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Ship Postal Covers Finding Aid for the Navy Department Library

PDF Version [1.6MB]



The spreadsheet uses a series of abbreviations as a means of saving space while making information available to the user.

The 3rd column, Column C, uses the abbreviation “FR.” FR means franking which is the means by which the postage was paid. The letters that appear in this column have the following meanings:

  1. S = Stamp. This is the most common usage. Rarely are foreign stamps used on US Mail. When foreign postage has been used, it may be accompanied by a cancel in a foreign city. This situation will be noted in the “MISC” column.

  2. F = Free. This usage is confined to Combat Zones.

  3. M = Meter. A postal meter strip or a meter imprint is usually found on envelopes that have been postmarked after 1950.

  4. PS = Postal Stationary. These are usually embossed envelopes sold by the US Post Office.

  5. PEN = Penalty Envelope. Usually a #10 size envelope, it was used for Official Mail between ships or from ships to shore stations or commands. They were most often free, as they were official. Sometimes the “Official Use” notation has been inked out and stamps have been applied.

The 6th column, Column F, is titled “KILLER BAR INFO.” Killer bars are the 2 to 4 bars that appear to the right of the cancel dial where the date, and often the time, of the cancel is found. These bars are designed to touch the stamp to prevent its re-use.

Starting in 1908 and continuing through the 1940s the space between the killer bars was used for a variety of purposes. Often times, the ship’s geographic location can be found. “Crossing the Equator” was often used, as were notations of national holidays and Navy Day. During Shakedown Cruises, it is possible to track the ship’s progress by referencing the port locations in the killer bars.

The Navy Postal Clerk had wide latitude as to what was placed in the killer bars though guidelines were probably established by the chain of command. Spelling in the killer bars was often an issue as space was limited. The clerks. Therefore, often omitted proper spacing and created their own abbreviations making it a challenge to decipher the message.


Published: Wed Jun 19 10:02:44 EDT 2019