An October 1852 issue of The Banner from Davenport, Iowa, included a list of recipients of “German Letters” that had been received the post office. Publishing lists of received letters at the post office was not uncommon during this time period.

But what does it mean?

Nicholas and Peter Willey are two of the recipients. The Willeys likely knew someone who spoke German and that person knew that either the Willeys could read German or could have the letters read to them.

It means that at the time the writer mailed the letter they believed that both Willeys lived in Davenport–or close enough to it that they could get to the post office and would likely know of the letter having been received.

The lists can be helpful because they let us know that someone thought the person lived in the location at the time the letter was mailed–or it was the last address they had for them. The appearance of a person’s name on the list does not guarantee they were alive at the time of publication either–the letter writer may simply not have learned of the person’s death.



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