John Bidwell 1960

  • Digital Collection


An old liberty ship, the 7,176 ton John Bidwell, last sailed in 1945. She had been lying in Philadelphia shipyard since then until she was broken up in 1960.

To the surprise of everyone, the shipbreakers found a sealed compartment and inside were more than 500 bags of mail, destined for Chile from Britain and other parts of the world. So far as is known, these were all, or mostly, newspapers. The Chilean Post Office marked the individual pieces with a large explanatory cachet in sans-serif in a box 79X42 mm.: CORRESPONDENCIA RETARDADA/Y RECUPERADA DEL/S/S 'JOHN BIDWELL' /1945 1960/CORREOS DE CHILE. In the centre between the two year dates is a blank space. It is understood that as the handstamp (which was applied in purple) was originally made there was a silhouette of a sailing vessel here. It seems that someone pointed out that it was incongruous to show this on mail recovered from a steamship, so it was cut out. All the examples seen are struck on newspapers or on newspaper wrappers including one mailed on 26.6.45 in London (The Observer) 2001-06-093,, and the other a wrapper from the magazine Life showing the date of expiry of subscription as Nov. 46. ??