A Registered Ammonite

On occasion, the illustrated example of an animal depicted in philately is indistinct. Checking with the designer to understand what model they used is the only way to identify the animal. Here, the ammonite depicted is somewhat nebulous as text within the design also detracts from identifying it. In this instance, the designer used a fossil Parapuzosia seppenradensis as his model.

The registration receipt includes a pictorial hand cancel (#1) from Gosau-Hintertal, Austria. The hand cancel, dated 8/21/1983, was used at a stamp show in the city which included a special wandering tour of the area. Few registered letters are sent from such shows as they cost more to make when a collector can obtain an example of the cancel on a standard envelope or card.

‘Dino’ the Sinclair Dinosaur – a Philatelic Exhibit

After collecting Sinclair dinosaur postage metered mail for so long since first preparing an exhibit (30 years is a long time!), it’s time to revise the old exhibit. So, starting with the two initial logo designs, here’s the first 12 pages. Click on the title page to view the exhibit pages.


Sinclair Dinosaur Postage Meters – Part 2

Dates of use for the Sinclair postage meters (Part 1) are not recorded anywhere that I’m able to find, so I’ve started and maintain this listing along with several other collectors (Mr. Saul Friess of Miami, Mon. Dominique Robillard and Mon. Maurice Gardiol of France). We hope this is of use to you in your search for ‘Dino’ the dinosaur!

Design 1

Type 1-O (Opaline)

Type 1-O (Opaline)

Type 1-O (Meter #, Color, EKU, LKU)

  • 00000 Blue 11-01-34 Specimen
  • 01008 Green 06-04-40 08-01-40
  • 01027 Blue 11-14-36 03-10-39
  • 01027 Green 03-14-39 03-31-39
  • 01111 Red 11-06-34 —
  • 01111 Green 05-01-36 11-05-37
  • 01144 Blue 09-21-38 12-09-38
  • 01153 Blue 11-10-34 12-04-34
  • 01248 Red 10-26-34 12-04-34
  • 01712 Green 10-17-39 06-13-41
  • 55098 Blue 05-27-35 10-18-35

Type 1-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 1-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 1-P (Meter #, Color, EKU, LKU)

  • 01027 Blue 10-10-34 12-27-34
  • 01111 Green 12-08-39 01-10-39
  • 01144 Green 03-22-35 06-02-37
  • 01144 Blue 02-02-38 05-04-38
  • 01248 Red 04-05-35 01-17-36
  • 01712 Green 11-04-41 03-02-42
  • 55098 Blue 06-08-35 06-29-35


Design 2

Type 2-O (Opaline)

Type 2-O (Opaline)

Type 2-O (Meter #, Color, EKU, LKU)

  • 00000 Blue 07-19-34 Specimen
  • 12101 Blue 03-07-36 —
  • 12526 Blue 10-22-35 —
  • 80042 (red) 10-05-37 (reported)
  • 80893 Blue 04-25-39 07-20-39
  • 81740 Blue 05-02-36 —
  • 81874 Blue 08-23-35 —
  • 82001 Blue 06-04-36 —


Type 2-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 2-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 2-P (Meter #, Color, EKU, LKU)

  • 12526 (blue) 10-06-34 (reported)
  • 80893 Blue 05-05-38 —
  • 81740 Blue 09-17-35 (04-22-37)



Chad – Surface and Airmail Services

Many countries have both surface mail and airmail services available for international destinations. The postage fee of course differs, airmail being more expensive as it arrives quicker than surface mail.

Surface Rate of 60 Francs to USA

Surface Rate of 60 Francs to USA

Surface rate cover dated November 7, 1967 from Baibokoum, Chad to Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Airmail Rate of 90 Francs to Canada

Airmail Rate of 90 Francs to Canada

Airmail rate cover dated April 5, 1968 from Moundou, Chad to Ottawa, Canada.

