Native Postal Markings

Early SealsIron-MineLeh SealRing & OctagonBars
Circular DatestampsPostage DueRegistration

The Early Seals

Pen-cancellation aside, the only native postal markings for the watercolor decade are in the form of undated seal obliterations. The first usage was at Srinagar (in shades of red, often called ‘brick-red’ in the literature) and at Jammu (in shades of purple, usually called ‘magenta,’ which it often is.) Date stamps did not appear until the summer of 1878, just after the inauguration of the New Rectangular issues that spring.

Native Seal Srinagar. Its first appearance is as a backstamp in ‘red’ on the first known cover, 23 March 1866. It was in use as Srinagar’s chief obliterator for more than a decade in a variety of similar red pigments, and then in black from November 1877 to summer 1879, which is to say, more than a year into the New Rectangular’s era.

This is another shot of the important Srinagar seal. It is shown here with a scan from plate 2 of Séfi & Mortimer, which purports to show the same seal in a pre-stamps franking use in black. Though the inscriptions are the same, namely munshīāk Srīnagar ~ Official Post Srinagar, the implements are different.

Jammu sorting seal in brownish-red (left) and the regular Jammu obliterator in magenta (right). The sorting seal was seen on cover 1 April 1866, and predates the first sightings of the other by some six weeks. The current record-holder for the magenta is seen in Lot #562 in the Harell Sale, namely 17 May, 1866. Given that Jammu was the center of the stamp production at this time, it is curious that no non-pen Jammu obliteration is attested before that time, all extant covers being from Srinagar in the brick-red.

And here, above and below, is the Jammu seal in the more typical smudges-of-practice. Sometimes just a token bit of mauve spatter is seen.

The magenta strike sometimes functioned as a transit or sorting marking. By the way, for those with bad eyes, its inscription reads Jammūnāk khāne ~ Jammu Post Office. Inspection of the final-n that is so prominent in the scan suggests that the impression is mirror-reversed, and that is indeed the case.

The Jammu Circular Seal in black. Strikes are seen in black from June 1868 (rumor takes the advent back to May). Given that red pigments had just been introduced in the stamps, we like to imagine that the change to black for the obliterator was to accomodate sensitive souls who do not much care for the idea of magenta on salmon. The black persisted until 1870 when the Iron Mine seal superseded it. The registration cover shown above, dated 6 māgh 1925 ~ 17 January 1869, is the earliest known use of a 4a red circular, and is a nice example of the color sharing that existed throughout the years between the rectangulars and the circulars, particularly in the 4-anna denomination. Collection Hellrigl.

The Srinagar Seal struck in black as obliterator is known from November 1877 to August 1879. The preceding detail dated 28 ćait 1934 ~ 8 April 1878 lies within that range provided ćait is taken to be the last month of the Hindu year, not the first month. We had before now been taking this specimen (whether it read ćait or jeţh) to be an anomalously and perplexingly early sighting of the Srinagar Seal in black.

The Iron-Mine Seal

Someone should rummage the Jammu iron-mining archives to see if a certain handstamp seal appears on any of the paperwork—and then try to bribe the curator (for the good of philately of course). The seal was fashioned in 1858, some six years before the advent of the Native stamps, but starting perhaps in the spring of 1870 (Masson reports 1869) the seal began active service for as long as a decade as the chief obliterating instrument in the Jammu post office:

The Jammu Iron-Mine seal. The impression of this implement often goes by the name of the “Jammu square” or the “black square” even though its corners were truncated to form a kind of octagon. Impressions, as above, generally show the corners as rounded. It replaced the Jammu circular seal that was being struck in black at this time (and indeed since that summer of ’68). The first word mohr ~ ‘seal’ is to be found in the lower-right corner of the design. Stacking upwards right to left we have mohr-e āhan-e kān-e jammūn 1915 ~ ‘Seal of the Iron Mine of Jammu 1858 AD’. The seal retired from service in August or September 1879 in the early New Rectangulars period. The impression seen above is in the form of one of the 1981 Staal-Sharma strikes in purple ink. The abnormally clear image on the stamp shows the obliteration of the rare ½a laid paper Jammu rectangular, collection Hellrigl.

Iron-Mine Seal as a postage stamp. September 1877 begins the season of the curious use or misuse of the Jammu obliterator, where it is found cancelling itself. The second image is a remarkable thing: the use of the Jammu square seal as a transit marking in April 1873. We can all choose different names for its color. Details from covers in the Hellrigl collection.

