I was working on my 19th Century Congressional Free Franks and found two I could not identify (I did identify over 100). Can anyone give me some help? I would like to know who signed, the state they represented and when in either House of Congress. If you can post a scan of a cover or document with the signature, that would be most helpful. Thanks. P.S. The first one has me completely stumped. The second one, I've tentatively narrowed down to either (1) Edward McPherson, M.C. from Pennsylvania (1859-1863), or (2) James Buffington (also known as Buffinton), M.C. from Massachusetts (1855-63 & 1869-70), but I cannot find any examples of their signatures to confirm. The signature also seems similar to Elihu Washburne, M.C. from Illinois (1853-60), but the examples of Washburne's signature do not match the one on the cover. Really, the second cover could be anyone. It's canceled August 25, 186(-), the last digit is illegible. Again, thanks for any help you can provide. Mike
Thanks for your posts. I always like a good problem to grapple with, and this seems a dandy. The signature on that first cover is simply not legible to me. Beyond the first initial "C", I can't even decipher the first letter of the last name.
So, I focused on what I can read: "B.J.W. Bartlett, Esq., Boonton, N.J." I did a quick web search, and it does appear that there is still a law firm on Main Street in Boonton, NJ with the name Bartlett LLP. Depending on how far you want to go with this, perhaps you could contact them and ask how long ago the firm was founded and if there was ever someone with the initials BJW there. At least they might be able to help you narrow down the time period.
Then you could search for New Jersey members of Congress during the period in question. That's about the best I can come up with.
Best of luck with your quest!
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I thought maybe it was C. Sh.... or maybe Sc, or even Sw, but I looked through the list of the 19th Congress, senators and representatives, and saw nothing remotely close... very few whose first name starts with a "C"
Stanley D. Brown
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To Berylium Guy: I too like to see if there is any relationship between the free franker and the state of the addressee. The problem with this one is that I have six other covers to the same addressee: (1) from Massachusetts representative T.D. Eliot (M.C. 1854-55 & 1859-63); (2) from Ohio representative JA Gurley (M.C. 1859-63); (3) from Ohio representative A. Long (M.C. 1863-65); (4) from New York representative HJ Raymond (who established the N.Y. Times newspaper) (M.C. 1865-67); (5) from New York representative Ward Hamilton (M.C. 1865-71) canceled 1867; and (6) from Issac Newton, the First Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture (1861-67) who was appointed by Pres. Lincoln. From that lot of covers, it appears the addressee was at least involved in Northern politics around the Civil War. More detailed identitication of the addressee might help.
You've raised the major problem with trying to identify the name on this cover. You probably used the "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress" which has among other things, a section with a chronological listing of each Congress from 1774 (both Continental and United States) and a separate detailed biography of each member. Several versions are available on-line. The version from 1774-2005 is located at: www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CDOC-108hdoc222/pdf/GPO-CDOC-108hdoc222.pdf
After many tries over the years, I too could not find a similar enough name to fit.
I've asked myself that question for over 40 years when this cover was included in a small lot of free franks. It does not have a designation of "M.C." (Member of Congress) "U.S.S." (United States Senate), and, in fact, does not even say "FREE."
To all: Thank you for responding. I am almost 74 years old but still impatient. Unbeknownst to me at the time the responses were being posted to this thread, I had decided not to include the unknown cover in the collection of free franks I was then posting on www.hipstamp.com under my user name " abctoo ". I should have waited. That listing is titled: "19th Century Congressional Free Frank Collection - Many Civil War Related +More." It contains ninety 19th Century free franks, with many related to the Civil War and some earlier, plus a little over 20 interesting 20th Century free franks. The listing includes detailed identification of each cover plus about 100 scans that include the bulk of the items.
When I start to identify a Congressional free frank cover, I first see if there is anyway to associate a date with it. Then I try to read the signature (which often is unclear). With the approximate date and possible name, I then do what stainlessb suggests, look at lists of the Congresses during the time period for possible names and what Beryllium Guy suggests try to associate the state of addressee to the signer. If that does not work, then it's a slow process going through the alphabetical biographical list of names. Alternatively, I will try to search on-line for information about the possible names I think it is and go to any link that may have a picture of a signature to make a comparison. At times, Wikipedia shows an example of a signature, which helps in the process of elimination. There are all sorts of references on-line, like PDFs of the many volumes of "The National Cyclopedia of American Biography" published in the late 1800s and early 1900s that include some facsimile autographs (though a few appear to have been made up by the publishers to fill space). The Government Printing Office also has put out a lot of books with detailed lists. For example, on-line is "The Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military and Naval in the service of the United States on the Thirtieth September 1865" (The Register is supposedly a biennial publication). It is a tedious process, but you can learn much history you had no idea about. If anyone needs any help identifying a congressional free frank, let me know.
By the way, there are on-line books listing all Postmasters from Benjamin Franklin. They are useful in identifying undated covers as the term of office is often indicated. New York lists have over 3,000 postmaster names and dates.
Got to stop now. I still would like to know about the unidentified cover.
In the spirit of being completely uninformed about all aspects of the case, I'll take a wild stab and say your first cover might be signed by Carl Schurz, Senator from Missouri and Secretary of the Interior. As I said, nothing more than a wild stab, but if you have the opportunity to find more signatures (there are plenty of examples online on a quick search), perhaps you'll find a way to convince yourself one way or the other. Not particularly exact as far as replication goes (apart from the very similar "S" at the beginning of the name) but at least there are more-or-less 7 ascending peaks in the "churz" part of both examples. I would guess that proper handwriting forensics would say my wild stab missed the mark but who knows, it might be a starting point for some more thought about it. Note the long S in his writing of "Missouri" - I always find that archaic usage interesting.