Tchadanthropus (uxoris) is the subject of debate as to where the fossil remains belong in the scientific classification system. There are arguments for it being an archaic Homo sapien (heidelbergensis), a synonym of Homo erectus and same favor a Homo sapiens classification. Still others indicate it should be considered an unidentified specimen as it’s condition doesn’t allow for accurate measurement even though it’s estimated between 700,000 to 900,000 years old.

The Scopes Monkey Trial and WJ Bryan

A high school substitute teacher, John Scopes, was accused of teaching human evolution in Dayton, Tennessee where it was against the law (Butler Act) in 1925. The trial became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial. It was never clear he actually did teach evolution, but the attention the trial brought to the subject and location made it much of a publicity stunt. The lawyer for the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan who was an active anti-evolutionist as well as a politician. When Bryan was embarrassed by questions from defense lawyer Clarence Darrow, the judge expunged the testimony and the case was closed without a summation, Bryan being declared the winner. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and Scopes was released a free man.

Special Delivery Fee paid by Issue of 1986

Special Delivery Fee partially paid by Bryan Issue

First class letter (25¢ postage) from Durham, Connecticut to Greensboro, North Carolina dated May 17, 1990 with Special Delivery service ($5.35 fee). The Special Delivery fee was paid with two copies of the $2.00 Bryan issue of March 19, 1986 supplemented with additional stamps (1.60) for a total of $5.60.

Illustrated Corner Cards and Postage Meters

Many organizations utilize illustrations on their mail to bring extra attention to their organization. Some are simple and others elaborate but they are all eye-catching advertising for their respective group. Without these types of corner cards, it would be difficult for most people to identify the organization only by the serial number of the postage meter. Until the recently introduced Illustrated Mail Division which includes corner cards, exhibitors had a difficult time justifying the inclusion of such covers in their exhibits even though they were examples of postal history of these entities. It was a development long needed to expand the horizon of postal history in general. The illustration and return address typically are printed in the same color and at the same time making them one unit.

Position of the Continents before Continental Drift

Position of the Continents before Continental Drift

Service cover of the Furman University Department of Geology, Greenville, South Carolina to Columbus, Ohio dated September 20, 1977. The university leased Pitney Bowes meter machine serial number 631982 and this cover was sent via first class mail at the then rate of 13 cents.

Trek for Survival is Illustrated by the CSEM Cornercard

Trek for Survival Illustrated in the CSEM Corner card

Service cover of the Center for the Study of Early Man, Orono, Maine to A.P.O. N.Y. 09333 (Coleman Barracks, Sandhofen, Germany) dated December 16, 1986. The organization leased Pitney Bowes meter machine serial number 6012167 and this cover was sent via pre-sorted first class mail at the then rate of 18 cents.


Chinese Elk

One of the earliest sets to capture the interest of philatelists with a paleontological bent was from the People’s Republic of China (mainland). The set was issued on April 15, 1958 and the three values depicted a trilobite, a dinosaur and the Pleistocene Chinese elk (Sinomegacerus eurycerus) respectively.

Wrapper with Chinese Elk - Sinomegacerus eurycerus

Wrapper with Chinese Elk – Sinomegacerus eurycerus

This package wrapper was posted from Peking (now Beijing) and sadly, the cancellation is too incomplete to read the date. The wrapped uses 13 copies of the 16 fen stamp with make-up postage (1 fen) paying a surface rate with registration. The total is 209 fen (100 fen equal 1 yuan).

Fossil, Oregon – Mayville Rural Station

Smaller communities often use the post offices of nearby cities and no special indication (other than perhaps the return address as in this instance) that they originated from outside the city is evident in the postmark. There are occasions however when outlying facilities had their own canceling device even though the mail was routed through the larger post office.

Mayville Rural Station

Mayville Rural Station

In this case, the postmark reads “Mayville Rur. (rural) Sta. (station)” along the bottom of the datestamp in addition to the standard town name of “Fossil, Oregon” along the top. The post office began operation in October 1884 with Samuel Thornton as postmaster. I’ve been unable to find the date of final operation for this station in the literature I’m familiar with.

