Long before the days of email attachments, fax machines, Federal Express, DHL, and even wire transfers there existed Hussey’s Instant Special Message Post. The brainchild of George Tuttle Hussey, his business provided same day delivery service of important documents and negotiable instruments.
During the mid-18th century, aside from the United States Postal Service, there existed a hodge-podge of private postal companies. But like the U.S. postal service, none offered immediate, point-to-point delivery of parcels. Despite this, banks, insurance companies, real estate companies and the like needed a means to courier important transactions amongst themselves in an expedient manner. Commerce requires near-instantaneous exchange of cheques, notes, drafts, and certified documents among businesses. Enter George Hussey.
Mr. Hussey began his career at the Bank of New York in 1834. Working in the banking industry, Hussey saw a need for a service which could courier documents.
At the time, the only services available for businesses were private postal services as well as the United States Postal Service. Unfortunately, neither of these two options could rapidly move documents amongst the various financial institutions located throughout New York City.
Seizing his opportunity, while remaining an employee at the bank, in 1854 Hussey founded the ‘Bank and Insurance City Post.’ Hussey’s S.M. Post. 5-cents, 50 William St., N.Y. Hussey’s Special Message Express, 54 Pine St, NY, R Easson, Proprietor, red stamp
Immediately Hussey’s service was a resounding success. Filling a need so desperately sought, firms throughout the greater New York area employed his delivery services. Besides New York City itself, Hussey’s territories also included delivery and pick-up in Brooklyn, Harlem, Staten Island, and Jersey City.
In 1858 Hussey renamed his firm ‘Hussey’s Instant Special Message Service. It was at this time that he also moved his operations to 50 William Street.
Employing a rotating staff of 25-40 messengers, Hussey issued his own “postal stamps” at a cost of 1-cent apiece. By 1862 Hussey raised his rates to 2-cents, and subsequently issued a 2-cent denomination stamp. For special deliveries, Hussey charged higher fees, and issued higher-denominated stamps accordingly.
In addition to his stamps, Hussey also issued his own Civil War Store Card in 1863. For another 12 years Hussey ran his Instant Special Message Service until 1875. Retiring due to ill health, Hussey sold his operation to Mr. Robert Easson.
Unique to all merchants who issued Civil War Tokens, George Hussey is the only known businessman who also issued his own private postage stamps.
Below please find two of George T. Hussey’s Civil War tokens.
The first token, struck in copper is approximately AU-58 in grade. Having a Fuld catalog number of NY630AK-1a, the token has a rarity rating of R-2. Somewhere between 2000-5000 specimens remain in existence today.
The second token, also struck in copper is also approximately AU-58 in grade. Having a Fuld catalog number of NY630AK-2a, the token has a rarity rating of R-3. Somewhere between 501-2000 specimens remain in existence today.
Notes and Sources
Library of Congress Digital Archives
Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
U.S. Civil War Store Cards Second Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Quarterman Publications, ©1975
The Civil War Token Collectors Guide, Bryan Kanzinger, Valley Forge Coins-Books, ©2001
A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Katherine Jaeger, Whitman, ©2008