Today in Postal History



Haiti to Denmark

June 8, 1915

This cover was postmarked in Port-au-Prince.
The stamps commemorate the triumphal entry of General
Oreste Zamor into Port-au-Prince on February 7, 1914.*
The event was one of the recurring revolutions and coups which have plagued Haiti.
Between "1843 to 1915: Haiti sees 22 heads of state, most of whom leave office by violent means.
Rivalry continues among the whites, the mulatto elite, and the blacks."

The Library of Congress describes the immediate period as follows:

Escalating instability in Haiti all but invited foreign intervention. The country's most productive president of the early twentieth century, Cincinnatus Leconte, had died in a freak explosion in the National Palace (Palais National) in August 1912. Five more contenders claimed the country's leadership over the next three years. General Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who had helped to bring Leconte to power, took the oath of office in March 1915. Like every other Haitian president of the period, he faced active rebellion to his rule. His leading opponent, Rosalvo Bobo, reputedly hostile toward the United States, represented to Washington a barrier to expanded commercial and strategic ties. A pretext for intervention came on July 27, 1915, when Guillaume Sam executed 167 political prisoners. Popular outrage provoked mob violence in the streets of Port-au-Prince. A throng of incensed citizens sought out Guillaume Sam at his sanctuary in the French embassy and literally tore him to pieces. The spectacle of an exultant rabble parading through the streets of the capital bearing the dismembered corpse of their former president shocked decision makers in the United States and spurred them to swift action. The first sailors and marines landed in Port-au-Prince on July 28. Within six weeks, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions. For the next nineteen years, Haiti's powerful neighbor to the north guided and governed the country

General Zamor didn't last until this letter was sent.

He became President on February 8, 1914, and was overthrown on October 27, 1914.
He was replaced by Davilmar Théodore who lasted from November 7, 1914, to February 22, 1915.
Next, Vilbrun Guillame Sam became president in March 5, 1915.

The cover is franked with stamps handstamped
starting in 1914 with a simple black legend for the General Zamor.

There are three different handstamps.
This cover portrays two of them.
The first stamp is a surcharge of 1 cent de piastre on a
1p red stamp originally issued in 1913 (Scott 216 from 144).

The remainder were only commemorative overprints.
The first is a 2c vermilion (Scott 178 from 126).
The second is 3c brown (Scott 179 from 127).
Finally, there is a 5c deep blue (Scott 201 from 168).

Zamor did order new stamps from the American Bank Note Co.
The stamps portrayed himself,  the Haitian Coat of Arms,
and his predecessor, President Tancrède Auguste, who died in office.
As luck would have it, a large quantity of stamps were stolen in transit from the printers.
The stamps were never placed on sale;
however, examples are available on the philatelic market (see 227 and 232).

The destination of the cover was Copenhagen; however, the
routing took the cover through New York City.
This was the standard route for Caribbean mail to Europe in the 1910s.
In New York it received three oval postmarks as it passed
from the incoming to the outgoing offices on June 15.

The cover's arrival in Copenhagen was marked by a receiver dated July 5.

The blue pencilled 62 probably indicated the count of a bundle of mail.
The 5755 may indicate a street address but I'm not sure.
There is also an lone blue script 4 on the back.
Any thoughts?

*Thanks to David Benson for correcting my misspelling of Zamor.
That enabled finding additional information on the on-going turmoil in Haiti.

Editor's Note:  There is little detailed history of Haiti available on the web.
The Library of Congress had what was really an outline.

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