Penn Academy – Use as Postage Due Payment

Not only postage due stamps can be used to pay a postage due fee. Regular and commemorative U.S. postage stamps are also ocassionally found paying the missing postage and are nice items in and of themselves for the thematic collector When combined with other factors, they become even more interesting.

Penn Academy Commemorative Issue Used to Collect Postage Due

Penn Academy Commemorative Paid Postage Due

This cover from Carthage to Golden City, Missouri is dated 18 February, 1955. The envelope has a 1.5 cent imprinted indicia (postal stationery) with an overprinted penalty clause for official business. This was done by the Post Office Department and the envelopes could only be used by them. Legally, the person using this cover to avoid postage could be fined $200.00. Fortunately for the sender (no sender’s address is on the rear), the fine was ignored and a 3¢ postage due fee assessed instead using a single copy of the 150th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia) commemorative issue depicting Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827 – painter and naturalist) and a mammoth leg bone in the lower right corner.

Jefferson Card Cutout

Postal card indicia are valid for postal cards they are printed on. Sometimes, when the indicia on a card is mistakenly not canceled, the indicia is cut out and pasted onto a mailable item, usually a first class letter. This practice is not sanctioned by the post office, however many examples can be found as frugal users of the postal system used whatever postage they had to mail letters.

Thomas Jefferson was not only president and a statesman, he was also a naturalist. He had a keen interest in prehistoric life (fossils) as well as archaeological objects found throughout the United States. His support for expeditions to both map the country and find historical artifacts or fossil remains is unparalleled by any other president.

Jefferson Postal Card Indicia Cut-out

Jefferson Postal Card Indicia Cut-out

This local rate letter mailed within the city of Buffalo, New York on 4 June, 1928 used a Thomas Jefferson postal card indicia cutout to pay the postage. In this case, postal system personnel caught the attempt and assessed the letter two cents postage due as indicated by the manuscript notation. A precanceled postage due stamp of Buffalo, N.Y. was applied to indicate the missing postage was paid.

Fossil, Oregon – Postage Dues

Postage due stamps are also part of the postage stamp stock the postmaster at Fossil, Oregon can use. To reduce the time and effort of canceling stamps, the same precancel device as used on regular postage stamps (see the article on Fossil, Oregon precancel stamps) was used on postage due stamps.

Fossil, Oregon Postage Due Cover

Fossil, Oregon Postage Due Cover

The first class surface letter rate increased from 10¢ to 13¢ on 31 December, 1975. This cover is dated 11 January, 1976 and has a manuscript marking indicating three cents is the amount of postage still due. A total of three cents in postage due stamps was applied to conform to the new rate.

Owens-Illinois Glass Company

The Owens-Illinois Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio utilized illustrated advertising indicia (slugs) in their postage meters from 1939 through 1941. The images depicted “The History of Glass” and sbowed various scenes of man discovering and making glass as well as using it for various purposes. For the collector of archaeological subjects, this is a gold mine as Phoenician and Egyptian cultures are both represented in addition to prehistoric man. The text in the first of the series reads “Primitive Man Discovers Nature’s Glass” and shows a club carrying prehistoric man looking at a piece of obsidian he’s holding. To my knowledge, this is the earliest image of a prehistoric human in philately.

History of Glass - Postage Meter Sample

History of Glass – Postage Meter Sample

A favor imprint with a value of zero (.00) cents on meter tape of the National Postage Stamp Meter Company is shown above. The meter serial number is N.P.M. No 6131. These samples were often made available to the company’s prospective clients. They are NOT specimens as many collectors or dealers may have them labeled. An official specimen includes the text “Specimen”.

XVI International Congress on Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology

A service cover from the Secretary General of the XVI (16th) International Congress on Anthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology held in the Paris, France School of Anthropology.

