Grinnell Missionaries

The Grinnell Missionaries

This page and related links are in response to a discussion of the Grinnell stamps that began on the old Frajola's board for philatelists (link to new board)It is hoped that by bringing together the expertise of the board participants for an open discussion of the stamps that more clarity regarding their true status may be gained. If anybody wishes to add a page to this discussion, please email Richard Frajola. A separate Grinnell discussion board was added on August, 19, 2006. 

Please note that most images on this site have permission of use statements which limit how they may be used. The specific terms that apply to those images, as well as the corresponding enlarged images, are footnoted. 

The Stamps

There are several pages of scans, with links to higher resolution images of Grinnells and the accepted genuine Missionaries for reference.

Side by side comparison (small images)

Two Cents scans

Five Cents scans

Thirteen Cents scans

Matthew Healey article from New York Times (pdf file) (August 18, 2006)

From: “The Stamp Collector”; Vol. 1, #1, July, 1886; Published by F.J. Abbott, Chicago, Illinois. A Few Facts Concerning the First Issue of the Hawaiian Islands (contributed by Kim Brickman, August 22, 2006)

The Grinnell card with two genuine Missionary stamps (at foot, and at right bottom row, added August 22, 2006), Images courtesy of Vincent and Carol Arrigo. Copyright Notice: Images ©Vincent and Carol Arrigo

Tiny Marks and Other Reasons Grinnells are Fake (Scott Trepel, September 8, 2006) 

G80 - The Mother of "Grinnell" Type 2 Hawaiian Missionary Forgeries (Bill Longley, September 12, 2006)

How Were Hawaiian Missionaries Printed? (Ken Laurence, September 13, 2006)

G81 - A Broken Heart. Another Reason the "Grinnell Missionaries" are Forgeries (Bill Longley, September 18, 2006)

The "88" Flaw, Further Proof That The Grinnell Missionaries are Forgeries (Bill Longley, September 18, 2006)

An Investigation into the Nature of the Printing Plates of the "Grinnell Missionaries"  (David Shumaker, October 25, 2006)


The Postal History

Patrick Culhane's introductory statement is at foot of this page and should be read first.

Hawaii Postal History and the Grinnells (Richard Frajola, August 2, 2006)

Hawaii Postal History and the Grinnells (Ken Lawrence, August 3, 2006, addendum August 5, 2006))

A Census of Hawaii Missionary Covers (Steve Walske, August 3, 2006)

Additional Comment Regarding #A2 (Richard Frajola, August 4, 2006)

Grinnell Summary (Richard Frajola, August 9, 2006)

Mystic Stamp Company Publications

The following files are in PDF file format and it is suggested that you right click on the link and download to your computer rather than trying to view online. All rights are reserved. No part of these publications may be used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the copyright holder.

The Case for the Grinnell Missionary Stamps (2.5meg -  added September 1, 2006)

Response to the 2004 Royal Philatelic Society Opinion On the Grinnell Missionary Stamps (1.2meg -  added September 1, 2006)

The Grinnell Missionary Stamps (1.2meg -  added September 1, 2006)



The National Postal Museum bibliography is excellent although lacking some of the newest publications. They also have an excellent site on the Grinnells here.

The Post Office in Paradise website of Fred Gregory is an excellent internet resource for all aspects of Hawaiian philately


1856 Colton Map with key towns denoted 

  #G66 (Culhane) 1.

An Introduction to Postal History of the Grinnells
(by Patrick Culhane July 2006)

Richard, you asked the following question of Grinnell "supporters":

1. When were the postmarks/cancels applied? 
2. Where were the postmarks/cancels applied? 
3. Who applied the postmarks/cancels?
4. What kind of mail was being sent?
5. To whom was this mail sent?

For the most part, of course, we don't know.  If we did know, we would not be having the discussion.

So what I present are facts regarding the postmarks and cancels on the Grinnells. I hope they encourage discussion and interest into determining what the Grinnells really are, rather than encourage (or incite) a debate between "supporters" and "detractors".


There are by my counting 27 Grinnell items with circular date stamps:

  • 13 with the U.S. Postage Paid mark

  • 14 with the Hawaiian Islands mark

The above count includes 3 stamps among the 10 stamps recently acknowledged by the Arrigos that were not among those submitted to the RPSL.

The earliest postmark is dated JAN 5, the latest MAR 15. There are several indistinct marks  all showing only part of the month that could fit in this range as well (e.g. G39 shows only the 3rd letter  an "N", which may be January).

The Hawaiian Islands mark is used in conjunction with the 2¢ and 5¢ stamps only. The U.S. Postage Paid mark is used in conjunction with the 13¢ stamps, with the exception of G55-59, where the stamps make up the 13-cent rate.

The multiples G55-59 and G5-6 evidence a strike for each stamp. It appears to me the postmark was used as an obliterator, at least occasionally.

The designs are similar to the accepted 3 variants (each) of the MH 236.05 and MH 236.11 circular date stamps.


The cancel marks present on the Grinnells include:

  • two 7-bar circle grids, described by the RPSL committee as 20mm wide and labeled by them as G4a. The RPSL describes damaged and undamaged versions. There may in fact be two separate 20mm obliterators rather than a damaged version of the same device. This aspect is being studied.

  • another 7-bar circle grid, described by the RPSL committee as an 18mm eight-bar circle and labeled G4b

  • an oval grid (4 x6), labeled G5a

  • a 7x5 grid labeled G5b

The count of the cancels seen is:

  • G4a (20mm wide and possibly two distinct cancels) - 15 items

  • G4b  1 item

  • G5a  2 items

  • G5b  1 items

The cancels are seen on all three denominations.

