Details For Cover ID# 29207

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Cover Type: USA domestic with stamp(s)
Entered by: dwsnow
Added on:Oct 15, 21
Edited on:Oct 30, 21
Postmark: Jan 26, 1863
Origin: Chicago, Illinois, UNITED STATES
Destination: Washington, District of Columbia, UNITED STATES

3c red + 1c blue on white Compound Star Die cover front (U28) with blue "Chicago. Ill. Jan. 26 1863" duplex postmark to Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. with "Direct to North Branch Post Office, Chicago, Ills." handstamp at upper left.  Illustrated and discussed in Harvey M. Karlen and Dale L. Evans books. Ex -James E. Challenger.

This cover is scarce in three different ways. It is a Compound Star Die used from a city other than New York. It is a Chicago branch post office carrier use, and it has an unusual "North Branch/ Post Office" private marking. It is reported to be one of two known uses of a Compound Star Die from Chicago, the other dated Nov. 29, 1862, but without the North Branch Post Office marking (Siegel Sale 717, Dec 2, 1989, lot 4219, ex- Marcus White and Charles J. Wunsch). The "Direct to North Branch Post Office, Chicago, Ills." marking is believed to have been privately applied, not a post office marking.

Mail deposited at the North Branch of the Chicago Post Office, such as this example, was subject to a 1c charge as indicated in the Act of April 16, 1862, effective July 1, 1862, which authorized branch post offices in cities. Only Chicago and Cleveland have been recorded as operating branch post offices during this period. This 1c branch post office carrier fee remained in effect until July 1, 1863 when it was eliminated. Covers postmarked from Chicago and carrying an extra 1c paying this fee are quite uncommon. Source: "Chicago Postal Markings and Postal History" by Leonard Piszkiewicz, and "The United States 1c Franklin 1861-1867 and an Introduction to Postal History of the Period" by Don L. Evans.

Another reason that this cover is special is because it is addressed to Robert Kennicott (1835-1866) the curator of natural history specimens at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C, and a world-famous naturalist and founder of the Chicago Academy of Scientists. While working at the Smithsonian Institution under Assistant Secretary Spencer F. Baird, Robert Kennicott wrote the original descriptions of many new snake taxa brought back by expeditions to the American West. Kennicott was also a member of the high-spirited Megatherium Club (named after a giant extinct sloth that roamed South America) that met sporadically at the Smithsonian in between expeditions, and were famous for drinking beer at night and having sack races down the halls of the Castle when they lived there. Basically they cut loose (calling themselves 'great beasts') to celebrate all their new scientific discoveries and explorations, the dedicated, hard-working naturalists that they were. Kennicott had a lot of fun and achieved many scientific accomplishments during his short life. Tragically he died at age 30 under mysterious circumstances during a scientific expedition to Russian America in May 1866, while traveling up the Yukon River with his fellow naturalists.

The cover is believed to have been sent to Kennicott by his father John Albert or a member of his family in Chicago. His father was gravely ill at the time. Kennicott visited his father in Chicago later in 1863 shortly before his father died. The accompanying photo shows Robert Kennicott in his explorer clothing in early 1860s, from Smithsonian Institution Archives website.

Owner's ID: 2539
Certificate? No
For Sale? No
Stampless? No
Stamps:Stamp images are from reference catalog. Click image to view at larger resolution.