Notes from the Past

Steamboats Carried Mail

Post roads were the established routes by which the mail was distributed throughout the nation in 1847.  The waterways of the nation were important communication links.  It was not surprising that the vessels traveling them would be involved in carrying the mail.  The enabling legislation was noted in Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847 as follows:

To reduce into one the several acts for establishing and regulating the Post Office Department.

Sec. 5.  And be it further enacted, That the Postmaster General be authorized to have the mail carried in any steamboat, or other vessel, which shall be used as a packet, in any of the waters of the United States on such terms and conditions as shall be considered expedient; Provided, That he does not pay more than three cents for each letter, and more than one-half cent for each newspaper conveyed in such mail.

Sec. 6.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of every master or manager of any steamboat which shall pass from one port or place to another port established, to deliver, within three hours after his arrival, if in the day time, and within two after the next sunrise, if the arrival be in the night, all letters and packets addressed to, or destined for, such port of place, to the Postmaster there, for which he shall be entitled to receive, of such Postmaster, two cents for every letter or packet so delivered, unless the same shall be carried or conveyed under a contract with the Postmaster General; and, if any master or manager of a steamboat shall fail so to deliver any letter or packet, which shall have been brought by him, or shall have been in his care, or within his power, he shall incur a penalty of thirty dollars for every such failure.  And every person, employed on board any steamboat, shall deliver every letter, and packet of letters, entrusted to such person, to the master or manager of such steamboat, and before the said vessel shall touch at any other port or place; and for every failure or neglect so to deliver, a penalty of ten dollars shall be incurred for each letter or packet.

 Approved, March 3, 1825.

Posted May 19, 2000

Editor's Note:  Modern philatelists are indebted to Theron Wierenga who republished this volume in 1980.  Italics follow the original.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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