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1937 Tin Can Mail Cover
This tin can mail cover is franked with a 1/2 penny coat of arms
definitive of 1934 and the 2 penny Queen Salote definitive of 1924.

1937 Tin Can Mail Cover Reverse
Backstamps on cover

Mail to and from the Tongan Island of Niuafoou was sealed in a five gallon container and carried to and from a drop off point outside the reef by a swimmer or by canoe. The system was first attempted by William Travers in 1882. An attempt to replace the service with rocket mail early in the twentieth century was unsuccessful. In the 1920's the service was operated by Charles Stuart Ramsay, the only person of European descent, to act as a swimmer carrying the mail. The service was operated by Walt Quensell who, after 1928, was responsible for the the cachets applied to out-going covers for a small fee. The service was discontinued after World War II when the island was evacuted when it was threated by volcanic activity. The island was resettled in 1958 island post office was re-opened in 1962. Explaining the termination of the tin can mail service, Samuel Grossman notes, "The practice was discontinued due to casualties suffered by swimmers in the shark-infested waters" however the service was, in fact, revived in 1962 and continued until 1983 when an airstrip was built on the island.

1939 Tin Can Mail Cover
This tin can mail cover is franked with a 2 1/2 penny commemorative of 1938
celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Accession of Queen Salote Tupou.

1939 Tin Can Mail Cover Reverse
Backstamps on cover


Conoley, Ken. Stamps their Lure and Lore.Don Mills, Ontario: Longman, 1967.

Grossman, Samuel. Stamp Collector's Handbook. New York: Longacre Publishing, 1970.

Tauber, Lewis E. "Preserved in tins." Stamp Magazine. May 2013: 64-68.

"Tonga." Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. 1997.

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