THE ONLY KNOWN COVER BEARING THE HAWAIIAN 2-CENT MISSIONARY. THE RAREST AND MOST FAMOUS OF ALL HAWAIIAN AND UNITED STATES COVERS AND UNIVERSALLY RANKED AMONG THE WORLD'S MOST IMPORTANT PHILATELIC ITEMS
On this cover the Missionary stamps prepay the 5c Hawaiian postage and 2c ship captain's fee, and the pair of United States 3c stamps prepays the 6c trans-continental rate in effect at this time.
The 2c Missionary cover does not bear a year-dated marking, but can be reliably dated to 1852. The sender, William Dawson, sailed from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands on the schooner Samuel Roberts, which departed on March 10, 1851. His first letter from Hawaii (see Part 2, lot 2073) was written from Lahaina on April 19, 1851, in which he remarks, "I have cast my anchor on this Island & settled down in peace after having been tossed on the timultuous Waves of Life for Thousands of Miles & have come to the end of my journey. Thus, his correspondence with family and friends back home begins in April 1851. Another Missionary cover from the Dawson find is dated February 20, 1852 (see lot 29).
Further evidence of 1852 usage is provided by the United States stamps and the San Francisco postmark. The 3c pair comes from Plate 2 Late, which is known used as early as January 1852, and the Brownish Carmine shade and impression are typical of the 1852 printings and in stark contrast to the Rose Red shades circulating in 1854. The San Francisco circular datestamp, having a wide font and the letters "Cal." in upper and lower case, came into use in 1849 and is found on covers through early 1853, but no later.
The final factor in determining the year-date is the sailing schedule. The Mary A. Jones sailed from Honolulu on October 5, 1852, the day after the postmark was applied, and arrived in San Francisco on October 26, a voyage of 21 days. An interesting comparison can be made between the 2c Missionary cover and two other Missionary covers carried on the same voyage (see lot 5 and Census No. 2-I-COV-70, Appendix I). In the case of the 2c mixed-franking cover - a very early use of U.S. stamps from Hawaii - the San Francisco post office felt compelled to cancel the United States stamps immediately after unpacking the mail, and they used the "Cal." device dated October 27. In the case of the other two covers, which had no U.S. stamps (one fully prepaid by a 13c Missionary, the other with U.S. postage due), there was no such compulsion. Those two letters were held for the regular processing of mail bound for the East Coast via Panama on November 1 and were postmarked with the "CAL" style of San Francisco datestamp.
This famous 2c cover, which has been included in every list of the world's most outstanding philatelic items, often as Number One in terms of rarity, quality and usage, has a fascinating provenance that is detailed in Alvin Good's The Life and Adventures of a Philatelist (pages 81-82). According to Good's account, during the summer of 1905 a defunct tannery in Bridgeport, Connecticut (reported in other accounts to have been Newark, New Jersey, or New Bedford, Massachusetts), was being cleaned for conversion to a Morocco factory. Some 35 years earlier the building had been abandoned, and, in feeding old papers and records into the furnace before leaving, the previous occupants had choked out the fire, leaving bundles of half-burned papers in the stove's belly. The workman now given the job of cleaning out the boiler and furnace knew something about stamps and became intrigued by the presence of old stamps on folded letters and envelopes scattered among the charred papers. When he noticed the partially burned envelope with a strip of three 13c Missionaries (see lot 29), he dug deeper and found the folded cover bearing the 2c Missionary. Fortunately for philately, this letter escaped an incendiary fate, showing nothing more than a faint spot at left where the lettersheet was licked by the flames.
The Dawson Missionary covers were sold soon after their discovery to or through New England Stamp Company. The firm featured the 2c cover on their season's greetings card of 1905-06 as "The Rarest Cover Known to Philately." It was acquired by George H. Worthington, the Cleveland chicle magnate and the leading American collector of the time, for a price reported to be $6,000. Alvin Good, the source of the 2c Missionary cover's provenance, was Worthington's philatelic secretary. A pencil note on the back indicates that the cover was purchased by Worthington in March 1905.
The entire Worthington collection was acquired privately in 1917 by Alfred F. Lichtenstein, who retained some portions of the collection and sold others through a series of auctions in 1917-18. Lichtenstein and another major collector of the time, Alfred H. Caspary, are said to have had an informal truce whereby they avoided concentrating on the same philatelic subjects. Therefore, while Lichtenstein formed his own fine, but relatively modest, collection of Hawaii, the 2c cover was released, giving Caspary the opportunity to acquire it for his formidable collection of Hawaiian classics.
When the Caspary collection was sold by H. R. Harmer in October 1957, the 2c Missionary cover was purchased by Raymond H. Weill Co. for $25,000 - a phenomenal price that was 2-1/2 times the realization for the Alexandria "Blue Boy" postmaster's provisional cover in an earlier Caspary sale. The Weills retained the cover in stock briefly, until a collector, Mr. P., acquired it for his stellar United States collection. In 1969 the Weills purchased the Dawson cover along with Mr. P.'s entire holdings for $4.07 million, but it was not long before Alfred J. Ostheimer III made the cover his most significant single acquisition and the cornerstone of his Hawaii collection.
After The Honolulu Advertiser purchased the Ostheimer collection in 1970, the 2c Missionary cover was absent from the market during the quarter-century when important covers climbed in value. Thus, what has been described as "the most valuable and interesting of any early nineteenth century cover" (Alvin Good) and "by far the most important item in Hawaiian philately [and] one of the greatest covers in the world" (Dr. Norman S. Hubbard, "Aristocrats of Philately", Interphil `76 Catalogue, p. 79), will be offered at auction for the first time in 38 years.
Exhibited among "The Aristocrats of Philately" at Anphilex 1971 (New York City) and Interphil 1976 (Philadelphia). Shown by invitation in the Courts of Honor of fourteen international philatelic exhibitions and illustrated in the exhibition catalogues for London 1980 and World Stamp Expo 1989. Displayed in the "Gems of Hawaii: The Persis Collection" exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in celebration of the museum's first anniversary.
Illustrated in Rare Stamps, L. N. and M. Williams (p. 27); Encyclopedia of Rare and Famous Stamps, L. N. Williams (p. 129); described and illustrated in Hawaii, Its Stamps and Postal History, Meyer-Harris (p. 30 and 113); featured in Life magazine's "The World's Greatest Stamps" (May 3, 1954) and on the cover of Esquire magazine (October 1956).
Ex George H. Worthington, Alfred F. Lichtenstein, Alfred H. Caspary, Mr. P. Collection, Alfred J. Ostheimer III.
Census No. 1-II-COV-15. Other census references: Meyer-Harris 9; Brewster 1-II-On Cover-1; Bash 1-1. With 1995 P.F. certificate