Quality 19th Century U.S. Stamps, Cancels and Postal History
NYFM Killers, Three Unusual Additions - Post Publication Notes and Correction
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A New Numeral Killer: Correcting the Date of Use
Shortly before this article was published in the U.S. Cancellation Club News, information became available suggesting that the date of this cover to France was DEC 26, 1874, not 1875. Because of time constraints the article was not rewritten to include this information. Instead, information supporting the 1874 date was included as footnote 2. I now believe that enough additional information has become available, both prior to and after the article's publication, to say definitively that the year that the cover was postmarked is 1874:
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. The “S.S. Pereire” departed NY on Dec. 26th (a Saturday) and arrived in Havre on Jan. 5, 1875. (Other steamship lines had their sailings earlier in the week). No 1875 sailings fit the Dec. 26th date.
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.
The blue French receiver was used in 1874 and only part of 1875. It was replaced by another receiver in 1875 and neither receiver was used in 1876. (This information, courtesy of U.S. Cancellation Club member Dan Richards, comes from Raymond Salles's La Poste Maritime Francaise, a seven volume set of books covering French maritime markings used throughout the world.)
Revisiting the image of this cover, I am now inclined to read the year date in the blue French receiver as "75", not "76".
A New Numeral Killer: Killer Applied in Domestic or Foreign Mail Division?
Much of the debate about this cover to France concerns the question of whether it was cancelled in the domestic letter division or the foreign mail division of the New York City GPO. In other words, is it accurate to state that the negative XII killer had been re-tasked for use in the foreign mail division? All parties concede that the negative XII killer is one that had previously been known used only on domestic letters and postal cards. It is one of numerous hand-carved numeral killers applied to mail in the domestic letter division prior to the introduction of numbered metal ellipse killers. Several of these other numeral killers have been recorded applied to letters bound for foreign destinations. Several such covers are illustrated in Weiss1. Nevertheless, I believe for the reasons outlined below that this negative XII killer was legitimately used in the foreign mail division of the GPO on this cover and that it constitutes a re-tasking of a domestic mail killer.
As noted in the article the killer has recorded dates of use on domestic mail from SEP 11 to OCT 31 in 1874. Conceding that this cover was mailed in December 1874, we must question why there exists a nearly two month gap between the domestic letter division LKU and this cover to France. To me this suggest that the negative XII killer had been retired from use in the domestic letter division and was available for use elsewhere within the GPO.
All covers reported by Weiss (and additional covers that I have personally viewed) that bear hand-carved numeral postmarks on foreign destination mail also bear the dated postmark of the domestic letter mail division duplexed to the killer. A close examination of the subject cover reveals no such postmarks. (Additionally, there are no additional markings or offsets on the back of the cover.) It has been noted by others that postal clerks were adept at striking duplexed devices so that the CDS did not appear multiple times on a cover with multiple stamps, and that avoiding the application of the domestic postmark to a foreign-bound cover helped avoid confusing foreign postal clerks. It has also been noted that when circular mail was processed in the domestic letter division the postal clerks took great care not to strike the postmark, generally angling the duplexed device to strike off or to the edge of the circular. This practice generally resulted in the killer being inverted from its normal presentation. On the cover to France we see the negative XII killers inverted. These points are valid, but hardly definitive and to them I respond with the following points. (a) All other foreign destination covers handled in the domestic division that I have observed bear postmarks. Why would this cover deserve special treatment? To me this indicates little or no concern about applying a domestic postmark. (b) We cannot be certain about the angulation of the presumably duplexed killer based solely on the positioning of the negative numeral XII. As is well demonstrated by the right-skewed negative XII in the image of John Donne's OCT 30, 1874 postal card example illustrated in the article, we cannot determine the supposed positioning of the duplexed postmark based upon this. But, just for the sake of argument, if we assume that the XII is vertical relative to a duplexed postmark, then this would place the expected location for the "missing" postmarks for two of the four evident strikes of the killer square on the cover. (c) Why are there four strikes of the killer? In particular, why are two of the strikes barely struck along the top edge? I interpret this to indicate that multiple covers were being simultaneously cancelled, not just this one. If the cover to France was cancelled in the domestic letter division, then this was not just a single odd ball foreign mail cover getting the treatment. Moreover, the cancellation of multiple covers simultaneously in the manner we see here was common practice with the application of the simplex killers used in the foreign mail division, but such practice was not at all common with the application of duplexed killers to cancel domestic letters. Again, all of my observations have me conclude (but can never "prove") that on this cover to France we are looking at a simplex negative XII killer and that this killer was re-tasked for use on foreign mail.
There is well documented evidence that killers used in the New York GPO were re-tasked for use in divisions other than where they originated. Weiss and Valenti2 illustrate several pieces of circular mail cancelled by traditional NYFM killers. These killers include Weiss types ST-8P10, ST-8P11 and GE-EN6. Valenti3 also reports a NY circular mail killer appearing three years later worn and duplexed on domestic letters in the GPO. Finally, there is now possible evidence (see below) of regular, non-circular foreign mail cancelled by a killer heretofore seen exclusively used cancelling circulars.
A New Dual Domestic and Foreign Mail Use on Circular: Another Example of Re-Tasking, But Which Way?
Subsequent to the publication of this article there appeared in auction the cover illustrated below.
This was lot 1417 in Schuyler Rumsey auction 55, March 10-12, 2014. It bears a red "New York, U.S., May 2" exchange CDS and red London PAID 1871 receiving hand stamp. The simplex killer on this cover is identical to that illustrated in Figures 4 and 5 of the article. (The catalog erroneously describes the killer as Weiss No. ST-6P1, a variety that does not even exist in Weiss.) Note also that this cover's date of use matches very closely the May 10, 1871 reported date on the foreign mail circular in Figure 4. Did this killer migrate from the foreign division to handling circulars and newspapers, or did it migrate in the other direction? Was this a temporary or permanent migration? We cannot really be certain.
1 Weiss, William R., Jr., The Foreign Mail Cancellations of New York City 1870-1878, William R. Weiss, Jr., 1990.
2 "New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878", by John Valenti, U.S. Cancellation Club NEWS, Vol. 23, No. 1, Whole No. 216, January 1995, pages 1-16.
3 "New York City Cancellations On Circulars and Printed Matter, 1870-1878", by John Valenti, U.S. Cancellation Club NEWS, Vol. 23, No. 2, Whole No. 217, Fall 1995, pages 2-3.