Attended the semi annual Old book and Paper Show in Toronto today. You never know what you'll find, it is a true treasure hunt. I picked up this stampless cover posted from Norfolk Va to New York, knowing little else except it dated from 1810 - one of my oldest so far!
A quick look inside this evening showed some interesting things. First of all the letter is in French. Notations written inside say it was written in Coppet, Switzerland on November 12 1810. The Norfolk Va. postmark is Feb 5 - no year, but one will assume it will be the following February 1811. Received on Feb 12 1811 and answered May 10. Soooo, the letter was sent from Switzerland and reposted from Norfolk to New York.
I'll scan the insides later, but a signature of the sender is Auguste de Staël Holstein.
Google tells me he was the eldest son of Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, otherwise known as Madame de Staël, an author who openly opposed Napoleon. August lived a relatively short life - 1790 - 1827 - though long for such a tumultuous period I suppose. This will bear MUCH more research.
Further scans Letter spread open showing date notations.
Two pages of letter. Seems to talk about funds.
If anyone is inclined to translate this letter for me, I'd be forever in your debt! Certainly raises more questions. Why send the letter to be mailed in the states? Why not mail directly? And I'm curious what the postal rates were in 1811. There is a 17 crossed out and replaced by 20. If that is cents, seems pretty pricey in that day and age.
Just following up, the recipients of the letter, LeRoy, Bayard and McEvers of New York, according to Founders Onliine (US National Archives)-
LeRoy, Bayard & McEvers, a mercantile firm in New York City, began business as LeRoy and Bayard by 1787. The founding partners were William Bayard (1761–1826) and Herman LeRoy (ca. 1758–1841). The firm was known as LeRoy, Bayard & McEvers from about 1796 until the retirement in 1816 of James McEvers (d. 1817). It continued to operate as LeRoy, Bayard & Company in New York City until at least 1827, providing both mercantile and banking services.
Hi All. I've received two translations to the above letter, from SCF and a friend on Facebook. Both are similar, but I'll post the most complete here, for interest sake.
Coppet 12 November 1810
I have the honor to inform you, gentlemen, that my mother has received your letter of 26 July where you let her know that Mr Le Roy of Chaumont paid to you the sum of $ 7,407 equivalent to 40,000 French francs. Please accept her thanks for the deduction of the commission you kindly agreed to. She also asks me, gentlemen, to confirm the letter she had the honor to write to you recently via the Flash, she compliments herself, I admit, on you kindly granting consent to the increase of interest she required, especially as the amount to her credit will increase consider- ably owing to the remittances that Mr. Le Roy will now make to you; if, nevertheless, I hope this will not be the case, it would be difficult for you to give my mother the 6%, she would request you to kindly indicate in New York an investment on the legal interest of 7% or above if possible. I would have spared you this trouble, gentlemen, if I had been in the U.S. in person this year, but various circumstances compel me to postpone for some time the pleasure of visiting you. - I enclose a note of Messrs. Le Roy, Bayard, McEvers & annual interest that Mr Le Roy shall pay to you in the future.
..On 1st November 4,100 Fr (you will have already received this amount) .... 7th November 13,750 (which you may have received as well) ................. 8 may 1,897 ......... 8 novembre 1,897 ....................... _______ ......................... 21,644
To conclude, Gentlemen, my mother hopes that you will kindly continue taking the same interest in her financial matters as you have always been doing, and I join her in renewing the assurance of my highest consideration and great esteem. I have the honor of remaining
V(otre) t(res) h(umble) et t(res) o(bsequieux) s(erviteur) Your most humble and obsequious servant
Auguste de Staël Holstein
I have been told that my friend Bayard is now in Europe. I would be very happy if his travel plans brought him to Switzerland.
Me again... so, not too interesting, but it's nice that Auguste takes an interest in Mama's finances. Still doesn't answer the question of how the letter got from land locked Switzerland to Norfolk VA, USA. Most likely sent 'by favour' through a friend. But could Madame Staël Holstein not afford the postage from Switzerland? I have no doubt she could.
Hi all. Here to bore you with this piece of paper again. Spoke with a club member about this the other evening, a real student of postal history. He also suggests that it was probably brought to the US as a favour, since there was no regular transatlantic postal service in 1810/11.
The first regular service wasn't available until 1840 with the Cunard line establishing regular routes.
I also suggested the letter may have arrived in Norfolk in a diplomatic pouch, since it is fairly close to Washington, and the Staël Holstein's, being aristocrats, would have had connections in high places.
Also, regarding the rate, I've learned that the US minimum letter rate in 1810 was .17¢. This was uprated to .20¢ (17¢ written originally then crossed out), possibly due to distance? A trip from Norfolk to New York today, by car would be about 363 miles. I imagine it would have been more arduous then.
edit - After posting the above, I looked again at the translation and noticed the line, 'I enclose a note of annual interest...' which makes me wonder if money was enclosed in the letter to cover the interest mentioned, which may also account for the increased rate. Making this an early Money/Cash letter.
I'd also like to note that Madam Staël Holstein's wiki bio, linked above, mentions that she purchased property in America, with the thought of moving there. But she remained in Europe to publish her book De l’Allemagne. I'm guessing that the transactions mentioned in this letter may have been in regard to that property.
Just thought I'd mention. I presented this cover last night at my stamp club. I'm not a fan of public speaking (my mouth turns into a sandy desert with cotton ball tumble weed rolling across) but I got through it and it seemed to go over well. There were questions, some agreement with my theories on the mysteries of this cover, and the final question was "What did you pay for the cover". When I answered $15, there was some eye rolling and at least on ' Oh crap!'