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1941 Covers & Postal History

Manchukuo Year 8 康德 Kāngdé


American Consulate AR Cover.


This is a cover sent from Harbin on 18th October 1941 to Saginaw, Michigan, USA. The cover passed through Mukden where the original registration label "Harbin 563" was covered by the new "Moukden A 275" label. This re-labelling although contrary to U.P.U. rules, was common practice in Manchukuo.

The cover is marked "AR" and carried the correct postage: Letter rate 20f + Double Registered AR rate 26f giving the total of 46f. The transit time for this letter was 22 days from the day of posting which is fairly typical. The sender did not specify a route.



 Printed Matter Ming Lang Philatelic Society Wrapper.


Above is a wrapper used by the Ming Lang Philatelic Society of Hai-cheng in Manchukuo to send a catalogue to a customer in Los Angeles, California. All of the covers I have seen associated with the Ming Lang Philatelic Society are instantly recognisable by the red squiggle underlining the address. The cover has two boxed purple印刷 Printed Matter hand-stamps, two purple daters 3rd May 1941 (the date the item was packed) and a red and black hand written 行美國 To America. The reverse side of the cover includes printed advertising material and a note of some of the Reply Paid postal rates in force at this time.

The postage shown is 4f, the printed matter rate for foreign mail up to 120g, this is postmarked Hai-cheng and dated 4th May 1941. Without an arrival postmark the transit time is unknown.


Red Band Express Cover.
Registered Express cover from 呼瑪 Hu-ma to 黒河 Hei-ho. The cover carries the Express hand-stamp, a four character hand-stamp that reads "Registered" in Chinese and Japanese and the 黒河 Hei-ho129 registration number.

The cover was posted in Hu-ma on 28th November 1941. The postage paid amounts to 18f, made up of 2 x 7f stamps and a 4f stamp all postmarked 呼瑪 Hu-ma. The postage is correct at 4f letter rate, 8f Registration and 6f Express delivery - a total of 18f.

There is no arrival postmark but the probability is that this letter would have reached its destination within 24 hours.

Incoming Cover - Returned to Sender Service Suspended
This cover was posted by Harry Tamer a well known American stamp dealer to Mr B Rio in Kirin. Mr Rio was an academic working at Kirin University and in addition to being a collector himself was probably one of Mr Tamer's suppliers.

The date of posting appears to have been 2nd December 1941, a transit postmark shows that it reached San Francisco on 6th December (the day before the attack on Pearl Harbour). The letter appears to have been sent to Vancouver as shown by the transit postmark 7th January 1942, returned to Seattle (where it was probably censored) on 2nd February 1942 and Mr Tamer clearly received the letter back on 6th February 1942. It is great to see a cover that tells such a complete story - real postal history!

Express Cover with Booklet Stamps

This cover was posted on 10th November 1941 and carries 5 x 2f booklet stamps is also has an Express hand-stamp in violet. The correct postage would be 4f letter rate, 8f Registration and 6f Express delivery fee - a total of 18f, the Postal Rates table shows that from 1937 only registered mail was supposed to be expressed. This cover shows no sign of registration so it is likely the "Express" markings were simply ignored.

Military Mail Postcard Wallet

This is a postcard wallet and it has been sent using a 2f stamp. One explanation for this may come from a tariff chart shown in the Encyclopedia Japanese Philately, this shows packets of postcards being included in Class 2 mail at the postcard rate. If Manchukuo had adopted this practice then this fee would be correct, alternatively postcards may have qualified as printed matter, in which case 2f would also be correct.

The postcard packet was posted on 20th December 1941 from Harbin to Japan. It has a military handstamp and may have been checked by censors.


Two Registered Covers to the USA
This is a registered cover posted by John Sweet in Harbin on 1st April 1941 to The International Legion PO Box in Seattle USA. On 3rd April 1941 this cover passed through the main post office in Mukden. In Mukden the "Harbin 788" registration number was changed to "Moukden a.604" (common practice) and the letter then travelled via Japan arriving in San Pedro, California on 23rd April 1941 as shown by the arrival postmark.

