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ERNEST OESCH, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS: PAPERS TO & FROM AUSTRALIA

Multiple covers from Australia have been seen on Ebay addressed to Mr. E.H. Oesch, Mindanao (also spelt Mindinao) Estate(s) Co., Padada, Santa Cruz, Davao, Mindanao, Philippine Islands, the first being a registered letter with a Caulfield South, Victoria with a blue registration label. The total postage of 6½d was made up by the 1½d dull scarlet and black swan plus the FIVE PENCE overprint on the violet 4½d KGV head, both being cancelled by a CAULFIELD SOUTH/ 18 NO 31/ VIC postmark. There was also a purple STA. CRUZ, DAVAO P.I./ DEC/ 14/ 1931/ REC'D reception mark (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1: Click to enlarge.

 

The reverse had a total of 7 postal markings: the identical Caulfield South originating postmark of the front, a same day transit mark of CAULFIELD/ 18 NO 31/ VIC, a transit 3 REGISTERED 3/ 5A19NO31/ MELBOURNE, a transit REGISTERED/ F/ 20 NO 31 A/ SYDNEY N.S.W plus a purple transit FOREIGN ( )/ DEC/ 8/ 1931/ MANILA POST OFFICE, the identical Santa Cruz reception mark seen on the front, and a boxed REGISTERED/ SANTA CRUZ/ DAVAO P.I./ DEC 14 1931 reception mark (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2: Click to enlarge.

 

The second cover was sent to the same person/address with a boxed SYDNEY/ N.S.W/ 3 PM/ 1 MR/ 1931/ POSTED/ INTERSTATE BOX roller cancel on an inadequate postage of a green 1d KGV head. A large red penned manuscript T 4d as well as a faint purple POSTAGE DUE/ COLLECT FEE and two purple reception postmarks STA. CRUZ, DAVAO P.I./ REC'D, one of which canceled the single brown-red 4 centavos and a pair of the 6 centavos Philippine postage dues (Figure 3).

 

Figure 3: Click to enlarge.

 

The reverse had the identical purple Santa Cruz reception mark of SEP/ 5/ 1931as well as the 2-line Postage Due/ Collect Fee (Figure 4).

 

Figure 4: Click to enlarge.

 

Whereas the first registered letter traveled from Caulfield South to Caulfield to Sydney to Manilla by ship, thence on to Santa Cruz in a total of 26 days, the second cover took just over 6 months to complete its journey. There was no evidence for the delay unless the infrequency of shipping was the cause.

Search at the philippinephilatelist.org website found 3 more covers of Australian interest. Oesch frequently used Philippines booklet panes on covers sent around the world. The first was postmarked December 1, 1930, had a booklet pane of the 2c Rizal green on the 4c carmine McKinley, was sent to the Sydney suburb of Willoughby, the front having a manuscript reception of December 22, 1930 (Figure 5).

 

Figure 5: Click to enlarge.

 

The next cover was interesting for several reasons: it was dated in the early 1930's (as were the other covers); it had 2 Philippines booklet panes (1c and 2c) on the 2c green pre-stamped cover (totaling the proper 38c triple foreign registered rate); there were 2 purple markings designating the cover as registered: and, the cover was addressed to Tooraweenah, N.S.W. a small rural "village" with a population of less than 200 at that time, situated in a triangle made up of the towns of Gilgandra, Gulargambone and Coonabarabran! (Figure 6).

 

Figure 6: Click to enlarge.

 

This cover's reverse was of interest for several reasons: the sender's address revealed that Ernest Oesch was the Superintendent of the Minadanao Estates Co. The originating Santa Cruz was dated April 23, 1932, the boxed Registered / Foreign Mail Section/ Manila Post Office was applied on May 6, 1932, and it arrived at the Registration branch of Newcastle, N.S.W. on June 6, 1932. There were 2 examples of the Travelling Post Office, T.P.O.1 NTH WEST/*/ UP- 7 JE 32/ 8/ N.S.W. The reason for the 13 days' transit time from Santa Cruz to Manilla was not apparent, but it took only 32 days to arrive in Newcastle N.S.W. (Figure 7).

 

Figure 7: Click to enlarge.

 

The next cover was addressed to the same person in Tooraweenah (Mr. A.L.V. Jenkins) and had similar markings, similar use of booklet panes, had fine markings of Tooraweenah 7 DE 31 on the front in red, and in black on the reverse, as well as a double circle transit purple postmark of POST OFFICE/ GILGANDRA NSW (not listed by Hopson & Tobin) on the same date. The cover was registered in Santa Cruz on November 3 and in Manila November 10, 1931 (Figures 8 & 9).

 

Figure 8: Click to enlarge.

 

 

Figure 9: Click to enlarge.

 

The Germanic origin name of Oesch is not uncommon in America, and Americans were plentiful in positions of authority in plantations in the Philippine Islands in this time period.. The Mindanao Estates Company, was a large plantation of coconut palms whose original proprietor was an American named Mr. Walstrom.

