Merchant's Cargo Assurance Letter

Mailed form

Trans-Atlantic shipping was still a fairly risky business in early June 1848, the date that this cargo was placed aboard and the consignors sought assurance for its possible loss. The practice of such assurance was common enough that at least one firm of stationers, Burrup & Son, produced a pre-printed form for an assurance group to simply 'fill in the blanks' and issue a policy.

Burrup & Son were located at No. 12, East Front in London, while the assurers agents, Popplewell & Walls, were located at 46 Lime St. The consignor or owner of this cargo was in Dundee, Scotland at an unspecified address. Being a Merchant, Mr. MacKenzie could have been acting for the owner/purchaser as an agent, supplying the goods and arranging both shipping and assurance.

Summarizing the transaction, we find that one Robert MacKenzie, Merchant, was shipping the following materials from London to New York:

  2 Bales of Linens valued at 37 10/ each.
21 Bales of Linens valued at 24 each
  6 Bales of Linens valued at 43 each
  1 Bale of Linens valued at 55
  3 Bales of Linens values at 70 each

The shipment total was then 1102 and the assurers would cover 1100. This coverage was to be inclusive of "risk to Craft to and from the Vessel". The cargo was also "Warranted free from Capture and Seizure and the consequences of any attempts thereat."

Popplewell & Walls acted as agents for a pool of individuals who would subscribe to cover varing amounts of the total risk. As such, the individual parties forming the assurance Group in this instance were:

Richard Oliverson
Robert Oliverson
Stephen Kennard
S.N. Steinmety
L. England
W. Boutcher
John Young
Wilm Young
A. Johnstone
T. Haverside
H. Hose
I.S. Riggs
H. Powell

The cost of the assurance policy was to be "Twenty Five Shillings per cent" for a total, on the 1100 assured, of 13 15/. The agents added a fee of 11/ to a total cost of 14 6/.

The policy was issued on 2nd June 1848 and then posted off to Robert MacKenzie on 3rd June. A back stamp indicated arrival on the 4th June 1848. London to Dundee in under 36 hours! Today, as an example, it takes several days for a letter to cross just the City of Las Vegas.

The merchant had sent a Letter Of Credit to the assurance Agents in the amount of 25, more than enough to cover the issuance of this policy. The form is a double page, where the fold out is to serve as communication and the reverse to be the addressed and sealed portion.

In this communication the credit is acknowledged and the agents suggest that the balance be left in an account for six months, to draw a 5% discount against future assurrance requests. In the case of this shipment's costs, that would be a 14/ 3d discount and more than the agent's fees!

Philatelic Information:

The Penny Red had now been at press for over 7 years and this example is from Plate 76 with a few noted markings.

The "B" is weakly struck, both side frame lines have been recut and the top slighty extends to the right. This impression and the one above "MB" have a very narrow margin between. Possibly the reason it was cut so close at the top. The obliterator used was that of the Inland Branch of the GPO and assigned to the Ship Letter Office. It may be the special chop mentioned in Brumell, pg 140.

If you've read this far and haven't yet discovered, clicking on any image will bring a full sized version of it. In the case of the stamp above, it shows the opened out cover and transit markings. Rather nice to actually examine the assurance document and the letter.