This page last updated: 1 July 2001


A vast array of foreign postal markings is seen on Hawaiian mail. Markings from every continent can be found on covers to or from Hawaii. Attempting to catalogue them all is too challenging for this project, but it would be an interesting study. When studying the foreign marks found on Hawaiian mail, it will pay to have access to a large library. The American Philatelic Research Library, operated by the American Philatelic Society, is one place where many of the specialized books can be accessed. Its Web Site is

For purposes of this page, the term "postal markings" is used more loosely than in reference to Hawaiian postal markings. When speaking of Hawaiian postal markings, I think of postmarks, service marks and cancels applied by an official branch of the post office. All other markings are auxiliary markings. When referring to foreign postal markings, I am not so particular and I include all official postmarks, service marks and cancels plus all other markings applied to covers, regardless of whether the mark is by an official postal service. Thus, I include auxiliary foreign markings with "foreign postal markings." Two types of foreign service marks are studied elsewhere in this site. See NZMPO and Paquebot Marks.

Given the multitude of foreign postal markings found on Hawaiian mail, the need to limit our study is essential. For a start, I include the San Francisco Postal Markings because I can offer a fairly comprehensive study of those marks. Each country designated an exchange office through which all foreign mail passed. In the early years of Hawaii's postal period, San Francisco was the only exchange office designated by the United States to receive or dispatch mail for Hawaii and most Hawaiian foreign mail was sent to or through the United States. Even after Tacoma (Washington) and Portland (Oregon) became exchange offices, most Hawaiian mail continued to pass through San Francisco. San Francisco postal marks are thus the most critical to Hawaiian foreign mail from 1849, when the San Francisco post office was organized, to 1900. Some San Francisco service marks are set out elsewhere at Registered Letters.

Other exchanges offices located on the North American West Coast included Tacoma, Portland, Victoria and Vancouver (Victoria for British Columbia and Vancouver's Island and, later, Victoria and Vancouver for Canada). Exchange offices in Australasia (particularly Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland) and Asia (particularly Yokohama) become important as direct mail routes were developed to those places. I can offer only examples of the marks from some of the Other Exchange Offices.

In the years before 1849, mail to or from Hawaii most often had a New England postmark. Mail sent via Mexico usually was postmarked at New Orleans, Mobile or Pensacola. Direct mail in the pre-1849 period is known to Europe and Asia. In the period from 1849 to 1900, foreign transit (including foreign exchange offices beyond North America) or destination marks applied after the cover reached its first exchange office, usually San Francisco, are found from everywhere on the planet. A sampling of these various marks is collected in Miscellaneous Other Foreign Marks. Most of these marks are studied comprehensively in specialized books on United States regions or states, various European countries, Australia, trans-Atlantic mail or other subjects.

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