Transatlantic mail between Canada and Europe is one of my collecting interests because of the postal markings and messages they often carry.  Most of my covers are from the stampless age, before the introduction of adhesives in the 1840s and 1850s to prove prepayment of postage.  It was a time when government and private sail ships and steamships carried mail; countries concluded bilateral postal agreements or none at all; letters could be sent pre-paid or not (collect) and correspondents could direct which route or vessel the letter could be carried.  All these bewildering variables resulted in different rates, routes travelled and accounting procedures to keep a record of debits and credits.  Fun stuff.
1839 (NO 29) Quebec, Lower Canada to Edinburgh, Scotland, folded letter postmarked red “QUEBEC” circular date stamp and matching “PAID ”struck three times, each next to manuscript rate “11”, “18Ύ” and “12½”, also manuscript “1/-” in black.  Reverse struck with straight-line “LIVERPOOL / SHIP LETTER”  and “JAN 4 E 1840” receiver.


Carried via closed bag mail from Quebec to Liverpool, prepaid 11d. Canadian currency to the border, 18Ύ cents U.S. to New York, 12½ cents FREIGHT MONEY fee for carriage by American sailing[1] vessels to England.  Carried by the Black Ball Line sailing packet Cambridge, departing on December 5, 1839 and arriving at Liverpool on 3 January 1840[2].  Entering as a Liverpool ship letter, rated ‘1/-’ Sterling collect, representing 8d inwards ship letter rate plus the experimental 4d. Uniform inland rate.  The 4d. rate was in effect from December 5, 1839 to January 10, 1840.  This brief period saw the progression change from number of sheets to weight, one rate under ½ oz, two rates from ½ to 1 oz[3], and so forth.  In contrast, the Canadian Post Office continued to rate letters by number of sheets for nearly another 4 years when it switched to weight on January 5, 1844.Significantly, while the Canada Post Office collected and remitted the Freight Money to the U.S., it was never authorized to do so.  The Post Master General in London ordered the Canadian Post Office to cease collecting the fees in December 1840.[4]



[1] Arnell, Jack. The Transitional Decade From Sail to Steam on the North Atlantic, Canada: British North American Philatelic Society, 1991. Pg 3-4
[2] Winter, Richard F. "Transatlantic Mail During the 4-Pence Rate Period" The Chronicle of the U.S. Classical Postal Issues, 59.3 (2007), pg 241 
[3] Tabeart, Colin. United Kingdom Letter Rates Inland and Overseas 1635 to 1900, 2nd ed. Bradford, England: HH Sales Limited, 2003. pg 11
[4] Winter, Richard F. Understanding Transatlantic Mail Vol. 1, Bellefonte, PA: American Philatelic Society, 2006. pg 88

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