From San Pedro the letter was transmitted to Seattle Washington Terminal Annex PO on Saturdays 26th April 1941 and arrived at the main Seattle PO for delivery on Monday 28th April 1941. A transit time of 28 days, although the postal markings shown that there was no reply on the 28th so it probably arrived a day or two later.

The letter carries four stamps to a total of 36f. This postage is correct, the International 20g letter rate at this time was 20f and registration an extra 16f.

This is a registered cover posted from  滿洲 Manchuli to New York. Sent from Manchuli on 10th January 1941 it next went to Mukden where it arrived on 13th January and had a new registration number applied in contradiction of U.P.U. rules. The cover then travelled across the Pacific via Japan to San Francisco where it arrived on 31st January where along with the arrival date-stamp additional US Customs markings where applied. The letter was then received in New York on 9th January and delivered the next day. A total transit time of 31 days.

US Customs often seem to have been confused by mail from Manchukuo, this cover is stamped Supposed liable for customs duty, which is then crossed out. This may well have been the cause of the delay between San Francisco and New York.

Like the above cover the letter carries four stamps to a total of 36f. This postage is correct, the International 20g letter rate at this time was 20f and registration an extra 16f.

Printed Matter Cover to Japan
This cover was sent from Mukden on 14th March 1941 to Nagoya in Japan. It carries a purple hand-stamp 印刷 reading "Printed Matter" and the 2f stamp shows that this rate has been correctly applied. The size of the envelope and the senders address leads me to believe the contents are likely to have been a small leaflet or a price list. The lack of an arrival date stamp means that the transit time is unknown.
Half Price, Greetings Cover to China
This red band cover was posted from Hsinking to Peking in China on 10th February 1941 using a single 2½f China Mail stamp. The normal letter rate at this time is 5f.

This cover is interesting in that it appears to have travelled to China at the half price, Class 1, unsealed letter rate. The envelope has been printed with special New Year's greetings although it was posted after both the Chinese and Western New Year would have begun. The red band cover has the characters in red 新禧, reading xinxi (Hsinhsi) meaning "Happy New Year".

Printed Matter Cover to China
This above business cover is addressed to 上海 Shanghai and the date of posting is shown as 6th April 1941, it was probably sent from Mukden. From the arrival postmark on the reverse the cover reached Shanghai on 17th April 1941, making the transit time 11 days.

The cover carries a 印刷 Printed Matter Hand-stamp, according to the Postal Rates table this would mean that the postage had been overpaid by ½f. My understanding is that Printed Matter was charged at 2f at this time.

Standard Letter Rate Cover to China
Posted on 1st June 1941 from Yingkow (Newchwang) this cover carries the "Enforcement of National Conscription" stamps and special commemorative cancel. Inset is an arrival date-stamp for Shanghai 9-6-41 showing the transit time was nine days. 6 fen was the correct letter rate for China at this time.

The Shaw Hsing Steam Ship Co Ltd., is known to have existed at the key port of Yingkow and I can find records for this company from 1920 up to 1947, but it may well have existed beyond these dates.

Mukden Philatelic Exhibition Cover
This is a special cover produced for sale at a large philatelic exhibition that took place in Mukden from 24th to 27th July 1941. The exhibition was by the Mukden Postal Services Supervisory Bureau and the Manchu Philatelic Society. The cover was sent to a dealer in Hsinking, these are now scarce and hard to find.

The design in red shows the familiar image of the North Mausoleum at Mukden as it appears on the 4f, 7f, 9f, 12f, 13f, and 15f  stamps of the 1936 Fourth Regular Issue. The cancel applied to this cover has the same design and is dated 27th July 1941, the last day of the exhibition.

Postage Stamp Used as a Revenue Stamp

This is an example of a postage stamp being substituted for a revenue stamp to collect purchase tax. The above is a receipt from a grocery shop dated 7th April 1941 and the smudged chop purple reads 印花图章 Tax Stamp.

 It is possible that in Harbin stocks of the normal revenue stamps simply ran out and shops were allowed to use postage stamps as an alternative. Assuming the above is genuine this represents very unusual usage.