History of Expertizing and Catalog Listings- Calvet Hahn

Nov 1 , 1999

 

History of Expertizing and Catalog Listings—Three Coins

This presentation focused upon several major covers—the 1860 90¢ Armitage cover, a 30¢ 1869 cover sold by Ivy, a 90¢ National cover,  the controversial Counsel Klep 5¢ Jefferson cover, a $4 Columbian cover, a 28¢ Blackjack cover to Ceylon and a catalog listing in the American Stampless Cover Catalog.

Several of these were examples of analytic write-ups made for the items at the time they were submitted for expert certificates.  This was the situation for the Blackjack Ceylon cover, which was deemed genuine in all respect.  The analysis followed the rate structure of the time and the various transits that would take the cover from Milwaukee to Jaffna, Ceylon.  The Columbian item was from Emil Boris in New York October 13, 1893 to the family firm in Paris sent on the steamer La Gascogne and represents what may be the only commercial use of the $4 Columbian.  Most high value Columbians were on philatelically inspired covers designed to be soaked for European off-cover collectors of the stamps and are on well-known correspondences.

  Major Covers

1) The Consul Klep cover from the Garnier correpondence was extensively analyzed on the Frajola website in October 1998 and the conclusions that the 5¢ strip had been added to a stampless cover are now generally accepted.  One problem was the ‘mailing’ origin of the item, which had fake New Orleans postmarks.  The argument hinged on the backstamped F. A. Bruguiere New York oval forwarder.  It was suggested that Bruguiere’s agent in New Orleans might have applied it, which has been rejected, while Mr. Frajola noted the handwriting matched Garnier correspondence items from Charleston.  However, the same handwriting is found on covers originating with the Bruguiere firm in New York from the same Garnier holding in 1857 so it seems unlikely to have originated elsewhere.

November1999page12) The 90¢ National cover was the subject of a piece in Chronicle #115 hailing it as a new find.  It also had a 6 and 12¢ National.  Several of us who knew the cover wrote to challenge its authenticity despite the fact it had a ‘clean’ certificate.  Even the party who had first obtained the certificate stated privately that they doubted that the stamp originated.  Critical was a ‘wrinkle’ on the 90¢ value.  This was a cover wrinkle that ran under the upper left corner of the stamp but did not affect the adhesive.  When reexamined under UV a ‘ghost image’ of a different stamp was located where the 90¢ is located which extended three mm above the stamp and measured one mm wider than the 90¢.  Further a large portion of the cancel on the stamp runs off the stamp, but not onto the cover.  Despite the certificate when it was sold in 1980, it was successfully returned to the prior owner and accepted as having the 90¢ added, but has subsequently appeared with the same certificate selling to a new buyer. It is unlikely that if the cover were resubmitted today it would still get a clean certificate.  This is a case of too great a reliance upon provenance and  accepting certificates rather than judging to see whether they make sense.

3)     The 30¢ 1869 cover is just the reverse.  In this case one expert adamantly insists it is a fake, probably made by Michael Zareski (1870s to early 1960s), an expert forger of fancy cancellations and substituting expensive stamps for cheap ones on old covers, which he ‘tied’ with a touch-up brush.  A basic reason is that the cover is overpaid with a 30¢ stamp on a single rate cover that only required 15¢.  The second reason alleged is that Zareski had both the knowledge and talent to make such a cover.  The third is a lack of provenance prior to its surfacing in the mid-1960s.  The cover got a good opinion in 1966 and again in the 1990s.  The counter arguments to a forgery are the fact that the sender is known to have overpaid several other covers, that this cover was prepaid as evidenced by the boxed PD and there is a strike of the same killer on the cover as is on the stamp.  To fake the stamp the entire killer on the stamp would have had to be ‘painted’, not a technique seen on Zareski covers; he tended to extend killers from the stamp onto the cover with carefully crafted paint jobs, not make complete faked cancels on unused stamps.  UV examination showed no evidence of tampering that I could find so I would contend the objection of overpayment and of lack of provenance is being used to overwhelm the technical analysis that says the cover is genuine.

