Bennington and East Bennington- Covers with 1847 stamps, bearing the postmark of either of these postoffices were actually serviced from the same postoffice building. The great Bennington postoffice fight is a long, complicated and confusing story in itself. I will not go into the details of it here- except to give the bare outline which explains to some degree why the postmarks we find on these covers came about.
The original village of Bennington was on the hill which is crowned by the Bennington monument today, and is now called Old Bennington. Here the first postoffice in Vermont was established in 1783. Gradually the town expanded at the foot of the hill to the east until by the 1830s there were more residents in the East Village than there were on the Hill, and they complained bitterly about having to walk up the long hill for their mail. Several attempts were made to establish a postoffice in the East Village. Official Postoffice Department records show an East Bennington postoffice established January 13, 1844, with Gen. Henry Robinson as postmaster. It was discontinued May 28, 1846 when postal authorities in Washington discovered it was less than a mile from the Bennington postoffice, as required by postal regulations. John C. Haswell was officially the Bennington postmaster at that times but in 1844 he had gone to Washington to fill a more lucrative position in the postoffice Department, leaving the Bennington postoffice in charge of his substitute, Edward Rice. In 1847 Mr. Haswell returned from Washington and calmly resumed his postmastership, thus displacing Mr.Rice. Mr. Haswell was the publisher and printer of the local newspaper, "The Vermont Gazette", formerly a Whig paper which he had changed over to the Democratic Party line. Having moved his print shop to the East Village he wanted his postoffice nearby. Since Mr. Haswell owned the building housing the postoffice he managed through the use of ox teams to move the building down the hill and relocate it across the street from the Putnam House. A delegation of influential Whigs from Old Bennington went to Washington and, in spite of their politics succeeded in in (sic) having the postoffice (not the building) restored to the Hill. Finally, in January 1848 Mr. Haswell resigned the postmastership in Bennington and on the same day had himself appointed postmaster of the newly reestablished postoffice of East Bennington, now made legal through his foresight in selecting a new site for the postoffice on the hill which was in excess of a mile from his building in East Bennington. Having thus accomplished his purpose, Mr. Haswell turned over the postmastership of East Bennington to his employee, George B. Prentice, during August 1848. The evidence shows that from about that time covers with 1847 stamps "socked-on-the-nose" with the beautiful large red circle postmark 31 1/2mm in diameter, reading EAST BENNINGTON, were being cancelled in the postoffice building Mr. Haswell had moved bodily down the hill, while stampless covers with the regular BENNINGTON postmark together with a"5" in a circle were coming from the Old Bennington postoffice, cancelled in either red or black in 1848
A shipment of 500-5c and 100-10c stamps had been sent to Mr. Haswell at the Bennington postoffice on November 5, 1847, and he must have taken them with him to East Bennington in January 1848. No covers have been found with 1847 stamps postmarked by the old regular BENNINGTON postmark. The records show the next order of 200-5's and 50-10's were sent to Bennington on April 5, 1849, but still no covers with 1847 stamps cancelled with the old Bennington postmark have come to light.. Have you seen one?
East Bennington covers with 5c 1847 stamps are fairly common (a total of 6 or 7 known) which is surprising considering that Mr. Haswell had only 500-5's and 100-1c's or less which he took with him from the Bennington office on the Hill and that the reestablished East Bennington office retained this name only about eighteen months, and never ordered any 1847 stamps of its own.. No 10c covers are known postmarked East Bennington, but the 5c covers are outstandingly beautiful. It was probably Mr. Prentice who took great pains to cut the stamps accurately, and to strike his Postmark practically mathematically centered on the stamp,. Alas! On some of them he also added a pen cancel scribble for good measure.
The covers without the pen scribble are in great demand as "gem items". One sold at auction a few years ago for over $750.
The feeling in the town of Bennington over the rival postoffices became so bitter that finally on July 12, 1810, the new Whig administration in Washington moved into action. The postoffice at the East Village became permanently entitled to use the name "Bennington". There was also a change in postmasters and Horace T. White, a good Whig, took over the office. Perhaps this was a just compromise. Mr. White started operating in the same building Mr. Haswell had moved down the hill, and used some of Mr. Haswell's equipment. He knocked out the "EAST" in the EAST BENNINGTON handstamp, and that is why for the rest of its use it had such a lopsided appearance. Mr. White, in cleaning up after his predecessor must have found some 10c stamps which had become damaged in all the confusion, because he is credited with returning 45 damaged 10's to Washington on August 21, 1849, and was sent on August 22nd a shipment of 300-5's. He received three more orders of 5's while the 1847 stamps were in use, but no more 10's, thus making a total for Bennington of 2,300-5's and 105-10's, of which 1,600-5's were received after the name changing of the two Bennington postoffices.
When Mr. White took over the duties of postmaster he used a different method of cancelling. He struck the now lopsided appearing Bennington postmark on the cover and cancelled the stamp with a 7-bar grid in the same bright red. Bennington 1847 covers are quite common as Vermont 1847 covers go, since after all, Mr. White had the remainder of the stamps left by Mr. Haswell and Mr. Prentice, together with the l,600-5's he ordered during the life of this issue. At one time he must have run short of 50 stamps at least temporarily, because he used the lower diagonal half of one 10c stamp to make the 5c rate on a letter addressed to Middlebury. This is Vermont's only 10c bisect. It is a fabulous cover and I wish I owned it. No other 10c stamp has so far been found on a Bennington cover.
(continued in The Vermont Philatelist, November 1963)
back to Vermont Philatelic Society Homepage
December 23, 2009