Today in Postal History



Kansas Territory, United States to New Jersey
August 3, 1859


The docketting* for this cover indicates that it was sent by Elias Brown from Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak was one of the names that in 1859 described the front range
of the Rocky Mountains from what are now Colorado Springs and Denver.
The region was still a part of Kansas Territory.

A small amount of gold had been found in Cherry Creek in August, 1858.
News had been spread to the east in the fall and winter of 1858-59.
The Gold Rush was on!

Historians have suggested that as many as 100,000 joined the
rush in 1859 with 50,000 actually making it to Colorado.
Many were discouraged by the arduous trip or chose to stop along the way.

The date on the return address was July 11, 1859.
Perhaps it was written to note Brown's arrival in the area.

The letter was carried outside the mails by someone returning to the east.
Brown was probably in the vicinity of what would be
known as Denver as it went into the mails in Omaha City, Nebraska.*
It did not receive a postmark from any of the new post offices in the Denver area at the time.

Richard Frajola has made a wonderful web site showing
the postal history of this area in the Frederick Mayer collection.

A map published for the Pikes Peak gold seekers in an 1859 guidebook shows two overland
mail routes to California, where gold had been discovered in 1849, and Oregon.

Both routes followed the Platte River westward through Nebraska.
One passed through Omaha City en route to Des Moines, Iowa, and the other
joined the Missouri River Route to St. Joseph, Missouri, at Nebraska City.
Both followed the North Platte River westward to California and Oregon.

The route to the southwest along the South Platte River was the
principal route taken by emigrants to the Pikes Peak region in 1859.

Frajola notes the following concerning mail routes from Auraria, a Denver forerunner,

"A post office was established [in Auraria] on January 18, 1859 although the first contract mails did not begin until July 11, 1859. Contract mails were carried by the United States Express Company until they failed after their August 26, 1859 trip."

The cover received a clear CDS in Omaha City.

The cover is franked with an 1857 3 dull red Washington (Scott 26).

The destination of the cover was New Brunswick, New Jersey.
New Brunswick is about 30 miles southwest of New York City.

*Thanks to Maarten Willems' sharp eyes for correcting my misattribution of the cancel on this cover.
Thanks, also,  to Richard Frajola for pointing out that
what appears to be a return address, is probably docketting applied by the recipient.
The differences between the handwriting in the address and the docketting confirm this.

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