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A Cover Sent from New Orleans to Germany, 1868

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

The Universal Postal Union (UPU), which was organized in 1874 and today is a specialized agency within the Union Nations, coordinates postal policies among member nations. It is because of the UPU that international mail is effectively transmitted worldwide (i).

Prior to the UPU, countries had to enter into bilateral agreements with one another to ensure the movement of mail and to determine how postage would be divided between the two nations. This cover sent from the United States to Germany in 1868 was transmitted under one of those agreements, specifically the US-North German Union Convention of 1867 (ii).

Under that agreement, mail in closed bags from the US first landed in England and was then sent to an exchange office, which in the case of this cover was a traveling post office between Verviers, Belgium and Cologne (or "Coeln"), Germany. The cover was then delivered to its destination in Bremen, Germany.

The cost for that journey as spelled out in the agreement was 15-cents, which was paid by the sender affixing what is today known as US Scott Catalog number 77. This stamp was issued in the late spring of 1866, about a year after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It is considered by many collectors as a mourning stamp and by others as a commemorative stamp.

The postal markings illustrate this cover's travels. It was postmarked in New Orleans, on August 17, 1868. The circular date stamp that cancelled the stamp does not contain the year, but the year is clearly shown in the blue-ink stamp to the far left from the company that sent the letter. Silkenstadt & Co. was a commission merchant/shipping agent headquartered in New Orleans. Its principals were Johann Georg Silkenstadt and Adolph (or Adolphus) Frerichs.

Johann Silkenstadt was born in Bremen, Germany in 1822. By 1851, he was living in Cheetham, England, part of the Greater Manchester metropolitan area, which is where he died in 1892 at age 70. As far as I can tell, he never lived in New Orleans. For example, he is listed in the New Orleans City Directory of 1874 as a principal of Silkenstadt & Co. but with a home address of Manchester, England.

His partner Adolph Frerichs was born in Germany in 1834, probably in Bremen. He might have spent some time in England, because his sister was born there in 1848 when Adolph was 14 years old. By 1862, he was living in New Orleans because the records show he was married there in that year. He served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and was living in New Orleans until at least 1869. By the mid 1870s, he was back in Bremen where he would die at age 51 in 1885.

Adolph's father's name was Hermann, and that appears to be the cover's addressee. The handwriting is a little hard to make out, but my guess is that Hermann Frerichs was running a business in Bremen.

The cover arrived in New York on August 22, 1868 - at least I believe that is date in the red postmark just to the right of center on the cover.

The cover traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on a steamer and arrived at the Verviers-Cologne traveling post office on September 9, 1868. You can make out that date ("3 9") in the red postmark in the center lower-left.

There is another postmark on the back of the cover - "AUSG" with the numerals "4 9." AUSG is an abbreviation of "Ausbage" and is an acknowledgement of when the letter was received, which was September 4, 1868.

I acquired this cover with five others at a Dutch Country Auction held on November 15-17, 2022. The total purchase price was $345.00 (including a 15% buyer's premium), or $57.50 per cover. This item has a catalog value of $225.00.

Figure 1- Front

Figure 2 - Back

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