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Now that was a government shutdown!

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN EFFECTS CALIFORNIA MAIL SERVICE

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Now this was the big daddy government shutdown of all government shutdowns. The year was 1861 and Texas had seceded from the Union in February. The results included a shutdown of transcontinental mail service.

Texas immediately appropriated all stock and equipment of the Butterfield Overland Mail within their territory. This action caused the U.S. Congress to terminate the route on March 12,1861. To exacerbate matters, the mail contract with the Vanderbilt steamship lines had expired, and the shipping interests refused to enter into a new contract unless guarantees could be given that their fees for carrying the mail would be increased.

This left California with essentially no transcontinental mail service, cut off from the commerce of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada. Post Master General Holt, and his successor Montgomery Blair, promised Vanderbilt additional funds and convinced Congress to appropriate them. Mail service by steamship was resumed, but overland service did not resume until July 1, 1861, when the new Central Overland Mail began. Mail was substantially delayed, and the daily service was reduced to a thrice-monthly steamship mail via Panama (before the canal’s construction, the mail was transported overland via donkey).

This made for an interesting solution to the mails for a letter destined for Canada West. (No, not Vancouver. In 1861 Canada West was just above Buffalo, New York.)  The cover pictured was mailed from Los Angeles on April 22, 1861 just 8 days after the fall of Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War. According to the backstamp it arrived at its destination on May 25, 1861.

The cover was carried by mail steamship and routed through Panama to New York City, then probably to Buffalo, N.Y. and cross-border to its destination.

The cover is posted with 15-cents rate required for Pacific Coast mail to Canada. The cover is franked with a Scott #30A (Perf 15½, type II, brown – SCV = $325.00 on cover) and a #35 (10¢ green, type V, SCV = $125.00 on cover to Canada).  Markings of note include the ‘UNITED STATES PAID 6’ used by the Exchange Office at Buffalo, N.Y.

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