The New York & Liverpool United States' Mail Steamship Company was founded in 1848. The Collins Line, as it was known, traveled between New York and Liverpool in a little more than thirteen and half days on the line’s first voyage in 1850. Unfortunately, over time the company had many problems with delays due in part to ship disrepair and a rare collision. Its last commissioned ship, the Adriatic, was delivered late, further complicating the company’s finances. The 351-foot-long, 4,145-ton S.S. Adriatic made one voyage for the company and was then sold in a bankruptcy sale to the Royal Atlantic Steam Navigation Company. In 1868 the ship was sold to Bates & Co. of Liverpool, which converted it into a sailing ship. A modern marvel at the time of its completion, the ill-fated Adriatic ended its service beaching ignominiously on the west coast of Africa in 1885.
The 12-cent stamp’s ornate frame shares a similar design to the frames of the 2- and 3-cent 1869 stamps, all engraved by George W. Thurber. The stamp typically paid the double-weight rate for letters going to Great Britain. National Bank Note Company issued a total 3,012,950 stamps of this 12-cent issue.