© Dr. Artur Knoth
Brazilian Philately: The Pan Am Zeppelin Flight of 1930
Dealers : The von Meister Covers
We've already dealt with von Meister/1/ before, as an official agent of LSZ in the United States of America who placed the representative numbers on covers sent to him for further conveyance to the various destinations to be franked accordingly using the advertised rates. As Fig. 1 demonstrates, there were many official US Post Office circulars that attested to this fact. But he also produced a copious amount of covers for collectors, much as many other dealers also did, even having envelopes preprinted with his address in a unitary format common with other German dealers prepared for this flight.
Figure 1: USPO circular naming von Meister as agent.
On some von Meister covers of this flight, one finds several different rubber stamps used to for the return address. A complete version is shown in Fig. 2, a shorter version in Fig. 3, where the actual address was handwritten.
The discussion will consist of four parts:
The regular covers, usually on preprinted stationary
The Havana covers
The Special Edition covers
And the Oops covers, when things went wrong.
II. The Regular Covers
Since von Meister's base of operations was New York City, one naturally expects that the stamps used on his covers will be the USA overprinted versions. Thus. it seems normal to start there
For these covers, a preprinted postcard in the same style as that of Sieger and many others was used. (Note: Frau Elsbeth Sieger has the impression that they, the dealers, all used the same printer, but the records as to who it could have been are all lost) Another preconception, when considering covers made for/by dealers, is that when you've seen one, you've seen them all. Exactly this prejudice is completely demolished in this case. There are, taken seriously, no less than 4 different varieties of the 59D. A quite common, seen often version is displayed in Fig. 4, where the stamps are canceled with the Rio rdj7aa/2/ device.
Figure 4: Rdj7aa canceled cover
But now the plot thickens, then another version (Fig. 5a), also relatively common, is almost identical to the previous figure, but is canceled with a Rio rdj3 device, the one that has the inside circular die rotating constantly. But to confuse things completely, a further variation, with the Zeppelin stamp (5$000-USA) left of the Brazilian stamp (200 Reis) also occurs (Fig. 5b).
A still further variety, with an American cancel applied in Lakehurst you can find under the Oops chapter. In any case, this demonstrates that the sheer amount of covers caused the work to be divided among many people, who had a different idea of how to place the stamps on a cover and each given a different canceling device.
The situation for the 10$000-USA issue is much simpler than the 59D, in that there seems to be only one variety (Fig. 6a). The cover has a Rio rdj7aa cancel like the first variety in the 59D case. For completeness we show a further cover out of this group that seems to have the Condor green-yellow sticker missing (Fig. 6b). A closer examination indicates that the sticker was originally present. The gum of the sticker seems to be such that on this kind of stationary, it drys out and becomes brittle, allowing the label to fall off, thus, caution when handling these.
Additionally, once in while you will find an envelope which still contains the craft paper brown filler, used to aid a cleaner cancellation and application of the cachets (Fig. 6c).
At first blush, the situation for the 20$000-USA would seem to be identical to the previous case, but a “quasi-oops"; seems to exist here to liven things up. The great majority of these covers seem to the version we see in Fig. 7a. The cover is canceled with the rdj7aa device. A smaller group, estimated at about 10% (using my own collection and collected auction lot photos), is canceled with the rdj4 device instead (Fig. 7b).
Considering that a fellow dealer, Nathan Mueller, also using the same type of preprinted envelopes addressed to Michigan, were also canceled with the same rdj4 device (as well as Heck for European covers, one oops cover will show later why this could be relevant). This could be a case in which someone, with the other cancel device, was helping his friend out. Or, some von Meister envelopes got somehow mixed into the Mueller/Heck stacks. With the deadline pressure and the sheer amount of covers prepared, accidents could've have and probably happen.
Although there were preprinted von Meister postal cards as they appear for the 59D covers, it would seem that they had been used up. One finds in the case of these 59G covers, that someone had to go out and buy a load of blank postcards at a nearby stationary shop, the “Papelaria Botelho"(Fig. 8). These were then addressed (both with typed and handwritten versions- Figs. 9 and 10a to c).
Figure 8: Stationary shop indicator on left hand edge of the cards
As Fig. 10c demonstrates, even here, with the shear mass of covers produced and processed, once-in-a-while, a typical postal marking will be absent without casting doubt on its authenticity.
Even though the handwriting in types I and II seem to be the same person (but I'm no expert in this field, and someone with a better knowledge of the subject is welcome to contribute their input), the person did seem to have a quirk when it came to the “M"; of “Mr.” at the beginning of the address. Fig. 11a + b displays an enlarged version that clearly demonstrates the difference.
In any case, a lot of people were very busy typing/writing covers for the unanticipated new value of 5$000/20$000 and most probably created a logistical strain for whoever was responsible on the Brazilian end of the chain, most probably either the Stoltz or Wille group, whose offices accepted the correspondence for this flight. My guess would be the former, who also was connected with Sieger on other flights.
An added note, I have found on the backs of some of the handwritten cards (both types), in addition to the usual postal markings, impressions of the von Meister address rubber stamp as shown in Fig. 2
The 59H case for the normal covers is straight forward. There were the usual preprinted envelopes still available. As Fig. 12 demonstrates, at least for these covers, going directly to New York, there were no problems.
Figure 12: Normal 59H cover
III. The Havana Covers
A stop at Havana had been in the cards since the beginning of the planning of the flight and also duly noted in all the published announcements. It is thus somewhat difficult to grasp why there wasn't a rubber stamp routing device for that destination. Again, as in the 59G case, handwritten routing notices were applied, by a variety of people. Up to now, I have been able to identify that there were at least three distinct persons involved, more are possible, since these covers are not as common as the normal covers that went directly to the USA. To ease the discussion that follows, I have defined the handwritings according to the table below.