XVI Congress Service Cover

XVI Congress Service Cover

Cover is dated 26 December 1934 – what a wonderful Christmas present that would have been!

Perfin from Sinclair Refining Company

The term ‘Perfin’ is a contraction of the words “perforated initials”. That’s a bit odd as it really doesn’t explain much about what that has to do with postage stamps. The official collector’s society for these types of stamps is The Perfins Club. Their definition is a simple one and much better stated than I can!

Perfins are stamps that have been perforated with designs, initials, or numerals by private business and governmental agencies to discourage theft and misuse.

The Sinclair (Oil) Refining Company also used perfins on its mail for exactly this purpose. The illustration below, of the holes in the stamp forming letters, is representative of the recorded hole pattern used by the company.

Sinclair Refining Co Perfin Pattern

Sinclair Refining Company Perfin Pattern

The following cover is an example of that use and it was mailed at the rate of 2 cents for domestic first class mail using a company perfin. Although the corner card indicates a Chicago address, the machine cancellation device indicates the letter was mailed from Grand Central (station postal) Annex 3 in New York on 19 February, 1932.

Sinclair Refining Co. Perfin on Cover

Sinclair Refining Company Perfin on Cover

As it’s addressed to a Mrs. J.S. Fredrickson, I assume it was most likely a note home to Mr. Fredrickson’s spouse while he was in New York. As the content is no longer with the cover, my suspicion is that this is a private use of company assets (envelope and stamp) to a family member and not an authorized company business communication. If so, it’s a prime example of what the company was attempting to avoid.


U.S. Post Offices with Paleo Related Names

Many cities have names which are or include references to paleontology based on the local terrain or history of the area. Naturally, post offices within these cities carry their names in hand or machine postmarks, precancels, etc. and these are quite collectible. One problem is finding examples but the greater problem is in knowing which names to look for.

precancel type 1

Type 1

I’ve been asked which ones I know of, so the following list of names is what I’ve found to date, excluding names of scientists. This list may be of some assistance to you when you’re looking through stocks. I’d be pleased to add to this list should you know of any further examples.

City/Post Office Name, County, State, Years of Operation

Dinosaur, Moffat, Colorado, 1966 – Open
Fossil, Lincoln, Wyoming, 1888 – 1945
Fossil, Roane, Tennessee, 1887 – 1904
Fossil, Tarrant, Texas, 1880 – 1884
Fossil, Lincoln, Wyoming, 1886 – 1887
Fossil, Wheeler, Oregon, 1876 – Open
Fossilville, Bedford, Pennsylvania, 1874 – 1936
Mammoth, Pinal, Arizona, 1887 – Open
Mammoth, Mono, California, 1879 – 1898
Mammoth, Shasta, California, 1907 – 1921
Mammoth, Shasta, California, 1923 – 1925
Mammoth, Edmonson, Kentucky, 1881 – 1881
Mammoth, Ozark, Missouri, 1902 – 1955
Mammoth, Madison, Montana, 1877 – 1931
Mammoth, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, 1885 – Open
Mammoth, Lipscomb, Texas, 1890 – 1894
Mammoth, Juab, Utah, 1890 – 1973
Mammoth, Kanawha, West Virginia, 1894 – Open
Mammoth, Natrona, Wyoming, 1923 – 1924
Mammoth Cave, Calaveras, California, 1883 – 1887
Mammoth Cave, Edmonson, Kentucky, 1842 – Open
Mammoth Spring, Fulton, Arkansas, 1879 – Open

CAM74 Flight Cachet

Vernal is a small city in the Ashley Valley of the Unitah Mountain range which lies in the northeastern corner of Utah. The area was inhabited in prehistoric times by dinosaur giants and today is the site of tourism as it is near Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado border.

Contract airmail was instituted through the Airmail Act of 1925 (Kelly Act) which authorized the U.S. Postmaster General to contract with private airlines to carry the U.S. mail. Routes were given Contract AirMail (CAM) numbers and awarded to various airlines.

