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The 1902 Montreal Experimental Machine Cancellations

In 1902, the Canada post office had become disenchanted with the Bickerdike machines then in use in a number of offices. They were about to be replaced by International machines, which were first tested in Toronto in early February. The Bickerdikes continued in use in Hamilton until October and in Ottawa and Montreal until November. In the intervening period other machines were tested in the Montreal post office. Very little is known about these machines, but there were two main types of dater hubs used. The webmaster has for some time kept a record of uses of these experimental machines, which you will find below. Further reports (with scans if possible) would be much appreciated, and can be made to the webmaster.

The first to appear was a rimless dater, as shown in the first figure at right. We have confirmed use from January 6 to February 15. It is the appearance of this dater hub that has led some to speculate that this machine was manufactured by Geary, as the hub resembles one used by Geary in Bradford PA around that time. This conclusion should be taken with some skepticism however. Reference [7] in particular considered all known American machine makers of that period and settled on Geary as the likely supplier. Geary did in fact possess an 1897 Canadian patent (CA 55409) for a feeding mechanism for a mail marking machine. If this did not in fact offer patent protection for a Geary machine, it is perhaps unlikely that a machine would be tested in Montreal under those circumstances. Nor is there evidence that Geary spent any time at all in Montreal; given the many changes in the postMARks throughout 1902, the maker would certainly have had to spend considerable time there. The contract with the International Postal Supply Co. was drafted in April of 1902 (with the International testing having taken place in Toronto) and it seems rather odd that another machine would be tested for so long in Montreal before and after this event. It should be noted that the rimless dater in fact resembles a rimless dater used in Boston and Philadelphia in American Postal Machines Co. machines. It may be that these experimental machines were simply surplus Imperial machines (close relatives of the American machines) held in the Montreal post office. There is also some indication that a postal employee A.E. Morin may have experimented on machines during this period. He did in fact hold a patent (CA 67543) for a feeding mechanism for a postal cancelling machine.

Hub X2

A second dater hub replaced the rimless dater starting in mid February. It may not be immediately clear whether or not this was used in the same machine. However, the record of uses seems compelling in this regard. This second hub resembles that used in the International machines, in that it has the year at the bottom, but it also has some differences. The diameter seems to match that of the International hubs, but all International hubs used by the Canada Post Office had provincial (or country) designation, apart of course from the Type A dater used in an International machine in Toronto in 1902. A number of different obliterators consisting of rough straight lines were used with this dater hub as time went on, and none resemble those used in International machines.

Hub X1

Below, we give a time-line of the experimental machine use. The EKU and LKU dates given should be understood to be those that we have been able to confirm. In some cases, earlier or later dates have been reported to other sources. Such instances are noted below. By clicking on each item, you can reveal a table of confirmed sightings. The type designations are those established in [6].

X2(a) (EKU: JAN 6, LKU: JAN 28)

JAN 61?-OBank letter to Wingham, front only
JAN 8??-O1¢ CPR postal card to Switzerland
JAN 817-O1¢ CPR postal card to city
JAN 817-O1¢ CPR postal card to Victoria BC
JAN 1319-O1¢ CPR card to Toronto (Chateau Frontenac)
JAN ???-Ounreadable scan in [7]; possibly JAN 17
JAN 2219-O1¢ postal card to Bass River NS
JAN 2313-O1¢ postal card to Montreal
JAN 2317-S2¢ letter card to city
JAN 2419-O2¢ letter, W. James Wurtele corner
JAN 2419-O2¢ letter to Charlottetown, torn
JAN 2817-Ounconfirmed report in [6]
JAN 2819-O5¢ letter to Germany; Geo. D. Ross corner
JAN 2822-O1¢ postal card to Durocher St.

X2(b) (EKU: FEB 5, LKU: FEB 13)

FEB 413-Ounconfirmed report in [11] and [6]
FEB 518-Oletter to Halifax, Harrower Co. corner
FEB 519-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Thos. C. Doyle corner
FEB 520-O2¢ letter to Lower Stewiacke, J.C. Wilson corner
FEB 619-Opostal card to Harrow
FEB 718-O1¢ CPR postal card to Norwich
date uncertain? (see CPR report date)
FEB 1019-O2¢ letter to Arichat, McLea corner
FEB 1220-O1¢ Grand Trunk postal card to Alabama
FEB 1313-O1¢ CPR postal card to Montreal
FEB 15?unconfirmed report in [10]

