Friday, January 25, 2013

Finally A $3 Ocean Passage Ticket -- The Pacific Steam Navigation Company(PSNC)

Frank Sente is back with this post on Ocean Passage Tickets.

It's been nearly two years since we last blogged about Ocean Passage Tickets, and I'm now pleased to report that an example demonstating the $3 tax rate has surfaced.  Now examples are known for all three tax rates: $1 for tickets not exceeding $30; this $3 example for tickets costing more than $30 and not exceeding $60; and $5 for tickets costing more than $60.

Pacific Steam Navigation Company Steamer Colombia  

On March 6, 1901, J.(ohn) O.(scar) Meyerink, a commission merchant from San Francisco, booked first class passage from San Francisco to Punta Arenas on the Pacific Steam Navigation Company Steamer Colombia. 

The Pacific Steam Navigation Company Ocean Passage Ticket
San Francisco, California to Punta Arenas, Costa Rica
March 6, 1901   

At first I assumed the destination, Punta Arenas, referred to the Chilean port city by that name in the Strait of Magellan.  However as I began to research the document and the various travel endorsements penned upon the back side where the $3 stamp is located (see image below), I'm now quite certain that Meyerink's ticket instead was for Puntarenas, then a major port city on the west coast of  Costa Rica.

According to this destination and rate chart for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company as published in the Pacific Line Guide to South America, the company's routes did not extend south of Valparaiso, Chile and note that the reduced cabin rate for "Punta Arenas", Costa Rica is listed as $40, the price of this ticket.  Flip back a page in the rate chart, and you'll see that the rate previously had been $80.  Apparently the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, a British firm, was having a rate price war with the better established and more popular Pacific Mail Steamship Company, a U.S. firm, but that's another story.  I also was particularly interested to note mention of  "U.S. Revenue Stamp Additional" in the heading of the PSNC rate chart.

Reverse of PSNC Ticket
$3 R174 Commerce Issue tied by blue double ring cancel of
The P.S.N.C. Co. and C.S.A. de V.
San Francisco

stamp and cancel detail
(double click to enlarge)
The stamp is damaged, creased, and has a cut cancel, but hey, it's the only example of a $3.00 ocean passage usage that's ever been reported, and only the ninth ocean passage ticket recorded from the Spanish American War tax era.
Five separate endorsements appear on the reverse side of the ticket.  First, a typed endorsement at right reading:
Stop-over between San Francisco and Corinto (Nicaragua)
good for three (3) months.
Balfour, Guthrie & Co.
Genl Agts.
That stop-over provision was standard practice for the firm, applicable to every ticket sold, as it appears as one of the purchase conditions stated on their rate chart.
NOTE:      For a map showing the location of Meyerink's various stopover
locations that are detailed in the following text, go to the end of this blog.  
The red boxed handstamp at the top seems to be a ship purser's marking in Spanish documenting the first leg of Meyerink's journey from San Francisco to Champerico, a Guatemalan port town. We don't have other examples to compare to, but it appear to read as follows:
De San Fc. (San Francisco?) a Champerico (Guatemala)
por "Colombia" illegible Z2? or 32?
I'm guessing it was applied to the ticket when the Steamer  Colombia arrived at Champerico and Meyerink disembarked. The handwritten endorsement to the left of the red boxed handstamp also appears to be in the purser's hand and as part of it extends across the left edge of the box, it likely was written directly after the boxed endorsement was completed.  It appears to read as follows:
Good for P.S.N.Co
steamer only from Champerico
to Punta Arenas. Signature
26/3/01 (March 26, 1901)
Nine days later it seems that Meyerink traveled further down the coast of Guatemala from Champerico to San Jose aboard the Chilean C.S.A. de V. steamer Tucapel. The relevant endorsement which appears to the right of the $3 tax stamp reads:

Champerico a San Jose
v.(ia)  Tucapel  3
9/4/901 (April 4, 1901) Signature
Compania Sud-Americana de Vapores
Chilean Steamer Tucapel

Built in 1900 and primarily a cargo ship, the Tucapel, laden with oranges, sank off the coast of Chile in 1911.