Served by the Vernal-Unitah County Airport, Challenger Airlines was awarded Contract Airmail route number 74 on May 10, 1947 with service to various cities in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Service to Vernal was initiated on 1 July, 1949 with two routes – one to Salt Lake City to the west and a second to Evanston to the northwest. The flights connecting from those cities took the mail in all directions.

Special First Flight Cachets were instituted to mark the initial flights and in the case of Vernal, a local hand-stamp was used commemorating the airport dedication as well. This hand-stamp is found on the rear of envelopes and is present on covers carried on both routes.

The northwest route morning flight was postmarked at 7AM and piloted by R.D. Nicholson. Addressed to Philadelphia, PA, this cover used the northwest route through Evanston and was backstamped along the route at Rock Springs, Wyoming at 10:30AM.


CAM74 Eastern Final Destination

The westward route afternoon flight was postmarked at 12PM piloted by Harry Mitchell. Addressed to San Francisco, CA, this cover used the western route through Salt Lake City and was backstamped along the route at Salt Lake City at 6PM.

CAM74 Westward Destination

CAM74 Western Final Destination

Fossil, Oregon Return Receipt

The ‘Return Receipt’ (RR) Service provides verification to the sender that an article they mailed was delivered. The service began 1 July 1863 and was used for registered mail only until 1 January 1913 when it also was available for insured mail. Until 15 April 1925, no additional special service fee was paid for this service and the penalty clause on the card served to pay the return postage fee.

Delivery is acknowledged through the use of postal form (card in some cases) 3811 which notes to whom the item was delivered and the date. It later included the date of mailing as well. On receiving the item, the recipient signs and dates the return receipt and hands it back to the postal clerk, thereby acknowledging receipt. This service is available to the public, but is also used for ‘Official Business’ mail between government offices which is more desirable and scarcer than commercial use.

Return Receipt - postal form 3811

Return Receipt – postal form 3811

The more interesting part of this particular form however is the on the opposite side of the card as the article in question was sent to the Wheeler County Clerk in Fossil, Oregon.

Return Receipt Card used in Fossil, Oregon

Return Receipt Card used in Fossil, Oregon

The postal clerk in Fossil applied a 9 bar killer handstamp, dated 23 August 1922 at 9PM, to validate receipt of a registered article number 14167. The instruction to do this is contained in the square box “Postmark of Delivering Office and Date of Delivery.” (It’s interesting that a postal employee would be working that late in such a small town.) This form was then re-mailed, postage paid, under the authority of the “Post Office Department – Official Business” corner card text and penalty clause text in the upper right corner. The form was returned to the original sender in Seattle, Washington.

Sinclair Oil Company Post Card for 1933 Century of Progress

The ‘Century of Progress International Exposition’ was held during 1933-1934 in celebration of Chicago’s centennial. Also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, the most advanced technology available was on display for the pleasure of attendees. One of the more popular pavilions was Sinclair Refining Company’s 2 ton, animated exhibit of ‘Dino the Dinosaur’. The intent was to associate the origin of the product’s raw materials with vast age, insinuating it was better quality. People could not fathom how large these animals really were until they stood near this giant and even then, it was difficult to believe. The dinosaur’s popularity resulted in the company’s use on mail advertising beginning the same year in the form of Sinclair Dinosaur Illustrated Postage Meter Slogans.

Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit at the Century of Progress

Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit at the Century of Progress

Text on the rear of the post card reads:

“Sinclair Dinosaur Exhibit – The Dinosaur Exhibit built by the Sinclair Refining Company at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago is the first attempt to recreate out-of-doors a portion of the earth’s surface as it existed 100 million years ago. The huge beast shown on the card is a Brontosaurus. He bulked 40 tons in life and was 70 feet long.”