Cataloging Problems

The subject shown here is a cover with a Westfield, N.Y. ‘fancy rate’ cover with a 10 inside a boxed P A I D from the well-known Hutchison collection of New York stampless material and whether it should be given catalog status.  The item was offered with a February 17, 1953 letter from Harry M. Konwiser, creator and editor of the American Stampless Cover Catalog to Mr. Hutchison apologizing for the fact he failed to include it in the last edition  (1952) of that catalog which he edited, Exhibit 4.  There was also an August 10, 1936 letter from the Gun Shop ‘discoverer’ of the cover addressed to the Westfield postmaster of 1936 to determine if it was genuine, exhibit 1, and postmaster Skinner’s reply on the verso suggesting an ardent local collector, attorney Arthur Tennant, exhibit 2.  Exhibit 3 is Mr. Tennant’s reply that he felt the cover was genuine. The question of genuineness apparently arose because of a letter, (undated as to year) exhibit A from C. Malcolm Nichols, author of the definitive 1960 work on the postal history of Chautauqua County, where Westfield is located.  Mr. Nichols pointed out a the 10 and cds are of the same ink, a greenish cast black, while the PAID is a black, b) the PAID letters were applied separately and this was illogical for a postmaster to do c) if the mark were legitimate others should have turned up.

When the cover is examined in conjunction with other Westfield covers, additional reasons to reject it appear.  The 34mm cds size was introduced in 1850 in blue (the Dorr collection example of 8/15/50) along with two or three other examples.  Black was not used until about 1854 making this ‘10’ a double unpaid rate period cover rather than a prepaid ‘10’ which had to be prior to July 1, 1851 at which time the postoffice used blue handstamps not black.  Consequently the P A I D letters were added to enhance the value of this cover, and there is no reason to catalog it other than as a fake although it is a genuine example of the unpaid 10 double rate of the mid-1850s.

  History of Expertizing

The major portion of the talk was devoted to an examination of the 90¢ Armitage cover because the history of that cover provides a good picture of the changes in expertizing over three quarters of a century.  The cover has been examined by almost everyone if significance in the field and given a number of technical tests during the various examinations.  It was submitted for an opinion in November 1955 and given a genuine opinion, and again in November 1963 where the opinion was the 90¢ did not originate and the 12¢ had been added.  It was again up for examination in 1992.  I had written an analysis August 26, 1991 based upon postal history without personally having physically examined the cover, while Dr. Edward Liston had presented a technical analysis of the ‘Analysis of the Scanning Electron Microscope Findings’ of this cover. The cover was also subject of an Opinions V summary of the opinions current in 1963 written by William Crowe.

A HALF-CENTURY OF EXPERTIZING PROGRESS–THE

ARMITAGE COVER

© Calvet M. Hahn 1998

Among the U.S. philatelic rarities are covers bearing the 90¢ 1860 stamp with only a handful known.  One of these is the ‘Armitage’ cover.  It has been known since the 1920s during which time it has been handled by many of the known experts of their period with various results.

Description

The cover is gray-white and bears at 90¢ (Scott #39), 30¢ (Scott # 38) and a 12¢ (Scott 36b) with a red grid killer. The 90 and 30¢ are in the normal upper right position, while the 12¢ is at lower left.  The cover, whose back and front are shown in color, is addressed to Messrs. Mackillip Stewart & Co, Calcutta and has a directional marking in the addressor’s hand, ‘p. Overland Mail Marseilles,’ a black-red circular date stamp (c.d.s.) reading NEW YORK. AM. PKT./JAN/26, which gives the origin and date of posting.  This is marking #21 on page 354 of the Walter Hubbard and Richard Winter book, North Atlantic Mail Sailings 1840-75, published y the U. S. Philatelic Classics Society in 1988 and now a standard reference work.

A postal rate manuscript ‘2/11’ (which had been misread in the past) is on the face representing two shillings eleven pence.  One the back is a chamfered black 32½ x 32 mm boxed CALCUTTA/STEAM LETTER/1861 MR 16/Steam BG./Indian Do.’ And a manuscript 1R 8A 9 pies, representing the rate collected in Calcutta of one rupee, eight annas and nine pies.  Also on the back is a London transit of February 8th.  These backstamps confirm the year and rate.

      Provenance Expertizing

During the early part of this century, the validity of a cover was largely based upon provenance and the reputation of the dealers and collectors involved.  Serious cover collecting had only begun late in the preceding century and postal history as a subject did not begin to be understood until after World War II.

