you very much for your January 6 and February 14 letters requesting further
information about Andrew Balfour, who succeeded Samuel Dayton as postmaster of
Salisbury, North Carolina, and Andrew’s mother, Elizabeth Balfour, who might
or might not have been the first woman postmaster in the United States.
distinguished ancestors have provided me with an opportunity to do some very
interesting research! The first reference to Andrew Balfour in the microfilm
version of the Postmaster General’s letter books is on March 21, 1796, when he
was appointed postmaster of Salisbury, North Carolina, by Postmaster General
Joseph Habersham. Andrew Balfour served as postmaster at Salisbury until around
January 7, 1822, when his successor, Samuel Reeves, was appointed postmaster.
of post offices, with postmasters, are available for 1811, 1813, 1817, 1819, and
1822. Each of them lists Andrew Balfour as postmaster of Salisbury. There is no
listing of Elizabeth Balfour as postmaster of Salisbury.
it is clear from the Postmaster General’s letter books that Elizabeth Balfour
was intimately involved in the business of the Salisbury Post Office. The first
letter from Postmaster General Joseph Habersham to her is dated November 27,
1799, and replies to a letter she wrote to him on November 3, complaining about
the mail contractor’s failure to deliver the mail to Salisbury the preceding
day. The Postmaster General’s letters show that Elizabeth Balfour was several
times responsible for submitting the post office’s financial returns and
requesting that difficulties with the mail contractor be straightened out.
Andrew Balfour was the contractor himself from at least 1809 through 1812 and
was probably grateful for his mothers
able assistance in running the
July 23, 1807, letter addressed to ”E. Balfour Esq.” and December 7, 1809,
letter addressed to ”E Balfour pm. Salisbury N.C.” have been dismissed in
earlier correspondence from this office as clerical errors for ”A. Balfour,”
and probably were just that. I suppose the April 14, 1813, one addressed to
”Mrs. E. Balfour P.M. Salisbury N.C.” can be explained the same way,
although not as easily.
question of whether Mrs. Elizabeth Balfour was the first female postmaster of
the United States has been raised with this office at least three times since
1940. Our records show that Mrs. Sarah Decrow was appointed postmaster of
Hertford, North Carolina, on September 27, 1792, and as such was the first
postmaster appointed under the constitution of the United States (at least one
woman was appointed postmaster under the colonial Post Office). Salisbury Post
Office was not even established until June 12, 1792, with George Lauman as the
L’ENFANT PLAZA SW, Room 10340
1S48 article from the
which you enclosed is very confusing. I can’t dismiss it out of hand, because
the basic genealogical information seems to agree with information in several
published sources in the Genealogical Branch of the North Carolina State Library
in Raleigh, North Carolina. Yet the 1784-1825 dates when Mrs. Balfour was
supposedly postmaster at Salisbury do not at all agree with the appointment
dates for Andrew Balfour. The story that her friends appealed to President
Washington because of her financial straits after the murder of her husband in
1782 is certainly possible, although Andrew Balfour was not appointed postmaster
of Salisbury until 1796, George Washington was President at that time.
part about Mrs. Balfour’s accounts being only a half cent off looks like a
nice bit of mythology: the December 1, 1800, letter from Postmaster General
Joseph Haversham notes that she was 33 cents off in her calculations of what was
due Andrew Balfour.
of the nicest letters is a brief note from Postmaster General Gideon Granger on
January 24, 1814, to Mrs. Balfour saying ”I [approve] most highly of your
proceedings with the extra mail this is one of many instances in which your
proceedings have called for my applause.” Many of the Postmaster General’s
letters are routine business letters, but this highly individual and
complimentary one was not.
am enclosing photocopies of these letters from the microfilm and transcriptions
of them, as well..
hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I can be of
E. Rabkin Research Associate, Postal History Corporate Information Services
IT711: P E Rabkin: per:03/10/94