Notes from the Past

Caspary-Hawaiian Missionary Cover

The Caspary collection of Hawaii which is undoubtedly the finest ever offered containing, as it does, no less than a dozen of the extremely rare type-set "Missionaries," on and off cover (with an aggregate catalog value of $59,000 plus), will come up for sale in October.

The great gem will be the cover with the 2¢ and 5¢ Missionaries, with a pair of U. S., 1851, 3¢.  The letter is postmarked, "Honolulu, Oct. 4, U. S. Postage Paid," and the pair of 3¢ 1851's is cancelled at San Francisco, on arrival.  This date is somewhat illegible but it would have been toward the end of October.  The cover is addressed to "Miss Eliza A. Dawson, Care Jacob H. Dawson, 273 Cherry Street, New York."

The cover was originally acquired by the New England Stamp Co., Boston, in the early 1900's.  They circulated many photos of the cover but bearing a different address:  "Mrs. Moses G. Ashton, 271 County Street, New Bedford, Mass.," in a handwriting close[ly] resembling the original.  (This change was made on the photo, the address on the cover itself was never altered).  Undoubtedly they wished to conceal any possible leads to the source of their acquisition but over the years the two addresses often led to confusion.  As appraiser of the Caspary collection, and getting it organized for sale, I had occasion to examine the cover carefully, although it had been previously shown me by Mr. Caspary.

The Hawaii book (Philatelic Foundation, N. Y., 1948), erroneously gives the date of usage of the cover as 1854, explaining that it was carried aboard the Bark E. L. Frost, which according to the list of sailing dates (same book), cleared Honolulu October 3rd, 1854.  Definitely, I would say it was a usage in 1852, and the shade of the 1851, 3¢ stamps is an 1852 printing beyond a question.  Further, a letter postmarked at Honolulu October 4th could hardly have been aboard a vessel that sailed the day before.  Still further, 1854 would be late for the continued use of "Missionary" stamps.  Two ships left Honolulu October 5th, 1852, arriving at San Francisco, October 21st and 26th respectively.  This extraordinary cover most certainly was aboard one of these ships.

The first collector to own the cover was the late George H. Worthington, Cleveland traction magnate, and world-renowned philatelist, who bought the cover about 1906.  When the Worthington Hawaii collection was auctioned in New York, in December, 1917, Caspary, who always coveted the cover, bid it in at $6,100.  It remained in his collection ever since, though seldom exhibited, and then only as the property of a "prominent Eastern collector."  It is universally regarded as one of the greatest covers known to philatelists.  A color picture of it appeared on the cover of Esquire, October, 1956, the U. S. stamps obscured because of the illustration laws.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
May 18, 1957

Posted December 19, 1999 

Index of 507 Notes from the Past

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