Ballooning

Very First Mention of Airmail in the United States, Predating the First Air balloon Flight by Over a Year, Also Incredible John Rutledge Supreme Court Content

John Rutledge First Mention of Airmail in the United States, Predating the First Attempt to Deliver Mail by Air Balloon by 14 Months!

 

Four pages of a bifold on laid paper, 8" x 13", Charleston. Dated "April 1, 1784" and signed by Thomas Hall as "Thomas Hall". Usual mail folds with light soiling. Small areas of paper loss along fold lines not affecting text.

 

An important letter, addressed to an unknown recipient relating to proposing air balloons for the conveyance of mail from state to state. This letter predates the very first official air mail delivery in the United States which took place on August 17, 1859 by over 75 years!  The very first official air mail delivery attempt occurred when John Wise piloted a balloon starting in Lafayette. Indiana, with a destination of New York with the intent to deliver U.S. mail. Weather issues forced him to land in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and the mail finally reached its destination by train. On the 100th anniversary of the event, in 1959, the U.S. Post Office issued a 7 cent stamp commemorating the event. A prior, unofficial attempt of air mail delivery occurred in 1793 (nearly 10 years after this date of this letter ), when Jean-Pierre Blanchard carried a personal letter from George Washington to be delivered, (with Washington himself present for the actual launch). This marked the first unofficial delivery of air mail in the United States.

 

The revealing paragraph from the transcribed letter is shown below:

 

"We hear that Congress by the assistance of an air Balloon intends upsetting this state shortly. If you have any influence with the Post Master Gen. doo [sic recommend air balloons for the conveyance of mails from state to state, I think they may be brought to that Perfection."

 

This letter was written only 8 months after the very first launch internationally of any air balloon, which originated in France on the 19th September 1783 when  Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called 'Aerostat Reveillon'. The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and the balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.

 

A truly remarkable letter!

 

Add to this important historical point in postal history, is the wonderful additional content in the letter relating an altercation involving John Rutledge, which culminated in a threat. Rutledge, the second Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, at the time was then a former governor and not serving in any public office:

 

 "...You might have heard of one Capt. Thompson who challenged Governor Reed & now keeps the City Tavern in Charleston. John Rutledge Senr. sent his servant to the Tavern on some Business, the servant behaved insolently to Thompson, he ordered her out & abused her, she went home to Rutledge & informed him he was also abused by Thompson. Rutledge sent for Thompson to his house who being shewn up to a room where Mr. Rutledge was sitting, Mr Rutledge asked if he was the man who kept the City Tavern, Thompson said he was...R told him he sent for him to Chastise him for his insolence. T not recollecting what all this was for & not knowing it was Rutledge's servant demanded the reason. R then told what the reproached said of him which being denied by T, Mr R said he would believe the negro before T who being unused to such language went home & sent Mr. Rutledge a very severe letter finally leaving him the choice of three things, 1st Make acknowledgements before some Gentlemen 2nd Fight him or 3rd suffer himself to be Horse whipped. The assembly being setting at this time the letter was laid before them & Thompson being called on to ask Pardon of the House & Mr Rutledge, to the first he agreed saying no man would go farther to support the Liberty & Pride of that House but obstinately refused to comply with the Letter, he was then committed to the Gaol where he remained until Friday last when the assembly adjourned & I brought him out with attab' Corps. This affair has made a great deal of noise & perhaps you may hear much about it, but my information is literally true."

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Item: 64550

Price: $5,000.00
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