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Mail Delivery In The 19th Century


DonBradley

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Hi All,

The speed of communication between various parties is significant to various theories and events of early Mormonism. The Spalding-Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon composition posits communication between geographically-separated parties; so, the speed and ease of communication in the 1820s may be a factor in assessing the theory. Also, in 1844, Wisconsin Mormon James J. Strang claimed to have received a "letter of appointment" from Joseph Smith shortly after the latter's assassination, and the date of the postmark and alleged reception of this letter are significant in assessing its genuineness. So, the speed of postal delivery at the time becomes a significant issue.

The authors of the book The Spalding Enigma include in that work an appendix on the speed and cost of available modes of travel in Joseph Smith's day, but do not, that I can see, address postal delivery.

How was mailed delivered in the 1820s (and 1840s)? And how quickly could it be expected to travel? Any insights on this, or sources where I might find relevant information, would be greatly appreciated.

Don

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How was [mail] delivered in the 1820s (and 1840s)? And how quickly could it be expected to travel?

Any insights on this, or sources where I might find relevant information, would be greatly appreciated.

Don

In almost all cases, it went from US Post Office to US Post Office. There was no free delivery, except in

some very special cases (to high ranking law enforcement officials, military officers in the field, etc).

I have read accounts in the 1820s where a hand-carried letter made it from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh

in three days, but that a federal postal delivery took more than two weeks.

There are books on such obscure details -- I located one on mail stage routes a few years ago, that had

a time/distribution map, generally showing how long it took letters to travel eastward and westward at

different periods between 1800 and 1860. Oddly enough, the book had no similar map for north-south

mail, except along the Atlantic coast.

I'll try find the volume -- I think it was from a regional history association in west PA.

UD

.

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Thank you, Dale, for the info. I'd be very interested in hearing more about that book, as well.

It sounds, from what you're saying, like having a messenger run letters back and forth would have been a great boon to any hypothesized co-conspirators in the writing of the Book of Mormon. Do you think there were such messengers? And if so, any suspicions on their identity?

Don

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Thank you, Dale, for the info. I'd be very interested in hearing more about that book, as well.

It sounds, from what you're saying, like having a messenger run letters back and forth would have

been a great boon to any hypothesized co-conspirators in the writing of the Book of Mormon.

Do you think there were such messengers? And if so, any suspicions on their identity?

Don

Theodore Schroeder pointed the finger at Parley P. Pratt:

http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/1901schr.htm

It is interesting to see in some old accounts that both Pratt and Cowdery were identified as "peddlers"

and Cowdery in particular, as a "pedestrian peddler" --- that is, a guy used to walking long distances

witha pack upon his back, selling items from that pack at he went along.

Both Pratt and Cowdery must have had some experience with walking long distances, since they were

two of the guys who carried packs full of the Book of Mormon all the way from New York to Missouri

in 1830-31.

On the other hand, I cannot believe that much of the BoM was composed by "mail order." If Rigdon

and JS were the principle people involved, then, yes, they must have communicated at least a little

over a distance -- but how often and over how great a distance?

Esak Rosa, who was the primary editor of Eber D. Howe's 1834 "Mormonism Unvailed," reportedly

accused Smith and Rigdon of conducting secret meetings in Ashtabula Co., Ohio, prior to the printing

of the Book of Mormon. However, that is just one man's allegation, and I have only found one or two

bits of circumstantial evidence to back up the claim --- certainly no proof.

UD

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Also, I do believe that someone would see the mail delivery to both men and when the book came out, made notice of it. Also, mail deliveries require envelopes or paper coverings. Someone in the smith family would perhaps notice such deliveries, eventually. Also, money is an object, as is the post office. I am sure that in Palmyra, the postal clerk knew much of the happenings going on. And of course, the standard questions politely focused about the contents or purpose of such parcels as tidbits to pass the day. (I watched Little House on the Priarie)

At this moment I just cannot see Parley carrying the manuscripts draft from one local to another. My logical, at times mind, can't get around that one.

But one more conspirator does sweeten the pot...and its unlikelihood. :P

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I do like Strang's story. At least he had real plates which people could really see and touch, and fascimiles were made of the text on them, which can actually be evaluated.

Yes, and but where is Strang today and where is his church? But I am sure that I would have liked the man if I would have met him.

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Yes, and but where is Strang today and where is his church?

Strang is dead. I don't believe he had a 'church' of his own, he was LDS. His members have joined the RLDS, as expected.

But I am sure that I would have liked the man if I would have met him.

He seems to have been very willing to please.

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Strang is dead. I don't believe he had a 'church' of his own, he was LDS. His members have joined the RLDS, as expected.

He seems to have been very willing to please.

He did. He organized himself in Wisconsin and upon his murder, he had a following of 5, 000 for his sect. He was killed by one of his followers.

