Eleanora and the General

Eleanora and the General

This cover from August 29th, 1903 addressed to Mrs Eleanora E Biss of Rosemont, PA from her bankers, Bioren & Co. of Philadelphia, tells an interesting story.

Letter to Eleanora Bliss

Cover to Eleanora Bliss 1903

Mrs Eleanora E Bliss (nee Anderson), or “Nellie” to her family, was the wife of Tasker Howard Bliss, whom she married on May 24th 1882.  The Anderson and the Bliss families first came together in 1849 when Eleanora’s father the Rev. Dr. George W Anderson became professor of Latin at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell) where Tasker’s father the Rev. Dr. George Ripley Bliss worked as the professor for Greek from 1849 to 1874.  After a long courtship, Tasker and Eleanor were married in a ceremony that nearly didn’t happen.  Eleanor was stricken with partial deafness around 1881 and tried to break off the engagement to Tasker, she didn’t want to be a hindrance to Tasker’s military career that was just starting to blossom.  Tasker wouldn’t hear of it.  He said that he hadn’t fallen in love with her ears and the fact that she couldn’t hear very well made no difference to him.

Tasker Howard Bliss (Dec. 31 1853 – Nov. 9 1930) was the seventh in a family of thirteen.  He attended Lewisburg for one year prior to his admission to West Point from where he graduated in 1876. He was  initially assigned to the artillery, but then was called back to West Point to teach French and artillery basics.  The main reason for him to discontinue his education at Lewisburg and enter West Point was that of family finances.  His father earned $500 per year as a Greek professor, which just didn’t go far enough with a family of 15.

After the Custer massacre, Tasker appealed to Major John Schofield for active service in the West, but Schofield made him remain until he had finished his four years tour as an instructor.  Following a period of routine service after the end of his tour as an instructor at West Point, Tasker was chosen as the army officer to teach military science at the new Naval War College at Newport (1885-88), where he made so distinctive an impression that he was sent on a mission to get information about military schools in England, France and Germany.  When Gen. Schofield succeeded Gen. Sheridan as commanding general of the army, he chose Tasker as his aide.

Tasker had a number of important postings overseas in Spain, Cuba and Puerto Rico, advancing in rank along the way.  President William McKinley recommended that he be made a brigadier-general and the Senate confirmed the promotion without an opposing voice.  In 1902, when the Cuban government took over their own administration, Tasker was brought back to Washington as an adviser in reorganizing the  army under a general staff system.  This is where he would have been working when the letter was send to Mrs Eleanora E Bliss at Rosemont, PA from her bankers.

Tasker went on to be appointed to the General Staff as Assistant Chief of Staff for the Army on February 13, 1915 until his promotion to Chief of Staff on September 22 1917.  After retiring in November 1917, President Woodrow Wilson recalled him to duty in 1918 and sent him to Versailles, France to participate in negotiating the end of the First World War.

Eleanora’s father was also a professor at Lewisburg, but the family had more money and connections than Tasker’s.  Eleanora’s mother, Maria (or Ria) was from the Hill family. Her great grandmother was Anne Marie, the daughter of Sir Harry Goring, 6th Baronet, who had quite an interesting life of travel and study throughout Europe and this unconventional approach to educating the daughters of the house was passed down through the generations.  Maria had tutors to make her proficient in all branches from dancing, embroidering and music to languages and the sciences.  She spoke French just as fluently as English.  Eleanora’s father didn’t have enough money for tutors for her, but her mother made sure that she received the education in everything she needed except dancing, which would have been inappropriate at the time for a minister’s daughter. She was fluent in both French and German and spent considerable time living abroad.

There are a couple of interesting things about the cover addressed to Mrs Eleanora E Bliss.  The first is that Bioren & Co, Bankers wrote to her directly.  At that time her husband Tasker would normally have delt with all the financial matters.  This could indicate one of two things.  Either she still had family money in her own name or Tasker just didn’t handle those aspects of life, perhaps because of the demands of his military life.  The other interesting thing is that the letter was sent to her family home in Rosemont, PA rather than the home that she and Taster had in Fort Totten, New York, so she must have spent time there while Taster was on active duty.

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Israel and George G Kimball - Two graduates from Bowdoin College

Israel and George G Kimball - Two graduates from Bowdoin College

The two covers that form the basis of this article both carry the US Scott #25, which was released between 1857 and 1861. Israel Kimball and his son George G Kimball had their family home in Portsmouth, NH. Both were graduates of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, and both ended up working for the Federal Government.

Israel Kimball was born on Jan 26th, 1812 in Wells, ME.  He died on Dec 10th, 1890 at his home in Portsmouth, ME.  Israel was a graduate of Bowdoin College, which was established in 1794.  Some of Bowdoin’s alumni include Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (class of 1825), U.S. Senator John Parker Hale of New Hampshire (Class of 1827), Franklin Pierce (Class of 1824), 14th president of the United States, Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew (Class of 1837), Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Class of 1852) holder of “Little Round Top” in the battle of Gettysburg, who later became the president of the college in 1871.

Israel Kimball married Clara P. Bragdon on Apr 9th, 1840. They had six children, one of whom was George G. Kimball.  After graduating from Bowdoin College, Israel taught school for a number of years. Israel was appointed to the Dept. of Revenue by President Lincoln, and in this position he invented a device for cancelling revenue stamps that was used by the federal government for many years.  Israel never received a cent for his invention and for many years prosecuted a claim unsuccessfully before Congress to recover compensation.

