Postcard canceled with the American cancel Charlotte Amalie - St.Thomas August 20, 1917 - mailed to USA.

TRANSFER PERIOD PHILATELY – A PARTIALLY FORGOTTEN DANISH WEST INDIES PHILATELIC EVENT

Postcard canceled with the Danish cancel St. Thomas 3 April 1917, and mailed internally to the U.S.A.

TRANSFER PERIOD PHILATELY – A PARTIALLY FORGOTTEN DANISH WEST INDIES PHILATELIC EVENT 

 

The last ten years I have only collected Danish West Indies stamps, a rather restricted specialty. I have therefore concentrated on a few categories of personal interest, one being the transition period. My goal was accumulate material for a two frame exhibit for from this period. 

 

I have purchased loose stamps as well as collections, and sometimes collections will include “back of the book” letters and stamps canceled during the transition period. Other purchases were obtained from ebay auctions, stamp dealers as well as from other collectors. 

 

The transition period is defined as April 1 to September 30, 1917, i.e. immediately after the sale of the Danish West Indies islands to the U.S.A. on March 31, 1917. 

 

The sale price was $25,000,000, and the contract included a provision allowing the use of the current Danish West Indies stamps for a six month period after the sale date. The Danish West Indies stamps could not be exchanged for American stamps, and therefore had to be used on mail. US stamps were introduced at this time. 

 

Letters mailed April 1 to September 30 exist having only DWI or US stamps, but there are also letters with a combination of DWI and US stamps. 

 

There are many stamp combination philatelic covers, and most have excessive postage. All have Christiansted cancels. They normally have the common 2 cents USA stamp and one or more DWI stamps 

 

Most were mailed to Otto Kielstrup Esq., but the covers addressed to L. V. Nielsen and A. J. Noergaard Esq. also exist. They are all locally addressed, and as previously mentioned, they can have either the Danish or the American Christiansted cancels, 

 

Non-philatelic mail with combination stamp DWI/USA usage, or having only DWI stamps are rare. 

 

My collection includes a printed matter letter mailed to England (figure 3) unless it had insufficient postage that was missed by the St. Thomas post office – I have seen a letter correctly mailed as printed matter –so such items are known. However, they are very rare. 

 

Transition period printed matter is also know, but they are very rare. My collection includes a 5 bit Christian X postal card corner cut (Figure 4) also having a US 1 cent stamp. The postal rates were as follows during the transition period: 

 

Printed Matter - Domestic or foreign 5 bit or 1 cent 

Domestic postcards 5 bit or 1 cent 

Domestic letters 10 bit or 2 cents 

Combination stamp use 5 bit + 1 cent 

Foreign postcard 10 bit or 2 cents 

Plus above described combination use 

Foreign letters 25 bit or 5 cents 

Or 4 cents + 5 bit etc. 

Registration fee 50 bit or 10 cents 

 

 

 

Example of a philatelic combination stamped letter.

Printed matter sent to England. The cancel is the Danish West Indies St. Thomas 28 April, 1917. It was opened and examined by the Censor. It is either a double weight printed matter mail, or a regular letter with insufficient postage that escaped post office scrutiny. The local post office was responsible for verifying that mail had correct postage, but the receiving post office could also penalize it postage due if an obvious error had been made. It is therefore most likely a printed matter mail that had not been marked TRYKSAG or PRINTED MATTER

Postal stationery with a Danish West Indies cancel dated St. Thomas 9 April

Figure 5. Photo post card showing the transfer ceremony 31 March 1917. Note that the printed date was erroneously shown as 1916.

Once the American flag was hoisted on the now named U.S. Virgin Islands on March 31, 1917, a new US postmaster assumed responsibilities at the previous Danish West Indies post offices. Thereafter only US stamps were sold. 

 

The transfer was late Saturday afternoon, and it is believed that the American post office did not process mail that day. 

 

For various reasons the new American postmaster did not have new post office cancelers available. The future US cancelers were first used late in May. I have one partial letter with the new American cancel dated May 29.  Erik Hvidberg Hansen showed in an NFT article a letter with the same cancel dated May 21. It is not known when the American St. Thomas post office and the other post offices received their American cancelers, but since the DWI cancelers continued in use, it is certain that they were not available on the transfer date. 

 

The majority of the letters canceled April/May 1917 have Danish West Indies cancels. They were also used after receipt of the American cancels. Letters dated close to September 30 show use of some Danish West Indies cancels, especially Kingshill. 

 

The following is the latest use of Danish West Indies cancels that I have seen: 

 

St. Thomas May 6, 1917 

Frederiksted May 7, 1917 

Christiansted May 19,1917 

Kingshill April 13, 1917 (Non-philatelic) 

The St. Jan cancels were not used during this period. This is due to St. Jan being a letter collection station, and their letters were processed at St. Thomas. 

 

Philatelic letters are frequent from Chritiansted and Kingshill. 

 

The American postmaster Hathaway stationed in Puerto Rico was initially assigned responsibility for the St. Thomas post office. This was a short term assignment, and the previous St. Thomas postmaster Carstensen resumed responsibilities until the end of 1918. 

 

 

 

Two domestic letters mailed to the USA. from the Benziger Co. Canceled Frederiksted and Christiansted.

Letter mailed to Puerto Rico on April 1, 1917

The first day of operation of the American post office has previously been believed to be Monday April 2, but I have a letter canceled Sunday April 1 (Figure 10), and I know of one other letter and a postcard also canceled April 1. They also have US stamps. 

This is one of my collection’s “pearls) 

 

One letter  was mailed to Denmark with insufficient postage, and has a “Postage Due Mark” from Poerto Rico. 

A “Postage Due Mark” (“T” – DWI) was not provided initially, and therefore the Puerto Rico post office became involved. This was a reasonable arrangement since a single postmaster was responsible for both post offices. 

 

Figure 12 shows a letter having a US “Registry” stamp sent from Christiansted.T his stamp was issued in May 1915, and only a few of these were used during the transition period. It must have been brought to the DWI privately. 

 

Several of my letters are commercial letters mailed to the Benziger company. Danish postal stationery envelopes were also used, and according to Engstrom the Danish Post & Telemuseum has one, and a private collection also has one. Both were mailed to Generaldirektoratet in Copenhagen, and are without arrival cancels. My collection has an official post office envelope with the imprint Postsag – Servide des Postes (Figure 13). It has Charlotte Amilie July 11 REG’D and Copenhagen 9.8.1917 arrival cancels, plus a US REGISTERED cancel. 

The date Danish West Indies stamps could be used was September 30, 1917, and this was the last exiting period for Danish West Indies philately.  

It is my hope that this article can increase interest in the little noticed period. 

I would appreciate comments and copies of transition period covers.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Letter mailed to New York - Postmark 13.4.1917 with 10 bit postage.

Unusual letter mailed St. Thomas April 3 1917 with 2 cents postage. It should have had 5 cents. St. Thomas did not have a “Postage Due mark” In Puerto Rico it was marked Postage Due. The penalty postage due was 30 centimes, equivalent to 24 oere Danish currency. The Copenhagen arrival cancel is May 16, meaning 43 days in transit. Opened and examined by the Censor.

Registered letter - from Christiansted with 10 cents
“US Registry” stamp.

Official Post Office envelope used initially by the American post office. Canceled Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas REG’D July 11, 1917, New York 27 July and Copenhagen 9 August. Registered and without Censor marks.