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

Apr 1 , 2002

My own totally unwilling involvement came in 1994. I had received the 1983 Fay catalog, in which the beehive cover is prominently featured and had taken only passing notice. In 1994 I was visiting Calvet Hahn shortly after Siegel’s had announce the discovery of new beehive cover. It was suggested that its long residence in a archive (at the University of North Carolina) made it unlikely that it was less than genuine.

Mr. Hahn was very interested and gave me an extensive introduction to the beehive story. At the time of the 1975 sale of the damaged beehive he had been involved in a beehive group with David Jarrett, Lea Leonard and others. (He had also corresponded with Warmsley at the time.) He indicated a main lead was the New Haven bank, which used a beehive as a symbol. I think he was hoping I would look in to the matter-a hint to which I was completely refractory. He pointed to the nonsensical letters and the inappropriate rates. He thought there was some similarity to some Hudson River manuscript markings.

Overall, I had the impression he was dubious about the authenticity of the markings, but nudged a bit in the positive direction by the new find. In the actual auction description, which soon appeared, David Petrocelli suggested that the beehive letters might be schoolwork, much in the manner of the well-known business school covers of the late eighteenth century. Calvet and I had a brief conversation in which we agreed that this was a useful notion.

Fate stepped in. Shortly thereafter, I was at a Kukstis sale and noted a cover with the well-known New Haven ship in a ship illustrated marking of 1816-57, but showing a 12½¢ rate, which wasn’t a ship rate. A ship cover going into New Haven would be rated 6¢. On examining the cover I had a rare moment of philatelic epiphany (keep in mind, epiphanies can be wrong). The contents were zany – reminiscent of the beehives. The docketing included the revelatory phrase “Burying Ground Fair.” Now I had to grapple with the beehive.

My initial research included reading Warmsley’s little book. Of interest was the addressee – Horace Day, presumably the same Mr. Day who received at least three beehive covers. But now I had a first name. Also, the date of June 1840 lay on a line with the June date of 1838 and, perhaps 1839 of the beehive covers. My thought – eventually proved wrong, was that in its third year, the burying ground fair switched to a borrowed post office marking- or the covers were local handled by the Post Office but charged a special charity rate premium (also wrong).

Another erroneous theory was based on a brief study of the history of fairs – which go back to Roman times. In medieval times these economically important gatherings were often held at cemeteries as this inhibited outbreaks of violence. (Supposedly fairs became important in America after 1800, but Franklin’s almanacs mention many fairs.)
Turning to the New Haven directories, which apparently began in 1840, I found Horace Day, a reverend at College along with Gad Day, a joiner. At this point I suspected that he was a young man, possibly a teacher. Laura Hinds, of the North Carolina find, didn’t show up there or in the Census, raising the possibility she was student.