Boscawen | Sheaff : ephemera


Boscawen, New Hampshire was and is a small town northwest of Concord, New Hampshire. Pronounced "Bosc-wine"
by locals, Boscawen was one of the American communities that adopted locally-produced "postmaster provisional"
stamps to comply with new postal rates enacted on March 3, 1845, to be used during the period prior to the printing  and issuance of U.S. #1 (5¢) and #2 (10¢) in 1847. Worcester Webster, a cousin of Daniel Webster's, was postmaster in Boscawen from February 5, 1841 through January 15, 1852. Webster's rectangular adhesive provisional stamp  was printed or handstamped—probably by Webster himself— in a dull blue color on crinkled, yellowish pap

    The cover pased through the collections of H. H. Lowrie, Hiram E. Deats, W. H. Colson, Count Philippe la Renotiere Ferrary and Arthur Hind. The cover was purchased unintentionally at the 1933 Hind sale by a small dealer named Frank Marquis, who had thrown in a bid in order to get some attention and was shocked to have won the item, which he could not afford. After selling or mortgaging most that he owned to pay for the rarity, Marquis sold it in a 1937 H. C. Barr auction to Roy C. Fitzgerald of Dayton, Ohio. In 1964, Raymond H. Weill bought it in a Robert A. Siegel sale, sold it to a Texas collector, then promptly bought it back from him. Weill later sold it to an anonymous collector.

    Postal history dealer and researcher Frederick P. Schmitt wrote an interesting piece in the March 1992 edition of The American Philatelist, comparing the type on the provisonal to type used by Webster in that post office for other markings, as demonstrated on two stampless covers from 1847 and 1848.

HindSale'33-150The 1846 Boscawen, New Hampshire Postmaster's Provisional stamp and cover is believed to be unique. Above is the cover as illustrated in the 1933 Arthur Hind sale catalog (Walter S. Scott, auctioneer). A note on the back in pencil signed by John. N. Luff states "As far as I know (this) is the only copy in existence." Alas, as with all of his covers, Hind followed the damaging practice of taping his rare covers to album pages at the right and at the left.


An 1844 Boscawen stampless cover written, addressed, signed and manuscript-postmarked by Worcester Webster.
(Sheaff collection)


A scarce and interesting forgery of the Boscawen postmaster provisional label, on an 1846 stampless letter from Boscawen to Sandown, New Hampshire; Worcester Webster's manuscript endorsement at upper left. Under strong light, it can be seen that there is a manuscript "3" under the label. (Sheaff collection)


A 1910 postcard showing the Webster Homestead, for many years the home of Daniel Webster until he moved from Boscawen. His distant cousin, postmaster (1841-1852) Worcester Webster lived in the house at one point.


A minor Boscawen postal history footnote. This is a July 4, 1851 letter from a medical student in Allegeheny, Pennsylvania to his parents back home in Boscawen. At the end of the four-page letter, he asks them to please start prepaying letters to him using the newly issued 3¢ stamps, rather than continuing to send letter collect for 5¢ each. In March of 1851, new postal regulations were enacted authorizing—among other things—that letters could travel for up to 3,000 miles for 3¢, if prepaid with the new adhesive postage stamps issued on July 1. If not prepaid with stamps, the old rate of 5¢ collect would remain in force. As this represented a 40% savings in cash, the student strongly suggests that his parents buy the new 3¢ stamps, either in Boscawen or in nearby Concord, the state capital, if the Boscawen post office has not yet received a supply. (He also talks about a 4th of July fireworks display going on as he writes.)

            All images not otherwise indicated are copyrighted by Richard D. Sheaff and not to be used for any purpose without written permission.