Registered letters existed in the United States at least as early as 1855 when informal
practices then in existence were given structure and a special 5¢ rate. In 1859,
Hawaii set a 15¢ fee for registering mail and contemporary post office notices stated
prepayment of foreign letter postage and registry fees was required if the letter was
to be sent registered abroad. Other references to registered foreign letters are found
in post office correspondence during the 1860's and they show an arrangement with the
San Francisco post office to accept letters from Hawaii and treat them as registered if
the United States postage and registry fee was fully prepaid. However, when Hawaii and
the United States signed their postal convention in 1870, no provision for exchanging
registered letters was included. Hawaii's 1874 convention with New South Wales
provided a 15¢ fee for registered letters (but I have no examples in my record of
Australasian bound registered covers). References to United States registered letters
sent to Hawaii are found in the post office correspondence. Under the UPU, Hawaii was
entitled to place registered letters in the foreign mail stream and expect transit
countries and the country of destination to treat it as registered, paying only the UPU
10¢ registry fee in Hawaiian stamps.
No example of Hawaiian registered foreign letters is recorded until 1872, perhaps
because we fail to recognize them as such. Even in the United States, pre-1875
registered letters are considered scarce. The absence of special markings and the
practice of enclosing them in larger envelopes may explain some of the scarcity.
Click here for images of
Registered Covers and Rates in the Convention Period and UPU Period.
Click here for postal markings
used on registered foreign mail.
Fifteen registered covers are recorded in the Convention Period, none in the Treaty Period.
Click here for a log of registered covers to 1890.
During the UPU Period, there are many registered covers, including many inspired by stamp collectors
and dealers. Until 1890, the philatelic influence on registered letters is small enough to make it possible
to attempt an inventory through 1890.