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Marin Towns Included in California’s First Local Mail Service

By Robert L. Harrison

The first mails in California were not carried by the post office department, but by military messengers. Governor Kearny established a government express between San Francisco and San Diego, beginning in April 1847. The mail was carried by two soldiers on horseback starting on alternate Mondays.

Later in 1847, two towns located in the area that now comprises Marin County were included in the first local mail service in California. Charles L. Cady of San Francisco advertised his proposed service in the Californian, California’s first newspaper, on August 7, 1847.

Cady’s “Express Mail” operated between San Francisco and Fort Sacramento. The San Francisco office was at B. R. Buckelew’s, the proprietor and editor of the Californian. Capt. J. A. Sutter manned the Fort Sacramento station. As specified in Cady’s advertisement, “the intermediate important places along the route” included “Sousolito” and “San Rafiel”. Other intermediate stations included “Petaloma”, Sonoma, “Nappa”, Benicia, and “Cash Creek”. Apparently Cady’s word processor lacked spell-check.

The service departed weekly from San Francisco every Monday morning and from Sacramento every Thursday. Departure and arrival at San Francisco were coordinated to connect with the government mail between San Francisco and San Diego. The consignments could include letters, papers, and very light packages.

Letters between San Francisco to Sacramento cost 25 cents, or about $7.50 in 2018 dollars. Other proposed fees were “From either extremity to Sonoma or “Nappa”, 12½ cents; and from either extremity of the line, to any of the intermediate places, 18¾ cents, and 6¼ cents, depending on the longer or shorter distance, whether within, or beyond, the middle stations.” A letter carried from San Francisco to either Sausalito or San Rafael would cost 6¼ cents or about $1.88 in 2018 dollars. In the 1847 advertisement, Cady made clear that the postage was always to be paid in advance.

Perhaps it was the high cost of the service. But whatever the cause, the Cady Express Mail did not continue for long.

P. O. Box 150727, San Rafael, CA 94915        415-382-1182    

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