This page last updated: 11 July 2014


::: Evolution of Country Office Postmarks :::

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Waihee 237_03 cover

A cover bearing the Waihee, Maui, town postmark, type 237.02, sent Dec. 4, 1876, the only on-cover example of the five recorded strikes of this mark.

Until August 1859 country offices had no need for postmarks because all local and interisland mail was free. Before 1879, only a few post offices outside Honolulu (the “country offices” or “local offices”) used handstamped postmarks. Most postmasters used manuscript postmarks or cancels, often just penning a stroke of ink across the face of the stamp.

Assigning year dates to pre-1878 postmarks often is speculative. Only the Wailuku and Waiohinu marks included a year date and some had no date at all. Determining the earliest known use (the “EKU”) of the other marks is based on manuscript docket information written on a cover or the usage period of a postage stamp. However, without docket information, it is almost impossible to pin down a year for a particular mark and the exact EKU may never be known.

Two country office postmarks are regarded as the earliest: the locally fashioned Laup/Hilo mark and the customs seal used by the customs collector at Hilo, who was ex-officio postmaster there. These marks are undated but they appear on 2˘ Numeral stamps of Plate 1-A sent out from Honolulu in July 1859. Soon the postmaster at Lahaina began canceling stamps with the undated Lahaina custom house seal. This mark is found on Plate 3-C Numeral stamps printed in September 1859.

Throughout Hawaii’s postal period the Honolulu Post Office was, in effect, the General Post Office. The first postmark device issued by the Honolulu post office to a local office was put in use at Lahaina in July 1862. In the ensuing years up to 1878 a few local offices used a variety of postal service issued marks and locally ordered or manufactured marks.

Postmark devices used up to 1878 were metal or wood. The material used to fashion the Laup/Hilo mark is uncertain, but it could have been cork. Rubber devices appeared in 1881. The following list illustrates the earliest marks up to 1881.

Country Office Handstamped Postmarks to 1881

Marks to mid-1878


Laupahoehoe, type 860
August, 1859 EKU

The three recorded strikes are all on Plate 1-A Numeral stamps, issued in July, 1859 for use beginning August 1, 1859.

Laupahoehoe type 860

Laupahoehoe 860, Golden lot 344

On Plate 1-A-III (Courtesy Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Sale 1009, lot 344, the Golden Sale)

Hilo, type 211
August, 1859 EKU

This mark is recorded on a Plate 1-A Numeral stamp, issued in July, 1859 for use beginning August 1, 1859.

Hilo, type 211

65 - May 27 Hilo Custom 31 600 - detail

On May 27, 1865 cover

Lahaina, type 303
September, 1859 EKU

Strikes are known on Plate 3-B and Plate 3-C Numeral stamps, issued in August - September 1859.

Lahaina, type 303

Lahaina 303 from Official front

On June 9, 1860 official mail

Lahaina type 243.02
July 25, 1862 EKU

Lahaina type 243.02

Lahaina 243_02 __ - Feb 21 blue - 1200 on 27 wrapper

February 21, ___

Hilo type 242.13,
June 16, 1866 EKU

Hilo type 242.13

Hilo 242_13 66 - Jun 16 bkstmp

On June 16, 1866 cover

Lahaina type 242.13,
March 22, 1867 EKU

Lahaina type 242.13

Lahaina 242_13 75 - Sep 10 on #35 cover

September 10, 1875

Kawaihae type 244.02
July, 1868 EKU

Kawaihae type 244.02

Kawaihae 244_02 71 - Feb 9 600 OFF

February 9, 1871

Wailuku MH type 215
May 20, 1869 EKU

Wailuku MH type 215

Wailuku 215 70 - Feb 16 Africa

February 16, 1870

Makawao type 243.22
September, 1870 EKU

Makawao type 243.22

Makawao 243_22 79 - May 30

May 30, 1879

Waihee type 237.02
June 29, 1871

Waihee type 237.02

Waihee 237_03 76 - Dec 4 600 OFF

December, 1876

Waiohinu type 214
April 24, 1878 EKU

Waiohinu type 214

Waiohinu 214 78 - Apr 24

April 24, 1878

Beginning in 1878, the Honolulu Post Office issued standardized postmarks to fourteenl offices. These metal devices produced the style designated as type 238.02. The earliest EKU for a type 238.02 mark is from Kohala, dated in August 1878. From this point forward, most local town postmarks contain a year date.

Kohala type 238.02
Aug. __, 1878

Kohala type 238.02

Kohala 238_02 80 - Sep 18 detail

Sept. 18, 1880

Town postmarks proliferated starting in 1881 with the introduction of rubber die handstamp devices issued by the Honolulu Post Office to various country offices. The earliest of these rubber devices produced a mark with a double lined outer circle and single lined inner circle, often including side ornaments of one kind or another. The EKU for the earliest of these marks is January, 1881, from Kahului for type 282.013.

Kahului type 282.013
Jan. __, 1881

Kahului type 282.013

Kahului 282_013 83 - Oct 12 - Peters - LKU detail

October 12, 1883

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