Numerous students of philately have extensively written about the cancellations and postmarks of New York City. A work relevant to this present study is that by Hubert Skinner (Philatelic Foundation Seminar Series #3, pp. 79-107). In his treatise, Skinner extensively and expertly discusses and describes the usages and postal history of cancellations and postmarks of NYC during the 1845 – 1876 period. Importantly, a classification scheme incorporating code letters and numbers was introduced, denoting the type of marking, the year first recorded, and a serial number for that particular cancel. I will discuss in detail the marking referred to as NYDM 52-3 (Figure 1 and full cover) and share some interesting, new findings.
First, the most compelling characteristic of this cancel is the usage of “APL” to abbreviate the month of April. Traditionally, April has most often been seen abbreviated prior to, during, and after the 1851-57 period by the three letters “APR”. Second, some recently discovered “APL” covers and numerous re-examined “APL” singles demonstrate that the NYDM 52-3 cancel had a much broader period of use that once thought, being found on covers from the Stampless, Carriers, Locals, & 1847 Periods. Finally, I will present evidence that more than one “type” or “sub-type” of canceling device was used to create the New York “APL” CDS’.
Figure 2 – New Finds.
The upper left CDS (which I call NYSM 52-3, where “S” is for “Ship”) is found on stampless letters, for example this “SHIP” cover from Liverpool to Boston carried on the Black Ball Line sailing packet Europa.
The upper middle and right CDS (which I call 52-3c) is found in red only on stampless covers, for example this “DROP RATE” undated front.
The lower left CDS (which I call 52-3b) is found in red only on stampless covers, for example this 1835 folded letter.
The lower right CDS (which I call 52-3a) is found on a N.Y. Tribune cover with enclosure dated 1855. While these CDS’s are apparently of the same “type” as Skinner’s NYDM 52-3 (Figures 1 and 2 lower right), upon closer examination a number of differences are observed.
Figure 3 – Key Features.
The second noticeable difference is with the diameter of each CDS. Figure 3 denotes the dimensions, where the undated “Drop Rate” front is the smallest at 28 mm (52-3c), the 1835 stampless folded letter sheet (FLS) is 30 mm (52-3b), the 3¢ 1852 cover (Figure 1) is 31 mm (Skinner 52-3), and the 1855 N.Y. Tribune cover is 32 mm (52-3a).
The third noticeable difference lies in the following: (1) the lettering of “NEW-YORK”; (2) the size and shape of the “APL”; and (3) the size of the date numerals. I will handle each one individually.
- With respect to (1), the most pronounced feature that distinguishes the “NEW-YORK”‘s from one another is the “W” in “NEW”. As illustrated in Figure 3, the 52-3c “Drop Rate” front “W” is smaller and thinner than its counterparts, the feet are wide (compared to 52-3) and end in a point (compared to 52-3a), and the arms end in small caps. The 52-3b 1835 stampless FLS “W” is larger and thicker than its counterparts, the feet are wide (compared to 52-3) and end in a point (compared to 52-3a), and the arms end in large caps (compared to all others). The 52-3 “W” is relatively thick, narrow, and while the feet end in a point (as 52-3b & 3c), the spacing between is very narrow. Finally, the 52-3a “W” is the thickest of them all, the feet are wide and quite noticeably blunt-ended, and the arms end in a serif that is quite parallel to the base of the blunt-ended feet. Obviously, similar comparisons can be made between other letters in “NEW YORK.”
- With respect to (2), the “APL” of 52-3, -3a, and -3b appear identical in many if not all respects. The “APL” exhibits an overall tall, narrow lettering (as compared to 52-3c), especially seen in the “A” (see Figure 3). The “APL” of 52-3c is smaller than the other three. The lower leg of the “L” is extended, and the feet of the “A” are wider apart than the other three.
Figure 4 – Comparison of 52-3b and 52-3c.
- With respect to (3), the date numerals of 52-3, -3a, and -3b appear identical in many if not all respects. As with the “APL” they are larger when compared to the numerals seen in the 52-3c CDS (see Figure 3).