The Stampless Era

The Stampless Era


Some of the first postal markings applied to mail originating in Worcester, Massachusetts were Manuscript Markings. These were often no more than the Post Office name of Worcester written in pencil or quill pen on the front of the folded letter sheet or wrapper. They appear in a variety of clerk's handwriting and a number of colors, including Blue, Black, Rust Red and Red. The first illustration below is a Manuscript Marking from 1797.


A Manuscript Marking

Worcester
Manuscript Marking In Ink
Circa 1797


As the volume of mail passing through the Worcester Post Office grew as the city grew, the postal clerks obtained a handstamp to mark the outgoing mail. The first recorded example of this manufactured device is dated May 22, 1786. The Two-Line Marking, which is shown below, has "WORCEST" on the top line and "ER, MAY 22" on the second line. This is the only example of this marking that I have seen. I am seeking other examples of this cancel to establish dates of use. Please contact me if you have any information. This Marking is approximately 23 mm overall in width and 8 mm overall in height. Each of the larger letters is approximately 3 mm high.


Worcester's First Straight-Line Marking

Worcester
First Straight Line Marking
Circa 1786
Notice The Two-Line Arrangement
And The Hypenated City Name


In looking at the marking described above, you just have to wonder what was going through the mind of the person, over 200 years ago, who designed the layout of the letters on that device. It is difficult to read. I would guess the folks back then had the same opinion because that device saw very limited use. It was replaced, more or less, by a couple of more-readable Single Straight-Line Markings.

The next two illustrations below show examples of Straight-Line Markings which were used from about 1789 to 1801. They are approximately 27 mm x 4 mm in size. As you can see, the main differences in appearance are the use of the Olde English letter "f" for and "s" and the all upper-case two-letter month representation in the first image versus the use of a normal letter "s" and the combination of upper-case and lower-case lettering for the month. These markings are found in Black.


Worcester Straight-Line Marking No 2

Worcester
Straight-Line Marking No 1
Circa 1795
Notice The Funny "s"
And The Two-Letter
All-Caps Month Designator


Worcester Straight-Line Marking No 3

Worcester
Straight-Line Marking No 2
Circa 1795
Notice The Revised "s"
And The Normal Month Designation


The next illustration of a Worcester Straight Line Marking shows a "cute" date variation. A "STAR" slug has been inserted in the holder to separate the Month from the Date. Note also the manuscript "FREE" marking applied in upper right corner.


Star Slug In Date

Worcester
Straight Line Marking
Circa 1796
Star Slug In Date And FREE Marking


The next three illustrations of Worcester Straight Line Markings all have a relationship with Isaiah Thomas, one of Worcester's noted residents, when he was Postmaster of Worcester. Each shows variations of Isaiah's signature and title used in Free Franking service.


Isaiah Thomas Free Frank

Worcester
Straight Line Marking
Circa 1795
Imprinted FREE Marking
Manuscript FREE Marking And
Isaiah Thomas Signature


Isaiah Thomas Free Frank Double Date

Worcester
Straight Line Marking
Circa 1800
Manuscript FREE Marking And
Isaiah Thomas Signature
Note Overprint Strike Of May 1 Date Over Apr 30 Date


Isaiah Thomas Free Frank And Title

Worcester
Straight Line Marking
Circa 1801
Manuscript FREE Marking With
Isaiah Thomas Signature And
Postmaster Title


The Straight-Line Markings were simple and utilitarian. Perhaps in the desire to add a little variety to the outgoing mail, a new Oval Marking was procured. This Oval Marking was used from about 1791 to 1830. Although only one Oval Marking is generally listed for Worcester, it seemed to me highly improbable that only one single device would last for almost 40 years! Over the years I have studied numerous Worcester Ovals and I submit that two distinct Oval Markings exist for Worcester, with the apparent transition between the the two Types coming around mid-year, 1816. The Early Ovals, or Type I's, are found in Blue, Black and Blue-Black. The Late Ovals, or Type II's, are usually found in Red. Color alone, however, does not distinguish between the Types. Careful inspection of the placement and the relationship of the letters in the Oval can identify the Type. The image below is of an Early or Type I Oval Marking. Both Types are identical in overall rim dimensions of 31 mm x 25 mm.


