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The Maltese Cross

Introduction

THE MALTESE CROSS

The World's First Obliterator

Background: In May 1840, the Post Office of Great Britain introduced the use of postage stamps, an innovative means of pre-paying postage. A further innovation was required to prevent the fraudulent re-use of these adhesives. The method decided upon was to obliterate them in ink using a new handstamp. This was constructed of brass with a wooden handle and was originally known simply as the 'Obliterating Stamp'. More latterly it has become known as the 'Maltese Cross'.

The original ink colour was red, mixed according to a formula detailed in a postal notice dated 25th April 1840. The complexity of this formula, shown below, coupled with the natural variety of the ingredients, possibly led to some variations in the colour of the resultant obliterating ink;

'1lb Printer's red ink, 1 pint linseed oil, Half-pint of the droppings of Sweet Oil, To be well mixed'
The ink was changed to a ready mixed black composition in February 1841, to coincide with the introduction of the 1d red adhesive and, in early 1843, a series of numbered Maltese Crosses was introduced within the London Inland Office. Otherwise, the Official use of the Cross remained largely unchanged until mid 1844 when it was decided to replace the design with five series of more functional Numeral Obliterators.

Treatment: The apparent simplicity of design and function belies a rich variety of usages. This exhibit illustrates Official policies and the lack of adherence thereto, including the use of unofficial inks and Cross design and it concludes by illustrating the unofficial late use of the Maltese Cross.

Layout

1. Early use
  • 1.1 Prior to Official First Day
  • 1.2 First Official Day of Use, 6th May 1840
  • 1.3 Other Early Usages
2. Variations in the Obliterating Ink
  • 2.1 Experimental Black Ink
  • 2.2 Unofficial Early Use of Black ink
  • 2.3 The Official Introduction of Black Ink
  • 2.4 Unofficial Late Use of Red Ink
  • 2.5 Unofficial Ink Colours and Combinations
3. Variations in the Obliterator use
  • 3.1 Distinctive Crosses
  • 3.2 Unusual Usages
4. The Replacement of the Maltese Cross
  • 4.1 Transition From Maltese Cross to Numerals
  • 4.2 Unofficial Late Use of the Maltese Cross
Exhibit Content

Date ranges for the introduction of black obliterating ink and for the replacement of the Cross are established and differences in these dates between the English, Scottish, Irish and London offices are illustrated. This previously unpublished research has been contributed to the authors of the Encyclopaedia of the Maltese Cross Cancellations of Great Britain and Ireland (see below) along with full drafts for the chapters on London (volume 1) and the late use of the Maltese Cross (to be included in volume 3). A number of the illustrations from the book have been used in this exhibit with the kind permission of the authors.

References

Encyclopaedia of the Maltese Cross Cancellations of Great Britain and Ireland Vols 1-2, S.D. Rockoff and M. Jackson, 2006
The Maltese Cross Cancellations of the United Kingdom, R.C.Alcock and F.C.Holland, 1970
End of the Maltese Cross Obliterator, H.R.Hughes, GB Journal Vol.42 No.4, 2006

(link)

Frame 1

  1. Introduction
1. EARLY USE

1.1 Prior to Official First Day
  1. The Earliest Recorded Postal Use of the Maltese Cross
1.2 First Official Day of Use, 6th May 1840
  1. The First Official Day of Use
  2. The First Official Day of Use
  3. Prepaid Stampless Mail
1.3 Other Early Usages
  1. Extra Maltese Cross
  2. Contemporary Adverse Comment
  3. Unnecessary and Unofficial Use
2. VARIATIONS IN THE OBLITERATING INK

2.1 Experimental Black Ink
  1. Official Trials
2.2 Unofficial Early Use of Black Ink
  1. Jersey and Cranbrook
2.3 The Official Introduction of Black Ink
  1. London Inland Office
  2. The English Provinces
  3. The English Provinces
  4. Ireland
  5. Scotland
  6. Scotland
(link)

Frame 2

2. VARIATIONS IN THE OBLITERATING INK (cont)

2.4 The Unofficial Late Use of Red Ink
  1. London
  2. Provincial Towns
  3. Provincial Towns
  4. Ireland
2.5 Unofficial Ink Colours and Combinations
  1. Red and Black in Combination
  2. Red and Black in Combination
  3. Vermillion and Purple
  4. Blue and Black in Combination
  5. Green
  6. 'White'
  7. Brown
  8. Blue
  9. Mixed Red and Black Inks
  10. Bright Red Shades
  11. Solid Orange Crosses
  12. Pink and Ruby
(link)

Frame 3

3. VARIATIONS IN THE OBLITERATOR USE

3.1 Distinctive Crosses
  1. Dunnet
  2. Alexandria and Kilmarnock
  3. Mullingar and Wotton
  4. Whitehaven
  5. Belfast and Cork
  6. Kelso
  7. Coventry Type 2
  8. Brighton
  9. Greenock
  10. Perth
  11. Arbroath and Stirling
  12. Edinburgh
  13. Norwich and Leamington
  14. Dumfries
  15. London 'Broken Points'
  16. Campbeltown
(link)

Frame 4

3. VARIATIONS IN THE OBLITERATOR USE (cont)

3.1 Distinctive Crosses (cont)
  1. Leeds
  2. York
  3. Coventry Type 1
  4. Manchester
  5. London Numbered Series
  6. London Numbered Series
  7. London Numbered Series
  8. London Numbered Series
3.2 Unusual Usages
  1. Maltese Cross Omitted
  2. To Obliterate a Postmark
  3. Stampless Wrappers
  4. Single Cross Cancelling a Pair
  5. Multiple Strikes
  6. Mulready Caricatures
  7. Additional Strikes
  8. Additional Strikes
(link)

Frame 5

4. THE REPLACEMENT OF THE MALTESE CROSS

4.1 The Transition from Maltese Cross to Numerals
  1. English Provinces and Wales
  2. English Provinces and Wales
  3. London Inland Office
  4. London Inland Office
  5. London District Post Office
  6. Scotland
  7. Ireland
  8. Ireland
4.2 Unofficial Late Use of the Maltese Cross
  1. In Blue
  2. Combination of Maltese Cross and Numeral
  3. Combination of Maltese Cross and Numeral
  4. Perforated Adhesives
  5. As a Backstamp
  6. 6d Postage Rates
  7. Unusual Functions
  8. Cursed Royal Letter