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Sam Houston

Magnificent free frank by Houston, undoubtedly as United States Senator

Samuel Houston, 1793–1863.  President of the Republic of Texas, 1836–1838, 1841–1844; Governor of Texas, 1859–1861; United States Senator from Texas, 1846–1859.  Bold free frank, Sam Houston, no place, no date [circa 1851–1859].

This is a beautiful 3⅛” x 5½” envelope addressed and free franked by Houston.  He has written to “Messrs Blanchard & Lea / Booksellers / Philadelphia” and has signed “Free / Sam Houston” in the upper right corner.

Blanchard & Lea was one of several iterations of a successful Philadelphia publishing house that began in 1785 as Mathew Carey & Co. and remained in business, under various names, for more than two centuries.  Carey began by printing a variety of books, but by the late 1830s the firm specialized in scientific and medical publications.  The firm name evolved through the years, depending upon who the partners were.  It became Blanchard & Lea, owned by William A. Blanchard and Henry Charles Lea, in 1851, and it kept that name until Blanchard retired in 1865.  Ultimately the company existed as Lea & Febiger from 1907 until it was sold in 1990.

This free frank thus dates from the period between 1851, when the publishing house took the name Blanchard & Lea, and March 5, 1859, when Houston left office as a United States Senator from Texas.  Houston had the franking privilege as a Senator, but federal law did not grant him that privilege while he served as Governor of Texas from 1859–1861.  See Edward Stern, History of the “Free Franking” of Mail in the United States 3–5 (1936).

This envelope is in fine condition, and Houston’s bold signature is extra fine.  Houston has addressed and franked the envelope in black.  The embossed flap on the back of the envelope has been opened, resulting in a vertical tear that has been archivally repaired.  Otherwise, apart from a little handling, the piece is exceptional and would be beautiful in a framed display.




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