Worcester Oval - Type I

Worcester
Early (Type I)
Oval Marking
Circa 1803
Position Of The Lettering
Determines Type


In 1830, the humble Oval gave way to a number of Circular Date Stamps, or CDS's. There are several varieties of Worcester CDS's. There are large Balloon Styles, Rimmed Styles and Rimless Styles. On all CDS styles, "Worcester" is spelled-out competely but, depending on the Style, Massachusetts is abbreviated as "Ms" or "MS" or "MASS" in the dial. Placement of the letters in the dial, size of the letters, placement of the periods (".") in relationship to the letters and the diameter of the dial all help to determine and classify the CDS's of the Stampless Era that were used in Worcester.

I use the "Simmons" Table for assigning Style designations to my Worcester CDS's. Dr David Simmons, of St Louis, Missouri, is a fellow Worcester Postal Historian who aimed me in the right direction when I started along the Postal History road. I suspect only David and I use this Table for our CDS's, but it is a easy way of keeping track of items in a database. Thanks, David!

The next CDS is a Balloon Style from 1850. Massachusetts has been abbreviated as "MS" with a period at the left in this example. Note the "5" rate marking and the small "PAID" handstamps.


Balloon CDS - MS Abbreviation

Worcester
Balloon CDS With "MS" Abbreviation
Circa 1850


The following CDS is from 1851 and is the same style as the CDS described above. I have added this one to show the large fancy "PAID Over 3" handstamp.


Balloon CDS - Lg PAID Over 3

Worcester
Balloon CDS With Large "PAID Over 3" Handstamp
Circa 1851


The next CDS is also a Balloon Style. It dates from 1862. In this CDS, Massachusetts has been abbreviated as "Ms" with a period "." under the lower case "s" in the dial. Note the "Return Address" of this piece. See my "Postcards From The Edge" section of this website to see some illustrations of the Bloomingdale Insane Hospital.


Balloon CDS - Ms Abbreviation

Worcester
Balloon CDS
With "Ms" Abbreviation
Circa 1862


The next CDS is the same style as the CDS described above. I have added this one to show the small fancy "PAID Over 3" handstamp.


Balloon CDS - Small PAID Over 3

Worcester
Balloon CDS With Small "PAID Over 3" Handstamp
Circa 1863


The next two illustrations below show slightly unusual example of Worcester CDS's. The first example shows a 29 mm Rimless CDS in Red with "MASS" on the bottom of the dial, circa 1834. Besides being one of the few Rimless Worcester CDS's, it also displays the Month in four letters, as opposed to three-letter Month designation found in most CDS's. The second example shows a 29 mm Rimmed CDS in Red with "MASS" on the bottom of the dial, circa 1838. What is interesting about these two items is that they both look like they could have been struck from the same CDS with the exception of the rim. If the dates of use were reversed, I would argue that the Rimless CDS was just a worn state of the Rimmed CDS. But given the dates, either the Rimless example is a true Rimless or the Rimmed CDS is a new replacement for a worn out CDS that lost its rim!


Rimless
Rimmed

Worcester
Rimless CDS From
The Stampless Era
Circa 1834
Note The
Four-Letter Month


Worcester
Rimmed CDS From
The Stampless Era
Circa 1838
Note The
Four-Letter Month


The next CDS shows "MASS" at the bottom of the dial. The month slug for the date is known as a "sans serif" style. Note also the small "PAID" handstamp.


CDS - Sans Serif Month Slug

Worcester
CDS With Sans Serif Month Date Slug
Circa 1853


The next example is a 32.5 mm Rimmed CDS in Black with "MASS" on the side of the dial. As you can see, the "ASS" part of "MASS" are in upper case letters but they are smaller than the "M" in the dial. Also, the bottom of all letters in "MASS" line-up. I have called this CDS the Small Low "ASS" CDS. Another unusual feature of this CDS is the "PAID" designation in the lower portion of the dial.


Small Low ASS CDS

Stampless Era CDS
Small Low "ASS"
Variety With "PAID"
In Dial


The last CDS in this section is similar to the previous example. It is a 32.5 mm Rimmed CDS in Black with "MASS" on the side of the dial. In this CDS, the "ASS" part of "MASS" are in upper case letters and they are smaller than the "M" in the dial. In this example, however, the tops of all the letters in "MASS" line-up. I have called this CDS the Small High "ASS" CDS. This CDS also has a "PAID" designation in the lower portion of the dial. But what makes this CDS a very desirable and very scarce cancel is the "3" in front of the "PAID" designation. I consider this cancel as one of the rarest of all Worcester hand stamps !!!


Small High ASS CDS

Stampless Era CDS
Small High "ASS"
Variety With "3" And "PAID"
In Dial


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