US postal - Philatelic Research

    Study guide: US Carriers & Locals

                                         Independent Mail


U.S. Carriers, Locals, & Independent Mail
                 - by Gordon Stimmell              This information is listed here for research Only, all credit is given to their original authors.

  With today’s "door-to-door" postal service, it’s hard to realize that America’s early postal system mostly delivered between post offices, not to and from homes. Before and after the Revolution, this gap was filled by carriers who were paid an additional fee - usually one or two cents - for such personal service. Of the early period, from 1689 to 1800, scant evidence survives on mail matter, but manuscript notations on stampless folded letters surviving from the 1800 to 1845 period show such services prospered in many cities. These progenitor "penny posts" were often run by carriers sanctioned by and working for the local Post Office.

By the time the first adhesive Carrier stamps were issued, in 1842, a multiplicity of mail services existed in a country rapidly expanding due to industrialization and immigrant settlement surges. As the West began to open up with the railroads creating boomtowns, the Post Office had a very hard time keeping up with such explosive progress.

Operating with official sanction were the Carriers, those individuals working directly for the Post Office. Competing head to head with these official mails were Local Posts, enterprising private individuals and companies carrying letters within city limits - including to and from Post Offices. And by late 1843, more private firms joined the fray - The Independent Mails - transporting mail between a widespread grid of major U.S. cities for rates far cheaper than Uncle Sam charged, and over the same Post roads.



The golden age of local stamps, the privately printed adhesives used by enterprising individuals to deliver mail within many U.S. cities, ran from 1842 to 1860. The largest companies with the most extensive emissions, were Bloods in Philadelphia and Husseys and Boyds in New York City. In the Scott catalogue, several categories are combined in one comprehensive listing under Local Stamps, including some express companies, the Independent Mails, school and institutional stamps and the classic local posts. Most firms did strictly private business not involving the Post Office, but others acted in a supplemental capacity, delivering mail to and from the Post Office, especially where such service did not exist, or was lacking in efficiency or manpower. The majority of local posts had a very short shelf life, with some Valentine posts lasting mere days. Local posts operated out of stationery stores, tobacconist shops, book stores and other merchants venues, as well as in express company buildings.

The legacy of the Independent Mails carried on with the advent of the far west opening up, with the Western Expresses in gold rush regions and of course, with the famous Wells, Fargo and Co. which launched its speedy pony express mail with its running pony stamps (Scott 143L1-9) across vast tracts of cowboy country in 1860-62 . Letters sped from the urban East to the California coast in 12 days, once again proving that private enterprise was faster off the mark than the U.S. government.

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JPCohen - 3¢ 1851 stamp project: We continue Dr. Chase's work on the 1851 3¢ Washington stamp; offering a fresh look at this important US postal issue. This is perhaps the most collected US stamp ever issued. Currently we have over 3000 reference items in my personal research library, with a goal is to make them reviewable here at this site. We have two plate reconstructions in progress plate 2 and 3. If you have any singles from these plates contact us today, we would like to consider an acquisition or your gift in kind. UPDATE! You can now download a free sample copy of our book, before its even published!

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