Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
1850  Local Letter from Stafford & Lathrop, Providence
To A & C W Holbrook, Providence - 1845 Two cent Drop Rate

(Scroll Down for Background Information, History and Text of Letter)


The Stampless Folded Letter shown above and to the left was sent locally within the Providence city limits by Lathrop & Stafford to A. & C. W. Holbrook. There is a red Providence January 26th CDS at the upper left corner and a Red 2 Cent Rate Marking, (actually a fee paid directly to the Postmaster) in the upper right corner. The two cent drop rate set by the Postal Act of March 3, 1845, effective July 1, 1845 was in effect until 1851 when the drop rate was reduced to 1 cent by the Postal Act of March 3, 1851 effective June 30, 1851.
The letter concerns goods that the store, (Stafford & Lathrop) has set by for Messrs A. and C. W. Holbrook to view. I found a listing from the Providence city directory of 1824 for a Benjamin Holbrook, who is listed as a Picker-Maker. The letter mentions a sample picker and A & C Holbrook are possibly sons of or related to Benjamin. An explanation and history of drop letters and the text of this letter follow below:


Drop Letters are those letters that were dropped off at a Post Office for the Addressee to pick up at the same Post Office. In the 18th and 19th centuries, everyone had to pick up their mail at the post office unless it was delivered by a private courier. Drop letters were never sent from one Post Office to another and they were sometimes referred to as Box Letters. (The system was similar to General Delivery.) 

The Postal Act of 1794 set the rate for Drop Letters at 1 cent per letter. There was no additional fee by weight or number of sheets. The 1 cent charge was a Fee paid directly to the Postmaster, rather than a rate charge. 

Drop letters were sent either prepaid or collect until February 1861 when the Postal act of that year required that they be prepaid

Postal markings on Drop Letters are often lacking or incomplete, since they were delivered and picked up at the same Post Office; it wasn't felt necessary to apply all of the postal marks and cancellations to insure proper delivery. 

The customer or recipient of the Drop Letter would go to the counter at the Post Office, give the clerk his personal information and the clerk would sort through the alphabetically filed letters to find the correct letter

Between 1845 and 1851 the Drop Rate was increased to 2 cents, but was reduced to 1 cent again on July 1, 1851. During the 50 percent rate increase of 1816, drop letters should not have been affected as they were a fee and not a rate, however a total of 9 Drop Letters have been found with the 11/2 times rate applied. 

SEE ALSO: 1839 Waterman and Burgess with 1 cent Drop Rate 

Text of Letter Follows Below:
Miss A & C W Holbrook
                       Will please call at store we
have a sample picker left to make a lot by
                                                                       Stafford & Lathrop

             Prov Jany 26. 1850

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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