Western Cover Society publication,
Western Express, Vol. 61 No. 1 Whole No. 239
(March 2011), pages 39-46.
This article was originally published in the
U.S. Philatelic Classics Society publication,
The Chronicle, No. 212, Vol. 58, No. 4
(November 2006), pages 289-297.
Postal Rates on Mail from British Columbia and Vancouver Island via the United States, 1858-1870
Figure 2 was prepaid 2½d colonial postage in New Westminster, BC by means of a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose stamp (Scott #2). This curious stamp was issued jointly by the colonies of BC and VI, and was valid for use in either colony. An additional 15 cents for US postage was paid in cash at the time of posting. BC cancelled the stamp with the blue oval “PAID” marking and noted “15 Cents PP” (Postage Paid) in manuscript, since US stamps were not available in BC at this time. The letter was then forwarded to San Francisco along with the cash to pay the US postage. The San Francisco post office added 1857 Issue 5¢ brown (Scott #30A) and 10¢ green, Type V (Scott #35) stamps for the US postage to Nova Scotia. It was carried overland to Detroit, where the red “U. STATES” entry marking was applied. The letter arrived in Halifax on May 29.
Second Composite Rate Period – July 1862 to August 1863
During this period, US rates were still governed by the April 1855 Act, but BC introduced new domestic rates per their July 1862 Postal Notice. BC domestic rates to New Westminster were required to be prepaid on letters leaving the colony from up-country post offices, and letters originating in New Westminster were prepaid 2½d BC colonial postage. Figure 3 shows an example of these rates.
Figure 3 was prepaid 5d domestic postage from Yale, BC to New Westminster by a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose pair, which was cancelled by the numeral 4 of Yale. US postage of 3 cents was also paid in cash at the time of posting, as indicated by the red crayon “3c” marking. The letter was processed through New Westminster on July 4, which marked it “PAID”, and added the US 1861 3¢ dull rose stamp (Scott #65). San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on July 10. This was just after the July 1, 1863 US rate change, but since the rate to San Francisco remained the same, the US franking was adequate.
Third Composite Rate Period – August 1863 to June 1864
During this period, the July 1862 BC Postal Notice rates remained in effect. On July 1, 1863, however, the US lowered its postal rates per the July 1, 1863 Act. This change in rates was received in BC or VI sometime in August 1863, so that is when they began to be applied. Figure 4 gives an example of these rates.
The June 1864 cover in Figure 4 was prepaid 5d BC domestic postage from the Cariboo region (far north of Lytton) by a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose pair, which was cancelled by the numeral 10 of Williams Creek, BC. US postage to Canada West of 15 cents was also paid in cash at the time of posting, as indicated by the red crayon “15c” marking and the Williams Creek “PAID” marking. The letter was processed through New Westminster, which added the US 1861 10¢ green (Scott #68). Since the US rates to Canada West dropped to 10 cents from 15 cents in July 1864, New Westminster added only the correct prevailing postage. San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on July 19, and the letter arrived in Aylmer on August 11.
Fourth Composite Rate Period – July 1864 to March 1867
In July 1864, both the June 20, 1864 BC Postal Ordinance and the July 1, 1864 US Postal Act came into effect in BC and VI. The US Act raised US domestic postage to 10 cents, and the BC Ordinance set a new structure for BC domestic rates. The new BC rates on mail leaving the colony were the 6d domestic rates between New Westminster and the up-country post offices, plus 3d colonial postage. Letters originating in New Westminster were only charged 3d colonial postage. Figure 5 illustrates these rates.
Figure 5 was prepaid 12½¢ BC domestic postage from the Cariboo region to New Westminster plus 6¼¢ BC colonial postage (BC had converted to decimal currency on January 1, 1866) by a BC 1865 3d blue strip of three (Scott # ), which was cancelled by the numeral 10 of Williams Creek, BC. At this time, the BC 3d stamps were being sold provisionally at 6¼¢. Although 10 cents US postage to Canada West was also prepaid in cash, the former practice of marking the amount paid in red crayon had been discontinued. The letter was processed through New Westminster on September 14, which added the US 1861 10¢ green. San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on September 19, and the letter arrived in Aylmer on October 10.