Before we have to leave the old iron-mine seal for good, here above are a couple of late, and unusually clear, strikes of this old workhorse in the early New Rectangulars period.

The Leh Seal

The Large Leh Seal in black used as a transit marking. This is the latest known use, a detail from a cover dated 17 December 1882 in the Jaiswal collection. We show it first to show the type: This fine strike eliminates all doubt (if any remained) that the Staal-Sharma restrike shown next to it was indeed of the Leh seal of the literature. The item on the right is a different cutting with a [corrected?] inscription that reads berang/dāk khāna/Ladākh sarkār Jammūn/1929 ~ Bearing/ Post Office/ Ladākh, Government Jammu /1872. There is much overt mention of Jammu authority, not Kashmir authority, in Ladakh. The Bard listing reports 1874 as the earliest postal sighting for the Leh seal in, well, non-black. Pale red? See next:

And again. By which we mean the pale sort of pinky-buff strike in the lower part of the scan, not the two smaller and prominent black seals, which are the late blacks of Srinagar. The dating of this detail, from a registered cover in the Jaiswal collection, is 12 māgh 1935 ~ 23 January 1879. The latest sighting of the Leh in this color is perhaps April 1879. Given that the New Rectangulars have been in use for about eight months elsewhere (and at Leh too) the use here of Old Rectangulars at this time is anomalous. Perhaps remote Ladakh in the height of its winter was resorting to old stock.

Small Leh Seal. We have been speaking of the large Leh seal as if there is a smaller. The implement is indeed referred to in the literature but so far we have not encountered a description of a cover bearing one. Its reported size (about 18 mm) and color (red) mean that it might be mistaken for the Srinagar seal—and conversely. Some mail from Leh did receive a transit marking at Srinagar, and some were posted there (Garratt-Adams in Staal p. 111).

Dak Jammu

This obliterator was struck in black watercolor and enjoyed a long, if sporadic, period of use from perhaps October 1876 into the New Rectangulars period. The latest dating we know is Lot 284 in the Sturton Sale dated 24 katik 1935 ~ 8 November 1878. The Persian on the seal is mohr-e dāk jammūn ~ ‘seal (of the) post (of) Jammu.’ It was forged in oilcolour for cancelling some of the circular missing-die forgeries in the very late period. It or the forgery is also known in other bits of uncertain and dodgy fare along the way, such as its use for cancelling otherwise virgin postcards. The scan here is one (of eight) of the Staal-Sharma restrikes done in purple ink in the summer of 1981.

Jammu Octagonal Seal. Scarce strikes (in watercolor according to reports) from this implement are known from April 1879 through late August. The item in the scan above is from a May 1879 cover processed at Jammu. The ½a dull scarlet is on medium wove paper. Clear impressions reveal that its top two lines read mohr Jamvu ~ ‘seal of Jammu’ in Dogri script, followed by mohr Jammūn in Persian at the bottom. (The illegible example shown here is upside down, not that it matters much). Little is known beyond the fact that it was used in some supplemental or provisional way. Perhaps it was a failed candidate for the job of replacing the Iron-Mine seal. The Jammu 12-bar appeared on the scene in July and was the successful replacement.

Circular Datestamps

The use of circular datestamps is one of the innovations that followed quickly upon the advent of the New Rectangular postage stamps in May 1878. Or, better put, another of the steps taken to mimic standard international postal practice.

On left: Jambu/Jamvu Circle in Dogri, first seen in early July 1878. Scan right, the spelling of Jammu changed, perhaps August 1886. The middle line on both is occupied by Dogri renderings of the Samvat dating, here baisākh and kātik.

Sialkot (Mail Agency) Duplex for the extraterritorial Jammu Post Office at Sialkot. The strike of this implement is seen perhaps on only some two or three dozen covers, but more are popping up all the time. At one time it was considered to be much scarcer than it is now known to be. It made its first forays in the autumn of 1878, perhaps October, and appeared sporadically for a full decade.

The marking often appears (as above) as a transit marking, and sometimes without the obliteration bars in evidence. That means that the implement was only half-inked because we understand from Frits Staal, who had actually handled the implement, that it was indeed inseparable. The date inserts on the cds portion are usually missing, partial, or incorrect. Séfi and Mortimer, who did not care to read Dogri, took this postal marking to be of Jammu on account of its postal behavior, and in this respect they were not exactly wrong. Masson (Plate X) took the implement to be of Srinagar Province because it belonged with other of the same format, all of which were associated with the distant north, namely Skardu, Ladakh (the implement being unknown in postal use), and Gilgit (implement known used only at Leh). The Sialkot Duplex had a partner in a native postage-due marking that appeared from spring 1879.

