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Specialists Books; Historical Documents and Manuscripts relating to Travel, Exploration and Voyages
VIEW DEALER INFORMATION
4927 Edendale Court
West Vancouver
British Columbia
Canada
V7W 3H7
Contact Bernhard Lauser
Telephone +1 604 922 2444
Fax +1 604 922 2272
Mobile +1 604 720 2000
Specialists Books; Historical Documents and Manuscripts relating to Travel, Exploration and Voyages
Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts
Stand E15

Turks and Caicos - Bermuda - Halifax

1891 Victorian Broadside

Turks & Caicos - West Indies, [ 1890 ]

London, 25 November 1890. Packet steamer broadside presenting an itinerary for mail delivery in the year 1891 to Grand Turk Island and Bermuda in the British West Indies, via Londonderry and Halifax in Nova Scotia, a service then recently established and offered by Pickford & Black of Halifax, from 1888, with the ship 'Alpha' which was formerly a Cunard Line vessel. Folio. Printed ephemeral document on a light blue leaf, measuring approximately 32,5 x 20,5 cm. Printed for Her Majesty's [Queen Victoria] Stationery Office.

Colonial Philatelic Material from the Turks and Caicos is exceedingly scarce. The Nova Scotia Archives (CNSA), Halifax, holds a Pickford & Black collection comprising business and shipping records, detailed registers and manifests, ship logs and so forth.

An exceptionally rare West Indies and Halifax ephemeral postal history document, in that it deals with mail steam packet service to Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos, this broadside dates to the Golden Age of Sail, and served to advertise voyages departing from Londonderry and Halifax in Nova Scotia, to deliver letters and parcels to colonial settlers in Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos.

According to contemporary publications the vessel on this mail route was the steamship 'Alpha' operated by Pickford & Black West India Steamship Lines, a firm established in Halifax, landing on Grand Turk Island being reputed as particularly dangerous. She plied this specific sea mail route for seven years from 1888 to 1894. The post office notice was also published in the July 1890 issue of the Board of Trade Journal. Sixteen (16) voyages were made in 1891, reminding us of how very much communications have changed in the past century.

The Handbook of Jamaica, published in 1892, states: "In 1888 two new lines were established. Messrs. Pickford and Black's West India Steamship Line, which runs the Steamer 'Alpha' between Halifax, Bermuda, Turks Island, Kingston, and... the Anchor Line..."

"The 'Alpha' or another steamer is appointed to sail on the following dates - from Halifax the 15th, Bermuda the 20th, and Turks Island the 23rd of each month, arriving at Kingston on or about the 25th. Leaving Kingston on the return voyage on the 27th she calls at Turks Island on the 29th, and Bermuda on the 2nd of each month, arriving at Halifax on the 3rd."

The Handbook of Jamaica, published in 1893, further states: "There is a monthly mail service between Jamaica, Halifax, Bermuda and Turks Islands, by means of the steamers of Messrs. Pickford and Black, which arrive here about the 25th of each month and leave three days after. The steamers are subsidized by the Government of the Dominion of Canada." [The itinerary remained the same as in 1891.]

The screw propeller steamship 'Alpha' was built in Glasgow in 1863 and first registered to William Cunard, the youngest of Samuel Cunard's two sons. It was initially employed on the Halifax-New York-Bermuda feeder service. In 1869 'Alpha' was purchased by Pickford & Black of Glasgow. In 1880 she was re-fitted by J & G Thomson with new engines. Under the firm of Halifax & West India Steamship Co., which was incorporated in June 1887 with both Pickford & Black being primary shareholders, 'Alpha' operated a mail and passenger service with monthly voyages between Halifax, Bermuda, and Grand Turk Island, from 1888 to 1894, at which time she was replaced by her refitted sister ship 'Beta'. 'Alpha' was sold in 1894 to an S. Barber in Vancouver for trading around Vancouver Island, and wrecked off the coast of British Columbia in 1900.

