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Robert Hart Cover
赫德封


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What is a Robert Hart cover?
Probably for security reason and ease of recognition, Hart had ordered his covers and letter papers printed with a raise grain logo with his initials "R H" in red ink printed on the back flap of his covers and at top center of his letter papers. The printer is the well-known UK stamp printer, Waterlow & Sons, as their name is also embossed along the inside edge of the covers. To Chinese collectors, Waterlow is famous for printing CIP's first issue, sometimes referred to as the Waterlow Dragons. With his "logo" on a cover or letter paper, you don't need to get a certificate to know that it is a genuine Robert Hart cover. Furthermore, Hart's handwriting is very distinct and is full of character.

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What is the "big deal" with a Robert Hart cover and how come there are so few?
As Hart is the "father of the modern Chinese Post Office" and can also be called "the father of Chinese stamps", besides his other achievements in the Chinese Customs Office, his contribution to China's postal system is unparalleled. Can you name another person who can compare with Hart's achievements and influence to China as a nation? Since the publishing of the Hart-Campbell correspondence, we know that many of his letters, to Campbell or others, made references to many of the, then, current and important affairs of China. These letters were also written from someone who had a most privileged vantage point. We have not seen another correspondence that is as important as this and from an insider's point of view.

I believe that there is no one single reason why so few Hart covers have survived. However, we know that Hart sometimes "enclosed as much as 10 letters" in his letter-package to Campbell. Campbell would then send these out individually from London. So Hart may have send small parcels rather than single letters. And we know no one keeps parcel wrappings. Furthermore, as a Customs official, from 1883 onwards to the end of 1897, no Chinese stamps would be used on Hart's letters, but only the Customs Mail Matter marking, and nearly all would have been Peking's I.G. Mail Matter marking, franked with foreign (or offices in China) stamps. It is only from January 1898 onwards where Hart covers may have been franked with stamps and collectors may have "accidentally" kept these covers, as these have "stamps" on it. We see that our earliest recorded Hart cover has a date of September 1898, which is consistent with this observation.

I believe that there is actually many times the number of Hart cover in existence than the 13 that we recorded. Many have not been identified as such, due to the current owner's lack of this knowledge, and therefore are not reported.
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---- Extracted from Sam Chiu's article, Robert Hart Cover, Postal History Society of China Journal Vol.1, No.1, page 9.


There were 13 Hart covers recorded by Sam Chiu (2001) and 11 covers recorded by Liu Zhao-ning (2005). Based on the images they provided, plus recent findings, total of 17 Hart covers are recorded. If you have any item in your collection or someone you know owns item other than these listed here, I would be glad to add them in the list and expand the recorded number of existing Hart covers in private collections.

Temp. No. Date of
origin
Sent from Sent to Address to With
letter
Postage On Chiuís list On Liuís list Source
1 9.6.1899 Peitaiho Swatow H.M.A. de Kergariou No 2c 1 N/A Sam Chiu
2 7.1.1901 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 6c N/A N/A Paul Lee
3 7.6.1901 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 4c 2 1 C.I.Chou
4 3.10.1902 Peking Tientsin Houston Yes 2c 3 2 PST 310/6
5 4.15.1902 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 6c 4 5 C.I.Chou
6 4.15.1902 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 7c 5 4 C.I.Chou
7 3.10.1903 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 9c 6 3? C.I.Chou
*8 8.15.1903 Peitaiho Peking F.A.Aglen No? 2c? N/A 7 C.C.C.
9 8.23.1903 Peitaiho Peking F.A.Aglen No? 2c? N/A 8 C.C.C.
10 11.7.1903 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 1c 7 6? C.I.Chou
11 11.7.1903 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 6c 8 N/A Sam Chiu
12 12.14.1903 Peking Kent W.R.Bray ?? 10c 9 N/A Zhao
13 12.24.1903 Peking Shanghai Madame de Kergariou No 1c 10 9 C.I.Chou
14 7.26.1904 Peking Shanghai R.E.Bredon No 1c N/A N/A P.L.A. No.33
15 9.16.1904 Peking Yokohama Robert Bredon No 10c 11 N/A Sam Chiu
16 10.31.1904 Peking Shanghai Robert Bredon No 9c 12 10 PST 317/5
17 11.6.1904 Peking Philadelphia Wharton Barker No 10c 13 11 PST 358/15
Note:
1. PST: Postal Service Today, philatelic periodical published in Taiwan
2. C.C.C.: Classic Chinese Covers, Liu Zhao-ning, published by Chan Tsun Kuen (Hong Kong)
3. P.L.A.: Pan-Lung Auction, PAN-LUNG PHILATELIC, Taipei, Taiwan
4. Cover Temp No.8 is a cover from Hart without the red "R H" logo
5. In case an identical cover was recorded by both Chiu and Liu, Chiuís data is used in above list




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