Monday, August 24, 2015

1862 Library of Congress Envelope

This weekend I attended StampShow 2015 sponsored by the American Philatelic Society in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the largest annual stamp show in the nation. Over the years a small cadre of philatelic dealers have been thoughtful enough to save items related to my collecting interest of postal librariana until the next time they see me at a stamp show. Several of these dealers were at the Grand Rapids show. One dealer (thanks Doug) was holding an especially nice item for me. It is an envelope (shown above) mailed by Ainsworth Rand Spofford at the Library of Congress on March 13, 1862 to Washington, D.C. bookseller P.R. Fendall. At the time Spofford was Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress. He became Librarian of Congress in 1864 and served in that capacity until 1897. The envelope has an embossed Library of Congress return address and has a hand written notation indicating that it contained a letter from Spofford and that Fendall had sent the books which Spofford had requested. I have a large collection of postal items related to the Library of Congress and have a philatelic exhibit of these items. This envelope is special because it is the first one I have seen which includes a postage stamp and was mailed prior to 1870. Mail sent by the Library of Congress was limited before the library was authorized to handle the copyright function on behalf of the United States in 1870. For much of its early history the Library of Congress made use of the free franking privilege of members of congress for its outgoing mail. After 1877 the Library of Congress used a special category of stampless mail for government agencies referred to as “penalty mail” because of the statement on envelopes threatening a penalty for private use. I’m revamping my Library of Congress exhibit and this envelope will make a very nice addition.

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