The Boscawen Stamp

Worcester Webster, a cousin of Daniel Webster, served as postmaster in Boscawen from February 5, 1841 to January 15, 1852. In 1846 he created a ‚ÄúProvisional” postage stamp that was attached to an envelope addressed to Miss Achsah French, a 14 year old relative of Webster’s who lived in Concord. The stamp was dull blue ink, hand-stamped on a thin piece of yellowish handmade paper, with an adhesive to affix it to the envelope. Provisional stamps predate or take the place of the first official US stamps which were issued in 1847, as Congress set the postal rates, but had not yet printed stamps.

Since that day 168 years ago, this small envelope has found its way in to some very important stamp collections and has become known one of the rarest stamps in existence. It entered into a private collection for the first time in Washington DC in 1865. For twenty years it was in the possession of H.H. Lowrie who had received it from the the chief clerk of the general post office of Washington, DC. It was sold in 1894 and then again in 1912 to a French count who paid $5000 at auction and took it home to France. In 1922 the stamp returned home to America when a collector in Utica, New York purchased it for $11,000. The stamp has changed hands a number of times since then: in 1933, 1937, 1964, and most recently in 1989. In the 1989 sale it was purchased by an overseas buyer for $166,000.

In June 2010 the Boscawen Historical Society received a letter from a George Masnick of Hamilton, Montana, who wished to donate an unpublished manuscript from the 1930’s that he had in his possession titled, “Boscawen 1846: a Settlement, a Sailor, and a Stamp”. Mr. Masnick was at one time a teacher at Harvard University; one day while in Brookline, Massachusetts he found a collection of stamp books in the trash. He had given the collection to his brother, who was a stamp collector, and when he died it was returned to George.

The manuscript:  Boscawen 1846: a Settlement, a Sailor, and a Stamp