Rare 'Snowshoe Express' Cover to fetch up to $15k

John Thompson earned himself a place in US postal history as the result of answering an ad in the Sacramento Union. The Sacramento Valley resident was a cow herder, and briefly a gold miner after gold fever struck in the west.

"People Lost to the World; Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier." proclaimed the ad, in a late 1855 issue.

He responded to the ad because he knew the dangers of being left without a postal system, having received delayed news of a vicious flu epidemic some time after his mother died from the disease.

From 1856 on, Thompson made two to four trips per month over the snowy Sierra mountains, using homemade oak skis, even during the winter. Now a cover with a clear use of Thompson's red Carson Valley Express has come up for auction as part of the Floyd E Risvold collection.

Thompsons Carson Valley Snowshoe Express
Thompsons Carson Valley Express Cover

In fact, it is one of only two examples of the handstamp in existence, and the only one accompanied by a Wells, Fargo & Co. frank. A clear Carson Valley, U.T./Oct 9 datestamp is also present with an exceptionally clear 3c red stamp. The overall appearance is fine.

Also in this section of the sale are covers with handstamps from two other 'Snowshoe Expresses': Cook's Express and Zack's Express (the latter cover is torn down the right hand side). The handstamps depict identical skiers.

The Cook Express cover is expected to sell for $5,000-7,500, whilst the Zack Express piece has a guide price of $3,000-4,000. The Floyd E Risvold collection is to be sold by Spink Shreves in New York on January 23-26, though bids may already be placed online.

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