The final ticket endosement, to the left of the cancel tying the $3 tax stamp to the ticket, documents travel from La Union, El Salvador to Corinto, Nicaragua, both ports of call on the PSNC route chart, via the steamer Chile.  The endorsement in green ink reads:

La Union to Corinto
por "Chile" v. 4
May 3/01

How Meyerink got from San Jose, Guatemala to La Union, El Salvador is unclear.  Perhaps by land transporation, but I suspect by sea via an undocumented PSNC steamer voyage.  I'm betting that sometime between April 4, when he left for San Jose, Guatemala and May 3 when he left La Union, El Salvador there was another voyage between those locales where Meyerink showed his ticket and the ship's purser simply allowed him to embark and travel without bothering to endorse the ticket. That's conjecture on my part, but I doubt that land travel between San Jose and La Union would have been easy and it would have added to his expenses. 

So why did this ticket survive?  Generally, when one traveled they surrendered their ticket to the ship's purser upon boarding.  In this instance as Meyerink had the opportunity to make stop-overs on his voyage to Punta Arenas, he either was allowed to keep his ticket after it was properly endorsed, or it was returned to him at each point of disembarkation so that he could reboard another vessel to continue his voyage. 

While Meyerink's ticket was written for travel to Punta Arenas, Costa Rica I suspect his final destination all along was Corinto, Nicaragua.  The typed endorsement allowing for stop-overs specifically refers to Corinto, not Punta Arenas.  And if one looks carefully, it appears the handstamped word "Corinto" appears underneath "Punta Arenas" on the face of the ticket. 
faint "Corinto" underneath "Punta Arenas" on ticket

Again, while simply conjecture on my part, I suspect that when Meyerink bought the ticket he specified a final destination of Corinto and in the course of purchasing the ticket a helpful agent pointed out that the price of a ticket to the further port of Punta Arenas, Costa Rica was the same $40 fee as for the Nicaraguan port of Corinto.  So why not have the ticket written for Punta Arenas so that should Meyerink so decide he could have the opportunity to travel to that further destination?  Per PSNC's rate chart, tickets from San Francisco to Corinto, San Juan del Sur, and Punta Arenas all cost $40.

Thus when he disembarked in Corinto, Meyerink was allowed to keep his ticket as it still allowed him the opportunity to travel on to Punta Arenas.  I'm betting he did not travel beyond Corinto, Nicaragua.

Further, in seeking information about J. O. Meyerink, I discovered he was a stamp collector!  His name appeared in the March 1893 Secretary's Report of the American Philatelic Association (became American Philatelic Society in 1908) as a reinstated member.  APS confirmed that Meyerink originally joined in 1891 and became a stockholder in 1893 after the APA incorporated.  He apparently let his membership lapse in 1894.  That he was a collector, I'm sure gave him added incentive to keep this document , not only as a souvenir of a trip, but also because it had that $3 tax stamp on it.  Thank goodness for stamp collectors!

I found him listed in several San Francisco directories at 428 Sansome Street as a shipping and commission merchant, one of which indicated he was a fruit wholesaler.  An 1895 suit against a California salt manufacturer who delivered inferior salt through Meyerink to a Guatemalan firm and an 1894 report of dealings with a Guatemalan coffee plantation offer confirmation of his Central American business dealings and connections. 

His listing in the 1900 census indicated he was born in Germany in 1862, immigrated  in 1880, and became a U. S. citizen in 1892.  In 1884 he married Katie Meyer and they had four children between 1887 and 1895.  Apparently he died sometime before 1910 as he doesn't appear in that census, but Katie, listed as a widow, and the four children are included in the 1910 census.

Most assuredly this was a business trip to either visit existing merchant contacts or to establish new business connections.  It must have been a fancinating trip and a great time to be living in San Francisco.       

Central America Map showing the location of the
five ports referenced on Meyerink's ticket:
1. Champerico, Guatemala
2. San Jose, Guatemala
3. La Union, El Salvador
4. Corinto, Nicaragua
5. Puntarenas (Punta Arenas), Costa Rica

Anyone having knowledge of other taxed ocean passage tickets is invited to report them, with scans if possible, to


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