Obverse of post card depicting 'Dino the Dinosaur'

Obverse of post card depicting ‘Dino the Dinosaur’

This post card, printed in DEEPTONE color by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago, was an opportunity to use the public’s fascination with dinosaurs as free advertisement for the company. I was told many years ago that a second post card exists with a similar design but I’ve never seen it in the 50 years I’ve collected this material.

Sinclair Post Card Used from Century of Progress Exposition

Sinclair card used from Exposition with postmark

The real treasure when it comes to this post card however is an example of one actually mailed from the exposition’s post office – what a wonderfully exciting find this was!

The Smithsonian Institution on U.S. Stamps

The Smithsonian Institution was established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men” by James Smithson, a British scientist, through a grant from his estate in 1836. Originally known as the “United States National Museum,” the museum’s name was officially changed to the Smithsonian Institution in 1967 although it had been known by that name almost since the beginning.

The Castle

The Castle

U.S. postage stamps have commemorated the Smithsonian Institution on three occasions. Each of the stamp designs depicts the main building, known as ‘The Castle’, from the same perspective but the production methods differ.

The August 10, 1946 issue (domestic first class letter rate of 3 cents) commemorated the 100th anniversary of the museum and the stamp design is from an official photograph taken by F.B. Kestner, Smithsonian photographer.

Photograph Origin for Design

Photographic Origin for the Stamp Design

Three Cent Issue (light)

Three Cent Issue

Announcement cards were sent to news sources, publications and collectors advising of the date of issue and background information for the issue.

1946 Issue Announcement (front)

1946 Issue Announcement (front)

1946 Announcement (rear)

1946 Announcement (rear)

The second commemorative issue (domestic first class letter rate of 15 cents) was part of a set issued to honor U.S. architectural achievements and included three other institutions. This depiction is a wonderful line drawing design that, in my opinion, is the most attractive of the designs.

Fifteen Cent Issue

Fifteen Cent Issue

The commemorative issue of 1996 (domestic first class letter rate of 32 cents) honored the 150th anniversary of the institution. Although an interesting representation, the lack of detail somehow detracts from the aesthetic of what I envision as an institution documenting history.

Thirty-two Cent Issue

Thirty-two Cent Issue

Even though postage stamps are subject to the quality control systems and procedures of security printers, accidents and happenstance produce oddities/errors, some escaping the production facilities to our philatelic joy such as this dry printing. (Perhaps the machine was in economy mode? OK that doesn’t really happen.)

Dry Printing

Dry Printing

In the following instance, the perforation machine was out of alignment and text for the design now appears at the top of the stamp rather than the bottom. It wouldn’t be too noticeable other than the text was slightly clipped at the top. Additionally and more importantly, this issue happened to be a se-tenant, with the stamp for the Penn Academy, Philadelphia stamp above it. By shifting the perforation upwards, the Penn Academy text now appears on the Smithsonian stamp – a wonderful fluke of luck for those of us loving such things.



A variety of such a mis-perforation results in missing text, making it appear the red color has been omitted during the press run. The actual case is that the margin above this position on the sheet was blank.

Missing Text Color

Missing Text

Errors such as these are often overlooked by the stamp’s purchaser and can be used for mailing as this example demonstrates. It went through the mail un-noticed and eventually landed in the collection.

Smithsonian Issue Error on Cover

Smithsonian Issue Error Used on Cover

It’s another of my favorite items for all of these reasons.

Multiple Use of Indian Issue – Stegodon ganesa

Stegodon ganesa was an ancient cousin of mammoths and modern day elephants. The name Stegodon means ‘roofed tooth’, and referred to the shape of the teeth resembling a roof. Stegodons, there were several sub-genus, lived in many parts of Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to as far east as Japan. Fossils have been found that date the animal’s existence up until the Pleistocene. The Geological Survey of India, founded by the Coal Committee of the British East India Company to explore and record the mineral resources of India for further development, was commemorated with a stamp issue in 1951 depicting the Stegodon ganesa.

