Hawaii Missionary Fragment

In examining a reference collection of Hawaii recently I was surprised to see the piece shown above. It is a large part cover front glued onto a backing card. My guess is that it has been in its present form for many years. It is the front of what was once a cover addressed to "Mr. William D. Alexander, Yale College, New Haven, Conn, U.S.A." and is endorsed to go "Via San Francisco" at left.

The item was included in the collection because it bears a piece of genuine five cent Hawaii Missionary, type II. After study it was noted that a very small additional fragment is present to the right of the void. Enlargements of both are below.


The smaller fragment shows just enough of the lower right corner of a stamp that it can safely be identified as the corner of a two cent Hawaii Missionary, type II. 

The top right of the "cover" shows clear evidence that a pair of stamps has been removed. This pair would have been tied by the top edge of the red "Honolulu U.S. Postage Paid March y" originating postmark which is still present. As United States three cent 1851 issue stamps were being used in Hawaii concurrently with the Missionary stamps, and the size of the area where stamps were removed fits, it is easy to conclude that a pair of three cent stamps were originally on the cover. So, with images of the appropriate stamps added into a reconstructed image, the cover would have looked like this:

Additionally, there is a very small portion of a red arc just above the area where the five cent stamp had been placed. As the cover would have transited San Francisco enroute to Connecticut, there should be some evidence of a San Francisco transit postmark. Between the Fall of 1851 when the Missionary stamps were first issued and 1855 when they were replaced, the only period that fits for a red San Francisco transit postmark is 1852. The Honolulu origin postmark of March 7 fits recorded sailings from Hawaii in 1852. It could have been transported on either the Ayrshire Lass leaving Honolulu on March 8th and arriving San Francisco on March 28th or on the Laura Bevan which departed March 9th and arrived on April 4th. The San Francisco postmark would have been applied to correspond to the next sailing date from San Francisco for Panama. In this case, April 5, 1852 corresponds to the sailing of the Golden Gate from San Francisco. The complete reconstructed image of what the item most likely looked like is shown below.

Now, the cover is beginning to look very similar to another well known cover. The famous "Dawson" cover that appeared on a recent United States souvenir sheet and which is shown below. The "Dawson" cover, also mailed in 1852, is the only known example of two cent and five cent Missionaries on the same cover.

This "new" fragment supports the use of the specific stamp combination found on the Dawson cover. A slight difference in value however. The Dawson cover was recently acquired privately for a client, having last sold publicly for $2.09m. The fragment traded hands, by way of Taos, New Mexico, as a gift from father to son.

Richard Frajola, June 25, 2004