Pacific Steam Navigation Company
History, Postal History and Stamps of what was once
The Largest Steam Ship Company in the World

By Michael JY Roberts

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Retail price £60, Members Price £54.

Michael JY Roberts

ISBN 978-1-913015-20-6

The book is intended to give a broad commercial background to this historic Steam Ship Company and it is hoped will appeal to some outside the narrower philatelic world.  Having set a broader scene I then set about updating all the philatelic and postal history data before applying this to the known examples in each of the relevant categories whether they be the “VAPOR” marks, the numbered hand stamps or the postage stamps themselves. 
I have tried to incorporate all the necessary tools for the postal historian to be able to analyse existing and new material, thus a full list of vessels, vessel movement, timetables and postal rates are all included.  The additional chapters concerning the development of company contracts,  British Post Offices on the west coast of South America, cargo services and publicity help to give the fullest picture and give the reader some knowledge of the non philatelic material available to the collector. 

I am a retired chartered surveyor who dealt with commercial property, initially based in Liverpool, latterly in Yorkshire.  I was a partner in a national firm of Chartered Surveyors, Gerald Eve.
I have had an interest in maritime history for most of my life and being based in Liverpool for 10 years I had immediate access to the Maritime Museum and the archives within.  Research is in my blood.
My postal history interest started with the Falkland Islands and progressed with collections of Liverpool Maritime covers of various shipping lines culminating in the present study of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.  Family connections were strong; my grandfathers brother earned his Masters ticket with the PSNC before he became Colonial Manager for the Falkland Island Company in Port Stanley.  I am a keen collector of Scottish Islands and very importantly [to me] the Isles of Scilly as well as many other philatelic topics.
I have exhibited widely both nationally and internationally in Postal History, Traditional, Aerophilately and most recently won an international gold at London 2022 for an Open Class exhibit of the PSNC.  I am a national judge and enjoy giving presentations to a number of local and national societies including the RPSL where I am currently senior vice President and the Society of Postal Historians where I am past President.  

The Commercial History of the Company
1.0 In the Beginning
1.1 The Idea of the PSNC is Born
1.2 Raising the Capital
1.3 The Company takes Shape
1.4 Launch of the Ships
1.5 Early Peruvian Postal Contract
1.6 Early Arrangements with Bolivia
1.7 Postal Arrangements with Chile
1.8 Problems Encountered
1.9 The First British Postal Contract
1.10 Fleet Expansion
1.11 Renewal of Postal Arrangements post 1850
1.12 Developments in Chile and other Countries
1.13 The Panama Railway and the Direct Route to Europe
1.14 The Largest Steamship Company in the World
1.15 Continued Commercial Development
The Early Postal History and Markings of the PSNC
2.0 Introduction
2.1 Vessel Markings
2.2 Hand Stamp Colours
2.3 Use of Numbered Hand Stamps
2.4 Use of Oval Hand Stamps — mid 1860s–mid 1870s
2.4.1 Usages of the Ship Named Hand Stamps
2.5 PSNC Agency Hand Stamps
2.6 Other Hand Stamps and Marks used by the PSNC
The Postage Stamps
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Design
3.2 Die Proofs and Plate Proofs
3.3 The Issued Stamps
3.4 The 1857 Peruvian Experiment
3.5 The Reprints
3.6 Freight Labels
3.7 Perfins and Overprints
3.8 Fakes and Forgeries.
The Development of Coastal Routes and their Connection with Europe
4.0 Introduction
4.1 PSNC Steamer dates 1840–1845 between Valparaiso and Callao
4.2 PSNC Steamer dates 1841–1850 between Callao and Guayaquil
4.3 PSNC Route Expansion 1846–1860 between Valparaiso and Panama
4.4 PSNC Steamer Dates 1846–1860 Valparaiso to Panama
The Continued Expansion of Coastal Services
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Establishing the Routes
5.2 Coastal Services — Postal Record Keeping 
5.3 Examples of Use
British Post Offices on the PSNC Routes
6.0 Introduction
6.1 Opening of new British Post Offices
Direct Services to UK via Straits of Magellan
7.0 Introduction 157
7.1 Progress towards a new direct service
7.2 The New Service commences
7.3 Progression of the Direct Service
7.4 New Post Office Contracts with the UK
7.5 The Use of the “P.S. Packet” Marking
7.6 Continued Service and the Consequences of Expansion
7.7 Post UPU Direct Usages
7.8 Charter for Boer War Trooping
The New Contract to the Falkland Islands
8.0 Introduction
8.1 Timetables and Postal Rates
8.2 Examples of Use
Change, The Panama Canal and The War
9.0 Introduction to Change
9.1 Outbreak of War
9.2 Opening of the Panama Canal
9.4 Sailings, Timetables are Fares
9.5 Examples using the Valparaiso to New York Service
9.6 The Panama Canal route via Bermuda and Havana

