More Than Japanese Postal Stationery

By Carol Mobley
 I consider myself a novice when it comes to postal history but when I recently acquired this post card,  I felt that to write about it was a good way to dip my feet in the water.  This postcard is considered art.  The front of the card has an original “gansai” water color image.  A kimono-clad woman is in the foreground; bamboo, the sun (or perhaps the moon) with several flying birds is found in the background.
 Japan issued government postcards exclusively until 1900 when they began to allow privately published cards.  This card is postmarked in 1898 making this an unusual find.  In this instance, a company purchased the government cards.   These were then hand-colored or painted by hired artists and sold.  In the lower left-hand corner is found the signature of the artist who is unknown to me.
 When I first picked up the post card, I noticed it was the early 1898 usage.  The card was sent from Kobe, Japan to an address in Chicago, Illinois.  Postal cancellations are found on the card from each stop along the journey: Kobe, Yokohama, San Francisco and Chicago.
 The sender was on a trip, was in Kyoto heading to Yokohama the next day.  He was writing from Kobe aboard the SS Manila, April 10, 1898.  The printed 1 sen postage (a sen is worth 100th of a yen) is accompanied by an additional 3 sen Imperial Japanese Post stamp.
 The paper-thin card was posted in Kobe, Japan on April 10, arrived in Yokohama, Japan on April 12.  From there it traveled by ship to San Francisco, California where it arrived on April 30, 1898.  From San Francisco, the card was transported by train Chicago, Illinois, where a May 4, 1898 receiving cancel was applied.  It is amazing to consider the card took 18 days to cross the ocean in 1898.  Today a ship takes nearly 17 days to travel from Japan to Seattle.
 While researching this card, I discovered some interesting facts about the SS Manila.   The ship, a steel-hulled schooner, was launched in 1883 and named the SS Carriedo.  In 1886, the ship was acquired by the Spanish it renamed SS Manila.  One month after this passenger was aboard, May 4, 1898, the ship was intentionally run aground in Bacoor Bay of the Philippine Islands.  This was the exact date the card arrived at its final destination in Chicago, Illinois.  The ship was subsequently commissioned by the United States and renamed the USS Manila.  It was used in three campaigns during the Philippine Insurrection.  The ship was decommissioned in July 1903, sold several times and eventually sank as a result of a collision on May 21, 1923.
 All this from one small postcard, printed on thin paper with a hand-painted watercolor, that managed to survive 125 years to tell a very interesting story.  You will be able to find your own treasures in May at the Denver Postcard & Paper Show held in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show.  The combined event will be held Friday and Saturday May 26-27 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Aurora, CO.  Free Admission, Free Parking, Food Vendor Onsite!  Always looking for dealers in small collectibles and paper ephemera.  Contact Carol for booth information or visit for more information.

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