Description: Martin Van Buren Free Frank with a Kinderhook Postmark Addressed to his Secretary of War, Joel R. Poinsett, for whom the Poinsettia Plant is Named********** VAN BUREN, MARTIN. (1782-1862). Eighth president of the United States nicknamed “Old Kinderhook.” Free Frank. (“Free M. Van Buren”). 1p. 12mo. (Kinderhook, January 13, circa 1836-1851). An envelope addressed to diplomat, congressman and Van Buren’s Secretary of War JOEL R. POINSITT (1779-1851), for whom the poinsettia plant, which he discovered while first minister to Mexico, is named. ********** A Hudson Valley native of Dutch extraction, Van Buren worked his way up through New York state politics before winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1821. In 1824 he was a vice-presidential candidate in a contentious election in which no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. A talented politician and party booster, Van Buren helped get Andrew Jackson elected in 1829 and, in return, Jackson appointed him to several offices including vice president. His ultimate reward came, however, when Jackson left office and endorsed Van Buren as his successor. With Jackson’s support, Van Buren became president in 1836, but served only one term. After his defeat by the Whig William Henry Harrison, Van Buren followed tradition and retired to his country estate, Lindenwald in Kinderhook, New York, becoming a gentleman farmer while planning a political comeback. However, additional attempts to return to Washington failed. After abandoning his political ambitions, he devoted himself to the improvement of his estate, and the property is now a registered National Historic Site. ********** Poinsett, a native of Charlestown, South Carolina, began in 1801 to travel widely across Europe and Russia, establishing numerous unofficial diplomatic contacts. From 1810 to 1814, he served in diplomatic roles in Chile and Argentina, then seeking independence from Spain, and after his return to the U.S., remained active in South American affairs while establishing his political career. He was elected to congress in 1820 and acted as a President Monroe’s special envoy to Mexico from 1822 to 1823; in 1825, he forfeited his congressional seat to return to Mexico as the first minister to the newly independent state and remained there until 1830. It was during this period that he was introduced to the plant taxco de alarcón, samples of which he sent back to the U.S. and which became popularly known as the poinsettia. From 1837 to 1841, he served as Van Buren’s secretary of war. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. ********** With a black ink stamped “FREE” and black ink postmark in the blank left portion of the envelope. Mounting traces and remnants of the original red wax seal on the verso. In fine condition.
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