Robert Pickford (1841-1914) and William Anderson Black (1847-1934) were the founding partners of the Halifax shipping firm Pickford & Black established in 1876. At the time of its inception, Pickford & Black was a ship chandlery and hardware firm outfitting fishing and other vessels. In 1877, the partners purchased Seeton's wharf, which was to become known as Pickford & Black's wharf at 51 Upper Water Street, where the ship chandlery branch was extended. By 1887, the firm expanded into the steamship business. In 1888, two years after Cunard's Halifax Bermuda service was canceled, Pickford & Black purchased Cunard vessels 'Alpha' and 'Beta' which had been operating the Halifax-Bermuda route. Pickford & Black's route included also Grand Turk island and Kingston in Jamaica. In 1889, Pickford & Black of Halifax introduced a second service, from Saint John and Halifax, via Bermuda and the Windward Islands, to Demerara, British Guiana, using the vessels Tayworth Castle and Duart Castle, which continued until 1913. They also operated steamer lines in the Atlantic provinces. The firm also acted as agents for several leading marine insurance underwriters, including Lloyd's of London, as well as for numerous European steamship lines, including the owners of the ship Imo, which was involved in the Halifax Explosion in 1917. From 1889-1893 and again from 1908-1911 Pickford owned the now historic house (listed on the Canadian Register) at 1991 Prince Arthur Street in Halifax. Robert Pickford retired in 1911 and the company became Pickford & Black Ltd. The company is still in business, with its office located in the Gogswell Tower on Barrington Street in Halifax.

This document further marks the beginning of a new era of communication, for Bermuda at least, with the official opening of the Halifax - Bermuda submarine telegraph cable line on 12 July 1890, which had a decisive impact on Bermuda's tourism and commerce. It was not until 1898 that the first telegraph cable reached the Turks and Caicos, with connections installed from Bermuda to Grand Turk, and from there to Jamaica.

Some highlights of early British West Indies mail service:

In 1833, mail carrying packet vessels terminated their routes at Halifax, until, that is, Samuel Cunard was awarded a contract by the British Admiralty to provide a monthly mail boat service between Halifax and Bermuda. This was his first trans-Atlantic service before his shipping line expanded hugely and later became world famous as the Cunard Line.

Regular 'steamer' mail service began in the West Indies in 1842 when the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company started a twice-monthly service between Falmouth and the West Indies, having established its base and a coaling station on Grand Turk Island. Alas, in the same year the steamship 'Medina' of England ran upon a reef on the coast of Grand Trunk Island, and was sunk. Mail service from England was discontinued to this island for a short time.

On March 1st, the first steamship to enter Bermuda waters anchored at Five Fathom Hole. She was the Royal Mail Steam Packet Thames, inaugurating what would become a regular call on her trips between the West Indies and England. Her route originated at Nassau in The Bahamas and the stop at Bermuda afforded an opportunity to both pick up and deliver mail in transit to and from the English port of Southampton.

Due to the high risks of safe shore landings, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company quickly transferred its main West Indies packet station from Grand Turk Island to St. Thomas in Jamaica in September 1842. As a result, St. Thomas became the first stop on the Leeward Islands route and a British Post Office was opened there in late 1842.

The Government of the Bahamas was paying for "postal communication between Grand Turk and Nassau", which consisted of a schooner making regular trips to and fro. In 1850, Bahamas governor John Gregory wrote a note "pointing out the benefits that might be derived from substituting for the present miserable schooner which conveys mails and passengers from St. Thomas to Nassau with a small screw steamer that might drop the English Mails at Grand Turk and Inagua and take the homeward bound mails from those islands on her return from Nassau to St. Thomas."

In November 1850, Samuel Cunard introduced his steam packet service from New York to St. Thomas, with a call at Bermuda in both directions. It was an extension of his successful 1840-incorporated British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company on the Liverpool, Halifax, Boston route. Annoyed that his passengers had only sparse hotel accommodations in Bermuda, he threatened to withdraw his ships, which led to the construction of Bermuda's first luxury hotel, the Hamilton Hotel, built by the Corporation of Hamilton. The New York portion of the service was not as successful as his earlier Halifax-Bermuda direct service, and was canceled in May of 1854.

In May 1854, Cunard extended his direct Halifax Bermuda service. This route remained in place until January, 1880, when a number of West Indian islands replaced St. Thomas as ports of call.

In 1888, two years after Cunard's Halifax Bermuda service was canceled, Pickford & Black purchased Cunard vessels 'Alpha' and 'Beta' which had been operating the Halifax-Bermuda route. Pickford & Black's route included also Grand Turk island and Kingston in Jamaica.

In 1889, Pickford & Black of Halifax introduced a second service, from Saint John and Halifax, via Bermuda and the Windward Islands, to Demerara, British Guiana, using the vessels Tayworth Castle and Duart Castle, which continued until 1913.

The West Indies postal routes of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company called for at least 12 steam vessels covering hundreds of thousands of route-miles, with stops at some 60 ports. These early steamers were of the side-wheel type with auxiliary sails. Screw propeller steamers were introduced in the 1860s.

Condition
Faint indication of moisture to margins, unobtrusive to text, otherwise in very good condition.
£750