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The Stamps
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HONGKEW Era

 The following report on postage stamps that were used to mail our letters from Hongkew, may be considered a continuation of my previous article, “Mail to and from Shanghai.” My aim is to recall with former Jewish refugees from Shanghai (Shanghailanders) the postage stamps we used to lick, sort, and collect during those difficult times that include the war years, and to briefly explain the design and origin behind each stamp. I will discuss primarily the stamps of Nanking and Shanghai, and will forgo the mentioning of stamps from all the separate provinces. Most familiar to Shanghailanders were the stamps that illustrated a portrait of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek.

Sun Yat-sen's portrait began to appear on Chinese postage stamps as early as 1912. Hailed by many as “The Father of the Republic of China,” he was the master behind a plan to restore China to the common people and create what would eventually be called (in 1912) “The Republic of China.” 

Chiang Kai-shek ‘s portrait began to surface on postage stamps in 1945. Chiang is credited with the launching of the Northern Expedition in 1926, leading the victorious Nationalist Army into Hankou, Shanghai, and Nanjing. He later controlled the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party founded by Sun Yat-sen, and in 1928 became head of the Nationalist Government at Nanjing and generalissimo of all Chinese Nationalist forces. Chiang Kai-shek was president of the Republic of China between 1948 and 1949, and of Taiwan between l950 and 1975. 

The postage stamps that were most likely used by the new arrival of immigrants from Europe are shown in figure one. Printed by the American Bank Note Co., and issued by the Republic of China in 1939, they commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US Constitution (Sc. 364-3 67.) 

A postcard with an unofficial and fun cancellation, shown in figure two, was most likely personally hand delivered to my father, a Jewish immigrant, between 1939 and 1940. The stamp (Sc. 290), issued by the Republic of China in 1939 shows the portrait of Sun Yat-sen. A complete set of stamps with the popular portrait of Sun Yat-sen (Sc. 450-464) is illustrated in figure three. They were printed by the American Bank Note Co., and issued by the Republic of China in 1941 before the inflation. 

Beginning in 1942 until the end of the war, all the stamps of Nanking and Shanghai were issued under Japanese occupation. That period saw the release of a $3 and $6 postage stamp (Sc. 9N105-9N106), celebrating the first anniversary of the return of the foreign concessions in Shanghai. The two stamps issued in 1944 show the map of the foreign concessions. The lower value adhesive is illustrated in figure four. The foreign concessions lasted for nearly a century. The vital influence the International Settlement had on the development of Shanghai was illustrated by the array of architecture of various western styles from several countries. The buildings along the famous Bund, off limits to the Jewish refugees during the war, are a good example. 

Between 1932 and 1937, the Republic of China issued a set of air post stamps (Sc. Cli -C20) that showed Junkers Fl 3 over the Great Wall. In 1945 and still under the Japanese occupation, the stamps were superimposed with a surcharge, and with an overprint showing the symbol of a bomb. The stamps (Sc. 9N111-9N114) issued under the Japanese administration, were designed to depict air raid precaution propaganda. The four stamps are illustrated in figure five. On July 17th, 1945, four month after the stamps became available, an air raid by Allied Forces killed accidentally approximately fifty Jewish refugees and many Chinese inhabitants.

 Air post stamps with the same design as above but with a new surcharge (Sc. C43-C47) were once again issued by the Republic of China in 1946 as illustrated in figure six and again with a new surcharge in 1948, illustrated in figure seven.

 On October 10, 1945, China celebrated the victory of the Allied Nations over Japan with the release of four stamps (Sc. 611-614) each showing a portrait of then President, Chiang Kai-shek. At that time, the stamps, illustrated in figure eight, were very much in use by the Jewish refugees to mail letters to relatives in America and to Holocaust survivors in war torn Europe.

 While Jewish refugees in 1946 were waiting for their visas to start a new life, the Republic of China issued another set of stamps (Sc. 633-635) featuring again the portrait of Sun Yat-sen. Those stamps, illustrated in figure nine, are the high values of an incomplete set. 

The Communists completed their conquest of all Mainland China in 1949. Almost all the Jewish refugees had left Shanghai by the end of that year. Following their complete takeover of the Mainland, the Communist established the Central Government and General Postal Administration in Peking. By the end of the year 1950, unified stamp issues were used throughout Mainland China. No longer were there any champions of Democracy pictured on postage stamps except with a very few exceptions. Instead, the People ‘s Republic of China, as it was then and now referred to, was proudly displaying their leader, Mao Tse-tung and other important communists including Karl Marx, Lenin, and Engels, on their postage stamps.

While most of the Jewish refugees had already left Shanghai, a small contingency remained to complete some of the unfinished administrative work. An envelope that was mailed by the Council of the Jewish Community in that year is illustrated in figure ten. The envelope contained a letter that verified that a certain Jewish refugee asking for restitution from Germany was living in Shanghai during the war. The envelope is franked with three different stamps (Sc. 277-280) issued by the People‘s Republic of China in the 50‘s.

Yours truly hopes that this report brings back some memories and insight about the stamps we used on our mail that brought us in touch with the outside world.