Meeting of 6/4/15: ‘Franking In America’

Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 12.44.07 PMMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
June 4, 2015

Attending (18): Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Ray Hannan, Terry Bailey, Geoff Bailey, Roberto Martinez, Charlie Foote, Carole Spencer, Dean Calamaras, Doris Calamaras, Debbie Rodriguez, Rommel Tolentino, Stewart Wagner.

Guests (2): George McGowan, David Taylor.


PROGRAM: “Franking In America: 1776-1850”


Speaker George McGowan and his sponsor, Stewart Wagner.
Speaker George McGowan and his sponsor, Stewart Wagner.

Stewart Wagner introduced George McGowan, an East Greenbush resident who is a philatelist and collector of historic stamps and mailers.

George discussed the practice of “franking,” a system of free mailings for various government officials at public expense. It began, he said, during the Continental Congress as members were allowed free mailing. The practice eventually was expanded to include various other government officials, the presidential first lady, postmasters and others. There were numerous instances, however, of illicit uses of the franking privilege to handle business mail, personal correspondence, and political mailings at no charge.

Benjamin Franklin was the colonial postmaster under British rule, and briefly held the post in the new United States when he was instrumental in creating the postal system in the United States using the British system as a model.

In the early years, mail charges were on a price-by-piece basis; i.e., a letter would count as one piece, an enclosure such as a check or document as another piece, and an envelope as another. Thus, many people wrote everything on one piece of paper to avoid triple costs. In the 1840s, postal regulations were changed to charge three cents per piece of mail no matter how large or how great the distance to be carried. That resulted in a tremendous increase in the use of mail, and more revenue for the government.

The speaker distributed examples of historic mailings with addressing and signatures covering everything from local correspondence to federal government offices.

During a question-and-answer session, George was asked the origin of the term “franking.” He said it was a very old usage and its origin is unknown. (However, a quick online search revealed that “The phrase franking is derived from the Latin word ‘francus,’ meaning free.”) He also confirmed that the small obelisk-shaped mileage markers seen in some parts of the country were used to measure postal distances so carriers could ascertain bills at the point of initial mailing.


ANNOUNCEMENTS/BUSINESS


WELCOME — President Bill Dowd welcomed new member David Taylor, who will become a Rotarian effective on July 1. David was sponsored by Ray Hannan.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES —  A sign-up sheet for our next few meetings is circulating. Please remember to sign up for the Presidential Changeover Dinner at the Browns’ residence on June 25. They will supply the entrée and dessert; members are asked to bring appetizers, salads, etc. … We still need hosts for casual picnics on three dates in July and three in August. (During the meeting, two of those slots were filled — July 9 at the Forth residence, July 16 at the Calamaras residence.) Dean and Doris Calamaras are coordinating an August 6 trip to the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham for a performance of “West Side Story.” Doris recommended the Four Brothers restaurant in Valatie for anyone wishing to have dinner before the theater visit. And, our annual picnic and ValleyCats pro baseball game at Bruno Stadium is set for July 30, with Terry Brewer coordinating the event.

SURVEY — A reminder was issued to fill out and return the membership survey President-elect Terry recently distributed. The deadline for doing so is next Thursday, June 11.

2015-16 DUES — Dues for the upcoming new Rotary Year must be submitted to Treasurer Murray Forth by June 30. Full-year dues remain at $175, six-month dues $87.59, the latter with a second installment to be paid no later than December 31.

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, June 11, at Quigley’s. We will have a speaker on the topic of “STARS & Seniors: Asset Management and Medicaid Trusts.”


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