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 in 1974

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 follows Below:

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 all aboard.
      I received a letter from Charles about two weeks since. He was then in Richmond, VA on board of the same vessel
(Joseph Lybrad) 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 quarters.
      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) and 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 Kate 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.

                                                             I remain your affectionate daughter


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Brown & Ives Letters
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