US Stamps

Mourning stationery for one president addressed to another

Mar 27, 2023, 1 PM
Was this letter delivered on Christmas Day 1881? The mourning aspect of the cover honors assassinated President James A. Garfield, but it is addressed to his replacement, President Chester A. Arthur at his residence in New York City.

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

One of the more unusual mourning covers I have come across is the 1881 example pictured above. Note that it is from “Office of the President of the United States – Official” and is addressed to “The President of the United States, Lexington Ave., New York City” which was the location of Chester A. Arthur’s permanent residence.

Arthur was the sitting president, having succeeded to the presidency on Sept. 19, 1881, when President James A. Garfield died. Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, and died 79 days later, at age 49.

The mourning stationery is in honor of Garfield, just three months after his death.

Arthur must have been home for Christmas because the cancellation date is Dec. 24, 1881.

The back of the cover (not shown) includes a Dec. 25 receiving date in New York. Because special delivery had not yet been introduced, and would not be until 1885, it is left to our imagination as to what the New York post office would do with a letter addressed to the president, received in the post office on Christmas Day.

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