A Fun Stampless Cover

by Bob Mayo Articles

By: Bob Mayo

In my hunt for stampless covers of Richmond, Norflok and Petersburg, VA occasionally I will find a cover I cannot pass up. This one I could not pass up. The cover postal mark is not rare. It is a typical circula date stamp of 1836, C18; 31mm in Bob Lisbeth's check list, but has an unusual rare rate marking which happends to be "FREE", J. Clapp, Postmaster, Norwich, NY. It has to be assumed that the postmaster in Norfolk accepted Mr. Clapp's decoration of being Norwich's postmaster and would have sent the letter on the next out-going mail without question. The interesting part of the letter is its notation on the back "Nov. 10th, 1836, Seasick Norfolk.

We first identify Mr. Clapp traveling from Baltimore to Norfolk on a Chesapeake Bay steamer. Either Mr. Clapp was not a good sailor or it was one of those wonderful Bay rough seas. He is hastily writing Randall of his arrival in Norfolk and his upcoming departure on the steamer, South Carolina, for Charleston, which usually took two days. Then he implies from Charleston he will be going on the St. Augustine, Florida. The letter gives us just a glimpse into the daily life of a maritime traveler in the 19th century.


Dear Randall,

"I snatch a moment just to say we arrived here from Baltimore half an hour since, & leave here for Charleston in the Steam Packet :South Carolina" at 4 p.m.

Tomorrow I am to be as sick with nausea as a man was hung over a railing & prayed to have his heaving stomach kept quiet. I had a sick touch this morning, descending the Chesapeake. Our boat will be crowded & I fear our passage will be anything but pleasant.

Let me hear from you at St. Augustine & often.

Very truly, - John Clapp"

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