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Where were the HK stamp & IPO tie-print put onto the card?

Before the Chinese Imperial Post reached the final postal treaties with other countries like France, Japan, Britain, etc., Chinese stamps were not recognized by foreign offices on which mail exchange with foreign countries had to rely upon. In addition to Chinese stamps franked by senders at the international rate, overseas mails must be franked with the same rate of foreign stamps applied by Chinese offices before they were handed to foreign offices. A seals over the edges of foreign stamp on cover/card by the Imperial Post Office (i.e., an IPO tie-print) was seen used between 1899 and 1903 (some late usage also exist). However, not all Chinese post offices kept a stock of foreign stamps (and these also did not stock stamps from ALL the countries), only the district Head and Sub-Offices had the responsibility to stock foreign stamps and to use the I.P.O. tie-print. According to Report on the Working of the Post Office for the Year 1905 published by order of the Inspector General of Customs and Posts, there were 30 such Head and Sub-Offices in 1901, same number in 1902, increased to 34 in 1903, and 40 in 1904. By the way, the number of branch offices in 1904 was 352. Based on philatelists' study and records, about 30 offices used the I.P.O. tie-print. Webb's book The Philatelic and Postal History of Hong Kong and the Treaty Ports of China and Japan listed 27 such offices, and Mizuhara's essay Study of "I.P.O" Tie-print listed 29 offices, adding Kongmoom and Tangshan. The IPO Team of the Postal History Society of China added Taku in their report.

The 1904 postal card in question was originated from Kiling, and was then forwarded to Hsingning. Both the Lunar Daters having "Canton" on the top partition of their daters to indicate that these cities were both in Canton province. You would assume that the cover would go to the Canton head office and receive a Canton I.P.O. tie-print. However, we did not see any Canton postmark, but instead a Swatow Bilingual Dater. Further investigation revealed that in the Report on the Working of the Post Office for the Year 1905, both Kiling and Hsingning were actually under the Swatow district office. Canton was subsequently listed as Swatow's corresponding head office. So this item was sent to Swatow PO and received the tie-print there. As branch offices Kiling and Hsingning were not permitted to handle foreign stamps. On the other hand, Swatow as district head office kept a stock of foreign adhesives and conducted mail exchange with Hong Kong PO directly. Therefore, the Hong Kong stamp and the I.P.O. tie-print on the card were affixed and applied by Swatow Chinese post office.


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