Gone by obvisiously not forgotten.....

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He did. He organized himself in Wisconsin and upon his murder, he had a following of 5, 000 for his sect.

Well you would see it that way, but from my point of view he was LDS and that's it. No 'new church'.

He was killed by one of his followers.

Untimely death seems to have been an occupational hazard of God's messengers back then.

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Well you would see it that way, but from my point of view he was LDS and that's it. No 'new church'.

No. Go to this website: http://www.strangite.org

Have fun! And as you will see, they have their own church very loosely organized. :P But it seems very, very loosely organized to me. But it is a part of Mormon history also, something to reflect about when we see the richness of lds history.

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No. Go to this website: http://www.strangite.org

Have fun! And as you will see, they have their own church very loosely organized.

As I can see, it says 'Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints - Mormons'. And apparently, their persecutors don't want you to hear their story. They were also way ahead of you guys in their attitude to the ordination of negroes. Strang was apparently giving them the high priesthood as early as 1848, whereas you guys took what, another 125 years to get that right? Unlike other LDS, it seems the Strangite branch were explicitly egalitarian - pro-suffage and anti-slavery. Far and away in front of their Mormon brethren, such as your branch.

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As I can see, it says 'Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints - Mormons'. And apparently, their persecutors don't want you to hear their story. They were also way ahead of you guys in their attitude to the ordination of negroes. Strang was apparently giving them the high priesthood as early as 1848, whereas you guys took what, another 125 years to get that right? Unlike other LDS, it seems the Strangite branch were explicitly egalitarian - pro-suffage and anti-slavery. Far and away in front of their Mormon brethren, such as your branch.

Why are you so hostile? I pointed you in the direction of the Strangites so you can see just what they believe and are up to. I thought that I was doing you a favor. And as I said, they are a part of the richness of lds history. And actually they call themselves the Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

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Why are you so hostile?

I'm sorry you interpret me as hostile. I don't mean to come across that way.

I pointed you in the direction of the Strangites so you can see just what they believe and are up to.

Thanks, I've visited their site before. I have even linked to it in a discussion with a Mormon on another site.

And as I said, they are a part of the richness of lds history. And actually they call themselves the Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

And as I said, they're Mormons just like you. Strang did not start a new church. Brighamite LDS, RLDS, Strang ite LDS, you're all LDS.

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Also, I do believe that someone would see the mail delivery to both men and when the book came out,

made notice of it. Also, mail deliveries require envelopes or paper coverings. Someone in the smith

family would perhaps notice such deliveries, eventually.

If I were to postulate two letters sent from Smith to Ohio, between 1823 and 1829

and two letters sent from Rigdon to NY or PA between during that same period, why

would some postal clerk have taken notice of them, amongst the many hundreds of

other pieces of mail passing through the system?

Letters at that period generally did not have envelopes -- they were long sheets of paper,

written upon, folded in three or for places, and sealed witha spot of wax or glue.

Also, money is an object, as is the post office. I am sure that in Palmyra, the postal clerk

knew much of the happenings going on.

I would think that the cost of mailing a letter to Ohio ($1 or so) would have been within JS's

means. That is about what a day-laborer made back then. But, if he had no money, a letter

could have been sent postage-due. Rigdon certainly could have scrounged up a dollar now

and then, from his congregational collection plate, if from nowhere else.

If one Rigdon letter were sent to Pamyra and another to Harmony, and one Smith letter sent

back to Rigdon from each place, why on earth would a Palmyra postal clerk suspect anything?

And of course, the standard questions politely focused about the contents or purpose of such

parcels as tidbits to pass the day. (I watched Little House on the Priarie)

Joseph Smith, Jr. sends a letter addressed to the Minister of the Baptist Church in Mentor, Ohio --

a letter without his own name or return address on the outside. Perhaps he even has Porter

Rockwell drop off the letter at the Palmyra post office and pay the $1 postage. It was against

federal law for the postal clerk to open the letter or to enquire about what was written inside.

Why would the clerk automatically think JS was engaged in a conspiracy with some guy in Ohio,

to finalize the text of a book not published for another couple of years? Makes no sense.

At this moment I just cannot see Parley carrying the manuscripts draft from one local to another.

My logical, at times mind, can't get around that one.

Of course not -- were you to say such a thing to your Stake President (or were a higher official in

the LDS Church to hear that you are saying such things), then you'd probably be scheduled for

a church court trial.

To you Mormons, Pratt is a trustworthy, sterling character, murdered by persecuting wicked Gentiles.

To the RLDS he was one of the scheming, coniving "Gang of Nine" -- that is, the nine members of

the C12 who formed the Utah Mormon Church. Heck! we trust Rigdon more than we do Pratt!

UD

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