This page last updated: 30 November 2012

85 - May 16 with multiple town postmarks

This cover originated at Lahaina, Maui on May 15, 1883 and commenced a four island Odyssey seeking A. Lowenberg, Esq. First it was taken to Oahu and postmarked at Honolulu on May 18. Then it went to Kauai and was postmarked at Kapaa and Koloa. Back it went to Honolulu on August 3 and then down to Hawaii where it was postmarked at Hilo. Mr. Lowenberg must have been found somewhere because the letter did not become a "dead letter."

Postmarks must include the name of a post office, by my definition. Hawaiian town postmarks thus must include the name of Honolulu or a "country post office" that is a post office outside Honolulu. This page will deal primarily (but not exclusively) with the country offices, as Hawaii's postal authorities called them in the 19th Century.

Postmarks used at Honolulu constitute a separate study. See Honolulu Postmarks. Honolulu postmarks appeared in November, 1850. Country offices had no postmarks until August 1, 1859, when the 2 letter rate was imposed. "Postmarks" are distinguished from "cancels" by the presence of the office name. Many early marks used at the country offices are really cancels and thus are covered in the study of Cancels. Similarly, service marks (only a few were used at country offices) are dealt with under Service Marks. Finally, marks falling within the broad definition of auxiliary marks are dealt with in Auxiliary Marks.


John K. Bash and William J. Davey collaborated during the 1930's and 1940's to produce the Standard Identification System for Hawaiian Town Postmarks. The culmination of their effort is Part III of Meyer and Harris. In essence, the system is an adaptation of the Dewey Decimal System commonly used for organizing library books. Over the years, the types assigned by Davey and Bash have become known as Meyer Harris or MH types. Since publication of Meyer and Harris, the most significant publications about town postmarks are the updates produced by Edward J. Burns listed in the Town Postmark Bibliography. Burns held to the basic Meyer and Harris identification system.

For a graphic study of the Davey/Bash system, please click on Davey/Bash Identification System Illustrated.


When the 2 rate first was imposed there was uncertainty over whether it would survive or be repealed. Until the Postal Service became more certain the 2 rate would be retained it was unwilling to spend money on postmarks for even the major country offices. At Hilo and Lahaina, the custom seals were pressed into service as postmarks. The postmaster at Laupahoehoe in North Hilo fashioned a crude LAUP/HILO mark. At some country offices, the postmaster wrote the name of the post office in pen, creating a manuscript postmark. These custom seals, the LAUP/HILO mark and early manuscript postmarks form the start of Hawaii's Town Postmarks.

For detail on the Evolution of Town Postmarks, click Here.


By my count, between 1850 and 1900 three hundred and three (303) separate handstamp postmarking devices were used at one time or another at island post offices, including Honolulu. Included in this number are nine handstamps listed as tentative. In addition to the handstamps, I count forty-one distinct manuscript markings. Honolulu alone accounts for thirty-nine of the handstamp postmarks. Country offices account for 264 handstamp postmarks and all of the manuscript postmarks.

For a summary of prior Listings, Deletion, Tentative Marks and Rarities, click Here.

Click Here for the Town Postmarks Census Study


Most postmark studies are arranged by island. A few studies put all the post offices into one alphabetical list regardless of the island, to quickly locate a town by name rather than matching towns with islands. I prefer to study postmarks by island and even by districts within an island. Breaking the study down to districts facilitates a greater appreciation for how offices interacted with one another because of mail route and proximity. However, click here for a consolidated alphabetical finding list for assistance in matching towns with islands. Given the large number of postmarks used at Honolulu and its unique place in Hawaii's postal system, the postmarks of Honolulu are a separate study at Honolulu Postmarks. Listing town postmarks needs to be a work-in-progress. As suspected new marks are discovered, there must be a process by which they can win a place among the other town postmarks. That process has been too informal in the past, leading to the erroneous listing of putative marks later shown to be something else. Please E-mail ( me with your suggestions for establishing a town postmark clearing process.

To study town postmarks further, go to:

Island of Hawaii

Islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai

Island of Oahu

Islands of Kauai and Niihau

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