X2(rec) (EKU: JAN 12, LKU: FEB 15) hub used alone as a receiving or transit MARk

JAN 1210-Oreceiver
JAN 1819-O2¢ letter from Ottawa, addressed to Edward Rawlings
JAN 2511-Oreceiver on back of cover
JAN 27o-9receiver on back of cover
JAN 2722-Oreceiver on Greek postcard
JAN 299-Oreceiver
JAN 3022-Oreceiver
FEB 317-Oreceiver
FEB 44-Oreceiver
FEB 411-Oreceiver on Allan Line postcard
FEB 413-Oreceiver on back of cover
FEB 421-O3¢ letter from Quebec, Merchants Bank
FEB 424-Oreceiver on back of cover
FEB 58--Oreceiver on back of cover
FEB 59-Oreceiver on back of cover
FEB 522-Oreceiver on back of cover
FEB 75-O3¢ letter from Winnipeg, Merchants Bank
FEB 810-Oreceiver
FEB 1420-O1¢ postal card from Peterboro
FEB 1519-Oreceiver on front of US postal card from Boston
FEB 1521-Oon back of letter card
FEB 17?unconfirmed report in [11]

X1 (EKU: FEB 18, LKU: MAY 1)

FEB 1819-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Geo. D. Ross corner
FEB 2019-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Standard Shirt corner
FEB 2119-O2¢ letter, possibly partial
FEB 2419-O2¢ letter to Ottawa, Chronicle corner
FEB 2519-O1¢ postal card to NewMARket
FEB ??17-O5¢ letter to Vienna, Bank of Montreal corner
MAR 718-O2¢ CPR statement [Banff] to Southsea
MAR 718-O1¢ (Hotel Vancouver) CPR postal card to Norwich
MAR 719-O2¢ letter to city, Royal Paper Mills corner
MAR 819-O2¢ drop letter, Herald Publishing Co. corner
MAR 1219-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Gilmour Bros. corner
MAR 1219-O2¢ drop letter
MAR 1418-O1¢ postal card to Montreal
MAR 1419-O1¢ private postcard to Upper Stewiacke
MAR 1819-O2¢ letter to city, Molsons Bank corner
MAR 1920-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Rhode Island corner
MAR 2011-Oreceiver on back of cover
MAR 2719-O2¢ letter to Halifax, A. Ramsay corner
MAR 2918-O2¢ letter to Cowansville, Molson Bank corner
MAR 3120-O1¢ GTR statement [Parry Sound] to Chicago; ex Payne
APL 311-O1¢ CPR card (Place Viger Hotel) to UK
APL 419-O2¢ letter to Moncton, Hudon corner
APL 718-O1¢ postal card to Bell Telephone, Wales, Ont.
APL 918-O2¢ letter to Hamilton
APL 1019-O2¢ letter to Orono, Ont., Guardian corner
APL 1119-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Dorken Bros. corner
APL 1619-O1¢ postal card to city
APL-1719-O2¢ letter to North Williamsburg, Hodgson Bros. corner
APL 1819-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Dorken Bros. corner
APL 1820-O2¢ drop letter, Montreal Street Railway Co.
APL 1913-O2¢ letter to Ottawa, National Trust corner
APL 2218-O2¢ letter (front) to N.E. MARgaree C.B., W.D. Stroud corner
APL 2518-O1¢ postal card to NewMARket
APL 2520-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Rhode Island corner
APL 2820-Ocorner of envelope
APL 2920-OCPR envelope
APL 3020-O2¢ letter to C.B., Sherwin-Williams corner (front)
MAY 119-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Consumers Cordage corner

X1 undated (3rd class)

(no date)1¢ third class letter to Toronto (front)

X3 (EKU: MAY 1)

MAY 115-O1¢ postal card; ex Sessions
MAY 119-O2¢ letter, Charles E. Frosst corner

X5(a) (similar to X5 but with 9 bars) (EKU: MAY 2)

MAY 219-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Lamplough & McNAUGhton corner
MAY 219-O2¢ letter, A. Ramsay & Son corner, possibly partial

X4 (6 bars from 50mm to 65mm in length) (EKU: MAY 3, LKU: JUN 2)

