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While Hawaii lobbied for annexation in Washington, D.C., an idea was born to print stamps for the Hawaiian Department of Foreign Affairs. At the time these stamps were issued on January 28, 1897, the prospect for annexation was dimmed by opposition of President Grover Cleveland. Indeed, there is a rub-it-in-your-face aspect of these stamps. The central portrait features Lorrin Andrews Thurston, Hawaii's former minister plenipotentiary who had antogonized President Cleveland by his aggressive pursuit of annexation. Placing Thurston's portrait on the stamps communicated Hawaii's resolve to win annexation.

Six stamps printed by the American Bank Note Company make up this issue, all bearing the same design, made by Maj. G. C. Potter, Chief Clerk of the Office of Foreign Affairs:

Scott O1
Scott O2
Scott O3

Scott O1, 30,000 printed

Scott O2, 50,000 printed

Scott O3, 10,000 printed

Scott O4
Scott O5
Scott O6

Scott O4, 50,000 printed

Scott O5, 10,000 printed

Scott O6, 10,000 printed

When the United States became engaged in the Spanish American War in 1898, Hawaii was a vital coaling stop for troop and supply ships supporting the campaign in the Philippines. Troop ships began arriving in Honolulu in early June, 1898. Soon opposition toward annexation in Washington melted and on August 12, 1898, the American flag was hoisted over Iolani Palace.

Before annexation, stamps of the Foreign Affairs Department were used in two ways. First, they are found on official mail going to diplomatic and consular officials, mostly in the United States.

O1 97 - Jun 15 wrapper

Newspaper wrapper bearing O1. Note the Foreign Office circular mark, dated June 15, 1897. This mark later was used for applying canceled-to-order "postmarks" to remainders.

O2 98 - Jul 28 to Du Bose

An official consular letter, postmarked June 28, 1898, prior to Hawaii's annexation to the United States.

O4 - O6 cover

Another pre-annexation use, dated October 20, 1897, bearing a rare use of the 25 Official stamp.

Another use was found as soon as American soldiers came ashore in early June, 1898. Foreign Affairs stamps were given away free to the "Boys in Blue" to use on mail sent home. Thus the face of Lorrin Thurston was spread throughout the United States to remind Americans of Hawaii's interest. See Soldiers Mail.

Once Hawaii was annexed, almost the entire supply of remainders of these stamps were sold to a speculator (who turned out to be Major Potter) and many of those sold were cancelled-to-order with the cancellation of the foreign office. However, after annexation the Republic of Hawaii continued to exercise all of its former authority except foreign affairs. Hawaii's Department of Foreign Affairs included consular functions and those duties were retained. Need for the stamps thus continued and a small supply of Official Stamps was held for use on consular mail. Some covers bearing the official stamps on consular mail still survive. Only the 5 and 10 values are noted on cover after annexation.

O2 99 - Jul 19 to Gilman

Post annexation consular letter dated July 19, 1899.

Postally canceled official stamps are more valuable than those canceled with the foreign office mark and Scott Catalogue prices distinguish between the two type of cancels. The normal Honolulu barred oval cancel or one of the second class mail cancels will be found on a postally used stamp.

Scott O1 cto

Canceled to order

Scott O2 used
Scott O3 used
Scott O5 used

Postally used with the Honolulu barred oval or squared circle postmarks


Scott No. Value/Color Issue Date EKU Notes
O1 2 green Jan. 28, 1897 May 22, 1897 Advertiser, lot 3673, Hono. to Wash. DC
O2 5 black brown Jan. 28, 1897 May 5, 1897 Hono. to Washington, D.C.
O3 6 deep ultramarine Jan. 28, 1897 May 4, 1897 Advertiser, lot 3677, Hono. to England
O4 10 bright rose Jan. 28, 1897 Jan. 27, 1897 Registered cover to Germany
O5 12 orange Jan. 28, 1897
O6 25 gray violet Jan. 28, 1897 May 5, 1897 Hono. to Wash. DC


  • Anonymous, "The Last Set Of Hawaii," Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, Vol. 6, No. 10, July, 1898.

  • Anonymous, "Corners Hawaiian Stamps - Major Potter of the Foreign Office Arouses Philatelists," Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, Vol. 7, No. 4, January, 1899.

  • Gill, Dr. and Mrs. C. C., "Hawaii's Stamps Tell History," Weekly Philatelic Gossip, Vol. 28, August 12, 19 and 26 and September 9, 23 and 20, 1939.

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