The Shipwreck of SS Dakota

A popular category of philatelic study is disaster mail. Mail interrupted or damaged by some form of a disaster such as a flood, fire, ship or plane wrecks, war, etc. Shown below is an envelope recovered from the shipwreck of the S.S. Dakota, a passenger and cargo steamship that traveled the Pacific. The Dakota wrecked when she struck a reef off the coast of Japan near Yokohama on March 3, 1907. The ship was close enough to shore to avoid any deaths, and the passengers and cargo, including mail, were evacuated before she sunk.

Broadside of the S.S. Dakota.

Post card of a photo about one hour after the accident.

Ninty-four shipwrecked passengers were transported to a nearby lighthouse and hamlets in a sparsely populated area. Two days later, the steamer Hakuai Maru arrived to carry the passengers and ten bags of mail to Yokohama. The surviving mail was severely water damaged. The cover shown below was sent from Montana to a U.S. Army Transport ship (USAT Logan) stationed in Nagasaki, Japan and was franked with five 2¢ Washington stamps, as evident from the ghostly red stain on the right side. A Feb 10, 1907, Missoula & Hamilton R.P.O postmark would have tied the ten-cents of postage paying twice the UPU letter rate for up to one ounce.

Hamilton, Montana advertising cover damaged in the wreck of S.S. Dakota.

Mail aboard the wrecked ship was salvaged and subsequently delivered. Note the makeshift postal label in Japanese and English applied to the top of the cover explaining “Soaked and damaged in the wreck of Dakota. — Tokio (sic) Post Office”

Tokio Post Office manuscript label explaining the damage.

The damaged cover was also resealed with Japanese official seal stamps.

The reverse of the cover with Japanese official seals.

This is one of my favorite pieces in my collection. Please share any other info about the S.S. Dakota, or other disaster covers or cards.

More info on the wreck of S.S. Dakota can be found at Wikipedia and WreckSite.eu.

Posted by Geoff in Covers, Destinations, 0 comments

2-cents Washington Shield Stamp (Scott #319)

The Bureau of Printing and Engraving reacted quickly to the public’s dislike of the original 2¢ stamp and produced a new 2¢ Washington stamp. The stronger more bold design replaced the ornate flag background with a shield and strengthened Washington’s portrait. The replacement stamp was placed into circulation in November 1903, ten months after the first 2nd Bureau Washington debacle. Like its predecessor, the Washington shield was cut into booklet panes, saw further use in the production of imperforate, and later private vending coil stamps.

Varieties (Scott catalog number):

Common Uses:

Solo Uses:

gabon cover

Star-in-diamond machine cancel

  • 1st class letter (< 1 ounce)
  • 2nd class (< 8 oz newspaper or magazine)
  • 3rd class (< 4 oz printed matter )
  • 4th class (< 2 oz samples or merchandise)

Favorite Covers:

Posted by Geoff in The Stamps, 0 comments