Beautiful Postal Cards and Postal Covers of Early Korea

Old Korea

Some of the rarest examples of postal history of Empire Korea, combining the images of early 20th century Korea on hand-tinted postal cards and a cover demonstrating all the stamps available at the Chemulpo, Korea post office on a single day are that of a correspondence addressed to Mrs. Charlotte K. Ober, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Frederick A. Ober, an American naturalist and writer, and Caroline Haven Ober, professor of Romance Languages at the University of Washington and founder of the Department of Romance Languages.

The first card shown here was received by Mrs. Charlotte K. Ober on 14 September 1902:

Fig. 1a: Front of Card
Fig. 1b: Back of Card

Description of the first card:

  • Post Card: bearing the correct 4cheun International Postal Card Rate
  • Mailed: CHEMULPO 14 AOUT 02 COREE (August 14,1902)
  • Card Received: SEATTLE, WASH. SEP. 14. 6:30 PM. 1902
  • Card bears: Empire Plum Blossom Issues: 3cheun (Sc#21), 1cheun (Sc#19) tied by an International French-style double-circle cancellation at “Chemulpo.” The cancel bears the historical name of “Incheon” which was “Jemulpo”, which was Romanized to conform to Universal Postal Union regulations “Chemulpo.” (Note: the historical name of Incheon is “Jemulpo”, which was Romanized as Chemulpo.)
  • Reverse: Black and white hand, color tinted U.P.U. postal card.

The card reads:


My dear Miss Ober: This may add to your postals and stamps. Mr. Smith and I are having a fine time, with nothing so far to mar the beauty of the country.

Very truly, Chas. E. Gaches

Charles E. Gaches attended the University of Washington. He was the head of People’s National Bank in Seattle, Wa., and served as a regent for the University of Washington from 1914 to 1917.

The second post card was received by Mrs. Ober on 14 September 1902:

Fig. 2a: Front of Card
Fig. 2b: Back of Card

Description of the second card:

  • Post Card: Black and white image titled (in French), “A Primary School in Seoul”
  • Front: bearing the correct 4cheun International Postal Card Rate
  • Mailed: CHEMULPO 12 AOUT 02 COREE (August 12, 1902)
  • Card Received: SEATTLE, WASH. SEP. 14. 6:30 PM. 1902
  • Card bears: Empire Plum Blossom Issues: 4cheun (Sc#22) tied by faint International French-style double-circle cancellation. Card received a machine transit cancel at the U.S. port of entry at “ SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., SEP 19 AM 1902”, where it received a second machine receiving cancel reading “SEATTLE, WASH. SEP 21 8:30AM 1902” at the delivery post office.
  • Reverse: Black and white U.P.U. postal card.

The same sender wrote:


Doesn’t this look like a French class about the end of the first month? Best hopes for a better looking Freshman class than this, especially in French.

C. E. Gaches

And finally the third item, a cover sent to Mrs. Ober:

Fig. 3a: Front of Cover
Fig. 3b: Back of Cover

The cover was franked with 14 fabulous Korea Empire stamps! The philatelic importance of this cover is that it shows all the stamps available at a postal clerks’ widow on one day, December 6, 1902. Attesting to this, the cover was Registered cover #944 (blue # on bottom left front and black boxed “R/CHEMULPO R #944” back) and re-stamped with the sale CHEMUPLO, COREE c.d.s. The cover was received in the United States, where it was docketed and re-registered (as was the practice with Registered Mail) with a three-line red-violet “REGISTERED/DEC 31 1902/SEATTLE, WASH.” handstamp.

The cover bears the following Empire issues:

  • Tae-geuk: 25poon (Sc#8), 50poon (Sc#9);
  • Plum Blossom: 2re (Sc#18 x 2), Ch values: 1ch (Sc#19), 2ch (Sc#20), 3ch (Sc#21), 4ch Sc#22), 5ch (Sc#23), 6ch (Sc#24), 15ch (Sc#26), 20ch (Sc#27), 50ch (Sc# 31).
  • The rarest Empire usage on cover, a 3ch 40th Emperor’s Reign (Sc#34).

How beautiful is this!?! Thanks to Mrs. Charlotte K. Ober for that we have a look at some of the rarest Empire Korea stamps used on a scarce registered cover.

See my other collections and exhibits at:

Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.

1 thought on “Beautiful Postal Cards and Postal Covers of Early Korea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.