The above cover (click here to see large image of cover) is interesting in that it is a very late usage (1883) of the Scott #25 that was demonetized in 1861 at the beginning of the United States Civil War. The demonetizing of stamps issued in 1861 and earlier was an effort to ensure stamps stores held by Confederates would have no value. Citizens in the North were given a brief period to exchange old stamps for new and then the Post Office would not accept mail franked with the old stamps. 2

Israel’s son, George G. Kimball, was born on Feb 28th, 1843. He attended Bowdoin College in the early 1860’s. His actual time at Bowdoin is not completely clear, but he was class mates with House Speaker Reed (class of 1860) and Senate President pro tem William Frye (Class of 1850).  Given the issue dates of the Scott #25 (1857-1861) and the cover below (click here to see large image of cover), he must have attended somewhere in this period.

As a young man George went into business. Shortly after the war he drifted to South Carolina, where he owned and edited a Republican paper. When the Republicans were ousted from the state government, George lost his newspaper, along with a large amount of money. Later George engaged in newspaper work in New York and finally become head of the New York Associated Press, where he was paid a salary of $5,000 per annum. During this time his wife Florence became seriously ill, and on her account George was compelled to give up his position and go to Washington State to live. His entire fortune was consumed in attempting to restore her health. He initially found a position in Spokane with the Census Office, which he retained for some time. When this position was no longer available, George’s financial position was dire.

Around 1897, the Postmaster-General appointed George post office inspector with headquarters at Spokane, Washington. The position paid a salary of $1,600 a year, with $4 a day for travelling expenses.  House Speaker Reed was a student at Bowdoin College at the same time as George and the two were fast friends. This accounted in large part for George’s appointment.  Speaker Reed knew of George’s ill fortune and committed himself to helping his former college mate. Senator Frye and Representative Alexander, both of whom were graduates of Bowdoin, and Representative Dingley, all assisted the Speaker in securing the position for George1.

It is believed that George G. Kimball died sometime after Jun 9th, 1880 in Spokane, WA. There is a large family of his descendents still living in the Spokane area, one of whom I worked with many years ago.



Bowdoin Orient (Volume v.27, no.1-17 (1897-1898)). (page 41 of 49) 1

Kimball Family History http://www.renderplus.com/hartgen/htm/kimball.htm

History of Bowdoin College http://www.bowdoin.edu/about/history/index.shtml

Ralph Heymsfeld on the demonitizing of stamps on and before 1861. 2

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An Interesting Cover to Miss LeDuc 1898

An Interesting Cover to Miss LeDuc 1898

I have to say at the start, I’m mainly a stamp collector rather than a cover collector, but being a resident of Hastings, Minnesota I got excited when I saw this cover. Addressed to Miss LeDuc in 1898 in care of Mr Herman L. Riggs of Palmyra, NY, it just needed to be investigated. The LeDuc family was the cornerstone of the Hastings community for over 100 years.

LeDuc Cover

Hastings was platted in 1853 by Henry H. Sibley, dividing the town between himself, Alexis and Henry Bailly and Alexander Faribault. Legend has it that the four men drew lots to decide on the name for the town and Sibley’s middle name “Hastings” won out. In August of 1854 William Gates LeDuc (born 3/29/1823) bought Faribault’s quarter share for $4,000 starting the LeDuc interest in the town.
William Gates LeDuc married Mary Elizabeth Bronson in 1851 and they had four children: Mary Elizabeth (1852), Florence Gray (1855), William Bronson (1857) and Alice Sumner (1868). The cover in question was most likely addressed to Miss Florence LeDuc as Mary Elizabeth married Vincent Gardner in April 1873 and so in 1898 would not have been eligible for being addressed as “Miss Le Duc”. It is possible that the cover could have been addressed to Miss Alice LeDuc, but in those days the elder unmarried daughter was given the “Miss” title as in Miss LeDuc. Alice would have been addressed as Miss AliceLeDuc.

LeDuc Cover - receipt stamp
The connection with Herman L. Riggs is an interesting one. Palmyra is located in upper New York State, near Rochester. From 1870 to 1872 Mary Elizabeth attended Wells College in Aurora, NY which isn’t too far from Palmyra, NY. In 1873 Florence followed Mary Elizabeth to Wells College but had to withdraw in 1874 due to financial problems that William was having at the time. So the question for me was, what was the connection between the LeDuc’s and Herman L. Riggs. There was obviously a geographical connection but I wanted to know of a more direct connection which I believe that I found through Stephen Return Riggs.
William Gate LeDuc was born in and grew up around Wilkesville, Ohio. The Riggs family lived in Steubenville, Ohio. Stephen Return Riggs (born 3/23/1812) was a relative of Herman L. Riggs. Stephen was a minister in the Presbyterian Church and worked extensively with the Sioux Indians in Minnesota for most of his life. We know that William LeDuc had dealings with Stephen Riggs as they were both recorded as being present at the signing of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux with the Sioux (Dakota) tribes. I believe that William LeDuc built a relationship with Stephen Riggs through their dealings over many year, so that when William’s daughters started going to school at Wells College in Aurora, NY, William made contact with Herman L. Riggs via his friend Stephen asking for Herman to keep an eye on his daughters seeing as Herman lived fairly close to Aurora where the girls were studying. So it seems quite reasonable that Florence LeDuc returned to Palmyra in 1898 to visit with Herman L. Riggs and his wife Margaret Turner Sexton.
Florence LeDuc in Washington 1878

Florence LeDuc in Washington 1878

Just an interesting side note, in researching the connection between the Riggs family and the LeDuc family, I discovered using Google searches that there has been a long and extensive connection between the LeDuc’s and the Sexton’s over the last 100 years.
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