First Day of Treaty Rate Special Delivery Covers

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Henry Hammelman, the pioneer FDC servicer and dealer, was a student of new postal rates. His job at the Post Office Department in Washington, DC gave him the opportunity to become aware of such rates and their related services when they went into effect. His most interesting rate covers are his first day Special Delivery treaty rate covers. Before discussing them, we should take a quick look at their history.


The U. S. Special Delivery Service was started on October 1, 1885. This was the result of a proposal that a special (delivery) 10-cent stamp be provided, which when affixed to a first class letter in addition to the ordinary postage, should cause the receiving post office of the addressee to provide immediate delivery of the letter. Policies and procedures were put into operation and the new service became an instant success. Within a year the service had been extended to all domestic post offices and to all classes of mail, regardless of weight or distance. Beecher and Wawrukiewicz1 provide more information about the details of the implementation.

The Special Delivery postage requirement was modified on July 1, 1907 when it became permissible to use ten cents of ordinary stamps in lieu of the Special Delivery stamp. This required that the phase “Special Delivery” be prominently displayed on the mailable item.

Other countries followed suit. Canada created its own Special Delivery Service and Special Delivery stamp in 1898. However, the problem of securing expedition of mail that crossed country borders began to attract attention in the U.S. and Canada. Any incoming foreign mail with the U.S. Special Delivery stamp would receive Special Delivery service in the U.S. This service was not provided if the Special Delivery stamp was that of the sending country. The item would be treated as ordinary mail. To compensate for this inequality, some business firms and post offices in Canada began to carry inventories of the U.S. Special Delivery stamp as a convenience for persons wishing Special Delivery service in the United States. The same was true for a lesser degree in the U.S. for Canadian Special Delivery service. A formal agreement was made in 1915 between the U.S. and Canada that officially permitted post offices in both countries to stock each other’s Special Delivery stamps as a matter of courtesy for Special Delivery service in the other’s country.

A new reciprocity agreement between the U.S. and Canada finally simplified the Special Delivery process by allowing for the use of the sending country’s Special Delivery stamp or equivalent stamps on mail requiring Special Delivery service within the receiving country. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1923. Since Canada had increased its domestic Special Delivery fee to 20 cents in 1922, the Special Delivery fee for the reciprocity service was set at 20 cents  (Appendix I).

Canadian Covers

Henry prepared first day covers to recognize the updated service and rate for each direction of mail flow. He serviced U.S. covers postmarked on the first day of the new Special Delivery agreement addressed to Guelph, Ontario (Figure 1) and Vancouver, B.C. A Canadian cover postmarked on the first day at Hamilton, Ontario is addressed to Henry (Figure 2). It took some effort since these covers are all postmarked January 1, 1923; a holiday. Another Hammelman cover with 20 cents of U.S. Special Delivery stamps is addressed to Quebec, but with a postmark of December 28, 1922.


The Canadian cover addressed to Henry is the only known treaty rate cover that he ever serviced originating from another country.

The reciprocity agreement was extended to Newfoundland in early 1926 (Figure 3). A separate treaty was made with Newfoundland because it was governed independently of Canada at the time (Appendix II.).

Other Countries

The Special Delivery reciprocity was made effective between the U.S. and six more countries on October 1, 1926; Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden (Appendix III). Special Delivery covers were now required to have affixed to them an “Expres” Special Delivery label or the equivalent boldly marked in red ink (Figure 4). The 20-cent fee remained unchanged.


Treaty rate reciprocities were enacted by the United States with more than 40 countries by the end of 1935. Henry would service, on respective effectivity days, U.S. covers requiring Special Delivery service to many of those countries. He would use envelopes, stamped envelopes, and postal cards (Figure 5).


The primary source of Henry’s information was The Postal Bulletin (PB). It was published and distributed daily, except on Sundays and legal holidays, for the information and guidance of employees of the Post Office Department. Special Delivery Service announcements made by the Second Assistant Postmaster General, dated on one day, would usually appear in the PB the following day. However, not all effectivity date announcements were timely. The effective dates for England and Esthonia were the same as their PB publication dates. Eight other announcements read “effective at once”. It appears that Henry was not able to react to those announcements. When Henry published his Pioneer Stamp Company2 price list in 1936, he listed Special Delivery treaty rate covers addressed to 28 foreign countries (Appendix IV) Missing are seven of the eight “effective at once” countries; Germany, Irish Free State, Switzerland, Hungary, Portugal, Argentina, and Brazil. The eighth country, Panama, is discussed later. Also, for some unknown reason, Henry apparently did not receive covers from Belgium and Norway, two of the six countries whose effectivities were on October, 1, 1926.

Henry’s Covers

A survey of Hammelman Special Delivery treaty rate covers accounts for the 75 covers in Table 1 . The majority of these covers were found in two collections. One was that of the late Robert Markovits who had been chasing them for forty years. He had at one time 32 items that included 28 different covers and postal cards mailed to 20 countries. The second accumulation came to be when a collector acquired Hammelman treaty rate material that originated from two lots in a George Alevizos auction of March 26, 2001. There were 32 items comprising 30 different covers and postal cards mailed to 25 countries. Duplicate country items were eventually disposed of  by the owners from the two collections.

