After the United States declared war on Spain on 21 April 1898, an expeditionary force was assembled preparatory to the occupation of the Philippines. The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay on 1 May by the Americans under Commodore Dewey sealed the fate of the defenders, and an armistice was signed on 12 August. However, some of the Filipinos wanted independence, not merely the substitution of American rule for Spanish, and an insurrection led by Emilio Aguinaldo required the presence of a substantial American military force until it was finally put down on 16 April 1902.

Philippines: Spanish-American War, 1898

A fleet of four troopships sailed from San Francisco on 15 June and arrived in Cavite Bay on 16 July 1898. The postal agent and two clerks remained on board the steamer China, where they operated a "transport post office," gathering outgoing mail for despatch to the U.S. At least two such mail shipments went out via Hong Kong.

Transport Post Office Forerunner

Several shipments of mail from the troops prior to the opening of the post office at Cavite on 30 July went directly to the United States for processing. These letters were forwarded to the addressees without prepayment of postage but 2 cents postage due was charged on delivery.

Example shown from a soldier on board S.S. Zealandia is one of six covers recorded from the despatch of 28 July; has transit backstamp of San Francisco on 22 August 1898 and was received in Pennsylvania on the 27th. Letter mentions arrival of General Merritt on the 24th and expected arrival of the balance of the expedition on the 30th.

Opening day of Cavite Post Office

Eventually, the postal agent and the clerks, with their safe and other equipment, were unloaded and set up for business on 30 July 1898 at Cavite, about 10 miles southwest of Manila. This first U.S. post office in the Philippines was designated as the Philippine Station branch of San Francisco. Only four examples of this postmark are recorded on the opening date. The latest recorded date is 18 January 1899.

A Sub-Station At Camp Dewey

A few days after the post office was opened at Cavite, a sub-station was opened at Camp Dewey nearby, the primary encampment for the U.S. forces (Goodale). No special marking was used on the Camp Dewey mail, which was delivered to Cavite for cancellation. However, the location was provided in a soldier's letter endorsement applied by the 1st Regiment of California Volunteers.

Souvenir Of Agent Vaille first visit to Minila Post Office

F. W. Vaille, postal agent for the Philippine Island Military Postal Service, embarked on a transport at Cavite on13 August to witness the taking of Manila and arrange for the transfer of the postal activity to U.S. control. He reported, "...I was enabled to land and enter Manila an hour or more before any of our soldiers entered the city, and soon thereafter succeeded in finding the Manila post office. There I was courteously received and shown over the office."

Vaille also prepared souvenirs of his visit, cancelling Spanish Philippines postal cards with the "Philippine Station" postmark and endorsing them on the back to confirm his visit on the 13th.

The Manila post office officially opened.

On the following day, 14 August, the Manila post office officially opened for business under American authority. Only five covers are recorded as being used on the first day.Four of the examples are on letters sent to the United States and one (shown above) to Canada.

The single ring rubber Philippine Station cds.

The single ring rubber Philippine Station cds used for registered mail is recorded used only for two months (from the recently-discovered EKU cover used from Camp Dewey on 10 August as shown above to 9 October 1898). Thus, it is an elusive marking, especially on mail to foreign destinations, as in the case of the lower cover to Italy.

Philippine Sta.

Single-ring rubber cds reads "Philippine Sta." The postage is cancelled with a double oval "San Francisco" killer.On the reverse is a previously unrecorded 3-line marking of the "U.S. Military P.O. Sta'/ No.1 Philippines."

Mil. Sta. No. 1/San Francisco, Cal.

Manila was the first of six numbered military stations opened in the Philippines. A new double-ring postmark reading "Mil. Sta. No. 1/San Francisco, Cal." is recorded used from 17 October 1898 to 14 March 1899. An extensively used postmark, but usage to foreign destinations (as above to China and Indochina) is very unusual.

Registered mail sed between 26 October 1898 and 15 June 1899.

For Registered mail during this period, a double ring cds was introduced, including the station number and San Francisco. This marking is recorded used between 26 October 1898 and 15 June 1899.

Mil. Sta. No. l/Manila, PJ.

The third type of postmark for ordinary mail was a single ring rubber cds indicating "Mil. Sta. No. l/Manila, PJ." It is recorded used from 23 March 1899 to 30 March 1901.

Steel Duplex Devices

Two types of steel duplex devices were provided in 1899. The first, somewhat larger in size and with the town name at the bottom, is recorded used from 20 March 1899 to 22 August 1900 at MPS No.1. The second, smaller version has "Phil. Isl'ds." at the bottom and is recorded used from 5 December 1898 to 25 August 1900.

Philippine postal subsidiary to the San Francisco office

The Philippine postal service remained subsidiary to the San Francisco office until 1 May 1899, when it became an independent entity. This event was most clearly indicated by the excising of the S.F. reference from the Registry cancellation. The altered marking is recorded used from 15 May 1899 to 18 December 1901.

Three different versions of unrecorded postmark.

In December 1899 and January 1900 a single-ring receiving mark was used to despatch mail from Manila. Contemporaneously, a version of this marking with the "Rec'd." filed down was also used. In addition, a "cleaned up" copy of this latter was used during February. Thus, three different versions of a hitherto unrecorded postmark came into use during a very brief period.

The First Reserve Hospital Branch post office.

The First Reserve Hospital Branch post office operated during the military occupation of Manila. Although Goodale states that the postmark is always missing the "0" of "Hosp." this is incorrect as shown on the upper cover dated 5 February 1900. Shortly thereafter, the "0" fell out and the subsequently recorded strikes (from 6 February 1900 to 14 March 1901) are without "0." Red cancel used as receiving mark; one of two examples.

Additional type of supplemental marking was used at Military Station No. 1 in Manila.

An additional type of supplemental marking was used at Military Station No. 1 in Manila for mail which was sent to recipients without a permanent address or where they could not be located at the address shown. Only five examples of this "General Delivery" marking are recorded, with the earliest and latest dates being shown above.

Incoming Registered letter from Mauritius

Incoming Registered letter from Mauritius with previously unrecorded "Received" marking of MPS No.1. A very late reference to the San Francisco connection, which was actually severed in May 1899.

Only three examples of the money order

Only three examples of the money order (M.O.B.) postmark from Military Station No.1 have been recorded. The discovery example and earliest known version is shown above as a receiving mark on an inbound cover to a member of the California Volunteers. A subsequent example actually used on a money order for five dollars is shown below.

Damaged mail/off S.S. Morgan City/Manila P.I. 9-30-99 ">

A portion of the mail on board was recovered and sent to Manila where a special handstamp reading "Damaged mail/off S.S. Morgan City/Manila P.I. 9-30-99" was applied. However, only four examples of this marking have been recorded. The above cover sent to an officer in the 8th Army Corps at Iloilo is the only one not addressed to Manila

Philippine Station post office was moved to Manila

After the Philippine Station post office was moved to Manila, it turned out that Cavite was handling sufficient mail to warrant restoration of a postal facility. As a result, a new 2-line handstamp was introduced. Postmarks of this type are recorded used from 7 September to 8 November 1898. Note the variations in the marking: the month is spelled in all capital letters on the top cover, but in upper and lower case letters on the middle and bottom ones. The third example shows lower case "s" in "sTA." (Perhaps the capital letter fell out and could not be replaced.)

2-line handstamp was changed to read No.2

As Military Station No.1 had moved to Manila in August, it was no doubt rather confusing to have a new No. 1 at Cavite. As a result, the 2-line handstamp was changed to read "No.2." This marking is recorded as being used from 25 October to 22 December 1898 (both shown above). Note the variations in the marking; the earliest strike shows the lower case "s" used in "sTA." It was then replaced with a proper capital letter in the marking on the cover. In the third example, the "2" has fallen out.

Military Sta. No.2, Cavite/Philippine Islands

This 2-line marking clearly reads "Military Sta. No.2, Cavite/Philippine Islands." but it is a mystery in several other respects. It is previously unrecorded and unknown to specialists. The date of use cannot be determined from the above piece, consisting of wrapping paper -- probably a portion of the front of a homemade envelope. The 2 cents postage due on top of the 2 cents franking suggests a double-weight, if odd-sized, letter was sent.

Steel duplex cancellers were also issued at Cavite

Both the small and large steel duplex cancellers were also issued at Cavite. The recorded dates of usage of the former are from 5 February 1899 to 14 February 1901 and the latter from 23 March 1899 to 27 October 1901.

Cavite mark incoming mail.

Cavite used a small steel cds with "Rec'd." at the bottom of the dial to mark incoming mail. Upper registered cover from Pennsylvania to London was forwarded to Lt. Pollock on the U.S.S. Brooklyn at Cavite. Lower cover sent via the British post office in Shanghai to the Commander of the Naval Station at Cavite. By this time, the Manila “Rec'd." marking no longer stated that it was a military station, although Cavite's still did. Usage is recorded from 29 December 1900 to 28 September 1901.

Cavite registration markings.

Examples of money orders from the campaign in the Philippines .

Examples of money orders from the campaign in the Philippines are very elusive. In fact, the one shown above provides the only recorded example of the M.O.B. cancel for Military Station No.2 at Cavite, which was used on a form for a payment of 25 cents. This piece apparently survived as it was never cashed.

Iloilo Harbor

The first provisional marking was used on a transport ship in Iloilo Bay. It reads "Iloilo Harbor" and is one of the most elusive military station markings from the Philippines. It is recorded used between 7 January and 7 March 1899. The cover shown above is backstamped for receipt in San Francisco on 25 February.

 Harbor designation dropped.

The second provisional marking dropped the "Harbor" designation. It has been recorded as being used for only 2 months, from 11 February to 11 April 1899. Examples are shown with black and purple ink, with the latter being on a registered cover, a very unusual usage.

steel duplexes were used at Iloilo

Both types of steel duplexes were used at Iloilo. The small version is recorded from 16 March 1899 to 28 November 1901, which the larger one runs from 6 May 1899 to 14 September 1900.