The earliest record of this cover seems to be when Sefi, Pemberton & Co. sold it in 1920 to George Armitage, a major English cover collectors, as part of a U.S. collection.  The sellers were a firm formed by P.L. Pemberton, son of Edward Loines Pemberton, one of England’s greatest experts, and A. L. Sefi, an expert on plating whose 1926 work, An Introduction to Advanced Philately was a classic for advanced students and experts.  At this time, there were only two other 90¢ 1860 covers known.  One was ex-Seybold (the first major cover collector to have his holdings sold as a cover collection at auction in March 1910). Lot 66 was a 90¢ cover to the Canary Islands, which sold to Senator Gore for $28.  Stanley B., Ashbrook subsequently showed it to be fake as it did not represent any known rate.  A second example was the Howland cover to Capetown, South Africa, which Ashbrook had acquired and sold to Judge Robert Emerson (1876-1937) for $2,000 in 1929 through the Kelleher auction house.  It had been acquired by Ernest Jacobs from a Howland heir in 1912 and sold to Ashbrook in 1921.  At the Emerson dispersal, Jacobs bought it back for $1,300 for Chicago collector Saul Newbury.

The Armitage collection was acquired by Frank Godden, an English dealer whose stamp albums are still sought after today.  In 1930, Godden proclaimed the Armitage collection the finest U.S. holding in all Europe.  It was sold to Henry G. Lapham (1874-1940) shortly after for $100,000 apparently through Boston dealer Warren H. Colson (1882-1963).  Lapham, whose monies came from the predecessor company to Texaco, had exhibited his U.S. provisionals in 1926, and at Tipex in May 1936 he showed his U.S. holding, including the Armitage cover, although the name on the exhibit was that of his son, Raymond Lapham.

John Boker, one of the great collectors and experts still living, was asked to quietly handle the dispersal of the Lapham holding.  He let Warren Colson, the leading Boston dealer of the period and Lapham’s sometime agent handle the Armitage cover.  Colson offered it in 1953 to one of Stanley B. Ashbrook’s clients, who asked Ashbrook’s advice, which was not to buy it.   Ashbrook was a major U.S. expert and then at the zenith of his reputation as a result of his work on the 1¢ 1851 issue and his introduction of the analytic case method for examining stamps and covers in his Research Group publication and Special Services, which succeeded it.  Ashbrook had exampled the Armitage cover at the Tipex exhibition and had reservations about the rate; he also noted the 30¢ was possibly oxidized.  There was also the matter of a personal rivalry with Colson, whom he despised.

The two men, Ashbrook and Colson, were on opposite sides of questions such as how to handle the high value 1851-7 imperforates in the catalog (the premiere gravures).  Even more galling was Colson’s claim that the Armitage cover was the finest of the 90¢ covers, for Ashbrook had handled the Howland cover and felt Colson was denigrating Ashbrook’s opinion.

   Organized U.S. Expertizing

In the early 1950s, two major European forgers were being exposed, Jean Sperati, whose works had been acquired by the Royal Philatelic Society in 1953, and Michael Zareski, whom Ashbrook was then exposing in Special Services.  Both concentrated on cancellations—Sperati’s focus was largely on off cover stamps (which he also enhanced) and Zareski in tying stamps that didn’t belong to stampless covers.  A general expert and possibly the leading U.S. collectors of the first half of the 20th century, Alfred Lichtenstein, had gathered a small group and formed the Philatelic Foundation to create an opinion generating body to which collectors and dealers might bring questioned items.

At the same time, Stanley Ashbrook had begun the collection of U..S. Postal Laws and Regulations as a basis for understanding how mail was processed.  The use of Ultra-violet examination was also being introduced to examine stamps and covers, while works such as Wilson Harrison’s 1958 Suspect Documents, Their Scientific Examination were setting a scientific basis behind the analyses.

It was in this climate that Warren Colson again offered the Armitage cover for sale in June 1955, at which time Jack Dick, a collector of early U.s. issues, purchased it.  In his July 1955 Special Services, Ashbrook formally condemned the cover, suggesting it might be a Zareski product.  Ashbrook contended that the cover actually represented only a 42¢ rate, and that the 12¢ stamp had been moved and a 90¢ added to create the $1,32 rate now seen on the cover.

Jack Dick sent his new purchase to the Philatelic Foundation where it received PFC #6104 in November 1955 stating the cover was completely genuine.  During the expertizing process Bernard Harmer, a British dealer and auctioneer noted that the 1/8/9 rate on the back was for Indian rupees, annas and pies, a point never discussed by Ashbrook.

