Canadian Precancels – An Underappreciated Specialty

On April 28, 2019, outgoing Vice-President Bob Bouvier, despite technical issues, gave a presentation in-the-round. Bob has kindly provided a pdf of his presentation, so click HERE to view it.

Bob also took questions from the floor, and for those he couldn’t answer, he promised to research. Below are some questions and answers he’s prepared. Thanks Bob!

I just recently presented an introductory-level program to the club on Canadian precancels covering their history and types including perfins (see our web site for the presentation). My audience asked several good questions I wasn’t able to answer to my satisfaction. I consulted the Precancel Handbook, now over 30 years old, seeking some answers but I came away feeling/hoping much more has been learned since it was published. I sent an inquiry to a noted expert in Canada and received his responses. I am adding them to my own research results.

Did Newfoundland have any precancels? PEI?

There were no precanceled stamps made with Newfoundland issues; however, Canadian precanceled stamps were available and used in Newfoundland.

Just how and by whom were the stamps overprinted? Bars? Town and city, etc.

I see now that I’ve skim-read through the handbook again that the production process wasn’t universally standardized. The absence of many records complicates the research. The early Bar types were produced in specific towns but with a few exceptions it is speculation to say they were made for only one town. The only way to tell is to study covers which show the town of origin.

Early bar cancels – are they all from different post offices? Do we know which ones? Is there any way to discern a chronological order?

Chronology of the Bar types is largely unknown except that you can tell roughly when they were used by the listings in the catalogue which shows which stamps they were used on.

Did the PO approve the perfins? Who did them?

Perfins were approved by the Post office federally and the specific perforators were mainly made in the USA. This is speculation as only 3 perforators are known to have survived and I believe all were manufactured in the USA.

Matthew Brady Studio Cancel


by Randall Chet

The US Civil War was responsible not only for the Federal Govt’s first adhesive revenues, but for some of the more interesting cancels stamped or printed upon them. One of the items taxed to help pay for the Civil War, were novel and popular photocards, quaintly referred to as “sun pictures”. From August 1864 to August 1866, photo studios were required to pay tax on all photographs, verified by cancelled revenue stamps applied to the back of them (usually using Proprietary or Playing Cards first issue revenue stamps).

Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War. Brady also photographed 18 of the 19 American Presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley. His Abraham Lincoln photographs have been used for the $5 bill and the Lincoln penny. Brady’s studio was located in Washington DC. I have been on the lookout for a Brady script cancel ever since seeing Bruce Baryla’s excellent “The Civil War Sun Picture Tax” exhibit 

Brady’s studio used two known script cancels, both made with with the same metal type slugs used to imprint photograph mounts. One, the most common, was the name “Brady” set in a formal cursive font. The other, much more difficult to find, was “Washington” set in the same font.

I was fortunate to find my Brady cancellation while going through a dealer’s revenue stock at the Columbia show January 21. While not a perfect strike, the prescence of this cancel changes a run-of-the-mill $40 R28c into a $250 – $300 retail item. Keep your eye out for those interesting cancels and other philatelic phinds!

Are you interested in articles like these? Join our club and receive The Smoky Mountain Philatelist in your email box bi-monthly, six times a year. And if you would like to share your expertise with your fellow stamp collectors, we’re always looking for interesting submissions. Please email the editor here, and thanks!

Owney and the Railways Mail

by Larry Oliver

A Border Terrier, an orphan and abandoned, of uncertain age, wandered into a post office in Albany New York in 1888. It was cold and he soon settled into a comfortable position on some mail bags. He was scruffy and had obviously been on the streets for some time, and this may have been the first warm bed in a long time.

Most people love a dog, and this one immediately won the affection of the mail clerks in the office. He was mild-mannered and loved the affection—and the food—that the clerks gave him. His love of the mail bags as a bed was endearing, and led to some long-term and widespread adventures.

The Albany Post Office daily carried mail to the railway stations, the dog accompanied them on the trips. By this time, he had acquired the name of “Owney”. How that name was chosen is a subject of myth, with numerous speculations in the various literature that surrounds the dog. It is clear that the clerks in Albany named him, for they had a collar and name tag for him with that name on it.

