Sir Arthur Keith

Sir Arthur Keith (1866 – 1955) was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist. He was a professor and conservator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, England as well as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. His interest in the subject of human evolution led him to become a strong supporter of the Piltdown Man discovery together with Charles Dawson. It has been suggested that he prepared the fake remains for Dawson to salt the Piltdown site with, however, more recent information points to Martin Hinton, Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum. Evidence discovered in a trunk at the museum belonging to Hinton had bones and teeth processed in a similar manner to those of the hoax. The case remains a mystery as to “Who done It”.

This cover is an example of envelope reuse during WWII. Originally, the cover was sent from London (postmark indistinct) to: “Sir Arthur Keith, F.R.S., Buckston Browne Farm, Farnborough, Kent” (seen through the address label). The return corner card beneath indicates “In case of non-delivery please return to MACMILLAN & Co., St. Martin’s St., London”.

The reuse is addressed to Dr. Beatrice McDown, 203 Hooker Avenue, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. USA and was sent on February 12, 1945 from Bromley & Beckenham, Kent at the surface rate of two and one-half pence for the first ounce.

Cover from Sir Arthur Keith

Cover from Sir Arthur Keith

The obverse of the cover has the manuscript text: “from Sir A Keith, Downe, Kent” in what one must believe is his own hand.

Cover obverse with name in script

Cover obverse with name in manuscript

It’s an interesting element in the far-reaching story of paleoanthropology in general and the Piltdown man hoax in particular.

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