Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
1825 Stampless Folded Letter from H. Shoemaker - Newport, RI
To S. & F
(Frank) Shoemaker at Philadelphia, PA
With May 5,  1825 Olive, Old English - Newport Oval
(Scroll Down for Background History and Text of Letter)

Newport Olive Green
Oval Cancel

This stampless folded letter was sent at the 183/4 cent rate set by the Postal Act of March 3, 1825, effective May 1, 1825 for mail traveling a distance between 150 and 400 miles, (Newport to Philadelphia). It was mailed from Newport, Rhode Island on May 5, 1825, (only 4 days after the new rate took effect). This zone rate remained in effect until July 1, 1845. Previously the zone rate set in 1816 was 181/2 cents. The CDS is the Olive Green Old English Oval type with Outline Text used in Newport from 1824 to 1825. The American Stampless Cover Catalog adds $125 to the value of the cover for this CDS.

NOTE: The reason for the rate change was that during the early 19th century the Spanish Real was still in wide usage. The Real was equivalent to $1.00 in U.S. currency and could be divided into 8 bits, (pieces of eight). One (1) bit was equal to 121/2 cents and 183/4 cents was the equivalent of 11/2 bits.
(This is also the origin for the term 2 bits equaling a quarter.)

The letter details a transaction which Mr. Shoemaker wishes to keep secret. Evidently he has been shown a section of land by the person referred to as "The Captain," which appears to contain a large amount of Iron Ore. He is writing to his brother about the transaction and also seems to have signed the paperwork for the rights to the land or at least mining rights, before writing the letter. The letter also mentions a vessel that the Captain has told them to sell. The penmanship is a bit sloppy and was very hard to decipher. I managed most of it with the exception of the two spots where I have pasted in the text below.

This letter presents a bit of a mystery, as Iron ore was mined in the vicinity of Cranston, Rhode Island beginning around 1766, but this supply was soon exhausted. I did find that a recent geological survey in Rhode Island had found massive amounts of Pyrite, (an Iron Sulfide) in the area around Johnston. Another possibility is Cumberlandite. The largest deposit known is located on 3.7 acres on a farm in Cumberland. (The area is known as Iron Mine Hill.) It is the world's only known site of Cumberlandite and was estimated to contain over 3,000,000 tons of ore and 1,000,000 tons of Titanium. A third possibility is that the land in question was "SALTED" by the "Capt." or someone else and the Shoemaker brothers were being taken in an elaborate scam, as I can find no further reference to any Shoemakers engaged in iron ore production in Rhode Island. In addition, other than the two above mentioned locations, Rhode Island is poor in minerals and besides granite and limestone, very little ore has been quarried  from the state. Cumberlandite is the Official State Rock of Rhode Island.

I couldn't narrow down which of the many Pennsylvania Shoemakers were involved in this business transaction, however, I did find that the family was originally from Germany and that the original spelling of the name was Schumacher

The Mr. Townsend referred to in the letter is most likely John F. Townsend a prominent Newport merchant who was born in 1778. The Governor that H. Shoemaker was introduced to would have been James Fenner, a three time governor of the state, (1807-1811, 1824-1831 and 1843-1845). James' father; Arthur Fenner Jr. was the first governor of Rhode Island after statehood (1789-1805).

SEE: 1751 Stampless Folded letter to Arthur Fenner Sr., (the grandfather of James). for further information on the Fenner Family.

The Complete Text of Letter Follows Below:

Newport May 5th. 1825

Dear Frank,
                     I have visited the spot and have seen with my own eyes what you will kindly credit when I tell you -- it doubly exceeds the Capts promise and your most sanguine expectations -- I took the hoe and dug for myself the largest bed which I have no doubt is inexhaustible is of Iron. There is all kinds in smaller quantities -- We spent the afternoon and all night at his home -- Papers are executed $1. for spot. $1.50 for anywhere in the county to be app by you. the Capt say we can get a vessel here -- He is on his high horse. I would go on today but we can't get any person that we can trust to work - Secrecy being our principal object -- There is not a soul except the man that knows our business -- It will operate like a clap of thunder on them -- The Capt is one of the most cunning men I ever knew and I do think he is worthy of trust 
[We are but men]. He will make a hard business and superintend which is all important as I will explain to you. I am determined to get at it in the morning and see a load before I start in proper order Wages are low and . I have been shown the most marked attention since I have been here and have just been introduced to the governor by Mr. Townsend -- I have met one or two you know. -- The Capt says do not do anything with the vessel except to sell her -- he can get a better and cheaper one.

Remember me to the
Your faithful brother
           H. S.


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

Recently Added Pages