- Republic Post: Texas Mail, Late 1835-Early 1846
Philatelist Rex Stever offers a thorough account of the Texas mail system from 1835 to 1846, asserting that the post succeeded despite environmental and economic challenges that confronted it. Republic Post explains the Texas Republic's postal system for a specific audience: philatelists and collectors. Still, scholars could find this a useful reference work.
Stever presents his study thematically, dividing it into the history of the Republic and the history of the postal system. Part one, a bit off topic, surveys the political history of the Texas Republic, only intermittently mentioning the mail service. For this section, Stever notes that delegates to the Texas Permanent Council accepted a proposal for a postal system on October 20, 1835, and then he proceeds to narrate a basic history of the Republic that one can find in numerous monographs. Stever's second part, much more the focus of the study, details the post offices, postal rates, and postal routes of Texas between the 1835 meeting of Texans to discuss independence and U.S. statehood in 1846. Part two offers the valuable information for the philatelist as well as the interested scholar.
In the preface, Stever claims that previous authors have not thoroughly documented the Texas mail system; this book, though not intended to be "a complete and detailed historical discussion" (x), combines those previous studies for a more complete understanding of the Republic post. Incorporating and relying on those secondary sources, the book lists such information as post office establishments and closures with twenty-seven pages of maps showing their locations, seven pages of reproduced headstamps, and thirty-eight pages of mail routes as well as numerous illustrations of letter covers. Even more helpful to a collector, Stever often includes advice about the rarity and value of a letter or its stamp.
Scholars will fault Stever's work for a number of reasons. First, this work offers only a vague thesis that it does not support throughout the book. Stever claims that the Republic succeeded despite problems, but his inclusion of basic historical facts and reference information for collectors obscures his argument. Moreover, Stever never clearly explains why the post was vital to the Republic. Second, the work's exposition of facts obscures certain points. For example, Stever states on page 37 that the Republic government closed the Post Office Department in January 1841 but not until page 106 does he state that the Texas government, to save [End Page 213] money by reducing the bureaucracy, abolished the Post Office Department and placed the mail under the auspices of the State Department with only a few clerks running the system. Finally, Stever includes superfluous and repeated information in several chapters. For instance, chapter two, which describes major issues that the Republic government faced, abruptly ends with a paragraph describing where the Texas government moved during this period; chapter five reiterates evidence such as the use of advertised mail and the description of the lame-duck period after annexation and contains rather out-of-place biographies of Postmaster Generals John Rice Jones Jr. and Robert Barr.
Nevertheless the book has value as an informative volume. Scholars and philatelist can find many facts from the numerous pages of maps locating post offices and postal routes. Also, Stever's account of how Texans sent and received mail may help historians clarify practical concerns for a larger study.
Republic Post offers an extremely meticulous account of Texas's postal system from independence to annexation that serves as a compendium of compiled data rather than a historical monograph with an effectively-supported thesis. Even so, Stever offers great detail that postal historians and scholars could use as a helpful resource.