It is fairly common amongst collectors for an individual to have a side collection. In many cases, stamp and cover collectors decide that it would be nice to accumulate a collection of stamps and mail from their hometown. Here at Northwich Philatelic Society, we are no different, and several of our members have material that relates to the town in which we live.
Recently, one of our members was able to purchase the cover shown here and it provides a fascinating example of why collections like this, particularly local postal history, are so important.
The cover was sent from Winnington, Northwich to Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil in 1916 and was sent as a Registered letter for the princely sum of 4½d, for a distance of six and a half thousand miles, as the crow flies. That seems like value for money compared to today’s postal system!
The cover was addressed to Luchsinger & Co, who appear to have been based in Zurich but with an operation in Brazil. Whilst a basic internet search doesn’t disclose what they did as a business, several covers addressed to them are available for sale on different online auction sites. There may be a clue to the sender in the printed name at the top left of the cover but it is mostly hidden by the Registration etiquette. What is visible is “B ….. Limited” and underneath that a much larger letter “F”, so given the date and that it was sent from Winnington it may well have emanated from Brunner Mond who was one of the biggest employers in the area at that time.**
The three stamps affixed were from the King George V Royal Cypher set and feature the ½d (SG351), the 1d (SG360), and the 3d (SG374), all of which have been canceled with an indistinct Winnington Northwich cancel. Whilst the cancel is all but unreadable on the front, luckily it was also canceled on the back, as it was a registered letter and carried a Registered etiquette at the top left-hand corner saying “Northwich No 23”.
So, the cover was posted, Registered Letter, at the Winnington Post office which was, at that time, at 23 Winnington Lane in Winnington. The post office is sadly no longer there as it was closed in 2003, but this gives an insight into why this sort of cover is so interesting – it unearths local history. When it closed, the operations were merged with the Castle post office which is a fifteen-minute walk away (assuming you are still young and mobile).
The cover in 1916 went from Winnington to the main Northwich sorting office and received a second cancel that day
The letter would have been placed in a bag and onto a train to London where, when it was received it gained another cancel, this time a hooded circle Registered cancel, London E.C. 8 FEB 16 F.S.
The cover was presumably then taken to the docks, put on a boat, and dispatched to Brazil where on arrival it received the adjacent cancel, ‘Registrados Rio Grande-Manhāi’. Whilst the cancel is indistinct it does have a fairly clear number 8 above the 1916 which suggests that it arrived the same day it was dispatched. Given that modern aircraft take 11 hours to do the journey, if that is the case then it’s a remarkable feat! It’s more likely to have taken several weeks but with no more obvious markings, it would be hard to say with any certainty.
On top of all this information, the cover, purchased by our member, was located and purchased from Argentina. So, over 100 years later the cover is back where it started and as I write this, other club members are researching to see what additional information we can add to this story. All of which goes to show that philately is fascinating and an endless source of knowledge.
Following further investigation over the past two weeks, which included showing the cover to members at our first meeting of the season, a couple of other interesting aspects have become apparent.
The first is the stamps themselves, which in the images above seem like a fairly standard trio, but under examination by one of our members it turns out that they are all perfinned “BM&Co”.
Of course, in close up it becomes obvious but on first examination it was anything but. This means that the stamps definitely originated with Brunner Mond, which leads us to the second interesting aspect, namely that the Registration label in the top left hand corner is clearly hiding some printing and, under closer examination we can now say what that is.
Under a strong light (thank you Gary Leow) we can now see that the printed name says BRUNNER MOND & CO LIMITED, NORTHWICH, and below that the letter ‘F’ which stands alone. Whilst we still don’t know what the letter ‘F’ signifies (a division or department perhaps?) we have at least resolved what it says.
Finally, thanks to some online help on Twitter (thanks Peter @ Stampden) we now know that Luchsinger & Co were a general merchants and, according to a Brazilian Commercial Directory from 1891, involved in banking, commission merchants, wholesale groceries and importing.
All in all, a fascinating cover and if you think you can add any more about this then please feel free to get in touch.