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1937 Covers & Postal History

Manchukuo Year 4 康德 Kāngdé

Standard Letter Cover from Manchukuo to Tianjin in China (Before Increase).

This cover was posted from 洮南 T'ao-nan on 26th February 1937 to Kiao-chew in the 山西 Shanxi region of China. The postage rate of 4f is correct for a letter of up to 20g (the cost increased to 5f on 1st April 1937 - see the cover below). The arrival date is shown as 4th March a transit time of 9 days.

This cover is unremarkable except for colour of the stamp, it should be olive green but it appears to be black. Close inspection shows traces of olive green indicating that the stamp has undergone some sort of chemical change between the time of posting and the present date.


Red Band Cover from Manchukuo to Tianjin in China (After Increase)

This cover was posted on 1st June 1937 in Manchukuo (town name unknown) and arrived at 天津 Tientsin (Tianjin) on 6th June 1937 as shown by the arrival postmark. A transit time of 6 days. The address 正昌木号书东 seems to be a book-store located at Zhen Village.

The 4f up-rated to 5f stamp shows the correct fee for posting a letter to China at that time.

Cover to Canada showing the use of Scenic Cancels
This cover was sent from Hsinking to the President of a stamp collecting club in Canada. Along with the sender attaching a good selection of stamps to the cover has also requested that the Post Office use special scenic cancels. This option was available to anyone who knew to ask for them and many did, even so, such covers are rare.

The date of posting was 24th April 1937, and the combined value of the stamps used 20f was the correct rate for this time. The characters in black ink are 加拿大 meaning Canada.

Chicago 1933 International Exposition Postcard

The postcard above is an artists impression of how the city of Hsinking would look when the 5 year plan for rebuilding the capital was complete, the card is printed in the USA as part of a series linked to the Chicago 1933 International Exposition.
City Post Special New Year Bisect
Bisects are rare for Manchukuo and this example is from 東羅城 Tung-lo-ch’eng or Dong Luo City, Lin-yu County, near Shan Hai Guan (Shan-hai-kwan). The characters in the red box 本埠 mean "This City" indicating that the Intra City rate would apply. At the time this letter was sent 20th December 1937 the intra city letter rate would have been 2f. So why the bisect?

It is known that the stamp shown is a special "New Year" stamp introduced so that people could use it to wish friends a Happy New Year on 1st January 1938. To promote this, the Post Office charged a half price letter rate for New Years mail providing that it was sent before 30th December 1937. Thus a normal domestic letter would cost 4f, but if it was sent at the intra city rate this would be reduced to 2f - and half of the intra city rate is 1f. The value of the bisect.

To qualify for reduced postage it may also have been a condition that the envelope carry the words "Happy New Year". If so, the sender complied with this by adding the characters in red 新禧, reading xinxi (Hsinhsi) and meaning "Happy New Year". This seems an odd idea as the Chinese New Year for 1938 did not happen until 31st January.

This item may be unique, but one has to wonder what became of the other half of the bisect?

Note - The earliest mention of special instructions for handing for New Year's mail can be found here.


International "Ming Lang" Printed Matter Covers

These are very typical Ming Lang Philatelic Society covers with Dr Y C Sung's instantly recognisable red squiggle beneath the address and 美國 meaning United States. The first cover was posted on 4th January 1937 when the International Printed Matter rate was 2f, this rate increased to 4f from 1st of April 1937. This cover is marked with a large "P" presumably to indicate Printed Matter.

The second cover was posted on 7th May 1937, it is clearly marked "Printed Matter" in both Chinese and English, it is charged at the increased rate of 4f. Both covers were sent unsealed and are postmarked Hai-Cheng in the Fengtian postal district.

International Printed Matter Covers, Why?

This rather battered cover is interesting because it appears to have travelled to the USA at the printed matter rate of 4f. There is no obvious reason why this mail should have qualified as printed matter and so you may think it should have been treated as being underpaid. The correct fee at this time was 20f, a very big difference.

The domestic cancel is dated 23rd November 1937 and comes from Ling yuan. The vermillion chop 到美國 reads "to the United States". The reverse side is blank.

This is a cover sent from 四平街 Szu-p’ing-chieh now Sipingjie on 4th December 1937 to Mrs Grace Harmon McGary in Jacksonville, Illinois, USA.

Szu-p’ing-chieh is close to the Korean border and the cover has a very nice Korean 1937-1938 seasons greetings seal, Mrs McGary is known to have been a missionary in Korea so the cover may have contained a circular or a religious tract of some sort.

Like the above cover, the postage was 4f. The first cover is sealed the cover above is unsealed. I believe that letters sent in unsealed envelopes may have qualified for the 4f rate and been treated as printed matter.


Haibara Woodblock Illustrated Covers



These narrow covers entered the post from 龍井 Lungchingtsun (Longjing), 間島 Chientao District near the North Korean border on 11th January 1937. These covers were professionally produced for collectors. The envelopes were empty and not meant to be opened. The 8f and 12f value is not a valid postal rate for this period so the items are philatelic and must have been contained within a larger envelope or wrapper.

The designs are wood block prints and each cover has 榛原製 Haibara-sei (Made by Haibara) on the reverse contained within a box. When you see these in online auctions they are nearly always described as water colours, this is not the case but it is still a hand-made process. Haibara are based in Tokyo and are still in business today.

Enquiries with Haibara reveal that these designs Cherry Blossom and Red Plum come from a sample book containing 74 designs showing flowers, plants and landscapes. During the period 1912 to 1917 Haibara employed the famous Japanese woodblock artist Yumeji Takehisa (竹久夢二 1884 - 1934) to produce some designs for their stationary products. Sadly, the records at Haibara are not detailed enough to confirm that these designs are his - but it is possible. If this is found to be the case then these covers are genuine works of art.

The envelope size 188mm x65mm was a typical size for Japanese envelopes at the time, and most of the envelopes preserved in Haibara's archives are of this size (other sizes they produced at this time were 192mm x 71mm, 203mm x 78mm, and 150mm x 61mm).

Haibara have no record of any of its products being sold in Manchukuo. Longjing is very close to the border with North Korea (Chosen as it was then) so the sender may have been based in Korea or Japan with an agent in Manchukuo.

(My thanks to Yoko Nakamura of Haibara for her help with this research).


First Day Cover



This cover is self-explanatory. The commemorative cancels reading 建國五周年紀念 Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the State has been very carefully applied making this a fine example.

Postcard from Dairen to Osaka, Japan.

This is a postcard with a  Japanese 1½ sen stamp sent from Dairen to 大阪巿東區山之下町 Eastern Yamashita-cho, Osaka in Japan. (Prices increased to 2sen on 1st April). The Dairen Central Post Office machine cancel is dated 15th March 1937. The reason for the stamp being inverted is unclear.

Note the symbol for the Japanese Post Office "" that appears inside a blossom motif at the bottom of the cancel.

Registered Domestic Cover

This cover reads "Register, City Kharbin Big Prospect House #44 Office of Skidelskich, To Solomonu Leontievichu Skidelskomu". It entered the post on 18th December 1937 from the PO at 掖河 Yeh-ho (now Yehe) in Mutankiang. The registration mark in grey/blue is shown as 河掖0861. The postage is correct, domestic letter rate 4f + 8f for registration.

(My thanks to Alexander Galper for the Russian interpretation).