Scott Tiffney: an expert in finding obscure philatelic facts

Scott Tiffney is the Reference Assistant for the American Philatelic Research Library. He researches and answers reference requests as they are received in the library.

Peter Kühlhorn of Wuppertal, Germany emailed a question regarding philatelic covers (i.e. mailed envelopes) he collected from Hawaii during the Second World War that were sealed with an obscure red censor tape with the initials “THMA,” followed by a censor number.  During the war when U.S. mail was routinely viewed by censors, the tape was applied to all mail from Hawaii to identify that it had been cleared for delivery. Mr. Kühlhorn’s question was a simple one: “What was the meaning of the initials THMA?”

After finding many examples of the censor tape in question but no explanation of the acronym’s meaning, I finally found the answer in a specialized catalog of civil censorship postal markings. The letters stood for “Territory of Hawaii Military Administration,” keeping in mind that this mail was dated when Hawaii was still a territory of the U.S., before becoming a state in 1959. The catalog also included a complete listing of the Hawaiian censor numbers.

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