There are several designs of cancels found on the accepted Missionaries that are not found on the Grinnells: pen and ink, red crayon, "sugar cane", crossed bars, indistinct cork and small grid of rectangles are examples.  

The design of cancel labeled G5b (7 x 5 grid) is not found on the accepted Missionaries, nor is it found on later issues.

Time of Use

There are no "H.I. & U.S. Postage" examples among the Grinnells. If the Grinnells are indeed a contemporary  albeit not today accepted  printing of the Missionaries, then one would expect that printing to include only one 13¢ design. Since the design changed in 1852 an 1851 date for the production of the Grinnell stamps would be the first assumption.

While it is possible the Grinnells were not used for some years later, it would seem most likely they were used prior to the availability of the "H.I. & U.S. Postage" issue. Therefore early 1852 is the timeframe to consider first.

Place of Use

It is not known where the correspondence bearing the Grinnells initiated nor further where the stamps were cancelled and postmarked. We are left with only clues.

Regarding the obliterations on accepted stamps it is not known where the each of the various forms was applied. Dick Celler has suggested that accepted stamps canceled with black grids and other obliterators were canceled outside of Honolulu, at the place of mailing, and postmarked in Honolulu (1.) . It may be that the Grinnells were also canceled at locations outside of Honolulu.

Those studying the Grinnells have always been faced with the puzzling fact that such a high volume of Missionaries would appear in one find, and further that all in the find would be of a consistent design similar to, but not identical to the accepted stamps. This puzzle has led to research into the family history surrounding the stamps prior to the find.

Grinnell claimed he obtained all the stamps from Charles Shattuck in 1918. It was later found  after the 1922 trial involving the stamps - that Shattuck's mother was a childhood friend of Ursula Emerson, a missionary wife on Hawaii in the period of interest. Correspondence between the women dating to the 1830s has been found. Further it was found (in 2000) that Ursula Emerson's son William (then 17) was an apprentice printer under Henry Whitney in 1851 Honolulu .  William assumed responsibilities in the Honolulu post office when Whitney vacationed. He was sickly and eventually left the printing office, returning home to Waialua in late 1851. He remained there until March 15, 1852 , when he and John Emerson left Waialua for Honolulu . William there boarded the ship Arctic on March 17, and died 6 weeks later at sea.

The above research established a connection between the Government Printing Office of 1851 Honolulu and Ursula Emerson, correspondent of Mrs. Shattuck. Beyond this connection, it was noticed that the timeline associated with William Emerson in Waialua corresponded to the postmarks of the Grinnell stamps, and that the year date of 1852 comported with the absence of the "H.I. & U.S. Postage" issue among the Grinnells.

Based on these well-documented facts a theory suggesting William Emerson's involvement with the Grinnells was first documented by Jeffrey Weiss, FRPSL in 2002 (2.). It suggested the possibility that the circular date stamps on the Grinnells were applied in Waialua.

The theory received further attention through articles written by the owners. Mr. Weiss did not assert that the theory was proven and he acknowledged that other theories could also fit the facts. Variants of that theory have appeared in the subsequent writings. Those writings should be consulted for details.

Kind of mail sent and to whom

Two Grinnell pieces appear to relate to personal letters; a good number of the stamps may have been used to send newspapers.

In my opinion, if the Emersons were involved, then much of the mail may have been directed to Samuel Emerson, William Emerson's brother. Others believe the correspondence was directed to Hannah Shattuck herself. I believe both are possible. Samuel Emerson received newspapers from Honolulu from William Emerson as early as 1850, and received them in early 1852 as well.

Brief Commentary

Your questions do not entail the physical materials associated with the postmarks or cancels, and in the interest of brevity I have not addressed those.

The RPSL committee has suggested that the cancels (obliterators) are the work of a forger who attempted to replicate the designs found used on the Missionaries and later issues.

However, as noted above, one of the designs is found on no known Missionary (G5b) and a similar grid  though not 7x5 - is observed on only one later issue cancel. This would seem to be an odd choice for a forger attempting to replicate known designs for the Missionaries, especially for one  as the RPSL committee suggests  so familiar with the usage of the stamps.

Further, the cancels that would be simpler to replicate  such as the manuscripts  are not present on the Grinnells.

While the RPSL committee states there is no correlation between the Grinnell cancels and cancels on accepted examples, a thorough review of the 7-bar grid cancels of accepted stamps is in my opinion warranted to confirm this assertion.

Of potential significance is the use of the Grinnell postmarks as obliterators. Knowledge of the circumstances that might lead to the absence of an obliterator might add significantly to inferences about the Grinnells.

1) Richard C. Celler, The Case for the Grinnell Missionary Stamps - Mystic Stamp Company booklet for Washington 2006, "I'm Just Curious Whether the Grinnells are Real or Not", May 2006, p, 28.

2) Jeffrey K. Weiss, Po'oleka O Hawaii, The Quarterly Journal of the Hawaiian Philatelic Society "The Grinnell Hawaiian Missionary Stamps  An Expertizing Exercise", October 2002.

1. Images are to be used for philatelic research and personal study only and are protected by copyright. No reprinting or reproduction in whole or in part in any form is permitted without the express written permission of Patrick Culhane. Requests for permissions for use may be directed to Copyright Notice: Images Patrick Culhane for the Shattuck Family, All Rights Reserved.

Richard Frajola (July 27, 2006)