For long this partial had been thought pen cancelled by the purser on SS Polaria on May 23 1903. This coincided with the presence of SS Polaria in St. Thomas harbour May 1903. The postmark - being difficult to read was receiving no more attention. The
partial was exiting due to the fact it was pen cancelled on a HAPAG steamer - the bisected stamp showing the oval flaw "White dot between T and I" and the purser cancellation being May 23 1903 - the last day of authorized usage of bisects in St. Thomas. So
far so good - a very unique partial indeed.
I kept thinking there was something not quite right with this telling and the following events and details described - clarify how I came to be convinced that:
partial is the last known usage of a bisected 4 cents stamp - purser cancelled Sep 23 1903 - approx. 3 1/2 months after the last day of authorized use - June 4 1903.
Looking into the activities of the HAPAG ship SS Polaria in 1903
was very interesting. First I wanted to know how many times it travelled to DWI in 1903? It left Hamburg via Antwerpen in April 1903 heading for St. Thomas and later Progreso and Tampico in Mexico. Checking all DWI newspapers published in April and May revealed
that SS Polaria did arrive in St. Thomas May 5 1903. From there it sailed for Mexico. It would therefore be very unlikely that the purser had waited 17-18 days cancelling the letter. So I wanted to know when SS Polaria would have returned to DWI on its way
home to Europe. To my surprize no records in any of the DWI newspapers showed arrival of SS Polaria in St. Thomas from Mexico in May or June. This was strange cause which route would it then had travelled if not via St. Thomas? Additionally - records showed
that the SS Polaria was sold to a British company in July 1903 and later back to a German company also in 1903. No company names specified.
I needed to know its where abouts having left Mexico? By coincidence I came accross a document "Public Health
Reports - United States (Reports from national quarantine) - measures of inspection and disinfection of vessels to and from certain ports of Mexico" and it became evident that there was great efforts taken to inspect and disinfect vessels travelling from
Ports of Mexico to US destinations. In this document on page 1138 (this part dated July 15 1903) the SS Polaria was mentioned twice and the table stated the port of departure being Tampico Mexico and date of arrival at the port of New Orleans - Louisiana
US - June 10 1903. Aparently it had been inspected June 20 1903. Obviously the SS Polaria had been under some sort of quarantine or at least been inspected and therefore did not go to St. Thomas in May on its way back to Europe (maybe it was
never even the plan to go back via St. Thomas(?)). As a consequence - the date of the purser mark on the partial could not have been made leaving St. Thomas for Europe on May 23 as previously concluded.
I further investigated
the DWI newspapers and found that the SS Polaria went on another trip to the Caribbean departing Hamburg - arriving in St. Thomas August 16 - and departing on August 17 for Columbia. The SS Polaria then arrived in St. Thomas again Sep 22 homeward bound for
Europa. SS Polaria left St. Thomas on Sep 23 1903 - which is a perfect match with the purser cancellation date on the partial. I was now fully convinced.
The purser on board SS Polaria pen cancelled the stamps on the cover including
the bisected as he had no choice - but to do so following the regulations. Upon arrival in France - the bisected stamp was not cancelled LE HAVRE as was the other stamps. Which other stamps were present on this cover we will never know - nor will we ever know
whether it was a deliberate overpayment by 2 cents. If it was not overpaid and the Post Office in Le Havre rightfully did not accept the bisected stamp - a postage due penalty was likely applied..
YOU CAN SEE HOW I INVESTIGATED THE INFO ON THE PARTIAL TO DETERMINE THE DATE OF DEPARTURE FROM ST. THOMAS AND THE PORT OF ARRIVAL: