Winchester 1821 Inverted Virginia Circular Date Stamp

by Gene Lightfoot Articles

Winchester is located in Frederick County in northwest Virginia and was formed in 1738 and named for Frederick, Prince of Wales and father of King George III. The earliest European settlement in the area was in 1732. Winchester was first settled around 1738. It was first referred to as Opequon, then Old Town, and Frederickstown. Its name was changed to Winchester in 1752 in honor of the English home of the town’s founder, James Wood.
Initially Winchester was established as a private post office. It became a government post office on June 12, 1792 with George Norton serving as Winchester’s first Postmaster. The earliest recorded usage is a small straight line cancellation dated July 21, 1789. Winchester has a rich postal history, as no less than 50 different postal markings have been recorded in the Virginia Postal History Catalog through 1865.

Figure 1. May 11. 1821 Winchester CDS with Inverted (VIRGINIA)

In figure 1 an additional marking was added to this total, it is dated May 11, 1821 and mailed to Samuel Coates in Philadelphia, Pa. No less than 3 separate town hand stamps were used from 1820 to 1822. Figure 2 shows the 3 styles during this period.


Figure 2. Three Styles of Winchester Postmarks used between 1820 and 1822

It is similar to marking 12 listed on page 477 of the catalog (Figure 2). In the l2-06 Supplement of the Catalog the marking in Figure 1 is listed on page W-04 as marking 11L (28x26mm). In the marking 12 listing VIRGINIA is spelled across the bottom of the circular date stamp following the curvature of the hand stamp. In the close up in figure 3 “(VIRGINIA.)” is inverted “(.AINIGRIV)”, again as in the listed marking, along the curvature of the circular date stamp. Also notice the small A at the end of Virginia is upside down!


Figure 3. Close up of figure 1 cover showing inverted Virginia.

In both examples Virginia is enclosed in parenthesis and a partial outer rim is visible above the CHE of Winchester. The markings appear to be the exact size, with the only difference being the inverted spelling of Virginia. Both examples of the CDS are listed in red ink. The inverted Virginia is recorded used between April 12, 1821 and June 1, 1821 and the non-inverted use is recorded used between February 21, 1821 and July 23, 1821. This presents a perplexing issue with these two markings; according to recorded usages they do overlap during period of use, implying one of three things:

• There were at least 2 markings used concurrently.
• The February 21, 1821 usage for the non inverted example is actually an 1822 usage.
• The early recorded usages of the non-inverted Virginia are actually inverted but was not caught by the submitter/owner when sending information to the Catalog.

Figure 4. May 21, 1821 usage of Winchester with Inverted Virginia.

Figure 5. June 1, 1821 usage of Winchester with Inverted Virginia.

Figures 4 and 5 are more examples of the inverted Virginia marking from the same correspondence. Figure 4 is dated May 20, 1821 and figure 5 is dated June 1, 1821. It is my opinion the inverted Virginia marking was used first between April and June-July of 1821 and was subsequently modified in June-July 1821 correcting the inverted Virginia, and possibly adding the type set month and day stamps, since the recorded usages of the inverted examples all have manuscript dates. I do not believe that two markings existed concurrently due to the similar line above the CHE of Winchester in both examples.

Given the short period of use, whether inverted or not, these markings are relatively scarce. The inverted Virginia is not listed in the American Stampless Cover Catalog (1997). Both of these date stamps were used throughout 1821 and probably into 1822 and were replaced by marking 15 (Figure 2) sometime in 1822 as the earliest recorded date in the catalog is December 13, 1822. So, what was used between July 23, 1821 and December 13, 1822 – a period of about 17 months?

If there are any specialized Winchester collectors out there, please look at your collections and let me know of any other usages from any of the markings recorded in this article. I can be reached at


David G. Phillips, American Stampless Cover Catalog Volume 1 (North Miami, Florida, David G. Phillips Publishing Co., Inc., 1997)

Robert L. Lisbeth, Virginia Postal Markings and Postmasters Colonial – 1865 Second Edition (Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Postal History, Society, 1984)

Raus McDill Hanson, Virginia Place Names Derivations Historical Uses (Verona, Virginia, McClure Printing Company, Inc. 1969)

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