To date I have seen an additional 20 covers mostly from Oesch to individuals in the Philippines and USA, or received by Oesch from New Zealand, Samoa, Russia, and USA. I can definitely identify one recipient, Dr. W.I. Mitchell of California as a well known philatelist, and Oesch's frequent use of booklet panes suggest to me a philatelic use. However, Abraham Luspo Jr. in the Philippines Philatelist website, August 31, 2003 states: "Some collectors will therefore deem them to be philatelic. However, each cover is properly franked and was dispatched by Mr. Oesch as genuine correspondence. This now make the covers commercial in origin."

The University of Michigan has a website http://www.htl.umich.edudevoted to the Philippine Islands (P.I.), and there were some 40 hits concerning Oesch, the majority of which were short letters to the American Chamber of Commerce (A.C.C.) Journal of the Philippines, and were of little consequence. They confirmed that he was manager of the Mindanao Estates Company, but none used the term superintendent that he stamped on some of his mail.

In September 1921 he was listed as a new associate member of the A.C.C. and he held the position of Superintendent of the Central Luzon Agricultural School (CLAS), but he had spent a short time in Fiji where he taught the same agricultural principles taught at the Philippines school. When he resigned from the school in 1927, he became the manager of the Mindanao Estate coconut plantation for 13 years.

Oesch published a philatelic paper in A.C.C. Journal in 1931, in which described the history of the P.I. dating back to 1281, up to the ceding of the islands by Spain to the USA, at the culmination of the Spanish American War, when the P.I. became an U.S. Territory on December 10, 1898. He describes the stamps and overprints issued since 1854, the catalogues and their stamp prices, as well as a short description of P.I. aerophilately.

An obituary was found in the A.C.C. Journal (March 1941): "Ernest H. Oesch, manager of the Davao plantation of Mindanao Estates Inc., (was) stricken with a brain tumor, was brought to Manila and taken to hospital under surgical care, where he died. He was 52 years old, married, and with 3 children, a daughter and 2 sons. He had come to the Philippines as a teacher of agriculture in the education bureau, later going to Fiji under the invitation of the British to introduce there the system of education worked out at CLAS ..... Returning to Manila from Fiji he took up plantation management and among such professionals had no superior: the Mindanao Estates place is a model, largely his personal work in a period of 13 years. Funeral services were held at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John, where Mr. and Mrs. Oesch had been married after their meeting in Fiji. Mrs. Oesch comes from Australia, where it is assumed she and the children will now go to live." The earliest dated cover I have seen with Oesch's name is one from New Zealand on March 19, 1926 sent to a prior address, Isla de Sao Miguel, Tabaco, Albay, Philippine Islands and the latest was March 8, 1941 to USA.

Her Australian origins may partly explain the frequency of Ernest Oesch letters to and from Australia. Yet another of his covers produced by Mr. A.L.V. Jenkins of Tooraweenah N.S.W. dated 18 SE (19)29 (see Figures 6 and 8) is undoubtedly purely philatelic with the late use of the green ½d Tasmanian 'Lake Marion' pictorial plus the 1867 Van Diemens Land imperforate 1d carmine S.G. #29 (Figure 10).

 

Figure 10: Click to enlarge.

 

Acknowledgment:  The assistance of Salvacion M. Arlante, University Librarian, University of the Philippines-Diliman is gratefully recognized, for Oesch's biographical information was obtained with his research assistance. I am particularly indebted to Bob Yacano of the USA who shared with me covers that were his own, and were from Australia, the Philippines, USA and other world sites, as well as for the information concerning the Philippines Philatelist website.

This paper was published concurrently in the N.S.W. Philatelist, November 2006, pp. 1-7 and the Philippine Philatelic Journal 2006 Vol. 28 pp. 12-18.

Addendum:  Ernest Oesch covers continue to pop up, and this one is a little different in that the postcard appears to be non-philatelically inspired.  The Australian Post Card has the printed brown one-penny half -penny KGV head stamp sufficient for Australian and British Commonwealth use, but on account of the Philippines address a single brown and a pair of the blue 3d KGV  head stamps were applied, with a total of 9 pence.  They were postmarked  WARRNAMBOOL/ 28 MR 38 and Oesch's address is as before (Figure 11).

 

Figure 11: Click to enlarge.

 

The card's reverse was sent airmail and there was an indistinct Manilla postmark, an en route 'P.I./ APR/ 19/ 1938' postmark, and an arrival SANTA CRUZ, DAVAO P.I. of APR/ 20/ 1938.  The typed message was intriguing:  "Dear Mr. Oesch,  Please cancel advice contained in my air mail letter.  The person referred to is not available and I have just  receiv- (sic) word to this effect.  Sorry to inconvenience you, and i hope you will be able to sort things out a bit.  Best wishes, Sincerely, T.K. Shepherd (Figure 12).

 

Figure 12: Click to enlarge.

 

Addendum (Sep 2011):  Five years after this paper was originally written another cover sent to Oesch from Enmore, Sydney N.S.W. was seen.

 

 
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