Today in Postal History


Antigua to England
June 12, 1855

This stampless folded letter was sent from Antigua.
Antigua is in the northern Lesser Antilles at the east end of the Caribbean.
Antigua was an important producer of sugar.
British packet service to the Caribbean began in 1755.
In 1840 the British packets were contracted by the
Admiralty to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.
This letter would have been forwarded on an island-to-island
feeder route to St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies.
St. Thomas had a coaling station established in 1842 by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.
There a Trans-Atlantic packet would carry the mail to Southampton.

The letter was marked p[er] Steamer | 12th June.
It has an Antigua CDS with two part circles.
The letter was posted in St. Johns, the only British Post Office in Antigua.
The St. Johns Branch Post Office was established in 1850.
It was not until 1857 that the Post Office at English Harbour was opened.

The letter was rated at 6d, the standard rate, as noted in script on the front.
I believe this letter was prepaid, although
prepayment of packet mail was not mandatory until 1858.
It was also on May 8, 1858, that the Postmaster General
authorized the use of British stamps in the islands.
Antigua didn't get its own stamps until 1862.

The destination was Whitehaven on the coast of the Irish Sea in the Lake District.
It's in northern England about 60 km southwest of Carlisle.

The cover has a circular London receiving mark CC JU 29(?) 1855.*

The letter arrived in Whitehaven on June 29.

In contrast to many of the surviving letter of this era, the letter is quite readable.
It was addressed "My Dear Robert."

*Thanks to David Benson for identifying this mark as from London.
Can someone supply more information?

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