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The Hooded Datestamps of Southern Africa 1888 - 1903

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Hooded Circular datestamps with a two letter index

While putting his display together, Simon emailed me with a query "about hoods with a two letter index". He has one record of an example from Port Elizabeth (see below) and was "very interested to hear of any other examples."

While Tony Johnson was delivering Simon's Zoom display last weekend , (13 05 23), Hugh Amoore, editor of the PFSA's Stamps SA (Keeping in Touch) Ezine, posted a note from Cape Town that referred us to Putzel Volume 8, Page 150. This referred to the use of two letter indices on three other types of Port Elizabeth postmarks ie, not hooded ones, No.s 17b, 18b and 19. The examples are all in the time period 1897 - 1898 when the Hooded Circular datestamp was being used in Port Elizabeth. This suggests to me some peculiar specialist use in the Port Elizabeth post office at the time. A local postal experiment, perhaps?* It is certainly not something that was common practice elsewhere in the Cape or the rest of SA. This is certainly the rarest of the Hooded Circular datestamp varieties.

  • See Yannis' comments at the end this display.

If you collect Cape postmarks and have examples of these, please send me copies for display here.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-49.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-50.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-51.jpg
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And now we move onto to Simonstown, the happiest harbour of my holiday memories.

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.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-53.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-54.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-55.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-56.jpg
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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.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-58.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-59.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-60.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-61.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-62.jpg

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.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-63.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-64.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-65.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-66.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-67.jpg

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.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-68.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-69.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-70.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-71.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-73.jpg


One criticism of Simon's display is that it is presented out of sequence. Simon  first introduced the REGISTERED GPO CAPE TOWN datestamp of 1896, then the original town Hooded Circular datestamps of 1882 which are some 14 years older. Why would he do that? He rightly concludes here with the large Hooded Circular postmarks of  the British Army's APO (Army Post Office) in 1902 in the last months of the SAW (South African War 1899 - 1902).

Simon shows four hand-drawn examples of REGISTERED ARMY POST OFFICE with JOHANNESBURG, KROONSTAD, PRETORIA and, most mysteriously, a reconstruction of VRYBURG. Peter Prime's 'British Army Postal Cancellations of the Anglo-Boer War' [sic] adds BLOEMFONTEIN among its three examples. Putzel ('The Postmarks of South Africa' Vol. 6, Military POs, page 220) shows a JOHANNESBURG example with what appears to use considerably smaller text than anything Simon shows. (Yes, text size, again!) The question is just where and how does Simon come by Vryburg? Sadly, he was not there to explain this discovery to us.

If you collect Military mail of the SAW and have REGISTERED ARMY POST OFFICE Hooded Circular datestamps I need your help in confirming Simon's VRYBURG, please. It was one of two queries that went unanswered by SACS.

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-74.jpg
  • Hooded-Postmarks-of-southern-Africa-75.jpg
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Well, here we are at the end of Simon's display. I hope you have enjoyed this. I approached it thinking I knew it all, that the Hooded Circular datestamp was a simple subject about which all is already known. More fool me!

I look forward to hearing your views on this and receiving some of your scans. It would be really useful to ultimately achieve some finality on whether or not three different text sizes were used in the standard smaller Hooded Circular datestamp as issued in 1888. I assume that this was never an issue until now. Maybe I am wrong once more.* It would be good to know one way or another. I imagine that there are many collectors with 'finished' Cape displays who are hoping that it will prove to be untrue. From my side, I hope we can prove it.

  • Yes, I was wrong!. Yannis reports below that Franco Frescura  has recorded tall and short letters in the hood.
Uploaded files:
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Thanks Steve. A most interesting subject and I like the way Simon approached the topic and gave it a bit of life, with the town postcards and maps. To add to the discussion, I am adding the item of record for Port Elizabeth which I purchased last year. I am very far from my books and the collection itsef, although I have pdfs from my own write-up.

  1. Regarding the Dated Town Oval (treated as a hooded type), I am not too sure if it belongs. From a design point of view it does, as the advantage of the hood was to provide more space for writing the town name. From a datestamp typology point of view it does not. 
  2. Regarding the time codes HF etc. These do exist and I have a couple, need to recheck and post the images. These indicated the time in 15 minutes interval, so the first letter was the time and the second letter the 15 minute interval. I am writing this from memory, but if you look in Goldblatt there is a write-up somewhere towards the end where he discusses time codes. This was also introduced in the UK and part of the reason was to obfuscate the time from the general public, I guess to minimize getting complaints from the public. 
  3. For the 2.5mm to 3.0mm It is difficult to measure it especially on postmarks. Typographically one would choose a font size. So moving say from a 10pt to an 11pt, it would also change the width. My suggestion one needs to choose a letter and measure both its width and height and then compare.  Frescura does mention for Grahamstown tall and short letters.
  4. The Cape Town registered is the oddball here. Not too sure if one should start with it. It was the last to be issued! But I can see an advantage if one uses it as a preamble to the design. 

I will make more comments as the discussion progresses.

Uploaded files:
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Yannis, thanks for an excellent response on several levels.

Your wonderful cover is a great complement to this display. Thanks for sharing it!

1]. Regarding the Dated Town Oval
My first instinct was to dismiss it and not include it here but then I thought that at the very least it was a conversation piece. It would be good to prove the doubters wrong but in this instance I would not bet against you.

2]. Regarding the time codes HF etc.
This is good information. It is a pity that Simon is so desperately sick. He has been asking for this advice for some time. I will email him your answer in the hope that it will perk him up. He will be pleased to know that in making his display available to the on-line philatelic / postal history community he has entertained you while receiving answers to his two questions of almost a year ago now. Thanks.

3]. For the 2.5mm to 3.0mm
Interesting food for thought about point sizes vs mm. I imagine one of those new-fangled electronic microscopic measuring gizmos like Bas Payne uses is the best way to make a study of postmarks like this.

I am also pleased to have you advise me about Franco's mention of tall and short letters. This suggests that there is some substance to Simon's identification of text size. This is a minefield. How will we easily determine such a minute difference in text size as to know if it is type X or type Y? It may be best to ignore all but the most obvious differences in text size. 

4]. The Cape Town registered oddball.
I agree. My guess is Simon acquired  them first and later added the 1888 issues later. Sadly, I can't ask him.

Thanks for responding so quickly.

Excellent work Steve. Simon will be pleased with what you have done with his display. It is always a surprise when new information comes from unexpected sources. You are right, most people, me included, thought the Hooded date stamp was done and dusted. Perhaps because there are only a few of them, we think we must know it all. Now, courtesy of your Past President of the CPS, we learn that there is still a lot left to find out. If they are any help, use my hooded cancellers that you scanned for me in your research. I will give you more next time we meet. Keep up the good work and come to Meriden on the 8th. Your passion will be missed if you stay away.

Editor's Note: I have attached a few of the scans Bob refers to. I will add more as I find them.

Note that in the top cover the EAST LONDON Hooded Circular Datestamp is drawn in the style of Goldblatt's HCDS 1 which is not how Jurgens describes it as being issued in 1888 with the Time Code letter top and the asterisk bottom (Goldblatt's HCDS 2). The second GRAHAMS TOWN cover  is exactly like Goldblatt's drawing, HCDS 3, except for the date. 'MY 15 95'. However, Goldblatt's text has been drawn slightly bigger. Methinks, in the matter of determing text sizes in Hooded Cancellers we will require the persistence of Sisyphus - and meet with the same result!

Uploaded files:
  • Hooded-CD-1-Simon.jpg
  • Hooded-CD-2-Simon.jpg
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