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The Hooded Datestamps of Southern Africa 1888 - 1903

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I like the format that Jamie Smith has pioneered on this website by presenting his Zoom displays in the Forum. I am going to try to do that here with Dr Simon Kelly's 'Hooded Datestamps of Southern Africa 1888 - 1903' Zoom display.

Simon is the well-liked and well-respected ex-long-serving Past President of the Cambridge Philatelic Society. He is a prominent Cambridge academic who was the recipient of the Polar Medal awarded to him in 2000 by HM the Queen for his outstanding achievements in the field of polar research in extreme conditions. As a philatelist and postal historian, Simon has one of the finest collections of Ethiopia as well as very impressive Bahamas and GB Newspaper mail & markings. He is both a local and national judge.

Simon was due to give this display to SACS last weekend but was sadly too ill to do so. It is Bob Hill's and my opinion that he would have liked nothing more than to be able to present his display to us. As it was, Tony Johnson, editor of SACS's 'Springbok' magazine gave the display of Simon's behalf. What I am uploading here is the South African part of Simon's 'The Hooded Postmarks of the World'. Simon liked to call these his 'hoods'. There is some remarkable new information within this display. At first I dismissed it, I didn't see it for what it was but as I came to write it up for Tony and the Springbok I was forced to do some research into the subject. It suddenly dawned on me how important his display is! Please bear with me and watch this space.

Just a quick word of advice. In my opinion, Simon  starts in the wrong place with the large REGISTERED CAPE TOWN datestamp of 1896, not with the eight smaller datestamps that were supplied eight years earlier to the larger Cape post offices. However, it is Simon's display and we are mightily glad he is sharing it with us. As for the DTO being an early forerunner of the hooded datestamp, I scoffed at this at first but now, having done some research I can see a possible evolutionary patterm emerging through the 1840 AMERICA packet letter datestamp, its 1844 LIVERPOOL replacement and the 1882 GB and 1888 CAPE hooded datestamps. See my contribution piece bottom below.


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I will from time to time throw in my tuppence worth, as per AMERICA and LIVERPOOL above.

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Note that Simon has Cut-&-Pasted the wrong description for the bottom-most cover dated 'DE 8 00'.

Sharp-eyed Cape postmark collectors may have noticed that Simon shows four examples that have NO Time Code Letter (index). Putzel records none. Putzel records two examples, No. 371 which is in a 'standard' format of Time Code Letter above Month before Day above Year. His No. 371a records two differences, a Time Code 'figure' (numeral) above Day before Month above Year. Both are hand--drawn examples. (I am growing wary of hand-drawn examples.)

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It will start to get real interesting soon, I promise....

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Check your Cape Hooded Circular Datestamps for dates outside of the ranges given below.

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Different Text Sizes of 2.5 mm and in the Hood.

Simon has identified what he believes are two different text sizes in the hood used to spell the town name. Neither Jurgens, Goldblatt, Putzel and Visser have made this distinction. I cannot account for Frescura whose most recent work I do not have access to. (Simon used Frescura's 2003 book for this display.) Perhaps Simon is mistaken?

This is important because a difference in text size cannot be a variety due to an error in incorrect setting of the type by the Postmaster. If Simon is correct - there is reason to believe he is - it means that there are new and different Hooded Circular datestamps in addition to those that are already listed or wrongly listed. This will challenge our historic understanding and categorisation of what now appears to be a previously taken-for granted datestamp.

If true, it will require a re-examination and a re-categorisation of the Cape Hooded Circular datestamp.

It should not be too difficult to accept that we all may have missed this until now. The difference between 3 mm and 2.5 mm is minimal. Ink spread on absorbent paper makes it very difficult to accurately measure such small differences in text height. That said, some of Simon's examples, as well as those of Ralph Putzel under Grahamstown, ('The Postmarks of South Africa' Vol. 3.), appear to show text of different sizes even when viewed by the naked eye.

If you collect Cape postmarks and have some Hooded Circular datestamps I need your help in confirming Simon's discoveries, please. If he is correct, the entire area of Cape Hooded Circular Datestamps needs to be re-categorised. Please check your material and advise me of your thoughts, ideally with examples. I will try to collate these into a study to present to Alex Visser who will have the last word on this. I will credit your contribution.

There is another minor variety that Simon has discovered. We will come to that shortly.

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Different Text sizes in the hood....

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If you collect Cape postmarks and have some Hooded Circular datestamps I need your help in confirming Simon's discoveries, please. If he is correct, the entire area of Cape Hooded Circular Datestamps needs to be re-categorised.


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Rotation of the Asterisk (Star)

Simon has identified two different rotations of the asterisk. The first is with a vertical bar and the second with a horizontal bar. Presumably, it is only possible to set the asterisk in one of these two rotations.

Jurgens' and Goldblatt's hand-drawn images of five Hooded Circular datestamps show only examples with vertical bars. Hand-drwan reproductions of postmarks are generally unrelaible compared to the real thing. In this instance, did the artist look carefully enough at the postmark to see the precise placement of the asterisk? Could the artist's assumption not have been like mine that an asterisk is an asterisk is an asterisk! This is a small and nerdy issue but is it unimportant enough to be laughingly dismissed?

According to Jurgens the inner circular component of the Hooded Circular datestamp was issued in the format of control letter (top), date in Month / Day / Year format (middle between horizontal bars) and with an asterisk (bottom). In practice, the postal clerk or postmaster set the datestamp in a variety of ways, with date also shown as Day / Month / Year and the upper and lower sections typically holding an asterisk above with a control letter or blank space below. As an exception to the rule, Simon shows an example from Grahamstown dated 'OC 18 96' that has a blank space top and bottom.

Jurgens says of these permutations in format that they "do not constitute true varieties of the Date Stamp; they are rather of the nature of errors due to incorrect setting of the type by the Postmaster". Nevertheless, Putzel saw fit to list Jurgens' untrue varieties. They are collected today because he listed them. No-one quibbles about the collectability of these 'varieties' today because of what Jurgens said. Are we now going to quibble about the rotation of the asterisk? Does this small and humble asterisk not represent another wonderful permutation that is to be found among varieties of the Hooded Circle datestamp? Should we not rejoice in its discovery?

If you collect Cape postmarks and have some Hooded Circular datestamps I need your help in confirming Simon's discoveries, please. If he is correct, the entire area of Cape Hooded Circular Datestamps needs to be re-categorised.

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Note: The second slide down has a confusing reference to "2. 3.5 mm letters" which I do not understand. It may be a typo from a Cut-&-Paste job. Simon has previously claimed  2.5 mm and 3 mm text sizes. This suggests a third text size of 3.5 mm. Does the overall difference of 1 mm suggest ink spread? The text looks taller in all but the third from left stamp 'NO 23 9x' marked with control letter 'H' below. (I have not attempted to measure any of these yet!)

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