Indian Stegodon First Day of Issue to Netherlands

Indian Stegodon First Day of Issue to Netherlands

This cover bears a commercially used pair of the 1951 issue. It was mailed on the first day of issue (Jan. 13 1951) from Bombay, India to Dalfsen, Netherlands at the first class international surface rate of four Annas. The typewritten text  in the upper left indicates the year as 1950 – which is a typographical error. This stamp has the distinction of being the first postage stamp to depict a reconstruction of a prehistoric animal.

Hand Cancel – Seeley, California

Harry Govier Seeley (18 February 1839 – 8 January 1909) was a British paleontologist and professor of geology and mineralogy at King’s College and Bedford College as well as a lecturer on geology and physiology at Dulwich College. He was the first to divide dinosaurs into two groups, the Saurischians and Ornithischians, based on their pelvic bones and joints.

The postal card is from Seeley, California (02/15/84) at the domestic postcard rate of 13¢, to Army Post Office, New York 09333, Coleman Barracks, Mannheim, Germany.

Hand Cancel - Seeley, California

Hand Cancel – Seeley, California

Seeley authored the 1901 book Dragons of the Air, an Account of Extinct Flying Reptiles (this link is a free Kindle version) and believed that birds and pterosaurs were related, disputing Sir Richard Owen’s description of pterosaurs as cold-blooded. Seeley thought they must have been warm-blooded animals.

San Diego MNH Return Envelopes

Serendipity strikes on occasion and the two covers below are surely an example. It may have been that someone connected with the SDMNH thought the museum’s return envelopes were an opportunity to make some interesting natural history related covers. I believe these envelopes were intended for membership renewals and perhaps there actually were members in the cities they were mailed from.

The covers are posted from two cities with paleontological names and use the trilobite issue of the April 29th 1982 Energy commemorative issue to produce a thematically connected cover. They do that very nicely and one can’t argue that each one alone appears to be commercial mail. I’m a little skeptical however as the mailing dates are very close, but then again, membership renewals are done within a short period. The first cover is posted from Dinosaur, CO (Nov. 30, 1982) at the first class rate of 20 cents, to the museum in San Diego, CA cancelled with a four bar hand device. The second cover is posted from Fossil, OR (Nov. 29, 1982) at the first class rate of 20 cents, to San Diego, CA cancelled by a wavy line machine device.

Return Mail Envelopes to Museum

Return Mail Envelopes to Museum

I’ve only seen these two covers, so am not able to say if more were purposely made or not. If they are, one would believe no more than a handful exist, but until more are forthcoming, I can rejoice in these two examples and the thought that serendipity does happen.

U.S. Fancy Cancel with Ammonite Design

Fancy cancels (actually killers) were used from the 1850s through the 1900s to render U.S. postage stamps used on mail invalid for reuse. They were often made by postmasters of third class offices as they had to pay for their own supplies. They used locally obtainable materials such as corks or wood blocks and cut designs into them, or in many instances, bought ready-made devices, commercially produced using vulcanized rubber. Such devices incorporated various geometric designs of crosses or stars, objects such as shields, more elaborate designs like a skull and crossbones or even images of people and animals.

These cancels are found mainly on banknote issues of the U.S. up until approximately 1900 even though the U.S. post office department issued regulations on the standardization of cancellations in 1890 which should have eliminated use of such devices. There are also later examples of commercially produced fancy cancels from the 1920s and 1930s and the U.S. was not the only country to use fancy cancels as Canada and other British Colonies used this type of killer as well.

The black ink normally used with metal devices clogged the commercial vulcanized rubber devices quickly. As a result, manufacturers formulated inks which could be used with them and not clog the device. The formulated inks were not as dark and other colors such as purple or violet were popular even though postal guidelines specified black.

