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Vancouver 10Dec95

This Scott No. 76 cover was carried on the steamer Miowera to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a loose letter and postmarked at Vancouver, a designated Canadian exchange office, on December 10, 1895.

Under postal conventions signed in the 1870's and pursuant to UPU rules, countries designated post offices to be exchange offices for purposes of exchanging mail with other countries. One could spend an eternity trying to keep track of all exchange office marks appearing on Hawaiian foreign mail. Technically, if a letter from Hawaii traveled to, say, Austria, it would travel through some sort of exchange office in each country it transited and another exchange office in Austria. By limiting our study to just those ports with which Hawaii had direct mail exchanges and eliminating other transit and destination offices, the task is a little easier.

  • Before 1870: Formal exchange offices were not created under the early Treaty but postmasters in San Francisco and "other ports on the Pacific coast of the United States" were directed to receive and forward mail to Hawaii. Of these ports, San Francisco handled all but a small fraction of the mail from or to Hawaii. Portland, Oregon, received a tiny amount of mail and I have not recorded mail to or from Hawaii and any other United States port on the Pacific coast in that time frame.

  • 1870-1882: In the Hawaii United States Postal Convention of 1870, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Teekalet, Washington, Olympia, Washington and Port Townsend, Washington, were designated exchange offices for mail received from or sent to Hawaii. However, given the usual regularity of steamer service between Honolulu and San Francisco, the mail was always sent to San Francisco, even for delivery somewhere else on the coast or at least covers showing direct shipment to some other place are not among those I have identified. Hawaii's postal convention with New South Wales designated Sydney as the exchange office. Presumably, Auckland and Dunedin were exchange offices under the New Zealand Convention but the text had not been located.

  • 1882-1900: Under UPU rules, applied to Hawaii when it joined in 1882, the number of exchange offices around the Pacific increased.

Collecting exchange office marks on Hawaiian mail is both interesting and frustrating. The interest comes in finding a mark of some other country on a Hawaiian cover. The frustration arises because exchange offices typically (but not always) applied their "transit mark" to the back of a cover and auctioneers too frequently fail to describe the backs of covers very clearly or at all. Thus, trying to catalogue all of the types of marks is made more difficult.

San Francisco postal markings are addressed on their own pages at San Francisco Postal Markings. This page is devoted to a sampling of the markings of other Pacific Basin exchange offices. Some early Pacific Basin postal markings, other than San Francisco, are illustrated at Miscellaneous Other Postal Marks. They were used before the system of exchange offices reached the Pacific and Hawaii.

It is particularly interesting to find an exchange office mark canceling Hawaii's stamp. I suspect this departure from routine occurred mostly on mail carried outside the Honolulu mail bag as ship's letters or loose letters mailed aboard ship or at the wharf too late for a Honolulu postmark. I have noted Hawaiian stamps without a Hawaii postmark but canceled at San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria, Yokohama, Brisbane, Kuching (Borneo), New York, London, Paris and other places I cannot decipher. The cancels from San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria, Yokohama and Brisbane are easy to understand because when the cancels were used there were direct steamer lines between Honolulu and those places, but the other cancels are downright curious. Perhaps others collectors can expand the list.

The following is a sample of exchange offices marks from Pacific Basin ports with which Hawaii had direct mail communication.

Asian Exchange Offices


Hong Kong

Hong Kong 5Jan93

January 5, 1893



Kobe 16May88

May 16, 1888


Yokohama 13May88
Yokohama 24Dec89
Yokohama 21Aug93

May 13, 1888

December 24, 1888

August 21, 1893

Australasian Exchange Offices



Auckland 26Jun86
Auckland 30Mar96

June 26, 1886

March 30, 1896




Dunedin 3May87
NZ 7May81
Oamaru NZ 9Feb89

May 3, 1887

May 7, 1881

February 9, 1889



Sydney 28Apr91

April 28, 1891

North American Exchange Offices Other Than San Francisco



Tacoma 26Jan00

January 26, 1900




Vancouver 10Dec95
Victoria BC 2Oct96

December 10, 1895

October 2, 1896

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