One of those examining the cover at this point was Winthrop Boggs, as associate of Lichtenstein and author of Canada (1945) a basic reference work on the stamps and postal history of that country.  He had used Lichtenstein’s holdings and research extensively in that work.  Boggs reported,

“…examination under UV shows no evidence of tampering and infra-red photography reveals nothing out of order…”

Now that the Philatelic Foundation had certified the genuineness of the Armitage cover, Ashbrook had to challenge its findings, which he did in the January 1956 Special Service.  He continued to maintain his rate analysis and backed it up by citing an ex-Steven Brown cover showing a single rate of 21¢ to India via Marseilles, paid only to England.  He returned to the Armitage cover again in the February 1956 issue, citing two Ladd correspondence items from Boston to Calcutta as well as the official rates furnished postmasters in January 1861.  In the June 1, 1957 issue he gave details of the provenance of the Armitage cover and finally stated it was a product of ‘a Zareski faker.’  He also discussed the two Heard correspondence 90¢ covers which surfaced at auction in 1932.

In November 1963, the Armitage cover was again submitted for a certificate.  Requesting it was Charles A. Hirzel, whose classic U.S. holding now graces the Swiss Postal Museum.  At this time the cover was sent to major transatlantic collectors, Melvin Schuh and Professor George Hargest.  Hargest was still to write his ocean mail classic History of Letter Post Communication Between the United States and Europe 1845-1875 which the Smithsonian published in 1971.  This time the certificate (PFC 18,000) condemned the cover.  In consequence, Hirzel didn’t purchase it.

In Opinions V (1988), current curator of the Foundation, William Crowe summarized this 1963 opinion, with particular attention to the Hargest/Schuh rate analysis which cited the January 1861 U.S. Mail and Post Office Assistant, which they held did not include a fully paid British Mail rate to the East Indies.  They read the manuscript on the face as two times one shilling, while interpreting the Steam Bearing mark on the back as one rupee, 3 annas and 9 pies, equally two shillings one pence.

    New Rate and Route Studies

Ocean mail studies were undergoing an explosion by the 1970s.  In December 1955, Alan Robertson had published a three-volume work History of the Ship Letters of the British Isles, N.R.P. Bonsor had published a single volume edition of his North Atlantic Seaway in the same year, now expanded to five volumes.   In 1962 Raymond Salles had begun publication of his award-winning La Poste Maritime Française, which was to grow to nine volumes. Beginning in 1976 Walter Hubbard began to publish sailing data on the various steamship lines that culminated in the 1988 U.S. Classics Society publication of North Atlantic Mail Sailings 1840-75 by him and Richard Winter.  In addition to the aforementioned Hargest book, Charles Starnes published in 1982 a major study of the postal conventions and official notices in United States Letter Rates to Foreign Destinations 1847 to GPU-UPU.  In England Captain Reginald Kirk in 1982 began publication of his series of sailings by the P&O and other lines to Africa, India, Australia and the Far East.  All of these are now basic texts for the understanding of U.s. ocean mails.  I had also written up the major transatlantic holding of Leon Reusille for auction in 1972-3, while several major other holdings of transatlantic mail had come to market before the Armitage cover was again examined.

In 1991, the Armitage cover again came up for expertization and Richard Winter developed a rate and route analysis, which was confirmed by Charles Starnes.  By this point almost every major student of foreign mails from the U.S.  had examined the Armitage cover.

Route Analysis

Winter correctly noted this cover left New York January 26, 1861 in the Inman line’s Edinburgh and arrived at Liverpool on February 7th and London the following day.  On page 54 of Captain Kirk’s P&O Lines to the Far East, it states the P & O’s Pera left Southampton on February 2nd, arriving at Alexandria, Egypt March 5, 1861, while the Indus left on February 4th and arrived February 19th at Alexandria.   This is the same day that the Fectis arrived, having left Marseilles on February 13th.  In light of these sailings, this letter had to have gone as directed ‘via Marseilles’ in order to be in Alexandria on the 19th, having arrived on the Fectis.

The P & O steamer Nemesis left Suez on the 21st of February reaching Galle, Ceylon on March 9th.  The next possible connection didn’t reach Galle until March 22nd.  The Nemesis was slated to go on to Calcutta, and we know it departed that city on April 11th, arriving back at Galle on April 18, 1861.  It is the one vessel that could deliver this cover in time for the Calcutta steam bearing arrival postmark on the back.  Summarizing, this data means the cover traveled on the Edinburgh, Fectis and Nemesis, which were the only vessels that fit the dated postal markings.

     Rate Analysis

The basic analytic problem of this cover has always revolved about rates and what the various experts understood about the.  Everyone who examined it agreed the letter was paid only to England and that it was unpaid from England to Calcutta.  Those who condemned the cover focused upon the lack of a record of a $1.32 rate to India in 1861 so that the excess postage over the prepaid-to-England rate was suspect.  There was disagreement about how to read the manuscript rate markings on the face and back.

The early analyses were done at a time when the U.S. Mail & Post Office Assistant was just becoming a popular source for rate studies along with the U.S. Postal Laws and Regulations.  Ashbrook used both.  In the U.S. Mail, the ‘East Indies’ notation showed only the British open mail rate, e.g. 21¢ via American packet. Having found this open mail East Indies rate, none of the early students seem to have looked into the second column where there was a rate to the ‘Indian Archipelago’ rate via French mail and a British mail rate via Marseilles of 39¢ and 45¢. Both Winter and Starnes note that the 1859 Postal Laws and Regulations had on page 79 an East Indies prepaid rate of 33¢ via Southampton and 39¢ and 45¢ via Marseilles, while on page, 80 the Indian archipelago rate via Marseilles of 39¢ and 45¢ is also noted.  Hargest also shows this Marseilles rate on page 204 of the first edition of his 1971 work.

Double or Quadruple Rate?

Ashbrook and those following his analysis, always assumed this letter could only be a double rated, prepaid only to England as had not located the via Marseilles rates.  However it could have been an attempt to prepay a quadruple rate.  A quadruple rate via Southampton (4 x 33¢) equals the $1.32 postage actually found on the letter. A quadruple rate (1-1¼ ounce) letter sent via Marseilles, as the directional on this letter required, would have been $1.62, so that it would have been underpaid and all but the transatlantic postage ignored.  The U.S. would have been entitled to 84¢ out of the $1.32 postage received and kept it all so that the recipient had to pay postage from London onward.

Ashbrook originally read the British claim to India as 2/? And later as 2/4, alleging this was a double rate England to India cover.  Hargest and Schuh concluded the rate was 2/- (two shillings) and so read the rate on the face, while they read the rate on the back of 1 rupee, 8 annas and 9 pice as two shillings one pence with one rupee eight annas being equal to two shillings.  This was an incorrect analysis of the Indian currency.

A rupee contains 16 annas and an anna has 12 pice.  As of August 1, 1859, two annas converted into three pence.  This means two shillings equaled one rupee, one shilling was eight annas and eight pice was equal to one pence.  Consequently the total amount collected from the Indian recipient was equal to three shillings one pence with one extra pie left over.

According to the Indian Gazette of June 9, 1860, a sourced not used by any of the early students, the postal rate to America was reduced from a higher earlier rate to eleven pence (11d) or seven annas four pice per single letter.

Both the manuscript rate on the face and the postage due markings on the back make it clear this letter could not have been rated as a double unpaid letter from England to India.  All analyses that are based upon that assumption fall down on this point.  As both Winter and Starnes noted, there had to be more than 42¢ in postage stamps on the cover in order to prepay it to England.

As both the British claim for postage on the face and the rate collected on the back are inconsistent with a double rate, this cover had to be rated at a higher rate.  The two published higher rates were $1.62 via Marseilles and $1.32 via Southampton for a 1-1¼ ounce letter.  The British system did not accept triple rates.

The U.S. had a claim for only 84¢ on an over one-ounce letter, but kept all the postage.  Britain had a claim on the recipient for 78¢ or 3/3.  The Winter/Starnes analysis credit Calcutta with a 4d reduction as a colonial servicing rebatement (4 x 1d) leaving the 2/11 recorded on the cover’s face.

The only possible question with the Winter/Starnes rate analysis comes in connection with this giveback.  Table 2 on page 44 of Colonel D. R. Martin’s 1975 book Overseas Letter Postage From India 1854-1876 shows among its other rates, the 1-1¼ ounce rate in effect between January 29, 1857 and June 1, 1869 via Southampton as eight annas and via Marseilles as one rupee ten annas respectively..

