This page last updated: 5 February 2005

::: Fumigated Mail and Other Epidemic Covers :::

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Epidemics affected mail at Honolulu ten times between 1853 and 1900 and six of those occasions came in the UPU Period (see the article by Randy Burt listed at the end of this page). Not all of these episodes involved disease in Hawaii. Some were epidemics at places such as San Francisco or in Asia and steps were taken in Hawaii to disinfect mail from those placed before delivering it. Covers from at least two periods when Honolulu was gripped with cholera or plague show evidence of disinfecting.

1895 Cholera Epidemic

This epidemic quarantined Honolulu from August 20, 1895 to October 23, 1895 and mail was fumigated before it could be put aboard a ship bound for another port.

Hono 30Sep95 cover reg

Postmarked September 30, 1895 at Honolulu and clipped at the corners to allow fumigation. According to Burt, this letter to Bombay was fumigated at Honolulu, again at San Francisco and a third time at Bombay. This registered letter is franked with the 10 stamped envelope, UPSS 20 and the 10 overprinted black stamp Scott No. 61.

Hilo 271.034 11Oct95 UPSS18 Sant

Postmarked October 11, 1895 at Hilo and sent directly to San Francisco on the bark Santiago during the 1895 cholera epidemic in Honolulu.

1899-1900 Bubonic Plague Epidemic

Bubonic plague swept through Honolulu and other parts of the Islands for several months and Honolulu was quarantined starting December 12, 1899 and finally ending April 30, 1900.

Hono 5Mar00 82 epid

Postmarked March 5, 1900 and clipped at the corners to allow fumigation.

Hono 21Mar00 77 epid
Postmarked March 21, 1900 and clipped at the corners.

Hono 27Apr00 fum
Soldier letter Postmarked April 27, 1900 and clipped at the corners. The plague quarantine lifted on April 30, 1900 following a month in which no new plague cases occurred. For details of the soldiers rate, see Soldiers Mail.

Hilo 19Jan00 82 epid
Hilo sent some mail direct to San Francisco during the plague epidemic although several covers show mail also was routed through Honolulu. This cover was sent direct on the bark Annie Johnson, departing Hilo January 20, 1900 and arriving San Francisco in the afternoon of February 2. It was postmarked at San Francisco on February 3. Hilo managed to stay free of the plague by sometimes controversial isolation policies.


Burt, Randall E., "Mail Disinfected in Hawaii/Part I", Postal History Journal, No. 100, p. 35-45, Feb., 1995; "Part II", No. 101, p. 28-43, June, 1995. A study of fumigated mail and disinfection practices during several distinct periods when disinfection practices were used because of disease epidemics; study includes the practices used on foreign mail entering or leaving Honolulu and the practices used on interisland mail.

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