A REMARKABLE COVER, DEMONSTRATING THE USE OF THE 1847 ISSUE ENTIRELY OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES ON MAIL BETWEEN PERU AND MEXICO, CARRIED VIA THE PACIFIC MAIL STEAM SHIP COMPANY LINE. ONLY TWO 1847 ISSUE COVERS HAVE THE "PAN. & SAN FRAN. S.S." ROUTE AGENT'S CIRCULAR DATESTAMP.
The "Pan. & San Fran. S.S." circular datestamp was used between November 1850 and June 1852 on mail handled by route agents aboard ships of the Pacific Mail Steam Ship Company. Contract mail carried by PMSS Co. was received in locked bags, but letters picked up en route were postmarked by official route agents, as evidenced by 25 recorded examples of these rare markings on covers. Only two of the covers have 1847 stamps (Wierenga census).
The two recorded 1847 Issue covers with the "Pan. & San Fran. S.S." circular datestamp both originated in Peru (one in Lima, the other in Paita) and are addressed to Barron, Forbes & Co. in Tepic, Mexico. The other letter is dated November 11, 1851, at Paita. They were both datestamped on December 4, 1851. Since the two covers followed the same journey, the following description applies to both.
This cover -- with its letter, which is no longer present -- was sent from Lima, Peru, in early November 1851, and carried out of the mails or inside another cover to the care of E. & T. Serruys Co., the Panama forwarding agents. It was stamped in Panama with the strip of three 10c 1847's obtained from Amos B. Corwine, the United States mail agent in Panama. The fact that the stamps had been demonetized in the continental United States more than four months earlier apparently did not matter to Corwine. The mail was given to Gouverneur A. Ferris, the route agent on board the PMSS Co. California, which departed Panama on November 13. On its northbound run, the California evidently did not off-load the mail to Mexico at the ports of Acapulco, San Blas or Mazatlan, but carried it all the way to San Francisco, where the California arrived on December 2, carrying 179 bags of mail (Wierenga, p. 106). The 1847 covers to Mexico were postmarked by Ferris on December 4, one day before he departed on the PMSS Co. Golden Gate. On the southbound trip, the two 1847 covers were off-loaded at San Blas and then carried to Tepic.
This cover from Peru to Mexico via Panama was prepaid at the U.S. 30c Panama (Pacific Coast) rate. The stamps came from a supply of 5,000 10c 1847 Issue stamps sent to A. B. Corwine, to facilitate prepayment of U.S. postage on mail sent via Panama. They became available in Panama on July 16, 1850. Corwine's responsibilities included arranging for mail to be carried across the Isthmus of Panama, between Chagres on the Atlantic side and Panama City on the Pacific side, and to receive mail for transport on the PMSS Co. line. It is this unique circumstance of postal history that made it possible for letters to have United States stamps, but never enter a U.S. post office.
The record of 10c 1847's showing use of the stamp from Panama contains ten full covers, one piece and a strip of three off cover. Of these, eight covers bear three stamps each for the 30c Panama rate. Four covers were carried from Peru to Mexico via Panama. As noted above, only two have the "Pan. & San Fran. S.S." circular datestamp.
Corwine served as the American commissioner in Panama until Lincoln removed him from office. He was an instrumental figure in the so-called 1856 Watermelon War, where inebriated Americans in transit antagonized a local seller of watermelon by refusing to pay, leading to riots -- the vendor pulled a knife, the antagonist pulled a gun, a struggle ensued, and a bystander was shot. Corwine's report of the incident was instrumental in the following short American occupation of the Isthmus, as well as payment of compensation and justification for future military actions to maintain neutrality of Panama.
Creighton C. Hart illustrated and described this cover in his May 1968 article on 1847 stamps used from Panama (Chronicle 58, pp. 46-49): "The fourth cover has a fine strip of three but instead of being pen cancelled, it is cancelled with red grids. Instead of the rather common black 'STEAM SHIP,' it has the desirable and rare red 'PAN. & SAN FRAN. S.S.,' this being the abbreviation for "Panama and San Francisco Steam Ship." This is the only "PAN. & SAN." cover known with 1847 stamps [Note: the second example has since been recorded]. When this cover was acquired by Mr. Shierson, it had an accompanying letter showing the origin of the cover to be Lima, Peru and the text of the letter related to the shipment of silver bars. When the cover was auctioned in 1961 the letter was missing. This cover is also in your editor's collection."
A famous cover from the J. Waldo Sampson, Charles Shierson and Creighton C. Hart collections. Illustrated and discussed in Chronicle 58, illustrated in Letters of Gold (p. 97) and discussed in Theron Wierenga's The Gold Rush Mail Agents in California and Their Postal Markings 1849-1852 (pp. 101-107). Signed Ashbrook