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A B2B Letter from 1847

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

I'm pretty sure "Business to Business" was not a term 175 years ago, but that is what this stampless letter represents. It was sent from Mercantile Bank of Salem, Massachusetts to Quinebaug Bank headquartered in Norwich, Connecticut on July 23, 1847. The letter contained two checks totaling $663.35, which represented payments on three accounts collected by Mercantile Bank on behalf of Quinebaug Bank.

The US issued its first adhesive postage stamps on July 1, 1847, but it was not until 1855 that postage had to be prepaid with stamps. The postage on this letter was probably prepaid at the Salem post office, which applied the "5" standing for 5-cents. That was the postage rate in 1847 for a single page traveling 300 miles or less. The distance from Salem to Norwich is about 120 miles.

The letter was sent by Stephen Webb, the cashier of Mercantile Bank. In the 1800s, a bank cashier was not an administrative or clerical position. Rather, a cashier frequently signified a bank manager or officer.

The earliest reference I can find to Mercantile Bank is in the oldest available Salem city directory, which is from 1837. The bank was likely organized a few years earlier. Many state-chartered banks were formed in the early to mid 1830s after President Andrew Jackson vetoed the re-charter of the Second Bank of the US in 1832. Mercantile Bank converted to a national bank charter in 1865 under the provisions of the National Bank Act of 1863 and remained in operation until it was merged into another Salem-based bank in 1914.

Mr. Webb was listed as Mercantile's cashier in the 1837 Salem city directory and served in that capacity until at least 1847. He was born around 1802 or 1803 and passed away circa 1869. It appears he lived in Salem his whole life. He was married in 1831, and he and his wife Martha had at least three children.

Mr. Webb apparently did quite well financially as cashier because he purchased a very attractive house in Salem known today as the John Hodges House located at 81 Essex Street (Figure 4). He purchased this house in 1837 and lived there until his death.

(By the way, Mr. Webb is not to be confused with his contemporary Stephen P. Webb of Salem, a politician who served as mayor of Salem and later as the fifth mayor of San Francisco, California.)

Quinebaug Bank in Norwich was chartered in 1832. It became a national bank in 1864 at which time it was renamed the First National Bank of Norwich. It ceased operations in 1913.

The cashier of Quinebaug Bank who received this letter and checks was Daniel Lathrop Trumbull Mr. Trumbull was born in 1816 in Norwich and died there in 1873. He was married in 1841 and he and his wife Alexandrine had two children.

This folder letter was acquired in a group of 60 covers at a July 16, 2022, Sterling Stamps auction. The cost for all 60 covers was $170.00 plus a 15% buyers' premium, which works out to about $3.25 per cover.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Letter

Figure 3 - Back

Figure 4 - John Hodges House, Salem, Massachusetts

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