Free Fronts, Wrappers, Entire Letters

June 4, 2018 at 3:17 pm (history, research, World of Two Teens) (, , )


Yesterday afternoon – though a BEAUTIFUL day – became rather frustrating… I tried to find an eBay sale from 2013. Ultimately, I got it because I retained its PAYPAL receipt.

What was the item?

It is what would be called a “free front” – the address panel of a letter, in my case franked by a Gentleman with the name Labouchere. Franked mail was received free of charge to the recipient (who, otherwise, paid the cost of postage).

mrs smith free front 1838

You can see the edges of the paper, where it was trimmed from the letter’s wrapper (an extra sheet that once “wrapped” or “covered” the actual letter); nothing is written on the backside.

I cared FAR less about the signature than I did for that tangible piece of paper. That it once wended its way to Mapledurham House, and brought news from London, THRILLED me!

But: frustrating, too, that the letter once inside has been destroyed, or lost, or otherwise just-not-included.

Free fronts DO serve a purpose. I generally know who was receiving a letter — the exception being when “man” of the house is addressed, while the contents are written to his wife!

In obtaining a DESTINATION, I might be able to extrapolate a locale for letters I have, but which have no envelope or direction. THAT is certainly information worth having. Sometimes, I can verify where the person was residing, _if_ they were diligent diarists.

And there is always the HOPE that some day maybe envelope AND letter could be reunited!

bright star_letter

And resemble it as it once was, when first mailed.

A letter that was franked did not (as mentioned above) carry a COST for the postage. So these were likely to have a sheet of paper, with the direction written on, which certainly could have been written out in advance by the person franking the letter. Jane Austen several times mentions “getting” franks from, among them, William Chute – a Member of Parliament whom she knew.

It was imperative that the MP write the direction, the date (note: Place, month, day, year) and his “signature”.

I find eBay rather frustrating – yesterday for instance, I was searching for SMITH, DEVIZES, FRANK – up popped a plaster mask made from the face of actor Jim Carrey! Not what I was looking for… Then I used the term FRANKED LETTER PRESTAMP and get a “hit” on a letter described as “1819 prestamp completly letter”.

Sellers: Typos do not help!

(8 letters come up with that same verbiage…)

Plus, when I search online, I sooner or latter use the phrase “entire letter” (typically with the quotations marks) – I never thought about “complete letter”.

There is NO standardization. I found a couple useful letters or free front under Collectible – military (not a place I’d look, IF narrowing the category filters).

“EL” is sometimes used to ID an “entire letter”. Does that even search WELL?

One seller describes a letter as “1897” – the image shows a letter from 1840! Same seller has another listed as 1899; the image is from 1828. The reason they are called PRESTAMP: they were mailed before postage stamps. This seller is obviously not targeting dates (maybe they are inventory numbers?), but that means the descriptions are useless…

Dates, names, places would be what I look for. Call it a Free Front, a Wrapper, a Cover, an entire letter, a complete letter, an ALS – autograph letter signed. (ALS – another term one does NOT want to search for online!), I am on the HUNT for more.

If you collect, or known anyone who does, in the coming weeks I will be posting information about those I’m hoping to find MORE letters from and to. Please help, if you can!

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Lady Smatter said,

    I’ve had similar experiences on ebay- inconsistent and just downright weird terminology. It doesn’t help that “pre-stamp” means a different range of years in every nation! I wonder if UK postal history buffs get their fix at swap meets and specialist auctions, where search terms are less of an issue.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      They would certainly have it EASY if it can be _seen_ and looked at. One photo was just the backside! Great if interested in that post mark; not for those wanting to see who it was addressed to…

      I have typically tried to narrow it to Great Britain; but how true about different nations!

      The one thing _I_ wish for – a little tool that when you hover over the picture when they are first listed makes the photo bigger. I’ve thought about using an iPad – but still haven’t bothered experimenting.

      I told a friend about jewelry that turned up in a search for “Georgian” – that was described as “Victorian/Edwardian” = there’s a good 150 years between those three.

      Thanks for writing, k

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