MAY 313-O1¢ (Mt. Stephen) CPR postal card to UK
MAY 314-O1¢ (Hot Springs) CPR postal card to Cambridge MA
MAY 316-O1¢ (Mt. Stephen) CPR postal card to UK
MAY 316-O1¢ (Glacier House) CPR postal card to Gibraltar
MAY 314-O2¢ CPR postcard to Cambridge MA
MAY 8O--192¢ letter to North East MARgaree CB, Empire Tobacco corner
MAY 14O--192¢ letter to Halifax, Pilkington corner
MAY 1420-O1¢ postal card to Windsor NS
MAY 16?19hand-drawn illustration in [3]
MAY 21O--192¢ letter to London, Consumers Cordage corner
MAY 22O--19hand-drawn illustration in [2]
MAY 2220-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Lamplough corner
MAY 23O--19uprated postal card to France
MAY 2320-Ounconfirmed report in [6]
MAY 26O--202¢ letter to Halifax, Dorken Bros. corner
MAY 27O--191¢ postal card to Winnipeg
MAY 27O--191¢ postal card (2x4?)
MAY 29O--192¢ letter to Prescott, Seybold & Sons corner
MAY 29O--192¢ letter to London, B.&S.H. Thompson corner
MAY 29O--192¢ letter to North Williamsburg, Hodgson Bros. corner
MAY 29O--192¢ letter to Guysboro NS, 17 Victoria Square corner
MAY 30O--192¢ letter, William Buck Stove Co. corner
MAY 30O--192¢ letter, W.W. Ogilvie Milling Co. corner
JUN 2O--192¢ letter to Cobourg, Hermann H. Wolff corner
JUN 2O--192¢ letter to Kemptville, B. Levin & Co. corner (front)

X4(a) (possible variant of X4, bars set slightly lower relative to hub than X4) (EKU: JUN 3, LKU: JUN 6)

JUN 317-O2 ¢ stationery, National Trust corner, possible partial
JUN 3--192¢ letter to Wingham (front)
JUN 3O--192¢ letter to Halifax, W.W. Ogilvie corner
JUN 3O--192¢ letter to Halifax, Dorken Bros. corner
JUN 4O--192¢ letter to London
JUN 4O--192¢ letter, Molson Bank corner, possibly partial
JUN 4O--192¢ letter to Halifax, Pilkington corner
JUN 5O-192¢ letter to Halifax, J.W. Windsor corner
JUN 6O--192¢ letter to Halifax, Dominion Wire corner

X5 (EKU: JUN 9, LKU: AUG 14)

JUN 9O--192¢ letter to London, Dominion Wire corner
JUN 107-O1¢ private post card to Brussels
JUN 10O--192¢ letter to Kemptville, Lewis Bros. corner (front)
JUN 10O--192¢ letter to London, H.R. Ives corner
JUN 1119-O2¢ letter to Cobourg, Hermann H. Wolfe corner
JUN 1119-O2¢ letter to Guysboro NS, 17 Victoria Square corner
JUN 1119-O1¢ private post card, Friedman Bros. corner
JUN 1219-O2¢ letter to Stanstead
JUN 1219-O2¢ letter to Camden East, John L. Cassidy corner
JUN 1219-O2¢ letter to Halifax
JUN 1318-O2¢ letter to Wingham, Bank of Montreal corner
JUN 1719-OAllan Line postcard to Ireland
JUN 1719-O2¢ letter to London, Canada Paint corner
JUN 1818-Oscan in [7]
JUN 1819-O2¢ letter to Barachois CB, W.D. Stround corner
JUN 2019-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Pilkington Brothers corner
JUN 2419-O2¢ letter to London, Rhode Island barrel corner
JUN 2519-O2¢ (Blaiklock Bros.) letter to Nashua NH
JUN 3019-O1¢ postal card to city
JUL 210-O1¢ CPR card (Hot Springs Hotel) to Batiscan Stn.
JUL 215-O1¢ CPR statement [Hot Springs Hotel, Banff] to Kirksley
JUL 215-O1¢ (Place Viger) CPR postal card to Gibraltar
JUL 219-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Canada Paint corner
JUL 318-O1¢ CPR statement [Mt. Stephen House] to Derby
JUL 319-O2¢ letter to New York, Orient Stamp Co.
JUL 319-O2¢ letter to Port Hope
JUL 320-O2¢ letter to London, Consumers Cordage corner
JUL 419-O2¢ letter to Amherstburg, Empire Manufacturing corner
JUL 420-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Lamplough corner
JUL 818-O1¢ CPR postal card to France, JUNe 28th date on obverse
JUL 819-Ocut corner of 2¢ letter
JUL 819-O2¢ letter to Galt
JUL 919-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Consumer Cordage corner
JUL 919-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Ogilvie corner
JUL 1018-O2¢ letter to Kemptville, Bank of Montreal corner
JUL 1018-O2¢ letter to Halifax, Thompson corner
JUL 1019-O2¢ letter to London, A. Ramsay corner
JUL 1019-O2¢ letter, Walter Grose corner
JUL 1519-O1¢ postal card to Bass River NS
JUL 1719-O1¢ postal card to Winnipeg
JUL 3118-O2¢ letter to Amherstburg, Standard Life corner
AUG 119-O1¢ postal card to Bass River NS
AUG 519-O2¢ letter to Kemptville, P.D. Dods corner
AUG 719-O2¢ letter to Manchester, Geo. D. Ross corner
AUG 819-O2¢ letter to Mahone Bay, James Linton corner
AUG 1318-O2¢ letter to Ottawa, Ontario Bank corner, possibly partial
AUG 1319-O10¢ letter to Germany, Geo. D. Ross corner
AUG 1419-O2¢ letter to Matrone Bay, Percival Bros. corner
AUG 16?unconfirmed report in [6]

