Notes from the Past

Overland Mail

A privately run mail service between England and India established by Thomas Waghorn via the 'Overland Route', i.e. by land across Egypt from Alexandria to Suez.  An experimental service started in 1829 met with only a small measure of success, mainly due to the unreliability of the early steamers.  But in the 1835-40 period Waghorn provided the finest service seen up to that time, often taking personal charge of the mails himself.  Letters were accepted at a fee of 5s. each, and were often conveyed to India in about two months, compared with the usual four of five months' voyage by slow sailing ship via the Cape of Good Hope.  By the early 1840s the P. & O. Line were conveying the Indian mails via Egypt under Post Office contract, but Waghorn continued to operate a travel agency for passengers on the Overland Route until his death in January 1850 at the age of forty-nine.  Covers carried by the Waghorn service were stamped 'Care of Mr. Waghorn', and are today keenly collected by postal historians.

The term Overland Mail is also applied to the American transcontinental stage-coach mails of the 1860s.  In addition, it is found as an endorsement on mail carried across the desert between Baghdad and Haifa in 1923 by the motor transport of Nairn Transport Ltd.
 
 

- R. J. Sutton 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony
The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia
Published 1966
Posted February 22, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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