Our interest lies in one cancel design with the spiral image of an ammonite worked into the center of an 8 petaled flower. One story I’ve heard on the origin of the design is that it was used in those cities and towns where ammonite fossils had been found. In the case of at least one city, it’s plausible to think this theory may have originated there, although a bit stretched when one considers the other cities where the design was used.

Ammonite Fancy Cancel

Ammonite Fancy Cancel Device

Although the cancel appears on many U.S. banknote issues of the period, the more interesting and scarcer examples of use appear on U.S. official stamps of the various departments of the federal government. These governmental departments had field offices which used official stamps to pay the postage fees and sent their mail through the normal local post office channels. For instance, in the case of the Department of Agriculture, pre-stamped return envelopes were provided to farmers so they might report issues concerning seed orders and other agricultural issues. Although covers bearing the design exist where the city of use can be verified, no cover has been reported on official mail bearing this design.

Ammonite Cancels on U.S. Official Issues

Ammonite Cancels on U.S. Official Issues

Note: the example on the 2 cent Interior stamp above appears as a negative impression. This is likely the result of over-inking the device and then using it multiple times before re-inking. The ink in the recessed areas would make the impression rather than ink from the raised design as would be normally expected.

Postage stamp issues the cancel design is known used on:

  1. U.S. banknote issues between 1870 and 1890
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture
  3. U.S. Department of the Interior
  4. U.S. War Department

Colors the cancel design is known in:

  1. Black
  2. Purple

Cities the cancel design is recorded from:

  1. Cash City, Kansas
  2. Gila Bend, Arizona
  3. Juniata, Pennsylvania
  4. South Bradford, New York
  5. Superior, Wisconsin
  6. Vicksburg, Colorado
  • My thanks to Mr. Alan C. Campbell for his assistance with information on the background of fancy cancels in general, on officials stamps specifically and the additional examples of this cancel design on official issues.
  • References from the James Cole work – Cancellations and Killers of the Banknote Era 1870-1894.

Machine Cancel – Fossil, Oregon

Cities with paleo-philatelic related names are often found with the city name in a hand cancel device. There are also other devices used to cancel mail such as hand rollers for large flat items, precancel devices and automated letter canceling machines as examples.

Fossil Oregon - Machine Cancel

Fossil Oregon – Machine Cancel

This postal card from Fossil, OR (03/30/65) to the Sunset Magazine company in Menlo Park, CA mailed at the domestic postcard rate of 4 cents, was canceled by running it through an automated machine along with other letter mail.

Multiple Use of Swiss Issue – Andrias scheuchzeri

It’s interesting how mistakes are often as strange as prehistoric life itself. Fossil remains of giant salamander Andrias scheuchzeri were found by Swiss naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672-1733) and the interpretation was that they were of a human who had drowned in the Great Flood of the bible. (One guy who really missed the boat!) He named the specimen Homo diluvii testis. If one looks at Scheuchzer’s illustration, you can see how this mistake might have been made by naturalists who were only beginning to understand the origins and progression of life forms with the implements and scientific instruments of the day.

Drawing by Johann Scheuchzer

Illustration by J. Scheuchzer

The cover below uses four copies of the 40+10 centimes value and a single copy of the 30+10 centimes value from the 1959 Swiss Pro Patria issue (the 10 centime surcharge of each stamp went to charity). This stamp combination paid the airmail rate of 1 Franc 40 centimes (50c for the first 20 grams plus 3 x 30c for an additional 60 grams) from Zürich (Hottingen), Switzerland (Oct 19) to the Los Altos, CA as well as the registration fee (50c) shown by the ‘R’ label attached with tracking number 069. The letter may have contained something of some small value as it also cleared customs inspection without charges or penalty, indicated by the San Francisco #32 US Customs Inspector marking (Nov. 4).

Multiple Use of Swiss Issue

Multiple Use of Swiss Issue

The father of paleontology, French naturalist Georges Cuvier, corrected the misclassification of the fossil remains after studying the illustrations by Scheuchzer and this proposed ancestor to our history never came to be.