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A Letter to a Sister Circa 1850?

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

This cover is an interesting one, and I would love to confirm who sent it and what was in it.

The cover was sent from Madison, Wisconsin, on July 9 of 1848, 1849, or 1850. The circular date cancellation does not contain a year, but I know it had to be one of those three years because the stamp. a US Scott #1, was issued on July 1, 1847, and was initially delivered to post offices on the East Coast. It is highly unlikely that a supply of the stamps arrived in Madison a little more than a week later. And this stamp was demonetized and declared invalid for postage effective July 1, 1851. Covers with this stamp dated after July 1, 1851, have been found, but they are rare.

This cover is franked with two 5-cent stamps because 10-cents was the going rate of postage for a letter traveling more than 300 miles in this time frame.

This cover is included in the US Philatelic Classics Society's census of 1847 covers. It is ID number 23208. It is one of only four recorded 1847 issue usages from Madison, Wisconsin. The cover also has a Philatelic Foundation certificate (number 574297) opining that it is a genuine usage of US Scott #1.

The cover was addressed to Miss Cornelia B. Bristol of Rochester, New York. Ms. Bristol was born in July 1805 in upstate New York. She died on January 1, 1886, and was buried in Brighton, New York, just a few miles southeast of Rochester. A picture of her grave marker is below.

Ms. Bristol was living with other members of her family in 1850 according to information in the 1850 census, but by 1860 she is listed in the census as living at the "New York State Lunatic Asylum." Given the state of mental health care in the mid 1800s, who knows why she was committed. In the 1880 census, she is still listed as living in an institution, and she presumably died there in 1886.

But who sent her this letter? My best guess is her brother, Charles Egbert Bristol. Mr. Bristol was born in 1814 in upstate New York, but according to a family tree on, he was married in Madison, Wisconsin in 1861 and lived there until his death in 1892. I can't find any record of him being in Madison in the late 1840s, but perhaps his occupation took him there? In the 1850 US census, his occupation is listed as "Agent" and in the 1855 New York State Census, it is listed as "Traveling Agt."

If that is correct, then what did he write to his older sister?

This cover was acquired in February 2022 from City Stamp Montral for $840.00.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Cornelia Bristol's Gravemarker

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