New Haven Bee Hive Enigma
By: Bernard Biales, Calvet M. Hahn

Apr 1 , 2002

 

The New Haven Beehive and the Passion of Arthur Warmsley


© Bernard Biales 2002

In his column for July 11, 1936, Konwiser presented information about covers with beehive markings of New Haven. A later column dated two of these to 1838 and 1839. This marking became the subject of extended speculation and controversy. It sometimes sold or almost sold for fabulous prices. Its status has been resolved only in recent years and has lead to a deeper understanding of early charity covers and their use, in some cases, of post office markings.

The initial find consisted of three or possibly four covers found in a correspondence purchased from Reverdy Whitlock, who kept a bookstore, by the Collector’s Shop in New Haven about 1934. These covers were addressed to Mr. Day / New Haven, Conn. or New Haven. Each has a reddish 26 mm circle at the upper left with sans serif peripheral NEW HAVEN / CONN around the image of a be have on its stand. Each is rated 12½¢. The contents are quite peculiar.

Descriptions of the covers may be found in the accompanying figures.
The covers are the Knapp cover, the Dunsmoor cover (sometimes erroneously attributed to Knapp based on a probable misreading of philatelic docketing now missing), and the Eaton cover with a heavily reinforced marking. Judge Fay passionately defended the Dunsmoor cover in discussions with Arthur Warmsley, who was a great doubter of the beehive. After Fay’s death, the cover was sold to Hauser at $5,250, but returned when it received a Foundation certificate as genuine non-postal use. The lawyer for the estate sold it to Warmsley for a rumored $100 in spite of Lou Robbins’ opinion that it was worth $3,000.

Warmsley remained faithful to the notion that the cover was not good. He wrote a booklet about the time of the Fay sale and several later articles, which have been helpful for this study- in which his negative viewpoint was revealed. Physical testing gave a neutral result that Warmsley interpreted as showing that the cover was faked. Later, when the APS got some fancy equipment, he sent it to them in the hopes of getting a free-bee comparison with the postally used New Haven cover.

They came back with ‘certs’ as genuine and a bill, which Warmsley declined. I have been unable to confirm the existence of a fourth Day correspondence cover, which was purportedly sold to Chambers. Tom Greene tells me Chambers died in 1946 and there is no beehive in the Rhode Island Historical Society. There was also no beehive in the Paige sale of Chamber’s material. Around 1945, Kieffer obtained a further cover. This one is address to a Mr. Tiffany, dated June 25. 1838, and proposes a duel. It first went to Dr. Glenn Jackson. It is also worth mentioning that there is an aberrant cover, which has been condemned. It is attributed to John Fox.