From 1788 through 1867, it was possible, with a few interruptions, to send mail between the United States and the Maritime Provinces by way of British transatlantic mail packets. This service when through multiple changes over the years.
From 1788 to 1826, the Falmouth Packets operated on a monthly basis between Falmouth and New York. These transatlantic mail ships stopped in Halifax eight months of the year, and operated without the Halifax stop during the winter months. This service was suspended during the War of 1812.
Cunard Mail Boats
In 1827, the Falmouth Packets began terminating at Halifax. Mails addressed to the United States that were carried by the Falmouth Packet were sent to Boston by mail boats operated by Samuel Cunard.
British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (Cunard Line)
From 1840 through 1867, mail to, from, and through the United States and Nova Scotia was transported by the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, better known as the Cunard Line. From its inception in July 1840, Cunard Line steamers stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia en route between Boston, Massachusetts, and Liverpool, England. Cunard Line steamers between New York City and Liverpool also served Halifax between January 1848 and September 1850. The primary purpose of the Halifax service was to connect British North America with the mother country; however, the Cunard Line steamers also linked Halifax with and the United States. Although the United States and Great Britain entered into a postal treaty in 1848, mail carried between the United States and Halifax was not addressed by the treaty, and the route was not well known within the United States. The Cunard Line stopped calling in Halifax at the end of 1867.
As the Cunard Line mails to Halifax were not covered by treaty, letters could not be paid to destination. The packet postage, and the Nova Scotia inland charge, if any, was always paid by the sender or recipient in British North America. The United States postage was always paid by the correspondent in the United States. While most of the mail carried on this route was exchanged between the United States and Nova Scotia, the Cunard Line service via Halifax was also used for mails to other parts of British North America, and through the use of forwarding agents, the rest of the western hemisphere.
The rates on Cunard Line packet letters can be complicated, as the following chart illustrates.
United States Postage
(always prepaid on letters to Nova Scotia and due on letters from Nova Scotia)
Nova Scotia Postage
(always prepaid on letters from Nova Scotia and due on letter to Nova Scotia)
US postage rates of 1825 to or from Boston plus ship letter charge on incoming letters
4d stg. for letters to or from Halifax, plus inland rates for letters beyond Halifax
|December 5, 1842||" |
1s stg. 1s1½d cy for letters to or from Halifax, plus inland rates for letters beyond Halifax
| July 1, 1845||US postage rates of 1845 to or from port plus ship letter charge on incoming letters|
|June 27, 1848|
Retaliatory Rate of 24¢ collected on all packet letters in addition to the postage to or from port and ship letter charge on incoming letters
|January 4, 1849|| US postage rates of 1845 to or from port plus ship letter charge on incoming letters (restored rates)|
|February 15, 1849|
US postage rates of 1845 to or from port (ship letter charge no longer collected)
|September 20, 1849||" |
4d stg. 4½d cy for letters to or from Halifax, plus inland rates for letters beyond Halifax
July 6, 1851
US postatge rates of 1851, 3¢ for outgoing letters (manditory prepayment) and 5¢ for incoming letters (prepayment not possible)
4d stg. 5d cy for letters to or from Halifax, 8d cy for letters beyond Halifax
|1854, exact date unknown||5 cents||" |
|January 1, 1860|| "|
8½¢ for letters to or from Halifax, 13½¢ for letters beyond Halifax
|May 1, 1862||"|
10¢ for letters to or from Halifax, 13½¢ for letters beyond Halifax
Other Cunard Line Mail
Unpaid Letter from Halifax
Letters Written Onboard Cunard Steamers Mailed at Halifax
New Brunswick Mail
Prince Edward Island Mail
Canadian Closed Mail via Boston
St. Pierre et Miquelon Mail
Mail to United Kingdom
Mail from Jamaica
You can also view my Cunard Line one frame exhibit on BNAPS the webpage. The exhibit is also posted to the (membership required). USPCS Members' Domain.
This one frame exhibit received a gold medal (95 points) at BALPEX 2006; Prix d'Honneur in the single frame championship class at AmeriStamp Expo 2007; single frame gold at Italia 2009 (91 points); gold at NAPEX 2014; gold and single-frame grand at BALPEX 2014, also BNAPEX 2014 gold and single frame grand.