A letter from Rev. Lorenzo Lyons, postmaster at Waimea, Hawaii to Rev. Sereno Bishop at
Lahainaluna, Maui bearing the Kawaihae type 244.02 postmark dated April 26 and docketed
in the year 1872. The Scott No. 31a stamp was canceled by the rare "St. Andrew's
Cross" and by the more common round grid, MH type 11.
Cancel devices were used to "obliterate" stamps so
they could not be re-used. Cancels can include postmarks, if the stamp was canceled by
the postmark. Often, the stamps were cancelled with a separate device. Not all
postmarks were used as cancels, particularly in the early days of the postal service.
Even in later years, use of postmarks to cancel stamps was discouraged because the
stamp could be obliterated more effectively with a separate cancel. For a discussion
of Postmarks, see Town Postmarks or
Honolulu Postmarks. As used here, Cancels are "mute"
marks, lacking the name of the town or the date.
The only published comprehensive study of cancels is by William J. Davey, found at
Meyer and Harris, pages 279 to 283 and 294. Davey divided cancels into five major
letters and pen
cancels. Within the first four categories, Davey broke cancels into sub-categories.
For example, the category "bars" was broken into
circular grids, square grids, oval grids and fancy devices. When auction catalogues
and other publications refer to an MH type, they
mean the Davey list in Meyer and Harris. Much credit for advancing the study of
cancels goes to Jim Shaffer who created an unpublished list in 1988. Shaffer retained
Davey's basic categories.
In this study, I have changed "circles" to
"rings" but otherwise have retained Davey's five
categories. However, three cancels, including two in Davey's "various circular
devices" in the section he titled "Circles" fall outside the five categories he created
and are just too difficult to classify within his types. Therefore, I have added a
sixth category for miscellaneous cancels.
Given how undefined or blurred some cancels appear, it will be difficult if not
impossible to arrive at a specific number with confidence. Without counting the myriad
of pen cancellations, these pages list 128 cancels, but some listings include multiple
marks from different devices so the actual total is greater – probably around 140 -
including 20 marks identified by Davey but not confirmed by Jim Shaffer or me. Davey
identified 82 cancels in his study. Shaffer's unpublished 1988 study increased the
number of cancels to a list of 107, including 42 Davey marks unconfirmed by Shaffer.
Thus, the confirmed cancels in Shaffer's study dropped from 82 (Davey) to 75 (Shaffer).
Based on my studies, combined with Shaffer's, I get 108 confirmed marks – unadjusted
for multiple marks within a single listing and not counting pen cancels. Additional
input undoubtedly will raise this number.
Three columns are used in the lists on these pages:
- In the first column will be found the cancel identification reference along with
the rarity, ink colors and an image, if available. I employ here an experimental
descriptive identification system different than either Davey or Shaffer. The
purpose of this experimental system is to connect the cancels to a physical
description rather than use an arbitrary number. The first part of a cancel
identification reference will describe the shape (for example a circular grid of bars
becomes cirgrid). The next element of the
reference pertains to size in millimeters (in the letter cancels, the second element
of the reference is the letter) and the next two elements will focus more closely on
the specific appearance of the mark (for example a circle grid of 25mm diameter with
7 uneven bars is listed as cirgrid20-7(uneven)
and the cancel itself is illustrated). Your comments on this system will be much
appreciated. Rarity, scarcity and estimated numbers are given according the scale
set out at Describing Postal Markings. In most cases,
the cancel inventory is extremely uncertain so expect major changes in the attempt
given here to state the rarity, scarcity or estimated quantity of cancels.
- In the second column, Davey's numbers are included for cross-reference purposes.
Shaffer's numbers are also shown for those familiar with his reference numbers.
Where the Davey number is given in steel blue an example of the cancel has been seen
by Jim Shaffer or me. If the Davey number is listed in
orange (for example: Davey 3)
the cancel listed by Davey has not been confirmed. Shaffer's numbers are shown in
purple for cross referencing. To provide
consistent references, Shaffer assigned a number to all of Davey's numbers even when
Shaffer was unable to confirm its existence or was convinced Davey had erred in his
description. If either Davey or Shaffer did not list a cancel, that fact is shown in
- A third column contains additional comments about a mark, including usage
information where known and a report of the cancel description from Davey or Shaffer.