Thursday, 28 April 2016

Picture Postcards

Some postcards to enjoy this week.

I doubt whether you can find a tree of this size that easily in the whole of Borneo nowadays. The width of its base was accommodating more than a dozen workers standing loosely side by side. This is no clue as to the publisher at the back. It was sent in 1920. Sekong Rubber Estate was situated by the Sekong River deep within Sandakan Bay on its south western shore.

These two were listed as N137a in the Lim and Tan book Pre War Images Of North Borneo. It is the same as N40 published by Philippe & Sons circa 1908. The coloured version probably came about in the late 1920s. Quite likely the scene was somewhere in Sulu but also possibly around Semporna in south eastern North Borneo. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Edward Ellis Abrahamson cover

This 1896 cover carried double the usual rate of 10c to UK. It was increased from 8c on the previous July.

E E Abrahamson was a big character in early North Borneo with his business activities centred around Sandakan. He was born around 1860. He arrived in Sandakan in 1883 after spending some years in Malaya and Sumatra. He was initially appointed as manager of the firm Messrs W F Garland and Company, Civil Engineer and Surveyors. He later became a partner. By 1886 he started his own E E Abrahamson and Company. This was established as a partnership principally to exploit the timber resources around Sandakan Bay. A depot was built on Copuan Island to the south side of Sandakan Bay. A series of views of this depot was taken by a noted photographer from Singapore in 1887 which may surfaced at some future date, I hope. The company was also acting agent for various insurance companies and then became increasingly involved in several plantations of the then emerging tobacco industry.

The company was taken over by the China-Borneo Company in November 1888 with Abrahamson left in charge. They built a saw mill on Leila Road, a main road running south which was named after Governor Treacher's wife. But in July 1891, Abrahamson was dismissed for alleged irregularities while still on sick leave in England. He sued for wrongful dismissal which he won on appeal in August 1893. After that, he went elsewhere to conduct business, principally in Sarawak and Brunei mainly dealing with rubber and cutch using the Labuan based Island Trading Syndicate. He was popularly described as a pioneer and was well missed by most of the expatriates and locals in Sandakan. He died in England in 1915 at Christchurch, Hampshire. After Abrahamson, W G Darby was left in control. He went on to become the most prominent and wealthy expatriate business person in North Borneo. The China-Borneo Company was eventually wound up and sold to Harrisons and Crosfield at the end of 1919. 

This photo was taken from Frank Nestle Butterworth aka Peter Blundell's book, A City of Many Waters. I believe it might have the only photographic image of E E Abrahamson in the public domain. Frank Butterworth was taking the Sultan of Brunei around the cutch factory owned by the Island Trading Company. Walking on the left side of the Sultan could have been his boss, Abrahamson but unfortunately the book does not describe the persons in this photo. However, the manager of the cutch works between 1900 and 1905 was a Edmund Roberts. The cutch works was the only large scale enterprise in those days and employed up a thousand of the local people. 

A view of Brunei Town 

A couple of other interesting photos from this book.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

North Borneo 1888 25c colour trials

I am feeling unimaginative this week. So I will show you some pretty looking things from North Borneo philately. The early printers of North Borneo stamps, Blades, East and Blades, seemed to be very keen to submit different colour trials before a decision was made on each value. For the 1888 25c value, there are at least a dozen different colours on record. These ones here have no perforation across the centre which is my preference. The others were either perforated 12 or 14 across the centre.

It was suggested new dies were engraved for this 1888 high values issue because the original dies for the 1886 high values were destroyed in a fire. It is beneficial to know the subtle differences between them as the earlier issue is much more uncommon and valuable. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Labuan stamps used in North Borneo

Labuan started as a British colony after it was ceded to Britain by the Sultan of Brunei on 18 December 1846. It did not thrive as an economic hub and port as envisaged as there was really no requirement for ships to stop by on their way from Singapore to China and back. The development of the coal deposits on the island was a complete failure. It was however an useful base in the early days for the defeat of piracy on the west coast of North Borneo. The administration of Labuan was then handed over to the North Borneo Chartered Company on 1 January 1890. So from that day, North Borneo stamps were valid for use in Labuan and vice versa. This probably continued until 13 October 1906 when it officially became part of the Straits Settlements. But at the start of 1906, links with North Borneo were severed and practically all internal affairs were administered by the Straits Settlements. It was not until December when the Labuan Crown stamps were overprinted and these stamps with a used date of December 1906 are very uncommon.

North Borneo stamps used in Labuan are relatively common even though covers and used postcards are hard to come by. But it was more uncommon the other way round. The first two Labuan stamps were used in Jesselton in 1902 and 1906 respectively. Jesselton cancellations are the most common of this group of stamps due to the proximity of these two ports. The third stamp is a little unusual as Straits overprinted Labuan Crown would not have been valid for use in Jesselton. But the very early date here of 17 Jan 1907 probably meant it slipped the net. 

A Sandakan cds on a Labuan stamp is relatively uncommon as are the various bar cancellations. The Labuan Victoria head stamp was likely to have been from the 1892 set and would reflect a very early use of a Labuan stamp in North Borneo. There is also a pair of 1894 2c Samba Stag stamps with the Sandakan 14 bar cancel which was most likely CTO by mistake with the wrong canceller but still very uncommon. The 1897 2c Samba Stag with the 19 bar cancellation is most unusual and rare. 2c was the local letter rate for a long period between 1883 and 1921.

Kudat postmarks on these stamps are uncommon as this town took a back seat with the ongoing development of Jesselton Town. These two show clear dates for D7. These two 1c stamps were most likely used on locally sent postcards. 1c was the local rate for postcards between 1891 and 1905.

I am happy with this small part Mempakul D2. A short distance across the sea, Mempakul was a very small trading station with a quiet post office. Therefore postmarks from this town are uncommon to rare. The other rare North Borneo town cancellations on Labuan stamps would include Lahad Datu, Tawao, Beaufort and Tenom.

The Mempakul 7 bar postal cancellation is very similar to the Labuan 9 bar CTO cancellation. It is difficult to be certain about the 18c but it looks very likely as the bars are of similar thickness and spacing. On the Labuan Crown stamp which I have 2 other examples, it represented late use of this cancellation which may indicate a fiscal function as well. 
Gayah postmarks are somehow very desirable but generally Gayah B cancels are not that uncommon especially as some of them were cancelled by favour. However, a Gayah cancellation on a Labuan stamp is a real coup. Of course, the later and rarer Gaya without H cancellation would be even better. The earliest recorded Gantian cancellation is on a Labuan stamp and that is something else.

Thought that I might as well show this nice Ipoh arrival cancellation. The date is not clear but I hope it was not 1922 as it have been a most unlikely situation.