Table 1: Designation of the three known handwriting characteristics
With this basis, we can take a look at the three types of covers I have seen and in my collection, but there could further types. Fortunately, there seems to have been yet enough preprinted envelopes for the Havana covers.
59B - Havana
This 59B is, perhaps, the most intriguing cover of the Havana lot (Fig. 13). As we will soon see, on this leg 59H covers were also prepared, so why a 10$000 red (leftover?) where already a lot of 10$000/20$000 covers were being prepared. Also note that it is not a 59E, i. e. USA overprinted.
Just as will be the case for the other cover types, all have the correct postal markings, the Recife as well as the rhombus cachet, a Havana arrival cancel, in this case on the back. And an additional return address stamp as we've seen in Figure 2 has been applied; this feature doesn't occur on the rest. The handwritten routing notation is type P-I.
The 59H covers for Havana come in severals variations. Fig. 14 (two Rio strikes) and 15 (single Rio strike) show the main versions. Of the four covers in my collection, three have the Havana arrival cancel applied to the front of the cover (Fig. 14) and only one has the same applied to the back of the cover (Fig. 15).
And to complicate things even further, a single Rio strike cover comes with Havana on the front too. Obviously, there at least two different persons involved in the initial cover preparation and Condor cancellation process. When it comes to the routing markings on the upper left-hand corner, the plot thickens even more. Referring to Table 1, one sees that Fig. 14 has a PIII, and Fig. 15 a PI, yet one of the covers in my collection carries a PII and the fourth again a PIII (anything goes!).
Even having only two copies of these in my collection, (Fig. 16 and 17), one can surmise a few things. As the figures show, again more than one person was at work on this version of the Havana covers. One cover has a P-II routing and the other a P-III.
Another characteristic seems to be that all postal markings are on the front with nothing having been applied to the backside of the envelope.
IV. The Special Edition Covers
There seems to be a very special set of covers, all addressed to von Meister or Banquera etc., all with a return address von Meister. Yet all are typed and on typical US #10 envelopes. One hypothesis being that these were prepared for a special customer who didn't want his name to appear on the covers. Figures 18 and 19 display typical examples of covers for this “special edition”.
As one can see, the covers vary from very simple to covered with markings. The lowest vM# seen up to now has been 09384, the highest being 09406, implying that there are at least 23 covers. With Brazilian franking, I know of 59B(10$000), 59C(20$000) and 59H(10$000/20$000). There are covers with German and US frankings among these too. Further details, whether von Meister prepared these for himself or others are unknown at present.
V. The “Oops” Covers
These covers demonstrate when you produce a mountain of covers, that things can and will go wrong. Two classes of oops covers have been found so far, “somebody forgot to cancel these”, and “how did this get into this pile”?
a. “somebody forgot to cancel these”
Referring back to the section regular covers, the 59D covers, we encountered three basic types. The 59D cover was the cheapest cover (corresponding to 65¢) and thus, probably the most numerous in number. When applying the stamps, the covers could have easily stuck together, with some not getting canceled in Rio. This seems to have actually occurred.
The 3 covers in Figures 20 to 22 demonstrate that some covers actually ended up being canceled in New York by the USPO/3/. The amazing part being that all had the Recife cachet applied without anyone noticing that they had never been canceled in Rio. From the positioning of the stamps and the manner of the Recife application, the covers would seem to stem out of the rdj7aa batch as shown in Fig. 4.
The canceling devices used seem to be of two types: a Paquebot H type and a mute type as displayed in figure 23 and 24.
The card in Fig. 20 seems to have struck only with the the device of Fig. 23, the other two cards, on the other hand, seems to have been canceled with multiple strikes of both devices. Up to now, this type of extraordinary cancellation has only been noticed in the 59D von Meister cards. The cancel in Fig. 23 is very similar to versions used in other cases, e. g. the Hindenburg Disaster covers.
b. “how did this get into this pile”?
Under the section regular covers, one saw the use of the “USA” overprinted stamps, as would the case for dealer covers addressed to the United States. Thus, the cover of Fig. 25 is an interesting exception that seems to be all wrong.
The cover consists of a von Meister preprinted envelope, but with a non-overprinted 20$000 stamp. And, although the address was for the United States, the envelope arrived in Germany and back-stamped accordingly in Friedrichshafen/4/, just like any other cover send to a destination in Europe.
What happened? The most logical explanation might be the following: somehow a von Meister envelope(s) got mixed in with preprinted envelopes of, say, the dealer Heck. The degree of alphabetization among the local people servicing the covers was perhaps very low. One preprinted envelope looked just like the others. The the covers was processed as a batch, and a US cover gets mixed and wins a free trip to Germany. Up to now I've only seen this example, but more could be out there.
This last section especially, shows that even something as dull as strictly philatelic covers created by dealers, can create varieties that can of keen postal history interest and relevance.
/1/ Expanded and unedited original manuscript for the Linn's contribution. Artur Knoth: Early Zeppelin Covers Bear von Meister Numbers; Linn's Stamp News 75(#3846), 28 (July 15, 2002)
/2/ Artur Knoth: The Rio de Janeiro Condor Cancellations on the 1st South America Flight in 1930 by the Graf Zeppelin; Zeppelin 5(#17), 6 (1991)
/3/ Artur Knoth: New York Paquebot Cancellation of the 1st South America Flight 1930; Jack Knight Air Log – The Zeppelin Collector 48(#2), 31 (April-June 1991)
/4/ Artur Knoth: Friedrichshafen Arrival Cancellations on the Pan American Flight 1930; German Postal Specialist XLII(#6), 742 (June 1991)