Virtually every postal history collector is familiar with the famous Waterbury, Connecticut fancy cancels of the 19th century. Many articles have been written about them, and they bring great attention in auctions, commanding many thousands of dollars for some examples. Little known, in comparison, are the fancy cancels of Cheyenne Dakota, which are the focus of this article.
The town of Cheyenne was platted on Jul 10, 1867 by General Grenville Dodge of Iowa in what was then Laramie County, Dakota Territory (1). Laramie County was created to provide local administration for new residents coming to the area, which was quickly being settled because of the construction of the Union Pacific portion of the transcontinental railroad which was rapidly advancing westward (2).
This “Magic City” of the plains, as it was referred to, grew quickly with wooden structures replacing the original tents in the first months of the town’s existence (see Figure 1). The residents almost immediately began calling for separation from Dakota Territory, whose capital was in Yankton, some 700 miles to the east. The Cheyenne Leader published an editorial on Oct 22, 1867 calling for the formation of a new territory to be called Wyoming or Lincoln, with Cheyenne (of course) as its capital (3). The Nov 14, 1867 issue of the Leader announced the arrival of the Union Pacific railroad to the city from the east, further fueling the separatist movement. However, it was not until Jul 29, 1868 that Laramie County and Cheyenne were officially transferred to the newly formed Wyoming Territory.
The post office at Cheyenne was established Aug 22, 1867 with Thomas E. McLeland as postmaster (2). As with most newly established post offices, McLeland initially manuscript cancelled outgoing mail (Figure 2).
The earliest reported handstamp cancel from Cheyenne, Dakota is Jan 10, 1868. And, from that time forward, it appears as though postmaster McLeland used different fancy cancels (killers) at times on an almost-weekly basis, as summarized in Table I.
My records indicate the Jan 10, 1868 cancel with “Star” killer was last sold in the May, 1988 Henry Spelman III auction. I don’t own the cover, nor do I have a decent scan; however, the illustration in the 1988 auction catalog clearly shows a solid star type killer. The next two killers listed in Table I are “Sunburst” killers and are most certainly different, as can be seen from the examples illustrated in Figures 3 and 4. The other fancy cancel varieties listed in Table I are shown in the subsequent Figures 5 through 12.
The earliest known Cheyenne Wyoming (Territory) cancel I’m aware of is from Nov 16, 1868. Therefore, in the course of ten months (from Jan to Oct, 1868) Cheyenne Dakota is known to have used ten different fancy cancels. Again, the author would appreciate knowing about any other Cheyenne Dakota fancy cancels from the LaPosta readership.
In the following years, Cheyenne continued to grow at a blistering pace. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory in Aug, 1874 by Custer’s expedition. As a result, Cheyenne became the primary jumping off point for miners heading into the Black Hills to seek their fortune (or lose their scalps, as the case may be). Merchants, settlers and other businessmen also flocked into the Hills to take advantage of the new-found riches of the region. Enterprising businessmen in Cheyenne were quick to seize upon the opportunity of transporting would-be miners into the Hills. The first “regular stage” from Cheyenne to the Black Hills departed the Great Western Corral on Mar 8, 1875 carrying three gold prospectors (4). Less than a year later, the maiden trip for the famous “Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express” started out for the Black Hills on Feb 3, 1876 (5). The postal history of that stage line will be the theme for a future LaPosta article.
Again, the author would appreciate any additional information on the cancels of Cheyenne Dakota. Please e-mail the author Ken Stach. Thanks.
- Williams, John Hoyt, A Great and Shining Road, Times Books, 1988, p.170.
- Patera, Alan H.; Gallagher, John S., and Stach, Kenneth W., South Dakota Post Offices, The Depot, 1990, p.385.
- The Cheyenne Leader, Oct 22, 1867.
- Spring Wright, Agnes, The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes, University of Nebraska Press, 1948, p. 55.
- Ibid, p.81.