Kashmir Native Duplex. The image here is in the form of a 1981 Staal-Sharma restrike in purple ink, and thus shows its latest condition. It was not a separable implement, so if there were more than one type (cf. second image of the obliterator section) we should expect differences in the datestamp section of the duplex as well. The datestamp section sometimes includes day and month, but unfortunately never the year. The postal marking is reported at Srinagar from August 1879 to May 1887 (ref. Bard) when it was replaced in turn by the Srinagar 9-bar-9 obliterator. The Kashmir duplex is by far the most common of the Native Duplex types.

The Gilgit duplex may not have been actually used at Gilgit: The detail left is an example of such from a 18 March 1882 cover posted at Leh. Though rare, the duplex spans the years and is last recorded as late as summer 1890. The Staal-Sharma restrike is shown for comparison. The date reads maghar āt' ~ 8 maghar, no year as usual. The same cover was also struck with the scarce L-bar in square format.

The Large Srinagar Circle (“The Blob”) is known perhaps from May 1887. It is known in both receiving and despatch duties, the later use to the end of 1890. A typical example of the name ‘Srinagar’ in Dogri lettering is shown enlarged in the second scan. The example on the left shows a remarkably clear strike as these come.

And here is an example of the same in purple ink, possibly on official duty, as were other purples. The circle is about 28 mm in diameter, and thus rather larger than its Jammu counterparts. The venue remained unidentified in Séfi. Several authors have taken it and the 9-bar-9 obliterator (viewed sideways) for Jammu markings despite much postal evidence to the contrary.

Cover: Is the Srinagar Blob specifically a Sher Garhi marking? For read sher garī (~ tiger fort) after Srinagar in the Persian top left. Sher Garhi was the Srinagar fort and palace area in the southern part of the city on the opposite side of the river (west) from the British Quarter. In a largely Mohammedan city, Sher Garhi was the seat of Dogra power, and where a purely Dogri postal marking might be expected in use at its post office. Indeed, was Sher Garhi PO the No. 9 office, given the many instances in which the datestamp and the 9-bar-9 obliterator are used together? In any case, there are no Jammu markings to complicate the story on this Amritsar-Srinagar cover, which shows a clear use of the datestamp in question in use as an arrival stamp on 15 jeţh ~ 27 May 1889. The Amritsar origin of this railway cover is shown by the Persian on the lower right. Note added: We discovered to our chagrin and pleasure that the identification of The Blob with Srinagar was made long ago by A.S. Bard in India Post 9 85 (1975). He remarks that this postmark was used mainly as a despatch mark and was discontinued in December 1890. So far as I know, a specific association with Sher Garhi has not been advanced, maybe for good reason.

Bar Obliterators

Jammu 12-bar-1 obliterator. Which is to say, the Dogri unit ‘1’ in an array of 12 bars. This long-lasting implement is known from perhaps July of 1879 to early 1891 when the 3-ring cancellations come into use. It was used in purple and mauve inks for official purposes.

The 9-bar Series

First of all, the 9-bar-1 is conspicuously absent. We might imagine that the already-venerable 12-bar-1 obliterator effectively served in that place or that it inspired the subordinate 9-bar-n members of this numerical series. Dating details can be found in the Bard Papers on site.

The 9-bar-9 obliterator was used at Srinagar from spring 1887 to autumn 1891 (ref. Bard) and often in accompaniment with the large Sringar Circle. Though the latter predeceased its partner by almost a year, we think of the pair as a kind of unbonded duplex.

The 9-bar-5 Native obliterator. A provisional sighting, the first reported. The central numeral is to be compared with that in the accompanying Staal-Sharma of the implement in question. The date on the piece is 1945, which corresponds to Apr 1888 to Apr 1889. Though we have inspected the item under different lighting and magnification, and have made a digital mask, we have not fully eliminated the possibility that it is a devilishly misleading strike of the common 9-bar-9. If it is indeed the 9-bar-5, it is unfortunate that it was removed from the cover, which no doubt revealed its provenance and full date.

The 9-bar-8, whereabouts unknown, but Masson knew of one on cover, his notorious “fishhook” photo having been much reproduced. On the right is the 9-bar-6 in another Staal-Sharma, which see, next:

The 9-bar-6 seen on cover mailed from an unknown venue in Jammu (the province) on 12 maghar [1947] ~ 26 November 1890. The letter arrived at Jammu (the town) on 15 maghar according to the Jammu cds on the left-hand side. What looks to be a curious downward extension of the tail at the bottom of the Dogri numeral 6 is not part of the design, just a wayward splash of ink. Another sighting of the rare 9-bar-6 is attested autumn 1890.