On page 29, Colonel Martin noted that England had been charging internal postage both through the Atlantic packet rate charges and through the Indian packet rates.  A 2d Indian rate reduction was made effective February 1, 1859 from one shilling to eleven pence, with Indian recipients paying to the nearest practical amount above, or seven annas six pice.  This may have reflected the fact that Egypt took over carriage across Suez in 1858, with the rail line completed May 25, 2859 and a reduced subsidy for the P & O line then being put into effect.  As noted in the Indian Gazette of June 6, 1860, the rate was further dropped to eleven pence, or seven annas for pice.  By reducing its postage claims from 3/3 to 2/11, for this cover, England was forgoing one transit fee, equal to 4d on a letter of over one ounce.

The 1d single rate charge seen on Indian mails is not unique to that destination.  It is found on mails east of Suez from East Africa through India, Singapore and Hong Kong.  I don’t record it on West African, West Indian or circumnavigating the Cape mails.  While Martin suggests it is an England inland charge, specialists in other areas such as Hong Kong have attributed it to a local charge.  I am inclined to think it relates to Suez mail transits as it seems to apply to all letters so transiting, but have yet to find confirmation in the official records.

    New Technology

With a satisfactory rate explanation in hand, it is necessary to address Ashbrook’s second point regarding possible stamp substitution by someone like Zareski.  Historically, fakers have used damaged or cleaned stamps as substitutions because they were cheaper.  However, at least one sophisticated faker operating in the 1970s was using four margin very fine stamps as source material.  Covers now bearing off cover stamps from collections such as Caspary have been observed in the market place.

Ultraviolet testing—One of the early scientific techniques adapted to detect stamp alterations is the UV lamp.  The carbon used in early black inks and mineral pigments used in early cancels may not fluoresce but the organic inks of later years often does.  Most stamp gums also fluoresce so that under UV one can see where it was applied, or smeared.  A number of repairing materials also show identifiable characteristics under UV.  Even different ink components of non-organic inks may show differences under U.S.  An example is the chrome orange found in late printings of the 5¢ 1847 issue which shows characteristics not seen in the earlier printing.

Mr. Boggs’ detailed examination of the Armitage cover under UV makes it unlikely a damaged stamp substitution was made.  However, at least one sophisticated European faker has done repair work under UV so that all that shows is a general graying of the area worked upon.  As this condition is also found on some genuine items, it is only a cautionary sign.  Fakers have also begun to make photographic cancels, photographing the items on genuine covers and bleaching out the stamp to make up photographically applied handstamps.  The late John A. Fox used this technique extensively in his forgeries.  Experts use several techniques  to detect such products.

Photocopy machines—With the introduction of photocopy machines, fakers began to use them to add markings to both stamps and covers.  One of the first six color copiers in the U.S. was misused to add fake plate numbers to the margins of stamps.  Due to the technology by which photocopiers apply inks it is possible to detect such fakery.

In the case of the Armitage cover, the use of photocopy transparencies of the killers makes it possible to overlay them and directly compare one killer to another to see if they match in the minute breaks and ink clogging that are natural when both markings are struck about the same time by the same instrument.  When this was done, it was clear that the identical circular red grid was used to kill both the 30 and 90¢ stamps and probably the 12¢ as well.  As this last strike was less bold, there were fewer distinct lines to check.  From a postal history viewpoint, the killer comparison by transparency photocopies confirmed the authenticity of the stamps on the Armitage cover.

Spectrograph or X-ray Fluorescence—In the present atomic era, spectography has been proposed as an expensive but potentially definitive means of confirming identical inks in stamps or cancels.  When a forger paints in a cancel or uses different ink from the original it should show up just as much as the use of a different printing ink.  Spectography is a non-destructive test that takes the amount of reflective x-ray fluorescence and graphs it against time.  It works for metal elements such as lead, chromium, zinc, mercury, strontium, zirconium, etc.  Each shows different peaks on such a graph.  As oxygen, carbon and sulphur don’t show, the particular chemical compound used may not be identifiable, e.g. white lead filler.

Two other problems with spectography are that only a minute portion of the stamp or cancel is normally checked and the paper below it can affect that.  The amount and character of the metals on that tiny section is all that can be known.  Further, there have been no standards established for accepted philatelic colors against which a given result can be measured.  To set up a standard base would require extensive, and expensive, spectography of many similar or identical stamps to establish a color baseline.

