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
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.