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 to create and use locally-produced "postmaster provisional" stamps, in order to better facilitate new postal rates enacted on March 3, 1845, the provisionals being 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, served as postmaster in Boscawen from February 5, 1841 through January 15, 1852. Webster's rectangular adhesive provisional stamp  was handstamped—probably by Webster himself— in a dull blue color on crinkled, yellowish paper. The cover was sent to Miss Achsah French in nearby Concord, age 14 at the time, a relative of Worcester Webster, likely from her aunt Achsah Pollard Webster, also a relative of Worcester.

    "It appears to have been produced from a few carelessly set type and is hand-stamped in dull blue ink on thin, yellowish white, handmade paper, in quality like coarse tissue paper. The word 'PAID' measures 13 1/2 x 2 mm., 'CENTS' is 18 x 3 mm and the numeral is 6 1/2 mm high and 6 mm wide." (American Journal of Philately, Second Series, Vol.X, 1897; also repeated verbatim by John N. Luff in The Postage Stamps of the United States, 1902.) 

Originally obtained "at the general post-office in Washington, DC through Mr. Wm. M. Ireland, who was then chief clerk and the Third Asst. P.M. General Post Office Department" in 1865, as explained by owner H. H. Lowrie when he offered the unique cover to Hiram E. Deats of Flemington, NJ in 1894. Deats bought the cover, later selling his collection of postmaster provisionals to dealer W. H. Colson in about 1912. The Boscawen next entered the collection of Baron Philipp la Renotierre Von Ferrary. When Ferrary died he willed the Boscawen to Germany for the Berlin Postal Museum; but lawsuits ensued, which were eventually won by French interests. The provisional was sold at auction in Paris to Arthur Hind of Utica, New York. At the 1933 Hind sale (Walter S. Scott, auctioneer) the cover was purchased unintentionally by a small NYC 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 almost everything that he owned to pay for the rarity, Marquis kept the cover: it sold after Marquis died in a 1937 auction by H. C. Barr, going 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 again. When the Weill stock was sold by Scott Trepel at Christie's in 1989, the Boscawen was purchased by an overseas collector.

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


The 1846 Boscawen, New Hampshire Postmaster's Provisional stamp and cover is believed to be unique. 

Above is the cover as illustrated in the 1989 Christie's sale catalog. A note on the back in pencil signed by 

John N. Luff states "So far as I know, it is the only copy in existence." Alas, as with all of his covers, 

Utica collector Arthur 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)

An 1842 Boscawen wax-sealed envelope stampless cover manuscript-postmarked by postmaster Worcester Webster and also signed at the upper right by his cousin Daniel Webster, who was U.S. Secretary of State at the time. 
(Daniel Webster had been offered the Vice Presidential spot on the Whig's 1840 ticket alongside Benjamin Harrison, 
but turned it down. Had he accepted, he would have become president when Harrison died after one month in office.) He was appointed Secretary of State by President John Tyler when he took over the presidency in 1840, 
taking office on March 6, 1841. Thus both Worcester Webster  and Daniel Webster had the free franking privilege 
in 1842, as did the recipient, the Boston postmaster. The envelope contains a signed letter in Daniel Webster's hand, 
written from his home in Franklin, NH and mailed in Boscawen. 
(Sheaff collection)


An 1844 Boscawen stampless cover from Worcester Webster to J. P. Bradley, treasurer of the
Ballard Vale Company, which operated textile mills in Ballard Vale, MA. This letter's content is below.
(not in Sheaff collection)


The letter inside the above cover. Ex-Wagshall. (not in Sheaff collection)


From 1933 to 1937, NYC stamp dealer Frank Marquis owned the Boscawen Provisional. He produced this postcard as a souvenir distributed at the 1934 National Stamp Exhibition in New York. (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 rate marking under the bogus label. (Sheaff collection)

Forgery London Templeton

A ca.1857 (? dated by some collector in pencil) fantasy in pencil, added to a genuine unmarked Canadian stampless cover.

(Collection of James Wardell, Ontario, Canada)


Worcester Webster, crayon lithograph portrait, History of Boscawen and Webster, Charles Carleton Coffin,
Republican Press Association, Concord, NH 1878, opp. page 137


Daniel Webster, a cousin of Worcester Webster, steel engraved portrait by Buttre, 
History of Boscawen and Webster, Charles Carleton Coffin, Republican Press Association, Concord, NH,
1878, opp. page 447


A 1910 postcard showing the Webster Homestead, for many years the home of Daniel Webster
until he moved from Boscawen. 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.)


      Contact:  [email protected]    All images not otherwise indicated are copyrighted by Richard D. Sheaff and not to be used for any purpose without written permission.