The 9-bar-7. On right, used in purple as a transit marking on a postcard dated 4 January 1891. It is also known in the usual black, venue unknown, up to at least October 1891.

The 9-bar-2 and 9-bar-3 obliterators. The detail of the latter is taken from a 28 July 1891 Jammu registration cover. Venue unknown.

Above: The 9-bar-2 obliterator found on this puzzling piece (no reverse) may provide a clue to its venue. Inspection through a bright light shows that the notation “Sham...” in purple ink extended only a couple of millimeters more as a diffusing blob under the stamp. A veritable 3-ring circus attended the antic shuttling of this cover between Jammu and Srinagar. Whatever its origin, this piece does represent our latest reported sighting for the 9-bar-2. The previous known end-date was mid-June. The first sightings are from the previous summer (Bard).

An unidentified 9-bar, detail from fragment dated October 1891, Jammu to Kishtwar. Kishtwar is a seldom-seen destination on the runner-line east and north of the junction at Batout, itself east and north of Jammu. Image taken from the internet.

The 10-bar Series

The Jammu 10-bar obliterator is attested from perhaps September 1887, and will be known into late 1890 or early 1891.

A sighting of the Jammu 10-bar on piece, venue unknown. There are several types that we despair of distinguishing.

The detail on the left, taken from the internet, is from a Kotli to Jammu cover via Nowshera on 29 May 1893. Kotli is south of Poonch. Anthony Bard reports the Kotli 10-bar between May 1892 and February 1894, with the latest date showing sorting use. The type is characterized by the relatively thin lines. The example on the right is here unidentified.

Closed-Box Series

Closed-box obliterators first appear in 1884, which is to say, before the 9-bar series, and they are gone sometime in 1891. They were assigned to a variety of subordinate post offices, sometimes assumed to be mostly of Jammu Province, but the main extant varieties are known to have been processed at Baramulla, Bandpura, and Anant Nag, all in Kashmir Province. One or another is mentioned in a rare rose-mauve (ref?)

Baramulla Type. By the way, a sidelight on Hazro in Punjab. The paper of both the stamp and the piece to which it is attached is somewhat yellow-toned. Séfi & Mortimer (p. 144) report that covers exhibiting the British Hazro postmark do show a bright yellow staining. The authors say that it was caused by “long contact with the fumes of strong Punjab tobacco and snuff. Masson was in the habit of receiving many covers from a tobacco and snuff dealer living in the town of Hazro, who added the profits of stamp-dealing to those of his more orthodox business.” The item here is a cut piece; While Masson himself often marked covers extravagantly, he is not known to have mutilated a cover with scissors.

Another Baramulla. The wretched strike of the large Srinagar circle is shown with it to its left, along with the Jambu-type cds. The Srinagar circle’s usual obliterating partner during this time was the 9-bar-9 at Srinagar. We don’t understand the Baramulla-Srinagar connection, but some intrigue is definitely going on.

Native PO Postage Dues

Native postage due seals were applied, if only occasionally, at the Srinagar office and at the extraterritorial (“exchange”) office at Sialkot, India. None of the type is attested from Amritsar. They come in a number of cuttings, not all of which are known in postal use. (The other types are known to us by virtue of the Staal-Sharma restrikes done in 1983.) The inscription in Dogra script is masūl bākī, which we might as well render as ‘postage due’. Some transcribe vākī.

The masūl bākī of Srinagar. The type is known over the entire 1879-90 period. Detail KB371 Sturton Sale. The example on the right is a Staal-Sharma restrike.

Sialkot Postage Due Seal masūl bakī. This seal was partner to the Sialkot Duplex used the native-state extraterritorial mail agency between 1879 and late 1888. There are no Staal-Sharma restrikes of this version, the implement having gone missing from the museum collection.

Native PO Registration Cachets

The type of registration seal shown below, rendered in Dogri script, was seen sporadically throughout the 1879-90 period. There were at least a dozen types, but despite evidence of wear most are not known in postal use.

This example was struck at Jammu in April 1880. The top line reads something like rajisţarī. The second and third lines are asking for a number (lambar) and the weight (tolā). The last line wants something else, which we assume is a date (tarīkh?) Others of the kind want a seal (mohr) or signature in this position.

Examples in the form of Staal-Sharma restrikes.

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