WASHINGTON, MARTHA DANDRIDGE CUSTIS, First Lady . Autograph free frank ("M Washington"), on integral cover sheet addressed in the hand of Tobias Lear, Washington's private secretary, to "Messrs Thomas & Thomas Printers Walpole New Hampshire," [6 Octo...
Estimate: US$30,000 - US$35,000
Price realised: US$43,700
WASHINGTON, MARTHA DANDRIDGE CUSTIS, First Lady . Autograph free frank ("M Washington"), on integral cover sheet addressed in the hand of Tobias Lear, Washington's private secretary, to "Messrs Thomas & Thomas Printers Walpole New Hampshire," [6 October 1800], pale circular "Alex[andria] VA." datestamp and florid manuscript "Free" (in a clerk's hand) at top left-hand corner, remains of red wax seal, recipient's docket, tiny hole at seal, blank strip at upper edge missing, but otherwise in very fine condition. [ With ] LEAR, TOBIAS, Personal Secretary of George Washington. Autograph letter signed ("Tobias Lear") to Messrs. Thomas & Thomas, Mount Vernon, 6 October 1800. 1 page, 4to, integral address leaf as described above, on Washington's personally watermarked paper. ONE OF THREE OR FOUR SURVIVING FREE FRANKS BY MARTHA WASHINGTON, ON A LEAR LETTER OF CONSIDERABLE INTEREST A poignant letter, written some 10 months after the death of George Washington, requesting the cancellation of certain newspaper subscriptions, which, in the wake of her husband's passing, had proven burdensome. "Mrs. Washington requests me to inform you, that she finds it inconvenient to take the number of Newspapers with which she has heretofore furnished; and is therefore determined to discontinue them at the end of the present year; to which period she begs you will send in your account for the Farmer's Museum &c, and inform her whether payment shall be remitted to yourselves, or made to some person in this quarter. "The discontinuance of your paper is not on account of any objection to it in any respect; but merely to obviate the inconvenience which Mrs. Washington expresses on receiving so many papers. You will be pleased to be punctual in forwarding your account for the present year...." Martha Washington was granted the franking privilege by Congress on 3 April 1800 and held it until her death, on 22 May 1802. Her free franks are quite rare: by the best estimates a scant three or four examples are extant. Charles Hamilton in the 1974 edition of his standard Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts , stated that "only three franks of Martha Washington...are known to exist." The present frank is illustrated in the Stampless Cover Catalogue, p.223. We are aware of one other in the trade at present, a previously unknown example. Provenance : Henry Haiken, who supplied a photo of this cover to be used to illustrate Edward Stern, "Supplement to the History of the 'Free Franking' of Mail in the United States," in The Collector's Club Philatelist , Sec.II, vol.23, no.1 (January 1944), p.7. - Creighton C. Hart, tiny heart stamp and pencilled acquisition date of 1959.
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