This page last updated: 18 December 2001


Following adoption of a Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1876, Hawaii's emerging sugar industry boomed. On Maui, several significant plantations were located in the isthmus neighborhoods surrounding Wailuku, Haiku, Makawao and Paia. Getting sugar to the port at Kahului was sometimes difficult. The remedy was to construct a railroad connecting the port to the major plantations. Thomas Hobron succeeded with a narrow gauge railroad. The first train ran on July 17, 1879. In 1881, the road was given the name of the Kahului Railroad Company. Service was extended eastward to Paia by 1884 and included the Spreckelsville Plantation. The Kahului Railroad continued to operate through the balance of the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century.

Hobron, who also was postmaster of Kahului, allowed mail to be sent free over the railroad. Later, in 1884, a subsidy of $25 per month was paid for hauling mail. Mail carried on the railroad was in closed bags for delivery to postmasters along the route. Probably loose letters were also carried.


This cover probably was carried by the Kahului Railroad without charge as part of its obligation for receiving a subsidy. The CANCELLED marking is identified with the Kahului Railroad. Postage stamps bearing this cancel are thought to have been cancelled by the railroad.

In 1894, the Kahului Railroad decided to obtain a set of stamps and turned to the American Bank Note Company to produce lithographed stamps for special use on the railroad to pay freight and packages sent outside the mail. Little is really known about these stamps and what we do know was obtained around 1910 by stamp dealers seeking information after examples began to appear in New York. None of the Kahului Railroad stamps are listed by Scott Catalogue.


According to American Bank Note records, the order was received August 3, 1894 and fulfilled December 17, with a likely arrival in Hawaii during January, 1895. Stamps of six values were produced.

KRR 1-unused1
KRR 3-unused

100,000 printed

100,000 printed

75,000 printed

KRR 5-unused
KRR 6-unused1

100,000 printed

50,000 printed

50,000 printed

Unused stamps of the 5˘, 15˘, 50˘ and $1 values are rare today. On the other hand, genuinely used examples of the 6˘ and 18˘ values are rare. It is quite possible the rate charged was 5˘ and multiples of 5˘ depending upon weight. Whatever use originally was planned for the 6˘ and 18˘ stamps may never have been adopted. Large quantities of the 6˘ and 18˘ values were unloaded in the 1930's after being found in a safe. These two values are relatively common today. The other values, particularly the 15˘ stamp are harder to obtain. Probably fewer than 300 of these other values exist and probably fewer than 100 of the 15˘ exist today. Typical cancels are the crayon marking in red, orange or blue or a straightline rubber handstamp "CANCELLED" in one of two styles, one serifed and the other not serifed. Click Here for a study of the cancels.

The 6˘ and 18˘ stamps are known bearing an overprint H. I. Some consider the overprint to be a pre-cancel of sorts. The overprint comes in red or black, right side up, upside down or sideways. Generally, these overprints have a bad reputation. It is thought they are a later concoction. They can be found in blocks and even on cover. Evidence damning these overprints is their late arrival, the testimony of eyewitnesses who swear the lot discovered in a vault had no overprints when discovered and the apparent lack of any purpose for the overprint. However, it must be noted that one cover bearing a 2˘ postage stamp and a 6˘ Kahului Railroad stamp and cancelled with the H.I. overprint was certified as genuine by the Philatelic Foundation. More information, if it exists today, could benefit our understanding of this overprint.

KRR 2- HI red
KRR 2- HIa
KRR 2- HIb
KRR 4- HIa

red, right side up

black, right side up

black, upside down

black, sideways


By 1898, the supply of the 5˘ and 15˘ values was exhausted, or nearly so. The Kahului Railroad placed an order with the Schmidt Label and Lithographic Company in San Francisco for additional 5˘ stamps. At the same time, it was decided to print stamps with values of 10˘ and 25˘. The quantities of these printings is unknown. Indeed, the identity of the printer was only obtained by later dealers such as Richards who interviewed those connected with the railroad. Records of the Schmidt Company were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. Records of the Kahului Railroad Company were largely destroyed in the tidal wave of 1946.



  • Hill, C.W., "Kahului Railroad Stamps", Sanders' Philatelic Journal, Vol. 10, No. 7, p. 133, Sept., 1964. An essential reference for this issue.

  • Hill, Russell O., "The Revenue Stamps of the Kahului Railroad Company", Linn's Stamp News, Vol. 37, p. 22, Jan. 11, 1965; reprinted at Stamps, Vol. 131, No. 9 [1707], p. 382-384, 388, May 29, 1965; Po'Oleka O Hawaii, No. 23, p. 1-5, Apr., 1981. An excellent resource but judgment is reserved on the discussion of covers.

  • Jenkins, R.H., "Hawaiian Islands, Their Local Stamps", Stamps, Vol. 16, No. 10 [208], p. 333, Sept. 5, 1936. Early account of this issue.

  • Richards, Charles F., A Checklist of the Stamps of Hawaii - And More, published by author, New York, 1916; reprinted in part at Po'Oleka O Hawaii, No. 43, p. 2-7, April, 1986; No. 44, p. 1-16, July, 1986; No.  45, p. 13, Oct., 1986. A key reference work, see particularly page 26.

  • Richards, Charles F., Additions To A Checklist Of The Stamps of Hawaii-And More, published by author, Linprint, In., Columbus, Ohio, 1938. An essential part of Richards's Checklist with updated information.

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