The Armitage cover underwent several spectrographic examinations with inconclusive results.  For example, when one of the stamps was removed and washed, there was a shift in the iron component as the result of removal of soiling that happened to contain the iron.  It is also possible to add a mineral element in soaking stamps and that may affect the results significantly.

In the latest spectrographic analysis it was concluded that the 90 and 12¢ were both struck with the same cancel ink, which was a mercuric sulfide (vermilion) based ink and the 30¢ was killed by a lead oxide or lead carbonate (red lead) based ink.  This directly contradicts the overlays, which show the 90 and 30¢ stamps were struck with the same killer while a definitive determination was unable to be made on the 12¢.  This also leaves a rate problem for $1.02 does not fit any rate, whereas there is at least some logic behind the $1.32 rate (four times the 33¢ Southampton rate).

At present, it would seem best to conclude spectrographic analysis is not generally useful as a philatelic expertizing tool due both to its expense and the limitations of the method.

At the September 10, 1983 meeting of the New York Chapter, collector/dealer Robert G. Kaufmann presented a program entitled ‘Covers and Usages to Russia, 1851 to 1900”.  Some 18 different treaty rates were in effect during the period 1848 to 1875, and Mr. Kaufmann exhibited and discussed many representative covers.

At the October 18, 1983 meeting of the new York Chapter, Mr. Frank Mandel presented a program entitled “Unusual and Fancy U.S. Handstamped Rate Markings 1790 to 1870.!  Although the program was meant to be aesthetic rather than scholarly, there was much to be learned a out these markings.

At the May 17, 1983 meeting of the New York Chapter, Mr. Harvey R. Warm presented a program entitled ‘Louisiana Postal History 1787-1876”.  Mr. Warm exhibited stamped and stampless covers; foreign mail, express, occupation, and fumigated covers; and territorial, confederate, and independent statehood covers from his award-winning collection.  A well-known collector/dealer, Mr. Warm carried off the grand award and three special awards at WESTPEX ’83, and he is eligible for the annual World Series of Philately competition at STAMPSHOW ’83.

At the June 21, 1983 meeting of the new York Chapter, Mr. William J. Duffney resented a program entitled “West Meriden, CT, ‘Devil & Pitchfork’ fancy Cancellations.”  Mr. Duffney’s program was divided into two parts: a history of the West Meriden post office; and a closer look at the ‘hauntingly elusive’ fancy cancellation.

For those Route Agents who did not attend—and as a ‘leave behind’ for those who did—attached are photocopies of some on cover examples of the ‘Devil & Pitchfork’ fancy cancellation.

For an entertaining history of the West Meriden postoffice, you are referred to Mr. Duffney’s article “The Pugnacious Postmaster’ in The American Philatelist, August 1982.  Coincidentally, another study of the ‘Devil & Pitchfork’ cancellation has recently appeared.  I refer to Mr. Russell H. Hill’s article, “One Postmaster, Three Fancy Cancels,’ in The American philatelist, June 1983.

 

 

Cover Notes :

1)    8/31 on 3 cent cover to Miss Mary J. Cerbin New Britain, Conn. The most probably dates for the Devil & Pitchfork period of usage are Monday, April 16, through Friday August 31, 1866.  The latter date is the day the postmastership of west Meriden, CT changed hands.  Mr. Wallis Bull is the postmaster to whom is attributed the Devil & Pitchfork cancellations.

2)  8/29 on Blackjack cover to A. Morrison MD, Windsor. Although principally found on the three cent rose 1861 (Scott #65), the Devil & Pitchfork cancel was also struck on the 3¢ pink entire (Scott #U58) and in exceedingly rare instances, the 2¢ Blackjack (Scott #73).

3)   A 3¢ rose 1861 tied by a bold August 10 Devil & Pitchfork strike, from the martin F. Blake correspondence.  The Blake correspondence is the largest surviving correspondence bearing the Devil & Pitchfork cancel, and is known to span virtually the entire period of usage of this fancy cancellation.

4)  Very early example (April 17) example of the West Meriden, CT ‘Devil & Pitchfork’ cancellation.  This detail shows the cancel turned slightly clockwise from its normal fixed orientation in relation to the West Meriden postmark.  For approximately the first three weeks of its usage, the Devil & Pitchfork slug turned freely in its sleeve on the government-0issued duplex handstamp device.