US Stamps

A lot of effort for a penny in 1907

May 25, 2022, 2 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

What kind of lengths would the post office go to for a penny of postage paid? The postcard in Figure 1 provides one answer.

The card is canceled Aug. 22, 1907. The standard postcard rate of 1¢ was paid by a Franklin stamp of the 1902 series. The picture side, shown in Figure 2, includes a brief message and features a photograph of the American Falls of Niagara Falls.

The card was sent from New York to “Miss F.B. Todd” on Maple Avenue (no number given) in Los Angeles. On receipt of the postcard in Los Angeles, the post office tried to find Miss Dodd in the local directory without success. A red, circled “Not in Directory” can be seen on the address side of the card in Figure 1.

Today, it is doubtful that even that effort would be made.

But in 1907, the post office superintendent directed through the use of the tracer form attached to the postcard that further effort be made. The tracer form is shown folded back in Figure 1. The side with the instructions to letter carriers is shown in Figure 3.

Those instructions, dated Aug. 28, 1907, at Los Angeles, read: “The carrier whose number appears first on this tracer will take the accompanying letter (sic) and make a thorough inquiry in his route for the addressee. If unsuccessful he will sign his initials opposite his number and pass the letter and tracer to the next carrier on the list, and so on until all have made inquiry. If successful he will return the tracer to me with the desired address.”

It isn’t clear whether the postcard was ever delivered. Perhaps the “151” at the bottom of the tracer form was the street address. Or the card may have been considered to be undeliverable. Because there was no return address, the card then could have been treated as waste paper. It would not be the first waste item to have been saved and sold to collectors.

One thing is for sure: The post office expended a lot more than a penny’s worth of effort to try to find the addressee.

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