Iloilo military station registration markings

Two types of registration markings are known from the Iloilo military station. The first is a four-line handstamp, not previously recorded, of which the discovery example is shown. The double-ring type was used more extensively and is recorded from 17 April 1899 to 16 September 1901.

Unusual military marking from the Philippines.

The most unusual military marking from the Philippines was an undated one used at Military Station No.4 on Cebu in March and Apri11899. It was used in conjunction with a temporary cds transferred from Manila but with the station number "1" excised. Above examples on outbound and inbound mail.

Standard single-circle  cds for Cebu

The standard single-circle cds for Cebu is recorded used from 6 June 1899 to 14 September 1900. A few examples of a matching receiving mark, similar but with "Rec'd." at the bottom of the circle, are known

4-line registry marking

Shown above are the earliest and latest recorded dates for the 4-line registry marking. However these differ in color and in the spacing of the dates on the second line. Below is a cover with a hand­ drawn box for the registration number and the circular registry marking used later; sent to Singapore.

Island of Negros

In March 1899, a small contingent (not more than a company) of California Volunteer Infantry was sent to occupy the Island of Negros. As new steel postmarks had been put in service in Manila, the Californians were given the old rubber double-ring marking with the station number "1" excised. This temporary cancel was used at Bacolod from 15 March to 2 May 1899. The new single-ring rubber marking was used from 3 May 1899 to 20 April 1901.

Single-circle despatch-Bacolod

Bacolod used only one type of receiving mark, similar to the single-circle despatch mark but with "Rec'd." at the bottom of the circle. Registered mail from Bacolod is very unusual. Only four examples of the 4-line marking are recorded (three on outbound mail). Cover from Spain showing its use as a receiving mark is the discovery example on inbound mail.

Station No.6  marking

The last and most difficult of the numbered military postal stations in the Philippines, there are only five examples recorded of the Station No.6 marking -- with postmarks from April to July 1899.

Dagupan & Manila railway

After the initial six military postal stations, nine more units were opened, but no additional numbers were assigned. One of this latter group was in the town of Angeles, located on the Dagupan & Manila railway. It used a single type of circular cds, with recorded dates from 5 October 1899 to 13 February 1901.

U.S.S. Concord

The U.S.S. Concord anchored off Aparri in northernmost Luzon and took formal possession in May 1899. However, there are no recorded examples of an Aparri postmark until December 1899. The lower cover shows cds with a scalloped edge, clearly a second form of the device. The "M.O.B." cancel shown used on a money order receipt is the discovery example of this marking, previously unrecorded in any of the literature.

Registered mail from Aparri

Two other postal markings are known on registered mail from Aparri. The first is a highly unusual straight-line "Aparri" apparently applied as a killer on the two stamps affixed to the lower right comer of the cover; the postage was also struck with an illegible circular postmark. The second and later usage is a rectangular box marking, shown here struck in red violet on a large piece of package wrapping.



Dagupan was located at the northern terminus of the military railroad from Manila. Its postmark was previously recorded used only from November 1899 to Apri11900. Note the obvious deterioration of the rubber handstamp due to the tropical climate.

Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago

U.S. forces relieved the Spanish garrison at Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago on 19 May 1899. Examples of the standard rubber cds are recorded from 8 August 1899 to 7 May 1901. Postage due assessment on the upper cover reflects its lack of "soldier's letter" endorsement and being charged double deficiency of the 3 cent underpayment. The 1 cent stamp on the internal cover to Manila has a Jolo "Received” cancel, the only recorded example of this marking. Registration marking recorded used from 15 May (above) to 19 December 1900.

Single ring rubber cds-Phil.  Isl'ds /Phil. Islands

Unrecorded in the literature, there are two distinct types of the single ring rubber cds for this office. One states "Phil. Isl'ds." and the other "Phil. Islands." The reason for this is unknown, and the dates of usage are overlapping, with the overall period recorded extending from 15 July 1899 (above) to 18 July 1900.

San Fernando

The San Fernando receiving mark is not recorded in the literature. Above is the discovery example used as a despatch marking on an outbound letter. The typical military station 4-line registration marking was issued to San Fernando, but examples of registered mail were unknown until recent years. Only four such covers have been recorded to date, of which the above is the latest known.


U.S. forces occupied Siassi shortly after Jolo, thus consolidating their position in the Sulu Archipelago. Use of the rubber cds is recorded from November 1899 to March 1902.

Vigan-military markings

Vigan used military markings for an extended period, recorded from 16 January 1900 to 3 August 1901, but examples are elusive and often not well struck. Even allowing for deterioration of the rubber due to the tropical climate, the evidence is that at least three devices of differing size were used.

Registered mail from Vigan

Registered mail from Vigan is known only late in the military period. It was marked with a rectangular box, similar to but larger than that used at Aparri, applied in red or black as per the above examples.


The first postmark of Zamboanga was an unusual 3-line provisional, which has been recorded from 12 August to 27 December 1899. The standard rubber cds has been seen used from 5 January 1900 to 17 March 1901.