There have not been many private companies through the years that have had a huge and important impact on the expansion of communication, neither in a specific country nor a region or worldwide. The second half of the nineteenth century saw the most important expansion of postal communication ever, not only in the major financial areas of Europe and North America, but also in and between most other areas on the globe. One of the key factors in this expansion was the founding of many new steamship companies, both private enterprises and those operated by different governments. These shipping companies and their shipping lines were such an important factor for the governments involved that many of them had governmental charters or contracts, or in other ways were subsidised by the governments.
When William Wheelwright already in the mid-1830s gave birth to the idea of a steamship company operating on the Pacific coast of South America, he could hardly have had in his mind that the company that followed was to receive a Royal Charter in 1840, the same year as the first ships were launched, and at the height of its success, in the 1870s, would be the largest private steamship company in the world. This company, The Pacific Steam Navigation Company, almost entirely controlled the postal operations between or from Chile, Peru, and Ecuador via Panama to the United States or Europe. 
In this book, the author Michael JY Roberts, in detail describes the commercial history of the company in such depth that the reader can feel how the company was started, and operated by a struggling man with an enormous ambition, the founder William Wheelwright. After the introductory chapter about the commercial history of the company, the following eleven chapters and the appendices deals with all other aspects of the operation of the company, an impressive gathering of knowledge.
The second chapter describes the early postal history of the company with a sub-chapter dealing with the “VAPOR P” vessel markings, with censuses of all covers recorded by the author, and with several of them illustrated. One other sub-chapter describes the use of the numeral hand-stamps, contemporary with the stamp issue, this sub-chapter also includes a census of all recorded covers. The censuses provided are of great importance for both existing and future collectors of these markings. 
The events during the preparation of the postage stamps by Perkins Bacon & Petch for the Pacific Steam Navigations is dealt with in chapter three. As a collector myself of these stamps, I am impressed how much information Michael has found about them, stamps that actually never were issued or used by the company, but where some were turned over to the Peruvian Government to be used in an official experiment. With this experiment; the stamps initially printed for the Steam Navigation Company, were in fact used as the first official stamps of Peru.   
The following five chapters deals with the different routes and the expansion of new services. All the tables and cover illustrations clearly illustrates the descriptions of these very interesting milestones in the nineteenth century history of the company. Chapter nine and ten deals with the difficulties and necessary changes for the company that arise with the opening of the Panama Canal and the consequences of the war between 1914 and 1918, and ending with the transition into a Cruising Line company.
Another important issue for the company was the cargo services, described and illustrated in chapter eleven, where examples of freight circulars, bills of lading, and shipping contracts are included. The book concludes with chapters regarding the company publicity and “The End of an Era”. With separate appendices for a “Fleet List”, the “Postal Rates”, and “The Picture Post Cards of the PSNC”; I believe all areas of interest regarding the Pacific Steam Navigation Company and its history has been dealt with in this fantastic and very fascinating book. Thank you very much, Michael, for sharing all this knowledge with us.
The overall book is profusely illustrated with many postal or contemporary items, such as newspapers, advertisements, tickets, time tables, post cards and other items. All these illustrations clearly shows the broad spectrum of aspects and all facets of this important historical company that had such great impact on the postal activities during the second half of the nineteenth century. The book itself will be a necessity for all philatelists and postal historians, not only those collecting the area dealt with, but all other areas where the international shipping lines had a huge impact on the development of the postal communications.   

Stockholm 30 March 2023
Jan Berg FRPSL

Sample pages (click one to enlarge)