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Show Me Your Highway Post Office Aka Hpo Covers

 
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Posted 04/27/2019   05:39 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Keep in mind the contextual evolution of the HPO, its 'roots' were RMS (railroad mail). The development of the HPO service was heavily influenced by railroad politics. The HPO routes were also intimately tied to the railroad with stops often being in sync with star routes. As such, schedules were highly defined and maintained.

The first three trips, all before WWII, were considered trial or test runs. The routes and vehicles were pre-defined and meant to better understand how to implement this new service.

The first HPO trip, Washington DC to Harrisonburg VA on Feb. 10 1941, itself was a big event and the PO went to significant trouble to promote it, all mail it carried was 100% philatelic. Below is the route and stop map, this is one of the hundreds of trip routes maps for the new Stamp Smarter HPO online catalog; each stop is highlighted in green and the route is highlighted in yellow.


The first HPO trip was widely publicized in the Postal Bulletin and other philatelic press. The USPOD catered to collectors and specific instructions and other arrangements were in place to handle the flood of requested covers. With President Roosevelt's participation being covered by the Associated Press, there was little chance that 1941 stamps collectors were not aware of this new service.

School children along the route were excused from school to witness the bus as it passed through their communities.

The final count of the number of First Trip covers was 114,311 so these covers are common. I would disagree with John on his statement "there were no government-applied cachets for the early HPO routes - just the cancel."
According to James Bruns this cachet is thought to have been prepared by the USPOD for distribution to dignitaries.


As the HPO service was expanded to eventually include over 400 additional routes in the coming decades; the PO maintained the 'First Trip' as a type of trial run so all the First Trip mail was philatelic.

I have over 1000 HPO covers that are not First/Last Trip covers. Whether or not they could be counted as 'philatelic' would require research into each address/sender/receiver.

I am less sure about Last Trip protocol and if some non-philatelic mail could have been included. While I have some Last Trip covers with cachets, many are just plain envelopes. It can certainly be said that the Last Trips were often not held with the same fanfare as the First Trips. It is easy to overlook a Last Trip cover, today's collectors need to look for the date stamps on covers. For example, here are two covers (First and Last) from Route 17, Indianapolis and Vincennes established on 11/16/1948.



HPO are a fascinating part of US postal history and I hope the new Stamp Smarter HPO feature will increase awareness. Some HPO covers are very rare with less than a handful known; yet because there is currently little demand this is a challenging area of collecting that is still quite affordable. And unlike FDCs, these covers were not mass produced and actually traveled on a HPO vehicle.
Don
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Posted 04/27/2019   10:39 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add gslaten to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks to both John and Don and all who have contributed to this long thread for the continuing education. This is a fantastic educational forum, and another very interesting collecting area.

Gary
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Posted 04/27/2019   10:43 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Don,
Interesting, I had not seen the 1941 cachet you illustrate. Its intent/use is different than typical in that it was not applied to all submitted covers like National Air Mail Week covers, most First Flights, later HPOs, etc. I would edit my statement to "there were no mass-applied USPOD cachets for the early HPOs"
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Edited by John Becker - 04/27/2019 9:44 pm
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Posted 04/27/2019   6:51 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add GregAlex to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Although there were plenty of printed cachets for the early HPO First Trips...

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Posted 05/05/2019   3:14 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add David_R to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Just wanted to say kudos and thank you to these contributors to an obscure piece of philatelic history. As someone coming back into the hobby after decades away & looking for inspiration (affordable inspiration), Highway Post Office buses intrigue me.
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Posted 06/13/2019   06:25 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

For collectors who want to a really challenging area of HPO ephemera, the image above shows two such items.

The top items are HPO facing slips. These slips were placed on top of the sorted letters and show the destination post office and the dispatching unit and clerk name.

On the bottom is a pouch label also known as a "pouch slider". These were inserted into the mail pouch label holder and also included dispatch information (date stamped on back).

If anyone has any of these HPO related items for sale or has images they would like to see included in the new HPO catalog, please contact me.
Don
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Posted 07/04/2019   6:27 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add HoosRec to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
At what point do HPO covers become worthless?

I've never collected postal history and didn't collect US after I was a kid, but I've got stuff that Dad accumulated and have been going through it for a couple of decades as time permits. The recent HPO threads here at SCF prompted me to go dig out the handful of HPO covers I remembered seeing in one of the boxes.

Dad was in high school when his uncle sent these HPO covers. I guess Uncle Wayne wanted to make sure Dad knew what they were and added an explanation in the green ink on the South Bend set. Only the Washington D. C. Trip 2 cover seems to have been sealed and that was very light. It is no longer sealed. Unfortunately, the envelope glue has stained all of these examples. The Trip 2 South Bend cover has the South Bend postmaster's signature. Does that offset the problems to any degree? And what about the selvage on the South Bend covers? Another negative?

Since most HPO covers seem to have minimal value to begin with, would these be too embarrassing for any respectable collector to add to his/her collection?

Other than these, the only HPO First Trip covers I have found were the Toledo, Ohio & Elkhart, Indiana, Trips 1 and 2, from 1955. I've got three and a half sets of those. Fortunately, they were on better quality envelopes where the gum hasn't caused staining.



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Edited by HoosRec - 07/04/2019 6:28 pm
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Posted 07/05/2019   08:50 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Not worthless, but the condition impacts value. The signatures do not really add much value. Given the family connection, I'd say the value resides in the 'heirloom' category.
Don
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Posted 07/05/2019   10:55 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add HoosRec to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, Don. In this case there is no heirloom value. No descendants or relatives are collectors. I've been working my way through this stuff (slowly) to understand it and digitize it and try to get it into the hands of collectors. It's a time-consuming process and sometimes the items just aren't worth the effort. This may be one of those cases. Fortunately, these cases are more than offset by some amazing discoveries I've made along the way. It's just too bad Dad isn't still with us to share in these discoveries. He would have been amazed by all the unique items that he had accumulate by visiting local estate sales in the '50s and '60s. He probably prevented a lot of this stuff from being trashed back then.

Tom
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Posted 07/05/2019   10:58 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Since most HPO covers seem to have minimal value to begin with, would these be too embarrassing for any respectable collector to add to his/her collection?


Nearly every respectable collection contains items of minimal value. I would draw little connection between value and respectability.

There may be a perception among some of the postal history purists that contrived philatelic covers such as FDCs, first and last trip HPO/RPO/flight, airport dedications, pictorial cancels and such are less desirable than commercially handled mail. I have that bias to some extent. But philatelic covers do have their utility since they are often the only pieces to clearly demonstrate how a particular service, rate, or route worked. The supply side for most philatelic covers was initially typically large and with a high survival rate - thus a low market value today. Instead try the challenge of making a collection of commercial HPO covers!
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Posted 07/05/2019   11:07 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add HoosRec to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I mentioned in yesterday's post that Dad got at least three sets of the Toledo, Ohio & Elkhart, Indiana First Trip covers. They're much more presentable than the ones I posted yesterday.

Tom

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