Fifth Composite Rate Period – April 1867 to January 1868
During this period, the US July 1864 rates remained in place, and the April 1867 BC Postal Ordinance came into effect. The new rates, expressed in decimal currency, were comparable to those in the1864 BC Postal Ordinance, except that the colonial postage was reduced to 5 cents, and the rate from the Cariboo region to New Westminster was increased to 25 cents. Unlike the 1864 Ordinance, however, only the domestic postage was required to be prepaid on mail leaving the colony, and the 5 cents colonial postage was not added to the internal rates. Figure 6 illustrates these rates.
Figure 6 was prepaid the 5 cents colonial postage applicable to a letter from Victoria to the US in September 1867. The BC franking is a Vancouver Island 1865 imperforate 5¢ rose (Scott # ), cancelled by the blue long oval “Post Office Paid Victoria Vancouver Island” marking. A US 1861 10¢ stamp was also added in Victoria to pay the postage to California. This 10¢ rate reflects the application of the US 1864 Steamship rate to mail from BC rather than US domestic rates, as had been the case previously. San Francisco cancelled the 10¢ stamp with its duplex postmark on September 11.
Sixth Composite Rate Period – February 1868 to July 1870
On January 1, 1868, a new US-Great Britain Postal Treaty became effective which included provisions for mail from BC. It set a fully-prepaid closed mail rate from BC to Great Britain via the US of 25 cents per ½ oz. which could be prepaid in BC stamps. BC also interpreted this as applying to mail from BC to the US and Canada, but was corrected by the US post office on February 21, 1868, and the old system of adding both US and BC postage to letters leaving the colony was reinstated for those destinations. No covers from this period with full prepayment in BC postage stamps to the US or Canada are known, although covers showing the 25 cents prepaid rate to Great Britain have survived. Figure 7 illustrates this rate.
Figure 7 was posted in Victoria on February 22, 1868 with a 25 cents franking made up of Vancouver Island 1865 perforated 5¢ (Scott # ) and 10¢ (Scott # ) stamps, cancelled by the blue long oval “Post Office Paid Victoria Vancouver Island” marking. This franking fully prepaid the postage from BC to Great Britain.
It has been shown that six composite rate periods can be defined for mail from BC or VI to foreign destinations in the 1858-1870 period. This information can be useful in analyzing covers of this period, and in determining the dates of usage when year dates are not present in postmarks.
- Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, Volume V North America, 1973, pp. 547-581.
- Alfred Stanley Deaville, The Colonial Postal Systems and Postage Stamps of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1849-1871, (Victoria, BC: Charles F. Banfield, 1928). Reprinted by Quarterman Publications, Inc.
- Daniel Eaton and Jack Wallace, The Stamps & Postal History of Vancouver Island & British Columbia, the Gerald Wellburn Collection, 1987.
- Charles G. Firby Auctions, “Postage Stamps & Postal History of British Columbia & Vancouver Island, The Collection Formed by Dr. Robert V.C. Carr of Youngstown, Ohio”, January 15, 2000 auction catalog.
- Charles Starnes, United States Letter rates to Foreign Destinations, 1847 to GPU-UPU, (Louisville: Leonard H. Hartmann, 1989).
- James J. Holbrook, United States Mail and Post Office Assistant Volume I October 1860-September 1866, (Chicago: Collectors Club of Chicago, 1975).
- Reports of the Postmaster General, 1864-1867. Wierenga Reprint.
- Jane & Michael Moubray, British Letter Mail to Overseas Destinations, 1840-1875, (London, England: The Royal Philatelic Society of London, 1992).