The 75 outbound U.S. items include 46 different addressed covers (36) and postal cards (10) mailed to 39 different addressees in the 28 countries. The frankings on the covers consist of the normal letter or postal card rate to a country plus either two 10-cent Special Delivery stamps, a 20-cent Special Delivery stamp, or ordinary postage to make up the Special Delivery fee. Covers or postal cards mailed to the same addressee have the same combinations of stamps. Not everything is addressed in Henry’s familiar handwriting. Several items have typed addresses in a style known to be Henry’s. He even printed two addresses (Figure 6). Most, but not all of the items, have a receiving post office postmark. All are easily identified as being Hammelman serviced since he wrote his name and return address on the back of each item (Figure 7). This was unusual for Henry since he normally used the names of close friends or cohorts at the Post Office Department as addressees for the thousands of covers he serviced from 1917 to 1935. He only used his own name when the cover was for his personal collection.


All of Henry’s covers are first day of effectivity rate covers except for those addressed to England and Panama. His England covers are postmarked a day late. He apparently was not able to react soon enough to the effectivity date.

Panama is a strange situation, It is one of the “immediately effective” countries that Henry should not have been able to prepare and mail in time. His cover is postmarked November 3, 1927, exactly one year later than the effectivity date. Was it a postmark error or a Hammelman ploy? Unfortunately there is no Panamanian receiving postmark on the cover to shed light on an explanation.

Some of the people specifically mentioned in Table 1 were stamp dealers. Henry may have obtained their mailing addresses from W. F. Colman, the prominent Washington, DC dealer for whom Henry worked part time. Another source of names could have been foreign advertisers from a philatelic periodical such as Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News. Some of the covers do not have street addresses, but it appears that most of them were successfully delivered. One exception is the cover mailed to Guelph, Ontario. It has an unclaimed/return to sender marker on its reverse side. The front of the cover (Figure 2) has a notation indicating that a postal worker even checked local hotels to find the unknown addressee.

Serviced Covers

How many covers were serviced by Henry for each country? A surviving copy of a letter, dated May 1, 1928, that Henry sent to the United States Consul in Paraguay provides some insight to the answer. It reads as follows:

Today is the first day of Special Delivery Service between Paraguay and the United States and I would like to get a couple envelopes addressed to Paraguay postmarked today. I thought I would address three such envelopes to you.

I would like to ask you that you keep one of these envelopes for yourself if you choose and kindly return the other two of these postmarked envelopes to me for my collection. Trusting you will return two or three envelopes to me and wishing to thank you in advance for this favor, I am truly yours, Henry Hammelman.

P.S. I will enclose in one of these three envelopes an International Reply Coupon which you can exchange at your post office for a postage stamp to be used on the envelope you may use when returning the above mentioned two Special Delivery envelopes.

How many of the covers were actually returned to Henry from Paraguay is not known, but Table 1 indicates that one of the covers is known today. Another pertinent surviving letter is addressed to Henry from the U.S. Consul in Guatemala. It states that three covers were being returned from that country. That’s probably true for many other countries as well. The survey quantities in Table 1 show that a maximum of three covers is known to exist today for any one specifically addressed cover or postal card. Based on the known quantities in Table 1, I assume that each named addressee prior to Poland, except for those in Canada and Newfoundland, received three covers and three postal cards. Those in Canada and Newfoundland may have just received one cover. Three covers appears to be the norm for Poland and later on. Any one country then could have received anywhere from three to twelve items from Henry. In total, for the outbound countries, I estimate that Henry sent fewer than 110 covers and postal cards to his listed countries.

The inbound cover from Canada is probably a one of-a-kind cover. Henry does not list it in his Pioneer Stamp Company price list. Very likely it was part of his personal FDC collection which he exhibited during the 1920s and 1930s.

When Henry serviced his covers for some countries, he also serviced an extra cover that he sent directly to his home address. I am aware of four such covers, all with his address handwritten in pencil; Austria, Australia, Esthonia, and Paraguay. They have the same combination of stamps as the corresponding treaty rate covers. They are interesting, but not significant, since they never left the U.S.

What about other Special Delivery treaty rate covers? I am only aware of two such covers, though I must admit I have not seriously looked for them until recently. Both covers originated from Philadelphia (Appendix V). The first has the corner card of William Wilson, is postmarked February 1, 1926 and is addressed to Rev. F. A. Butler, a dealer, in St. George’s, Newfoundland. Yes, the same address as on a Hammelman cover! The second has the backstamp of Philadelphia dealer George S. Hill. It is postmarked October 1, 1926 and is addressed to the postmaster in Malmo, Sweden. Hill may have serviced other treaty rate covers as well since he is known to have had an interest in rates and postmarks. I have not found a relationship between the two covers.

Much of the information in this article was taken from a comparable article published in the United States Specialist3. I would appreciate it if you can provide any more information on the Hammelman Special Delivery treaty rate covers.


  1. Anthony Wawrukiewicz and Henry Beecher, U.S. International Postal Rates, 1872-1996. Chapter 20, CAMA Publishing Company, 1996.
  2. Henry Hammelman, Quality Stamp Company Price List, 1936.
  3. Jerry A. Katz, “Henry Hammelman’s Special Delivery Treaty Rate Covers”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 82, No. 5. May, 2011, pp. 201-209.
  4. USPOD, The Postal Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 13050, Dec. 27, 1922.
  5. USPOD, The Postal Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 13987, Jan. 26, 1926.
  6. USPOD, The Postal Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 14159, Sep. 23, 1926.