner he is part owner of and is currently building.
The Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse
is located at the southern most end of the Delaware Bay,
not far from Cape May. It was competed
in 1850 and was the first
Screwpile structure to be built in the United
States. It was replaced in 1914 by a
caisson-style lighthouse and was automated
Since the light house wasn't
finished until 1850; I assume that the
charter mentioned in the letter below was for the
initial construction efforts of the lighthouse.
The Complete Text of the Letter
Philadelphia May 7th 1848
My Dearest Father,
You no doubt think me very awful in not answering before, your
most welcome letter of the 17th, but it seems to me my time has
for the last three weeks been wholly scarified.
(It's a real word I looked it up)
Elliot has been since the last of Jan, engaged in building a
schooner which is now nearly done; is to be called Alex Mitchell
and chartered by Maj. Baieh to attend on the custom of a light
house on Brandywine Shoal. I presume you know where that is, E.
says it is about eight miles from Cape May. (He is hired by the
month ) Jo, Ma and myself have been rather hurried for the last
three weeks in making sheets, pillow cases, curtains & etc -
which amount to no small number as they are to have about 30 in
received a letter from Charles about two weeks since. He was
then in Richmond, VA on board of the same vessel
that I mentioned in Roxanna's letter. He did not know what place
he should sail for next. I have not heard a word from Anna since
the letter I sent you, although I have written twice. If she is
alive and well, I feel sure she will be on east the coming
summer. Jan can certainly get passage very easy from Bristol to
N. York and then take passage from there with Caleb Dodge. He is
master of a freight barge and has I believe very comfortable
accommodations. He always comes to see us whenever he arrives in
town, which is about every two weeks. Elliot thinks their first
trip to the Cape or Brandywine Shoal will be from four to six
weeks. They say the vessel is a very excellent one, but I cannot
learn anything from E about her. We are all to go on board
Sunday when she will be fit for sea. Elliot owns one quarter;
Captain Lopez, his son and Mr. Baird the remaining three
Had it not been for this charter, which by the way as
business now is, may be called a God Send, you would have seen
us all in Bristol for E calculated on nothing else this summer
but freighting coal. Every other business is so very dull
(dull - refers to a lack of business)
intended to have taken us all to Providence or Fall River and
then you would certainly have seen us.
(The last part of that sentence should
have been placed after freighting coal, but this is where
Deborah placed it)
We are all
well at present. Ma and Josephine enjoy very poor health, there
is scarcely a week that but what one or both are sick. Sarah
is as fat
and well as ever but can't talk much yet.
Tell Edward and May I have not forgotten them, but intend
to write as soon as possible. Give much love to Joseph, Roxanna
and all friends. Kiss all the babies for me.
E and mother join with me in love to yourself and all
friends. Write again soon and often.
remain your affectionate daughter