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Locals and Expresses

Corner card of Truman and Chapman Express envelope, 1861

When I first published my pages on Trains on U.S. Stamps, I skipped the locals and expresses. I owned a few reproductions of the more common ones - the Broadway, Wyman's, Bronson & Forbes, and Pomeroy - but I had filed them with my train cinderellas, in keeping with my attitude that they were of no special value or interest philatelically. The ATA World Railways Philatelic handbook listed none of them at that time, and even its latest edition, a major revision published in 1999, lists only the Bigelow's, Broadway, and Wyman. So what the heck ARE Locals and Expresses, and why have they been shunned this way?

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Not in Scott

The illustration on the left above is a scan supplied by viewer John Odom (1/3/5),
while that on the right was borrowed (with permission) from the extensive and informative site of "Zenonas".

Lyons lists two producers of this design, and lists many paper and color combinations, so it must have been printed in large quantities, and distributed widely. The locomotive, like that on the Wyman's stamp, has some characterisitcs of real ones, but also lacks some important ones, such as driver wheels (!), so I doubt the artist had ever seen a real steam locomotive, or had any mechanical knowledge of them.

Note that Lyons describes this as "bogus", meaning either there was no such local post, or there was one, but it issued no such stamp. In this case he is able to attribute the stamps to well-known forgers of the mid-to- late 19th century, which implies they were created with an intent to deceive, rather than to entertain. The AskPhil Glossary (No longer available) describes Baldwin's as a "bogus Canadian local post," and I found references to other sources that describe it the same way, but I wonder how a non-existent entity can be said to have a national origin.

Locals and Expresses were private companies that transported, and delivered letters and packages. In general, Expresses carried letters and packages between cities and towns, while Locals carried mail within towns and cities. Local and Express Stamps are among the earliest postal indicia produced in the U.S.

Local Posts had a relatively brief life, mostly during the period 1840 to 1860, immediately before and during the early years of the issuance of offical government postage stamps. They grew from the efforts of private individuals and companies to compete with the USPOD in the then rapidly growing business of delivering letter mail. The U.S. Congress soon outlawed competition with the Post Office, and these enterprises died.

Expresses were active over a longer period, from 1839 until 1918; indeed, they survive today in the form of enterprises such as UPS and FedEx, though the modern companies no longer create the sort of labels and frankings that interest collectors. One can further separate Expresses into two categories, package expresses and letter expresses (the latter are also known as Independent Mail Companies). The letter expresses were outlawed at the same time as the Local Posts, but the package expresses continued to thrive into the 20th century, since until 1912 the USPS would not carry single items weighing more than four pounds.

During the period when they thrived, hundreds of Local and Express companies produced stamps and handstamps that provide a rich collecting field today.

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Boston, Mass


Illustrated in Scott, but not numbered or valued: "Authorities consider items of this design to be express company labels rather than stamps."

Lyons says: "Boston, 1848-51 - This was a real express company which delivered mail by train and stage from Boston to {locations in Massachusetts}. The stamps are express company labels which were probably not sold to the public. The route was sold to Fiske and Rice in 1851." (One might guess that last fact from the identical design of the F&R label, below.)

Listed in Mosher, who says "Regional private mail and parcel(?) express company that operated between Boston and other towns in Mass., Maine, NH, Vermont, plus Montreal. Purchased by Fiske & Rice on March 1, 1851." Label number BIGX-L1.

Probably because it is not officially listed or valued, there do not seem to be any reproductions or forgeries of this label around.

I could find only one auction image of this item, in Siegel's Hall sale, the cover shown above, though it was one of two in the same lot. Based on that sale, the average value per cover is about $300. The image is detailed enough that identification of the train should be possible, but the best I can say is that it resembles the "Experiment".

Unfortunately, the field of Local and Express stamps abounds with fakes, forgeries, fantasies, and phantoms. Unlike government stamps, which enjoy protection against outright counterfeiting, locals can be reproduced or even invented by anyone. In examining recently the small collection of locals I have accumulated over the years - 47 items in all - I found (using Larry Lyons' excellent three-volume "Identifier for Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries, and Bogus Posts of the United States", 1998) that NONE of them was authentic! I was only a little surprised to learn that, since I bought them all cheaply, and with the awareness that they might be fakes; but considering that originals of many of them cost no more than what I paid, I had expected at least a few of the real thing. The problem is that the reproductions, copies, forgeries, imitations, and fakes have been produced over the years in astonishing abundance, and there has been no reliable reference work to help collectors sort them out. Even the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalog used illustrations of bogus items for many of the Locals and Expresses until only a few years ago, and its listings of this area are still uneven and incomplete. This total confusion about what is good and what bad has discouraged collectors, and created an aura of illegitimacy around this entire branch of the hobby.

