Today in Postal History


China to United States

May 15, 1913

This disarmingly neat cover provided several mysteries to be unravelled.
The following presents the current consensus.
We may still learn more.

The first enigma is, what is the stamp?
The stamp is a Chinese Imperial Post 10c. Coiled Dragon in green  probably from the 1900-1906 issue.
It was overprinted in red "Republic of China" and Scott lists no overprints of the 10c. green.
It is believed to have been a local overprint made in Tangshan.
Such overprints were made often from the available stamps in the early days of the Republic.

Second, the cover has two neat CDS for Tangshan in North China
and one transit mark for Moukden with clear May 15 and May 17 dates;
however, the year 13 seems inconsistent with Chinese practice.

Although the 13 was probably part of a specific CDS used for mail going abroad.
It is also possible that the 13 was inserted by hand by a careful
postal clerk in an attempt to meet UPU requirements for marking international mail.
The differences in the 3s are probably due to deformation of a rubber stamp and inking differences.
Note that the CDS used were in western characters as was done with items sent abroad.

Further, the cover has a nice handstamp VIA SIBERIA
for a routing that would fit usage in North China.
Beijing-Tangshan-Moukden(Shenyang)-Changchun-Harbin was the
route of the Chinese railway which connected with the Trans-Siberian railway.
The Trans-Siberian railway ran through northeast China on its way to Vladivostok.
It ran from Cita, Russia, through China - Hailar, Tsitsihar, and Harbin
(where it connected with the Chinese route) - on its way to Vladivostok.

Although the cover might have come through Vladivostok,
I prefer the Trans-Siberian route back to Europe as being more likely.
Via Siberia markings had been used for this route from eastern and south eastern Asia for a number of years.

Paul Theroux wrote a wonderful travel book on a trip on this railway - Riding the Iron Rooster.

The sender, R. J. L.,  was probably teaching at the college
and was sending news or a change of address to the Cornell alumni journal .
The school is primarily a railroad and mining college.

Tangshan is surprisingly close to Beijing - about 150 km east - whereas
Moukden (now Shenyang) is several hundred km further east and north of Korea.

Editor's Note:  This cover evoked many suggestions as several
wrestled with the questions to reach the consensus above.
A number of hypotheses were considered and evaluated.
Many thanks are due to Jim Whitford-Stark, Bill B., philaterium (David),  and David Benson
for a stimulating discussion.


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