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NYFM Killers, Three Unusual Additions

[Authors Note: This article generated vigorous discussion when originally published.  Please see "Post Publication Notes and Correction" following the article.]

On many occasions the pages of the News have contained articles reporting new, previously unreported killers used to cancel mail handled in the foreign mail division of the New York City general post office.  These New York foreign mail (NYFM) killers are among the most highly studied and documented in our hobby.  Nevertheless, new discoveries await the alert and curious student of these cancellations.  This article reports three new and very interesting additions.

A New Numeral Killer

When Bill Weiss published his book, The Foreign Mail Cancellations of New York City 1870-1878 1, it added fire to the debate on the proper definition of a NYFM killer.  Bill expressed a liberal viewpoint, believing that any killer that could be demonstrated as having been used to cancel mail out of New York City to a foreign destination (other than Canada) justified inclusion into the NYFM category.  Bill’s book contains several examples of foreign destination covers canceled by numeral killers typically found on domestic New York City mail from this period (representative type killers RE-N2 through RE-N8).  Notably, illustrated cover examples show these killers duplexed to domestic style postmarks.  Those who disagree with Bill’s NYFM definition emphasize this fact.  For them such covers only demonstrate the occasional exceptions where a foreign bound cover initially processed in the domestic division before ultimately being delivered to the foreign division for correct processing.  The cover illustrated in Figure 1 represents a curious twist to this debate.


Figure 1

The cover is dated DEC 26 (1875 based upon French receiving mark) and bears three 3˘ Continental issue stamps paying the 9˘ treaty rate to France (only a few days before the UPU rate of 5 cents became effective JAN 1, 1876).  The stamps are canceled by two complete and two partial strikes of a negative Roman numeral 12 (XII) killer.  According to USCC member John Donnes, this killer is known used on domestic New York City mail from SEP 11 to OCT 31 in 1874.  (A late example on a UX3 from John’s collection dated OCT 30 is shown in Figure 2.) 

Figure 2

On the cover we see the killer clearly used without a duplexed postmark; only the red NEW YORK DEC 26 PAID exchange office hand stamp provides a date.2  Apparently, this numeral killer was re-tasked for use in the foreign mail division after being retired from its domestic use.  Note that the two complete strikes show significant wear much like the late domestic use.  John Donnes also reports the use of the simplex Roman numeral XII killer cancelling a 1˘ Banknote on a circular out of the New York GPO (no date of use available).


A New Dual Domestic and Foreign Mail Use on Circular

In a series of articles published in the NEWS in 19953,4, I wrote about the cancellations found on circulars and newspapers out of New York City (NYCM killers).  Part II of the first article, “New York Circular Mail to Foreign Destinations,” posited that “it may be theoretically proper to classify all NYCM cancellations as NYFM” because even foreign destination circulars appeared to be processed and cancelled first in the circular mail room before delivery to the foreign mail division for processing.5  The article published several examples of this dual use of killers on both domestic and foreign destination circulars.  The 6-pronged spoke killer with hollow center illustrated in the Figure 3 tracing is a new addition to this dual use pattern.  The two covers below demonstrate this use.


                         Figure 3                                                                                                Figure 4

Figure 5

The Figure 4 item bears a Scott #146 paying the 2˘ printed matter rate to England on a printed prices current circular (New York Merchants' Chronicle) dated May 10, 1871.  The killer tracing is taken from the cancellation tying the stamp to the circular.  The cover in Figure 5 (courtesy of USCC member Matt Kewriga) bears this same killer, only used domestically.  It is an unsealed circular mail envelope, also bearing the 2˘ National stamp, addressed to New Haven, Connecticut, with a New York City jeweler corner advertisement.

A New Ringed Killer

The final Figure 6 item bears a very puzzling, never before reported New York City killer.  It ties a 1˘ Continental issue (Scott #156) on UX3 paying the uprated postal card rate to England.  Datelined August 6, the card bears a red AUG 7 exchange office postmark and a red London AU 17 1875 receiving mark.  What makes this killer so puzzling is that it is a ringed killer of style typically seen on NYCM in the 1874-75 period.  This new killer is most like the representational style NYFM killers RE-S6 (ringed shamrock) and RE-E1 (ringed shield), both of which are NYCM killers.6  (A dual foreign/domestic circular use of a ringed Maltese cross is also known.)  I cannot, however, discern a particular object as the central element of the design.  It appears to be somewhat hexagonal in shape with a negative interior design that resembles a worn anchor.  It truly confounds me that, despite the distinct and unique design of this killer, I have seen it nowhere else on or off cover.  Can anyone identify a second confirming example?

Figure 6


End Notes

1 Weiss, Willliam R., Jr., The Foreign Mail Cancellations of New York City 1870-1878. Published by the author, 1990.

2 John Donnes suggests that this cover may have been posted DEC 26, 1874, not 1875.  Utilizing information in North Atlantic Mail Sailings 1840-75 (Walter Hubbard and Richard Winter, U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, 1988), the one sailing fitting the destination and DEC 26 date is the French Line in 1874.  I also note in support of John’s observation that Hubbard and Winter record the use of this particular New York Exchange Office marking between the dates of 22 Jun 72 and 23 Nov 75.  Postal markings on this cover are slightly blurred, so a confusion of dates is entirely possible.

3 Valenti, John, “New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878,” Parts I-III, U.S., Cancellation Club News, Vol. 23, No. 1 (216), January 1995.

4 Valenti, John, “New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878,” Parts IV, U.S., Cancellation Club News, Vol. 23, No. 2 (217), Fall 1995.

5 Valenti, John, “New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878,” Parts I-III, op cit., p. 6.

6 Valenti, John, “New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878,” Parts I-III, op cit., pp. 7-8.