Q72 January, 2010   member 619

Deciphering Help Needed

I'm looking for some help deciphering the attached cover. I have enclosed a scan of both the front and inside; the back has a French Office "ALEXANDRIE (EGYPTE) / 11 JANV 52" CDS. My questions are as follows:

1) The cover is addressed to Alessandria; is this Alexandria, Egypt or Alessandria, Italy?

2) The markings indicate that the cover went by steamer (Col Vapore), and that the steamer might be the S.S. Fratolli (or Fratolli Mohalla), if this is the case the addressee would be Mohalla at Alessandria Post Office, or just the Alessandria Post Office, which is correct?

3) I interprete the manuscript rate marking as a 4 or 9 (piastre?); which is correct, and how did the marking apply in this case?
Reply 1 member 266

1) ALEXANDRIE (EGYPTE) is the postmark of the French P.O. at Alexandria, Egypt.

2) SS does not refer to a steamer. It is the Italian form for Spettabili Signori (SSi) Fratelli Mohalla, Alessandria (meaning Honorable Sirs Mohalla Brothers, Alexandria). "Col Vapore Postale", means "By the Postal Steamer", which would have been the French Paquebot Poste.

3) The tax mark is not in piastres, it is "9" decimes (i.e. 90 centimes) and applied on arrival at the French P.O. in Alex.

French Mail steamers began operations in the Mediterranean from 1 May 1837. Rates were 10 and 20 decimes, so irrelevant to your 9d item. From 30 May 1838 new rates were introduced, progressively rising according to distance from port to port. Inland carriage was extra if to an inland destination. Ex. of ship-rate: for a 7 1/2g letter from Alex to Smyrna it was 7d, Alex-Malta 8d, Alex-Marseille 10d. Your item is addressed to Alexandria, and the only two ports with a 9d rate to Alex are Civita-Vecchia and Naples. This is in line with the Italian "col vapore postale". However as to which of the two is the origin of your letter, this could only be determined by the dateline inside the letter. Neither had French Post Offices.

Hope it helps.

Reply 2 member 534

Navari (ESC 534): I have no exact reply to the questions. But for: 1) If the cancellation is on the back it is reasonable to think it was on arrival and so in Egypt. 2) I think we don't have to read "FRATOLLI MOHALLA" but "FRATELLI MOHALLA" that signifies "MOHALLA BROTHERS" in Italian. 3) The digit for the tax seems to be a 9 according the rules of French posts in "Instruction générale of 1832". (extracted from Michèle Chauvet Introduction à l'histoire postale, Brun & fils, 2000). The 9 signifies "9 décimes". 10 décimes = 100 centimes = 1 Franc. For the moment I cannot tell more about the postal rate. If the reverse has a French Office ALEXANDRIE (EGYPTE) / 11 JANV 52 cds, may be that can help.

Reply 3 member 423

The cover is addressed in Italian and Arabic to Mohalla Brothers (Frères) in Alessandria (Alexandria), Egypt. The letter inside is written in Gulf Arabic rather than Egyptian, which may not mean much - it could have either come from the Gulf, or from a Gulf merchant inside Egypt. Unfortunately, the letter doesn't say much, merely an astonishingly embellished series of grandiose greetings, to the "honoured and saintly Mohalla Brothers, merchants of Alexandria", and then saying merely (this is a very loose translation): "My last letter to you was No 21, and I hope that your excellencies will be able to take action as suggested in that letter." But what the action was is not even hinted at; and I have not been able to read the signature. But the front is clear, to Seigneurs Mohalla Brothers (Fratelli), Alexandria, Via Postal Steamboat (Col Vapore Postale).

Reply 4 husband of member 610

The address is "Brothers" Mohalla; Fratelli is brothers in Italian. I do not recall or know of any Mohalla street or suburb in Alexandria, and it was certainly sent to Egypt, otherwise why the French Alexandrie Egypte arrival postmark? I dare say that the correspondence was carried by one of the Messageries Maritimes steamships on the Mediterranean; and the marking on the front is the French rate 9 used during the 18th & 19th centuries.

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