1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue
Hardships of Emigration
10¢ - Gray violet or blackish violet
Scott #290 - 1898
No postmark with gum (MH): $35-$85
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $110-$175
Issued: Introduced on June 17th, 1890. Earliest documented use, a first day cover from June 17th 1898
Plate Size: Sheets of 100 subjects (2 panes of 50)
Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Watermark: Double lined USPS watermark.
What you should look for
The Inspiration for the Design
The inspiration for the design is now lost to us. It originated from a 1892 painting by Augustus Goodyear Heaton, there is no know photograph of this painting. The painting has been stored in a tin roof barn in the Black Mountains of North Carolina, which in the hot NC summers turned out to be an oven. The painting peeled so badly that it was burned.
Emigration was via Wagon Train, and as you can imagine the horse was vital. Without the horse, you walked, well you would, but the reason you went in a train, and not on your own, is that if your horse dropped dead (most did) or was eaten by Coyotes, you could hitch a ride on someone else's wagon. Those well enough to afford it started off with a team of ten or more horses, reducing the number as they dropped dead. Although with ten, it would be reasonable to assume that you would make it all the way. Although the smarter folks used Oxen, not so easy to find on the Eastern US starting point, but a lot hardier.
Once into the dry arid areas of the west, water and fodder became hard to find, you fed yourself before you fed your horse. The rockies were particularly hard as the horses would tire with the terrain (1 mph was the average over the Rockies, whilst 2 mph was the average for the whole journey) and it was difficult to find forage for them. Once over the Rockies, both forage and water became hard to find.
The pioneers of the Oregon trail wrote books with advice on how to travel in a wagon train. One piece of advice was not to load up the Conestoga Wagon with stuff. Ideally it was there to carry hay for the horses, not for furniture. But folks took their worldly possessions anyway, only to find out that once past Iowa they had to start ditching items. If one of the horses died on the way, the other horse that belonged to the wagon would be hitched on the back of another wagon, it became the property of the other wagon, and in exchange the family that was in the now, disabled wagon, would ride in that wagon.
One horse would quickly die pulling a wagon, so after it was hitched to another wagon, the wagon would be abandoned o the trail, minus its wheels and axle, they were kept as they were hard to replace, and if the train had a wagon with a broken wheel or axle, they now had a spare. In fact most of the wagon would later be cannabolized for spare parts by wagon trains that were behind.
The dead horse was another matter. the trail was not littered with dead horses, rather horse skin and bones. The flesh was good meat and in the barren plains it was going to be your dinner for as long as it would last. A dead horse could be expected to feed fresh meat for a few families for two days and then after salting another week. In fact if food got real scarce and folks were going hungry, they did not wait for the horse to die, it would be supper that night, with the spare horse replacing the main ingrediant of the dish. If no spare horse then it was the lottery to see who would lose their wagon (the origination of the short straw) as there was plenty of that in the wagons.
Once the horse reached it's destination it would either be the farm horse, dragging a plough, or the families, buggy horse. And the wheels from the Conestoga Wagon? My, they make mighty fine cart wheels for that farm cart.
So next time you see this stamp, remember, its a tribute to what our forefathers endured.
Varieties to look for
Provisional "I.R." Manuscript Overprint, due to the shortage of revenue stamps caused by the Spanish American War some post offices, in this case Chicago, resorted to writing on the stamp the letters IR. Price range $400-$600 with clear manuscript writing and contemporary fiscal cancel.
The Essay's and Proofs