One of the fun parts of archival research is finding the unexpected. Take the letter above. At first it was the fact that the envelope, postmarked 19 August 1914, was from The White House which caught my eye, but as I turned it over I saw it had been sent with insufficient postage. Obviously it didn’t interest the New Zealand Post Office where the letter came from, or to whom it was addressed, they just stamped it: “This letter was posted insufficiently prepaid. Please advise your correspondent to inquire of local postmaster correct rate of postage...” Most official and efficient of them.
The front of the envelope reveals that prominent Auckland businessman and politician the Honourable George Fowlds paid threepence extra to receive his correspondence from President Thomas Woodrow Wilson. Whether he later informed his correspondent of the correct postage from Washington to Auckland is unclear.
Inside the black bordered envelope is a matching card from the office of President Wilson. The card acknowledges Fowlds’ “kind expression of sympathy” on the death of the President’s wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, on 6 August 1914.
Aside from the distinguished provenance, both the card and the envelope are fine examples of specialised mourning stationery, popular during the Victorian era and the early 20th Century; a topic worthy of a separate post.
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
Fowlds, George, Sir, 1860-1934. Papers. MSS & Archives A-17, item FP 10/7. Special Collections, University of Auckland Library