PSNC Stamps - A collector seeking information

For some years I have had two stamps in my collection which I could not identfy.
Looking on the internet for 'PSNC' (initials on the stamps) I found your website.   The steam boats on the stamps suggest they are directly connected to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.
Can you or anyone else tell me for what purpose these stamps were used and what currency (Rl.) of which country was used?
Maybe you can publish these pictures of the stamps on your website with some explanation if you don't know the answer to the questions yourself?
I hope you'll find this worth while to mail me back on this subject.
Greetings, Ton van Schijndel Tilburg, The Netherlands


I told Ton that the images on the stamps could have been the "Peru" and/or "Chile".   The values may have been in "Reals"   and marked for old Imperial weight measures.   It would be appreciated if anyone could shed more light on these fascinating items. (Barry)


Reply . . . P.S.N.C. Stamps

In 1847 an innovation of great philatelic interest was instituted by The Pacific Steam Navigation Company.   William Wheelwright, the founder of the Company, had a cousin, Joshua Butters Bacon, of the firm of Stamp Engravers & Printers, Messrs. Perkins, Bacon Petch.

When Wheelwright returned from South America, he informed his cousin that the the Company intended to issue postage stamps for use on their vessels.   Two sketches of the proposed stamps were submitted to the Directors on 17th August 1847, and were duly turned down.   The Company Secretary forwarded two prints of the steamers "Chile" & "Peru".  The engravers had reservations as to having a steamer engraved in such a small space of a postage stamp, explaining that it afforded little security from forgery.   The Court of Directors were adamant however, and the dies were duly engraved and printing commenced.

A quantity of 57,280 stamps were despatched by Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.vessel on 17th November 1847 to Alexander Hutchinson Esq., P.S.N.C. Agent, c/o Her Britannic Majesty's Consul in Panama.   A second batch, of 57,280 , was sent to Hutchinson at Callao, Peru on 15th January 1848.  More stamps were printed, but no further orders were received and a large quantity of stamps were burnt in a fire at the Printing Works.  The stamps were of two denominations:- "½ ounce" 1 real - (blue) and "1 ounce" 2 reales (pink) .. the Real being the currency of Peru at that time.   Strangely, they were little used on the Company steamers, and remained in stock until 1851, when the Postmaster General of Peru proposed the introduction of postage stamps.   He was authorised by the Government to try the experiment in Lima, Callao, and a few other cities. He arranged to take over the Company's stock of stamps, which lasted from 1st December 1857 to 1st March 1858.   They proved so successful that the Peruvian Government introduced of their own designs.

P.S.N.C. has the distinction, unique amongst steamship companies, of having issued and used their own postage stamps depicting their own steamers.   The stamps are curious in showing avoirdupois weights in addition to the currency denomination.   Some forgeries do exist as a result of reprints for use as souvenirs.

Acknowledgement is made to Arthur C. Wardle, the above having been extracted from his book "STEAM CONQUERS THE PACIFIC - A Record Maritime Achievement 1840 to 1940".
Published by Hodder & Stoughton of London and printed by The Camelot Press of London & Southampton.

A copy of "Steam Conquers the Pacific" may still be available from

Gordon Stanley P.S.N.C. 1951 to 1987.

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