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New York, NY

Broadway Post Office
New York

Scott 26L1 (Gold on black - 1849?)
$600 mint, $500 used, $150 cut to shape, $2,500 pair on cover

Broadway Post Office
New York

Scott 26L2 (Black on white - 1851?)
$125 mint, $180 used, $950 mint block of four, $1,000 on cover, $3,000 on cover with #11, $2,000 pair on cover

(most of the Scott values listed above are italicized)

lot 1673 Siegel auction #825, 6/27-29/2000
realized $1,050+10%

lot 800 Siegel auction #817, Nov 15-17,1999
realized $8,000+10%

lot 801 Siegel auction #817, Nov 15-17,1999
realized $1,700+10%

lot 390 Siegel auction #824, 5/13/2000
realized $5,500+10%

This is one of the most active train locals, with two versions, so I was able to find relatively many examples of its stamps and covers - and there are forgeries in abundance. The earlier (metallic gold ink on glazed black paper) stamp is rare, with only two authenticated on-cover examples (one single and one pair), while the later (black ink on white paper) is comparatively common. There are even a few fairly large multiples, including a block of 25.

The train on this stamp is detailed enough that one should be able to identify it, if a photo or drawing of the original survives, but I couldn't find one, and that wavy guard bar on the side looks too decorative to be real - trains at the time were pretty basic and functional. I suspect this is an artist's interpretation of a train.

Finally, here's another beauty - a mint block of four of the Broadway PO stamp, lot 2409 from the Siegel Auction Galleries 2002 Rarities sale held May 18, 2002. It had a presale estimate of $1,750.

Until recently, the absence of a reliable, comprehensive reference book of Locals and Independent Mails to aid collectors in sorting out the good from the bad has discouraged most from pursuing this area of the hobby. The only book of any significant scope and accuracy was Donald Scott Patton's The Private Local Posts of the United States, published in 1967. It is still a valuable source of information, but he completed just one of the three volumes he had planned, covering only New York State, and covered fantasies only sketchily. Fortunately, the recent publications of Larry Lyons' monumental 3-volume Identifier for Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries and Bogus Posts of the United States has finally ended the doubt and confusion of collecting Locals, by providing a comprehensive, exhaustive reference tool to enable collectors to know what is good and what is not. He has covered not only the real posts, their valid issues and their forgeries, but also all the fantasies, so one should be able to identify anything one encounters. If you are interested in this field, I urge you to buy a set of the books, and study them carefully. They may still be available from its author, else try one of the dealers in philatelic literature.

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Not in Scott

The illustration above - from Lyons, Volume 1 - is the only one I have been able to find of this item, but considering the number of different varieties he cites, it must be fairly common. The train does not quite match any I could find, but looks reasonably authentic, and most like two UK trains of the period the Bury and Firefly, but not exactly either.

It was at the urging of several fellow train-stamp collectors that I decided finally to add the Locals, etc. to these pages. I expected the research would be a quick, simple task, and would reveal perhaps one or two items more than the five I already knew. It has taken me over a week, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a total of nineteen items I deemed worthy of inclusion - I expect a few more will turn up. Some readers may disagree with my choices, but I decided to include every item I could find, including labels, handstamps and all other markings: if it depicts a locomotive or train car and was supposedly issued by a local, carrier, or express, I show it. And I have included fantasies/bogus items, as Lyons does in his books, so that anyone consulting these pages to identify what purports to be a local or express item will be able to find it.

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Chicago, Ill

Bronson & Forbes

Scott 27L1
(black on green - 1856)
$400 mint, $900 used, $2,500 on cover

Bronson & Forbes

Scott 27L2
(black on lilac - 1856)
$1,000 used

Bronson & Forbes is another widely forged local, and authentic copies are quite scarce, as indicated by the Scott values shown. The only "multiple" I could find was the reconstructed pair shown above, from Siegel sale 825. The copy of the black on lilac paper version shown above is the only authentic one known. The auction writeup for its most recent outing is instructive:

W. H. Bronson and G. F. Forbes operated their local post in Chicago from mid-1856 through early 1857, based on the most reliable evidence. A March 1855 cover is recorded, but its early date and the absence of dated examples from the following fourteen months make it doubtful that the stamp originated or that the date was reported accurately. The post probably closed in 1857. The Chicago city directories support this date span.

Fewer than a dozen Bronson & Forbes covers are known, and all but two have uncancelled stamps. A large circular datestamp is known in black, but there is no other example of a red handstamp used by this post. The stamp on this piece has all of the characteristics of the Black on Green issue, and we have complete confidence in the genuineness of this Black on Lilac stamp. However, we are of the opinion that the red handstamp is faked. The stamp was probably used on this piece and left uncancelled, as usual for this post. Offered as a genuine stamp but "as is" with respect to the cancel.

