This cover is a problem, both in regards to my original misspelling of the town’s name as Ralauna in the address when it should have been Malauna, and the difficulty with the postmarks’ dates. The interest of the marking on the front and the excitement of the postmarks on the reverse, make up for the deficiencies. The cover has an uncertain routing, and readers are asked for their interpretation, as I present the postmarks with minimal comment on the routing. The auction house made no attempt to chart the routing: 1902 commercial cover to “RALUANA/NEW BRITAIN” but with ‘MISSENT TO NEW YORK’ h/s in purple, “So Pacific Ocean” added in red, array of transit backstamps, toning.
The front has the blue 2½d ‘POSTAGE’ Victorian stamp postmarked with a poor partial BRUNSWICK, VICTORIA barred numeral ‘22' duplex, with date illegible, and with a second poor Brunswick in the corner. The letter is addressed to the Rev. H. (?A.) Fellman, Raluana, New Britain and the So(uth) Pacific Ocean was later added in red ink, presumably in New York. The reason for this is evident in the purple stamping “MISSENT TO NEW YORK” (Figure 1).
There are 10 postmarks on the reverse showing the cover was sent in the first half of 1902, but the routing is uncertain by the dates shown. The postmarks are described and numbered starting with the Brisbane postmark, and proceeding clockwise in an ever-diminishing size spiral:
1. BRISBANE/ 6 15 A/ MY 6/ –/ QUEENSLAND;
2 .SANFRANCISCO, CAL./ MAR 31/ 1902/ F.D. (Foreign Department);
3. 4. 5. There are 3 New York postmarks almost superimposed, 2 of which are dated MAR 22,1902, and the third appears to be MAR 25/ 1902. At least two of the three are postmarked NEW YORK, NY - FOR. B’CH (Foreign Branch);
6. Double circle BATAVIA/ 7/ 2/ 1902;
7. Squared circle WELTEVREDEN/ 8/ 2/ 1902;
8. Squared circle WELTEVREDEN/ 7/ 2/ 1902;
9. Incomplete squared circle BATAVIA/ 8/ -/----;
10. Double circle SINGAPORE/ JU 2/ 1902.
Unfortunately, there is no postmark for arrival in Malauna, New Britain, and no Dead Letter Office marking in Australia, if the letter was not delivered (Figure 2).
The Netherlands East Indies postmarks were in the dated order of dd/mm/yyyy, and the town of Weltevreden in 1902 has been incorporated into the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, for their co-ordinates are close to identical. Can anyone come up with a routing?
I have to admit that I still don’t know how to proceed for the routing from New York is confusing. A routing of New York to South Africa was first proposed as there is a Veltevreden in South Africa, but a subsequent find of the town in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) by that name is more likely on several counts, the most important of which was the finding of the same “squared circle” postmark at an auction site, and confirmation that the order for dating used was dd/mm/yyyy. There are two clear markings for this town, 7/2/1902 and 8/2/1902 and the double circle Batavia postmark in the Dutch East Indies is dated 7/2/1902 or much less likely 7/29/1902.
This paper was published in the N.S.W. Philatelist November, 2005 pp. 8-10, under an incorrect Ralauna instead of Malauna (my mistake!).