FRAMINGHAM, MA -After ten days on the online auction site eBay, an envelope mailed over 100 years ago to Saxonville sold for $688.76 to the high bidder.
The envelope, or "cover" as it's more accurately called by philatelic collectors, bears a patriotic image of Horatio Seymour and Frank P. Blair campaigning for President and Vice President of the United States in the election of 1868.
Seymour lost the election to Ulysses S. Grant.
The cover had been mailed from Auburn, Mass to a "Mr. John Lewis, Saxonville, Mass." in the 1890's, (as noted in the auction listing -- the date is uncertain as the cancellation mark is not very clear).
After seven bidders had placed a total of eleven bids -- in the last few seconds of the auction one additional bid more than doubled the previous one making that final bidder the new owner of this rare piece of postal history.
The cover sold on September 25, 2011 by "MrFancyCancel", the eBay seller ID of Frank Kaplan and his son Larry of South River, NJ. Aside from regular auction listings, the pair operate an ebay store and their own website, (www.mrfancycancel.com) and currently lists over 1200 philatelic items including 400+ more Civil War Patriotic Covers. (Since they've completed over 14,000 transactions on eBay and have a 100% positive feedback rating -- I'd consider them very credible and expert in the field).
But that's not the end of the story...
After the auction closed, I emailed Frank Kaplan to ask permission to use copies of the auction images and to ask a few questions -- and then spoke with him on the phone.
I told Frank that I had looked up the name "John Lewis" in the genealogical register of Temple's History of Framingham which was published in 1887 and found that it only listed "Lewis, John R., d. Sax. Dec 7, 1885, a. 56 y. 9 m" which indicated that if he was the same Mr. Lewis as the addressee on the cover -- he had died eight and half years before the letter was sent, and asked about the dates. Further, Temple had not listed Lewis as having any other relatives in Saxonville (or any other Lewis in Framingham having an ancestor or descendant named John).
We discussed the possibility that it had been mailed after Mr. Lewis died -- or that maybe another John Lewis had moved to Saxonville shortly after 1885 or after Temple's book was published in 1887... either way, it peaked Frank's curiosity.
Frank told me he had gone by information he had gotten when he purchased the cover -- and that he had other doubts about the previous owner's notes.
In the auction listing he had written, "94 or 98 (can't tell for sure) tied by Grid with AUBURN MASS MAY 18 CDS", then added "Note on the back says the stamp was illegally reused - the stamp is grilled so this is a late usage, but I'm not sure about this."
I also asked about the orientation and location of the stamp -- that it had been affixed at an angle and not in the upper righthand corner.
Frank told me that sometimes stamps were placed in a particular way to relay a "hidden message" known only to the sender and recipient -- much in the way turn of the century hobos would make marks near railways to let other hobos know where it was safe to sleep, where they could find a meal, or to avoid a location because of railroad police.
Frank's auction description also stated that the cover was [the] "Only recorded example and priced at $500 over 10 years ago."
Frank told me that price came from a book, "Civil War Patriotic Covers Postally Used - The Jon E. Bischel Collection".
Frank then told me that Jon Bischel was in-fact the high bidder and winner of the auction, and that he had discussed my email with Bischel earlier in the day.
At the time of this writing, I have not spoken with Mr. Bischel, and he has not yet gotten the cover from Frank, but we agreed that I should post this article, and maybe someone from Framingham will be able to help identify who "Mr. John Lewis" from Saxonville was, what years he lived here, and maybe with Frank and Mr. Bischel's help we'll be able to help fill in a piece of Framingham's post Civil War era history.
Please use the comment area below to help unravel this Saxonville History Mystery!