Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
1866 Steamship Cover - Havana, Cuba to Bristol, Rhode Island
Via Steamship Columbia (New York Steamship 10 Marking)

(Scroll Down for Background Information on Steamship Mail & Text of Letter)

The Stampless Folded Letter (SFL) above was sent by the Agent, J. E. F. Sanchez in Havana, Cuba to the Agent C. H. R. Doringh in Bristol, Rhode Island. (I believe that both the sender and recipient were lawyers judging by the contents of the letter and were representing their respective parties in some litigation.) The letter traveled by the contract steamship "Columbia" which was owned by the "Atlantic Mail Steamship Company" of New York. The "Steamship / 10" marking was applied by the New York Post Office and the letter was forwarded to Bristol. The Steamship Marking is listed in Volume II of the "American Stampless Cover Catalog" as C28 and has a diameter of 28 centimeters. This particular marking is readily identifiable by the wide spacing between the S and H of Ship. It was in use from 1851 to 1867.

Steamship Mail first appeared in 1849 and was in continuous use until 1875. This marking unlike the "SHIP" marking, which applied to mail entering the United states on "non-contract" ships, was carried via steamships that were "under contract" to the United States Post Office.  The Steamship marking is considered an Origin Marking and was applied to identify these letters as distinct from ship mail. The routes sailed by the contract steamships were considered to be "Post Roads" by the USPS and included the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The initial steamship rates established in 1847 and in effect from 1848 to 1851 varied by port of origin. For example: Mail sent to and from Cuba was rated at 121/2 cents and mail from Chagres, Panama was rated at 20 cents. In 1851 Steamship rates were standardized at 10 cents for letters traveling less than 2500 miles and 20 cents for letters traveling over 2500 miles.

The Postal Act of June 30, 1864, effective on July 1, 1864 created a single rate for all steamship mail regardless of the distance traveled. The rate was set at 10 cents and this continued until 1875 when the rate was reduced to 5 cents to conform to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) rate which applied to all mail sent and received from other countries. Steamship markings were discontinued when the UPU rates came into effect.

Mr. Sanchez is advising Mr. Doringh that a Mr. Morales remains unavailable and that the lawsuit against Mr. Avedra has not yet been settled.
The Complete Letter Text follows below:

                                                                         Havana, 2nd November 1866
Via Columbia

        C. H. R. Doringh Esq.
                                      Agent Bristol R. I.
                      Dear Sir,
                                         Since I addressed you last on the 26' inst., as per
enclosed press copy, I have received your favor of 23rd same month and have
taken due note of the contents. __
                      Mr. Morales continues still to be very sick and is not allowed
to transact any business as the doctor considers any kind of exertions to be
dangerous. I have arranged with the manager of Morales to watch his chance
and seize the first favorable opportunity to propose to him the discounting of
the plaso of 1867 and to advise me of the venues, which I shall report to you
as soon as I know it.
                      The expenses of the lawsuit against Sr. Avedra have not yet 
been settled, but I am assured by the notary that they will soon be arranged.
                                                                            Very Truly Yours
                                                   Agt.                  JEF Sanchez

A Second Cover from the same period with an identical (C28) Steamship cancellation.
The second cover has a crisper strike and shows the gap between the S and H on the steamship marking much more clearly.
VIEW: Full Size Letter

Recommended Reading for further information:
United States Incoming Steamship Mail: 1847 to 1875 by Theron Wierenga 1983
American Stampless Cover Catalog - Volume II (David G. Phillips Publishing Company)

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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