X1(rec) (EKU: FEB 17, LKU: AUG 14) hub used alone as a receiving or transit MARk

FEB 179-Oon US postcard
FEB 1824-Oon US postcard
FEB 208-Oon US postcard
FEB 2022-Oon back of envelope
FEB 2110-O
FEB 2419-O1¢ postal card
MAR 522-Oreceiver on US cover
MAR 812-Oletter from Rochester NY
MAR 99-Oreceiver on back of cover
MAR 1014-O2¢ drop letter
MAR 1224 Oreceiver on back of cover
MAR 1321-O2¢ letter to G.A. Holland, Mrs. Dennie corner
MAR 1422-Oreceiver on back of cover
MAR 2220-O2¢ drop letter, Empire Typewriter corner
MAR 268-O2¢ drop letter to C.A. Holland
APL 812-Oreceiver on postcard
APL 1121-Oreceiver on back of cover
APL 2120-Oreceiver on back of cover
MAY 310-O2¢ letter from Upper Stewiacke
JUN 1620-O2¢ letter from Morrisburg, St. Lawrence Hall corner
JUN 209-Oreceiver
JUN 2020-O
JUL 119-O5¢ letter to DenMARk (transit MARking)
AUG 420-Oreceiver
AUG 5O--8receiver
AUG 517-OUS letter to Montreal
AUG 69-Oon picture postcard
AUG 1420-Oreceiver


  1. History of Rapid Cancelling Machines, part 2
    Edward Goodale, Popular Stamps, MARch 1943, pp. 16-17.

  2. The Machine Age (part 4)
    Dr. C.W. Hollingworth and Dr. M.W. Carstairs, MAPLe Leaves No. 127, p. 183, October 1970.

  3. Machinations (Part 2)
    David F. Sessions, MAPLe Leaves Vol. 16, No. 1, p. 6, April 1976.

  4. Geary Machine Cancels
    John W. Koontz, Machine Cancel Forum #47, pp. 401-8, MARch 1978.

  5. The Rapid Cancelling Machine Experimental Dies
    David F. Sessions, PHSC Journal 18, p. 11, AUGust 1980.

  6. The Early Rapid Cancelling Machines of Canada
    David F. Sessions, Can. Phil. Soc. GB and Unitrade Press, Toronto, 1982.

  7. The 1902 MARkings of Montreal -- Identified at last
    Reg Morris, Machine Cancel Forum #103, pp. 1507-22, November 1982.

  8. International Postal Supply Company Machine Cancellations: Comments and Speculation on their use During 1902 and 1903
    Geoff Newman, PHSC Journal 33, p. 4, MARch 1983.

  9. Mystery Montreal MARkings Unmasked
    David F. Sessions, MAPLe Leaves Vol. 19, No. 6, (Whole No. 198, JUNe 1984), pp. 160-63.

  10. The Rimless American Machine Cancel, Philadelphia 1890
    Norman Shachat, Pennsylvania Postal Historian, pp. 6-7, November 1989.

  11. The Bickerdike Flags - A Revision and Suggested Pricing Structure
    David F. Sessions, The Flag Pole, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 2-12, MARch 1992.

  12. The Classic Flags - A SumMARy
    David F. Sessions, The Flag Pole, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 3-8, September 1993.

  13. Anthology of Machine Postal MARkings Vol. 7: An In-Depth Look at James Geary Machine Cancels
    Robert J. Payne, Machine Cancel Society, 2002.