Sale 1248 — The Magnolia Collection of U.S. Mail in China and Japan: Part 1
Sale Date — Thursday, 16 December, 2021
Category — Mail to China
EXTREMELY FINE. ONE OF ONLY FOUR RECORDED COVERS TO HONG KONG OR CHINA WITH THE 30-CENT 1869 PICTORIAL ISSUE. ESPECIALLY DESIRABLE WITH THE RARE HONG KONG MARINE SORTER BACKSTAMP. A POSTAL HISTORY RARITY OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.
The 12c and 30c 1869 Pictorial stamps pay the 42c rate to China by British Mail via Marseilles. The cover was carried on the Inman City of Brooklyn, departing New York July 31, 1869, and arriving at Queenstown August 9. It was then carried aboard the Peninsular & Oriental Massilia, departing Marseilles August 15 and arriving at Alexandria August 21. After traveling overland to Suez, it was carried on the P&O Deccan, departing August 22 and arriving at Galle September 6. It left Galle on September 8 on the P&O Travancore, arriving in Hong Kong on September 21 after a stop in Singapore on September 15. The mail on board the Travancore was sorted and datestamped with the Hong Kong Marine Sorter marking.
The total number of days for the journey was 57. The recipient carefully recorded the length of time this cover took to reach him, as well as calculating how long it would have taken if sent by the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. route via San Francisco and Yokohama. His calculation shows that 17 days would have been saved (a third less time) had it been sent by the Pacific route. The shorter journey was facilitated by the opening of the transcontinental railroad just over two months earlier on May 10, 1869.
According to the Webb book, the sorting of mail on board ship was first tried in 1857 and was found to speed the delivery of the mails on arrival in Hong Kong. The Governor of Hong Kong petitioned to make this a permanent position, but the scheme was not implemented. Seven years later, after the GPO decided that Hong Kong should assume greater responsibilities, the sorting plan was green-lighted. An official from the Hong Kong post office would meet the P&O steamer in Singapore and sort the mails during the trip to Hong Kong. The mails could then be delivered immediately on arrival or forwarded faster to their final destination outside of Hong Kong. The new service started with the arrival of mails at the end of July 1868. Mails were sorted between Singapore and Hong Kong, and another line was also established to sort mails between Hong Kong and Shanghai. There are five sub-types of Webb's Type B-2 Marine Sorter marking showing the date of trip. This is the sub-type 2e marking, described by Webb as rare.
There are four recorded 30c 1869 covers to China, only one of which is listed in the 1869 Census book. All bear the same franking. The cover offered here is part of the Collins correspondence, which came to light in 1991 (Frajola sale 47). The Collins correspondence produced another 30c/12c 1869 cover, which is extensively restored along the left edge. A third cover to a different addressee was offered in the 1987 Rarities sale (lot 238). The fourth was sent to Hong Kong and forwarded to Yokohama.
Ex Gordon Eubanks. With 1999 P.F. certificate.