The estimated value of this item was $4,000-5,000 (Siegel auction 830, Nov 13-14, 2000), which seems cheap for the only known example. It sold for $3,250 + 10%. It strikes me as tragic that someone was both so greedy and so foolish as to tamper with an item that was already unique, and thereby REDUCE its value!

The two covers above, both in the same recent auction, illustrate an interesting factor of the philatelic marketplace, though one could debate which one. It may be the value of featuring an auction item with its own page, a detailed analysis, and a high estimate; it may be the effect of competition among determined bidders; or it may be the real value of rarity. The one on left - with a full page of its own in the catalog and a three paragraph writeup - sold for $9,000 + 10%" against an estimate of $4,000-5,000, while the one on the right - sharing a page with two similar covers and granted only one short parahraph of text - sold for $800 + 10%" against an estimate of $1,000- 1,500. The key difference between the two covers is that on the cover on the left, the local is tied by the postmark. The cover on the right actually has a better copy of the local, but not tied. The cover on the left is the ONLY cover with a Bronson & Forbes stamp tied. Note that it sold for almost three times as much as the unique copy of the lilac paper variety.

The head-on view of the locomotive on this stamp may make it impossible to identify the train, presuming it was based on a real one, but is obviously a more contemporary design, with cow-catcher, flared smokestack, and enclosed engineer's cabin.

Obviously I have used the Lyons books extensively in writing these pages, and (with the author's permission) am reproducing his illustrations of the authentic items. Indeed, four of the items I could find nowhere else. I am also grateful to Siegel Auction Galleries for their permission to use scans of photographs from their auction catalogs, in particular sales 817 and 830, the David Golden Collection and Hall Collection auctions. Not only did those two sales contain between them examples of almost every Local known, they were supported by two of the finest auction catalogs I have seen, with high-quality color photographs of every significant item and detailed descriptions and analyses of the high caliber Siegel is known for.

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continued on next page...

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Please note that ALL of the stamps illustrated on this page are considered to be genuine,i.e., not counterfeits, though some, as I have indicated, are fantasies or bogus issues, i.e., there was no such local or express. I do not wish to attempt to duplicate Larry Lyons' efforts here by showing fakes and explaining how to identify the real thing, so I have used scans from auction catalogs where I could find them, and copied the Lyons illustration only where his was the only one available to me. If you think I am wrong, and something I show is a reproduction or forgery, please email me at If you have a better scan to share with the world, I would welcome that too.


Identifier for Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries and Bogus Posts of the United States, Larry Lyons; published by the author, 1998

The subtitle of this book is "A Study of the Identification of the Local Stamp Adhesive from the Forgeries and Bogus Posts". It is NOT a history, catalog, or pricing guide, and while I would love to see it expanded in those as well as other directions, I am very pleased with it just as it is. Use it to determine whether the stamp you have is an authentic local post adhesive or some sort of fake, forgery or fantasy.

Catalog of Private Express Labels and Stamps, Bruce Mosher; published by the author, 2002, REVISED EDITION 2018.

A magnificent book listing and illustrating over 2000 labels issued by private express companies in the US and Canada.
I have reproduced all the labels that have a train image on them HERE.

The Private Local Posts of The United States, Volume 1, Patton, Donald Scott; pub. Robson Lowe, London, 1967

This is still a very useful tool in studying the area, as it includes extensive text discussions of the posts themselves, plus reproductions of some of their cancellations, which are of great value and interest to postal historians.

Scott 1997 Specialized Catalog of U.S. Stamps

I used this for the prices and some of the dates I quote above.
It is still deficient in its coverage of Locals and Expresses, treating the latter especially poorly.

The David Golden Collection of United States Carriers and Locals pub. Siegel Auction Galleries, 1999

This was the auction catalog for Siegel's sale 817, November 15-17, 1999, and in keeping with their recent efforts to create a serious reference resource for collectors, in both their catalogs and their web site, it contains not only high-quality phoitographs of most of the lots, but also scholarly writeups about both the local posts themselves and the stamps and covers.

The Hall Collection of United States Carriers, Locals, and Western Expresses pub. Siegel Auction Galleries, 2000

This was the auction catalog for Siegel's sale 830, November 13-14, 2000, and is another essential reference work for the serious student, with superb photographs and writeups.


Below are some of the sites I link to above - the ones I think are worth visiting and browsing through.

Colorado & Southern Rolling- stock

This website is dedicated to the narrow gauge rolling-stock that the Colorado & Southern Railroad ?inherited? from four of its numerous predecessor railroads (and such others as just might accidentally creep in)

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Revised -- 07/29/2018