GEMS IN MY COLLECTION

3 of the 17 recorded Incoming Empress Dowager covers

By Tony T.W. Kwan (Hong Kong)

Between the Customs Post Period and the early National Post Period, China was not a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and its stamps were not recognized by foreign countries and vise versa. All incoming and outgoing mails should be franked with foreign stamps and with Chinese stamps added when it went through the Customs or National Post Offices thus becoming combination covers.

I have been recording Dowager Incoming Combination Covers for many years and so far only recorded 16 covers. My record has been published in the Postal History Research Vol. 17 (31 August 1999) in Taiwan. Subsequently, one additional incoming cover was found thus increasing the total to 17. (Table 1)

All of these Dowager Incoming Covers are already being held in various collections and none are in the current philatelic market as far as I know. I am fortunate to own two covers in my collection. If you know of more incoming Empress Dowager covers which are not on the list, please let me know.

(Fig. 1) Incoming cover from USA (16 March 1896) to Peking via US Post Office
(Fig. 1) Incoming cover from USA (16 March 1896) to Peking via US Post Office

The cover measures 10.0 cm x 21.5 cm and affixed with a 10 cents US stamp cancelled Portland ¡§MAR 16 96¡¨ Duplex cancellation, inwarded from Tientsin and applied ¡§Tientsin Customs APR 23 1896¡¨ in red, a Dowager 6 Cn stamp was affixed to cover double domestic rate. Unfortunately, the receiver, Hon. John Barrett moved to Bangkok and it took five months before the U.S. Ministry in Peking to re-direct the letter via Tientsin on 16 September 1896 to Bangkok (Blue Customs Tientsin on reverse). It went through Shanghai Customs on 19 September 1896 and Shanghai British Post Office (SP 25 96) and arrived Bangkok on 19 October 1896.

 

From the record, this is the only Dowager Incoming Combination Cover from USA and the only cover that arrived in China and then re-directed to another country

(Fig. 2) Registered Dowager cover from Canada (9 April 1896) to Shanghai and re-directed to Peking
(Fig. 2) Registered Dowager cover from Canada (9 April 1896) to Shanghai and re-directed to Peking

The cover, measures 10.5 x 13.5 cm, was sent from Ottawa, Canada on 9 April 1896 with 2 cents and 3 cents stamps franked with flag cancellation. It was noted by the Canadian Post Office as underpaid hence the circulat T 25 mark adjacent to the stamps; the letter was marked 20g i.e. a double-weight letter (blue m/s underneath the 6 cn stamp). It went to Tientsin where a Dowager 12 Cn stamp was affixed to cover double domestic rate at 6 Cn and registration at 6 Cn. A Tientsin oval registered chop in red with hand written Registration No. 975 was applied at top left corner. The receiver had moved from Shanghai to Peking thus the letter was re-directed. The postage due notation was ignored by the Chinese post office since at this time, China was not a member of the U.P.U.

 

The cover is an unique registered Dowager Incoming Combination Cover and the only Dowager Combination Cover sent from Canada

(Fig. 3) Newspaper wrapper from France November 1896 to Peking via Shanghai
(Fig. 3) Newspaper wrapper from France November 1896 to Peking via Shanghai

This Dowager wrapper appears in Plate VIII of Major Richard Pratt's book "Imperial China, History of the Posts to 1896" published in 1994. As I collect Empress Dowager and Its Surcharged Issues, I am keeping track of all Dowager issues and covers especially the incoming covers to China (table 1). This wrapper is another of the seventeen Dowager incoming covers in my collection and the record further summarized in an article published in the "Postal History Research Magazine" Vol 17 in Taiwan on 31 August 1999 . The cover measures 14.5 cm x 21.0 cm and is listed as number 11 in my record. It is believed that La Mode Pratique posted the wrapper in France in November 1896 to Madame Fernand Berteaux with subscriber or membership number 1-0453 who resided at the legation of France at Peking, and that Madame Berteaux's subscription for La Mode Pratique would be expired by end February 1897. As China was not a member of Union Postal Union (UPU) until 1914, when the wrapper entered Shanghai on 18 December 1896 where 2 of 1 Cn vertical pairs and a 6 Cn stamp amounting to 10 Candarins were affixed at Shanghai Customs Post Office. It was then forwarded and arriving Peking on 5 January 1897.

 

There are many special features of the wrapper:

 

  • The only Dowager incoming wrapper in record.
  • The wrapper was sent to Shanghai during Customs Post Period (16 December 1896) and forwarded to Peking through National Post Period (5 January 1897).
  • It was carried by the winter courier services and took 21 days from Shanghai to Peking.
  • The content weighed between half to three-quarter ounce and 15 cents was affixed in France paying triple rate to China. Winter inland printed matter rate was 3 Cn per quarter ounce (rather than 2 Cn) or triple rate at 9 Cn. It was over-franked by 1 Cn and a 1 Cn stamp was defaced and not charged.

(Table 1) Incoming Combination Covers of Dowager Issues

(Table 1) Incoming Combination Covers of Dowager Issues