The First Dater of the Republic?
Some months ago, there was one lot in Michael Rogers Auction listed as ' 1 c. to 5 c. coil dragon stamps closely packed on 5" x 10" Chinese tissue paper, over 3½" thick. Since I am an avid collector of imperial post-marks, it was like a godsend. By my rough estimate, there should be 5,000 to 10,000 stamps. I thereby put in a bid, many times above estimate, that I knew could not have failed. Yet, I got it only at my maximum bid, so there must be other rabid post-mark collectors like myself out there. On examining the collection, each page has 45 single stamps neatly glued onto it, with a total of over 11,000. About half of them were tightly glued to the page by Chinese clag and could only be removed manually with great difficulties after soaking, but this did not deter my enthusiasm at all. Now, over 3 months later, I am still sorting them out. The sad part was, this bundle had already been sorted through and over 500 stamps were torn from the pages.
Despite the missing stamps, the bundle is still a treasure trough. The stamps were all dated from 1909 to 1912, the transitional period from the imperial to the republic era. The post-marks of this period have distinctive features of their own. Although each stamp was glued individually onto the page, many of them are actually in pairs, some even located on different pages. So, apart from the labour of soaking them out, I also have to be an expert in jigsaw puzzles, but it is well worth the effort.
The most interesting post-mark of the lot, on a pair of re-combined 5 c. stamps. It reads' Lüchowfu, yuan nien, first month, second day’, which means 2nd January 1912. The official first day of the republic was of course 1st January 1912. In the major cities, that day may well be a holiday and hence no dater exists. Whereas in the small towns, the daters were all in the lunar calendar. The 2nd January 1912 would have been "Hsin Hai, 11th month, 14th day", in the lunar calendar. The Chinese postal system at the time was controlled by foreigners loyal to the imperial court. The last emperor, Hsuan Tung, did not abdicate till the 12nd February 1912 and hence most yuan nien daters began in February.
Lüchowfu is a small city in Anhwei province, not that close to the revolutionary centres of Wuhan or Nanking. Could this possibly be the earliest dater of the republic? It is certainly not the result of an error in the insertion of the date on the dater, for I also have a ‘Lüchowfu, yuan nien, first month, 18th day’ post-mark on another stamp. Does anyone have a suggestion ?
Or better still, does anyone have a post-mark dated yuan nien, first month, first day? Although this three month exercise of sorting out these stamps had been a most satisfying experience, I still dream about those 500 missing stamps.