And its a good thing Owney had that collar and name tag because his introduction to the Railway Mail Service set a pattern that made him a legend. Owney had “adopted” the railroads as his home away from Albany, and was soon hopping rides in the mail cars. The railway mail clerks took to Owney just as the Albany clerks had, and fed him, gave him water, and loved him and his companionship on their trips while sorting the mail.

Owney always slept on the mail bags, with the clerks gently moving him when they needed to open a bag. It was not long before his travels, first around New York, then far afield around the entire US, gathered attention and adoration. People—not just postal clerks—began adding trinkets to his collar to indicate where he had traveled. A sort of postal charm bracelet! His travels extended to almost every state in the US, and as his collar became too laden with trinkets, the postal clerks would remove some and mail them back to Albany for safekeeping.

John Wanamaker was Postmaster General at the time, and he had a special harness made for Owney to hold the trinkets to relieve the load on his collar. Owney literally traveled around the world in 1895. In Tacoma, WA, he boarded a steamship bound for the Orient. He visited China and Japan, collecting trinkets along the way. He even acquired a special postal classification called “Registered Dog Package”. The round-the-world tour took 132 days, going from west to east.

He died in 1897 while on a trip to Toledo, OH. It is reported, albeit unconfirmed, that he got upset and bit a postal worker, who then shot him. Autopsy confirmed that he died of a gunshot wound.

Owney traveled over 140,000 miles during his sojourn as a Railway mail mascot. He visited several thousand cities and accumulated over 1,000 trinkets and medals. He was greeted by crowds at most places in the last 6-7 years of his life—his fame had spread widely.

There are several anecdotes that persist about his life and experiences. The most credible of which include his jumping off a train when a mail bag fell off as it was leaving a station and staying with it until it was retrieved and his being given a passport when he arrived in Japan.

That he was loved is not in question. Such an experience could not be duplicated today for a variety of reason, not withstanding the multiple restrictive regulations under which the USPS operates.

He was honored with a US stamp, #4547 in 2011.


  • Smithsonian National Postal Museum website Owney: Mascot of the Railway Mail Service, National Postal Museum. 1992
  • Multiple websites, not all verifiable but enjoyable and enlightening nevertheless
  • Numerous short articles from various philatelic magazines and journals.

Are you interested in articles like these? Join our club and receive The Smoky Mountain Philatelist in your email box bi-monthly, six times a year. And if you would like to share your expertise with your fellow stamp collectors, we’re always looking for interesting submissions. Please email the editor here, and thanks!

Welcome to The Asheville Stamp Club

We have been an active club since 1924. We currently have 65 active members of all collecting interests and meet once per month to share programs, auctions, ideas, buy, sell & trade stamps, and just plain camaraderie. Many of our members have extensive collecting, exhibiting, or speaking experience, and discussions are always interesting and rewarding. New and developing collectors will find an audience ready and willing to help with expanding one’s knowledge and enjoyment of the hobby.

Western North Carolina is in an interesting geographical location: we get visitors from the north during the winter, from the south during the summer, and many people who decide they’ve had enough of either of those climates to move here permanently! We urge visitors of any age with philatelic interests to join us, even if only for a short time. We may even convince you to enjoy our region full-time!


We welcome collectors of all ages and interests.
Dues are $10.00 a year and includes our bimonthly newsletter “The Smoky Mountain Philatelist”, complete membership list that includes “what we collect” and notices about our meetings with urging to attend and share your interest with us.
Download the Membership Application in .pdf format.

If you have questions, please contact:
Robert Taylor
Phone: 828-447-4699


We meet at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Center, 1617 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC in the Blue Ridge Room of the Community Center (usually: e-mail an officer to verify for the particular month), at 1:30 pm on the third Sunday of each month.

NOTE: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, meetings at Deerfield have been suspended until further notice. If you are a member we are now meeting online. Click here for more information.

Stamp Club Activities each month include:

  • A talk, exhibit, show-n-tell – with an auction every other month. The auctions have lots supplied by members and by the club, with no “hammer” premium, and all proceeds going to the provider of the lot. Sometimes there is a Silent Auction in conjunction with a program as well.
  • We have a club stock of worldwide stamps available at 5c each that encourages addition to a collection at an affordable price.
  • We also have current catalogs available for reference at all meetings.
  • December is our Christmas banquet, with no formal meeting.