#226 Mute Cancel's Long History Again Documented From a Recently Sorted
Correspondence from the 1930's - November 1998
In The Posthorn, November 1982, I described the three most common "cork" or "mute" cancels in an article titled "Mute Cancels: The Big Three" [pages 204-208]. The stories of each could go much further, but #226 [of Nikolaistad, or Vaasa] is very special because it was used so prolifically for a number of years. Further details of the canceler are unknown, but it was obviously made of metal - and I would think steel - because it shows very little change over time. [It's not known if any of the mute cancels were actually made of cork, although many were obviously made of a soft and flexible material- while some were definitely made of metal.]
The earliest cover with this #226 cancel that is listed in the classic reference, the 1961 E. A. Hellman book Die Figurenstempel Finnlands, is dated 3 July 1877. The "cork" cancel era began in early 1877, and developed rapidly. This cancel is known on a late usage of a serpentine issue [actually, a 20 penni pair that is shown as an illustration in E.A. Hellman's book]. However, it is very common on both the 1875 perf 11 stamps and the 1882 perf 12 V2 stamps, and it is truly abundant on the 1885 issues. To be more exact, we should exclude the 1885 issue 5 mark and 10 mark stamps which themselves are not abundant. On any quantity of 1885 stamps, it is THE most common "cork" cancel.
Relating this to Finnish stamp cancellation generally, I'll propose that about 10% of all stamps were cork canceled in the late 1870's and early 1880's. However, I'll guess that between the "cork" cancels E.A. Hellman and others in Finland removed in the 1930's and 1940's from bulk accumulations for E.A. Hellman to study, the number appears far lower there. In a conversation I had with Aaro Laitinen in the 1980's, he didn't think it was even close to 10%. However, from apparently old accumulations here in the U.S. that I have seen over the years that is, ones that have probably been outside Finland since the 1930's, I think my 10% estimate is a little low.
In the early 1890's with the introduction of the straight line town [postal stop] cancels and the numbered carrier cancels, "cork" or mute cancels were phased out. Hence, with far fewer places still using "cork" cancelers, the percentage of stamps canceled with them declined sharply, so the abundant 1895 perf 13 x 14 stamps are common with only a few different cork cancels that were still in use. Also, it is fairly hard to find the frequently used 1891 kopeck stamps with "cork" cancels at all. The prolific #226 also was almost phased out.
The big question is "why almost?" Why wasn't it just discontinued like the others? To date, we don't really know! We do know that very usage continued, with the result that several examples are known on 1901 lithographed stamps, on the 1902 typographed stamps, on the 1911 stamps, on the 1919 issues, on issues in the 1920's, and finally a few on the 1930's issues! Even a few - not many - are known canceling Swedish stamps, including the latest on their 1911 issues, including a 1915 Swedish cover to Finland.
With this background, the cover shown in Figure 1 is quite thought provoking!
Koivulahti [Kvevlaks] is about 10 miles outside Vaasa, and in addition to registry labels, would have had a dated canceler. The 110 page study of 1920's to 1950's era bridge style Finnish cancels, Suomen Tasavallan Siltaleimat by Eero J. Helkiö, c. 1983, on page 52 does illustrate two examples of Kvevlaks cancels from the mid-1930's era. The postage rate at the time was 4 marks, being 2 marks for the letter and 2 marks for registry. It would appear that somehow the cover was accidentally never canceled at the originating post office. Expecting that the #226 "cork" canceler was still at the Vaasa post office suggests that the "cork" may have become a "subsequently canceled" canceler, much as the 20th century Lahti "cork" cancelers were [See The Posthorn, "The Mute Cancels of Lahti" in three parts, issues of November l981, pages 145-151; May 1982, pages 102-108; and May 1983, pages 93-100]. This is consistent with the Figure 1 cover being backstamped at Vaasa, especially being backstamped twice at Vaasa, each time with a different Vaasa canceler [both happen to show the same date and hour], but not being date stamped on the front at Vaasa.
Kaj Hellman proposed the idea that he may have
seen postal directives from the 1950's referring to having different
cancelers to cancel incoming uncanceled stamps from foreign countries.
Were there any such suggestions or directives earlier? The reasoning of
having special cancels with text saying
Figure 2. Reverse of preprinted cover to
the Swedish Newspaper in Helsinki, shown in Figure 1. It has 3
backstamps: Vaasa 16.II.38.10 and 16.II.38.10, and Helsinki