Letters  from the Past

Mrs Parish, New York  to her husband
in London,May 1840.


From Mrs Parish in New York to her husband in London April 1840. It is addressed Mr Daniel Parish Care of George Wildes & Co London, which has been crossed out and re-directed Adelphi Hotel, Strand, London.

It has four postal markings. First a really clear, stepped 2 line framed postmark PORTSMOUTH SHIP LETTER in red, next a London morning duty CDS 22 MY 1840, ‘Pd 1d’ in manuscript and ‘8’ in manuscript.


Note 1 the charge mark is 8d for the passage from New York to England. As the penny post had been introduced on May 6 1840, mail from America had to be pre-paid, but the 8d charge included delivery within Britain, so the 8d charge is correct. At the top left corner of the address panel is written ‘Pd 1d’ and this looks as if it was written by the same pen as the re-direction to the Adelphi Hotel, so it may have been the re-direction charge.

The interesting thing to note is that there is nothing to tell from the outside that this letter does not originate in Britain, so it was a big surprise to see the beginning of her letter. There are no American postmarks as they did not bother to stamp mail going overseas. We have a similar letter with information, check this link

a wealthy vicar invests in New York Stock.

Note 2 a google search in 2006 for George Wildes & Co, brought up a website of Financial institutions or something in America in 1836, so they must have been a noted firm, with what sounds like a branch in London, or vice versa a London firm with a branch in New York. As there was no street address it must have been sufficiently well known for it to be delivered by the Post Office with just the name of the company.


This is a lovely long chatty letter written on three sides of the paper in a very easy to read handwriting. She is obviously missing her husband and wants to keep him in touch with events at home.

New York April 30th 1840
My Dear Husband
I have a great deal to tell you because I didn’t write to you last week and because I have been full of business.

Last Tuesday morning before I left my room Mr Sherman, Martha and Henrietta arrived at the same time Miss Smack made her appearance to take down our curtains. I went down as soon as possible got through breakfast comfortably made my arrangements for dinner after which I was obliged to have a sharp talk with the waiter for rudeness to Miss Smack. Immediately Henry came in to talk about a coachman. John had returned to his old habit, I informed Henry of it, and fortunately he directly heard of two excellent men and gave me my choice and he has engaged the other one. I took Tracey, a man you may recollect something. Mr Kernochan recommends him very highly he lived with him at the time he had his fever and for some time after, he lived also with Genrl Scott five years. When John found out I was in earnest he behaved very ugly indeed he refused to drive me and talked so impudently that I made him give up the key at once and clear right out. Tracey was ready to take the place and so far all goes well. I have a plain understanding with him. I agreed to give him at the rate of two hundred dollars a year, he agrees to do whatever I require of him, and to be in readiness for my accommodation at all times. The other servants do very well and every thing goes very smoothly. If I only had some one to tell I am tired, but there is no one to listen to my complaints (as Mrs Griffen says), now I have told you all I shall feel better.

Now that Mrs Parish had written about her problems she had a rest, and the letter continued the next day with more information about what is happening on her side of the Atlantic ocean.
May 1st. Pardon me my dear husband for going so much into detail of my grievances, I felt a little low spirited yesterday, but today I shall I think feel more cheerful. Our friends all left us yesterday. Thomas dined with us and after dinner Mary, Henry and Anna myself and Thomas rode out to Hillgate we had a delightful afternoon. Mrs Fiedler moves out next week. I met her there last week, she pressed me very much to visit her and to bring out the children, I think I shall accept her politeness the children will always enjoy it. Townsend has taken Mr Caben’s place, I think Iíll make them a visit too.

Thomas has got a saddle horse that pleases him very much, but he doesn’t gain in strength at all, he is certainly a very feeble man. Henry has a holiday today his uncle wished to take him to Burgh this morning and return this evening. I objected, I thought it would be a fatiguing day and Henry had been there so recently that I thought there was no use in it. Henry gave up very cheerfully and started to see George instead, he bids me tell you that this week’s report will be all heads but thru him and John are as good as boys can be, I don’t know what I should do without them. I have been to see Madam Binse she complains a good deal of the girls for their inattention. I shall endeavour to make them more diligent the remainder of the term. Anna, Susan and the baby are perfectly well. I am so frequently interrupted my dear that fear you will get out of patience with my blunders. I had intended finishing my letter last evening but was prevented by company, when I returned from Hillgate last evening I found Mrs Griffen here. I was rejoiced to see her, she hadn’t been here for a fortnight. I feel my dear that I have the kindest of friends and every thing that this world can afford is sufficiently at my command and that even your absence ought to be a matter of thankfulness but I cannot feel happy.

Dr. Spring called to see me and sends you his kind regards, he says he thinks we can go through any thing if we do it cheerfully, I shall endeavor to be cheerful but I don’t think I shall not venture to write to you but once more before I hear from you. I have made up my mind that you are in Liverpool before today and that I shall hear from you by the steamer that leaves there today.

The steamer timetables were published so that it was known when the mail was likely to arrive or be despatched, and the writer is aware of when her husband would have been able to send his reply. Life was at a slower pace in 1840. The letter continues with more news of family and friends, and details of the wedding gifts she can afford.

John wrote to you last week and if I write the same things over it is because he wouldn’t let me see his letter. I believe I didn’t tell you about Mrs G’s baby party at any rate it is so long since it is no matter except that there I made acquaintance with Miss Hosack since which she has called to see me and I intend to return her call very soon.

The last paragraph gives an insight as to the finances of the time, and the fact that she can make comments about lawyers being busier than any one else is interesting and shows that times have not changed that much in the more than 175 years since it was written.

I think some of going up the river on Monday night for one day. Ospah is to be married I hear next Thursday. I have sent up the dinner set but shall leave the mantle ornaments for the present as I can not meet with any bargains. The china cost me near twenty dollars and that is as much as I think I can afford this year.

Anna sends a great deal of love to you she says she expects father will be sorry Dr Stevens has not cut her face yet. I have not heard any thing more of him. Dr. Neilson has been very sick but I hear is getting better. I settled with John by paying him for one month and a week which was all he said you owed him. Mr Sherman has concluded to settle in the city he is a very clever man and probably will do very well at any rate I think he will make every exertion and Lawyers appear to have more business than anybody else. I hear nothing about business or hard times, I have not felt the want of money yet. Henry and Susan have gone to West Point to attend a Ball at the Major’s they of course are well. My dear farewell, I am thinking all the time what road you are travelling and I forget what I am writing about. I shall write next time by the steamer

My dear husband fare well and believe me faithfully your
Mary Ann Parish


In 2017, when I decided to upload this letter to our website, I wanted to check if there was any more information available about George Wildes & Co, and found out that they were the agents for the Steam Packet New York/London in 1840, and they were based at 19 Coleman St London. The webpage had information about the steamships giving their names and the sailing schedules. From the last sentence of the letter it is obvious that Mary Ann Parish knew the schedules at that time.

The Adelphi Hotel has a long history, and there is more information on the internet, but at the time of this letter William Osborn, the owner of the Adelphi Tavern on the opposite corner of John Street, gradually bought up these houses and founded Osborn’s, later the Adelphi Hotel. Osborn took a personal pride in his kitchen, which he described as his “elaboratory”, and his hotel became world famous.

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