Little has been written about this enigmatic piece.
I am only aware of a very accurate article written for the Caracas Philatelic Club’s Monthly Gazette #28, published in October 1988, by the pen of Architect Humberto Bermudez.
In this article, Arq. Bermudez shows some communications that indicate that on March 19, 1898 the Minister of Post and Telegraphs was notified of the existence of a stamp issued by a private individual for the mail sent through the railroad from La Vela to Coro.
In one of these communications, it shows the initial response of W.J. Fox, administrator of The Coro and La Vela Railway and Improvement Co. It is inserted in a communication to the Post and Telegraph Office. It goes like this:
Caracas, April 26, 1898.
Citizen Minister of Post and Telegraphs,
In a communication dated 6 March, this Office asks Administrator of the La Vela a Coro Railway (sic), the following: “I have had the honor of receiving your attentive communication dated 23 March in which you insert the note of the citizen Minister of Post and Telegraphs and in accordance with your wishes, ask me for information regarding the stamps or seals that to facilitate your operations have been using the company of which I am General Administrator in the traffic of La Vela and Coro.
I gladly accede to the wishes of the citizen Minister, stating that the company, in establishing the use of the stamps or seals in question, had no other mind than to follow a custom of the United States of America on its railway lines and to check with the stamps in question, the value of the freight of the small or fast packages that pass through the line, for which reason in the center of the seal the word “express” is read, and in no way has it had any intention of harming any personality, much less the Government, to whom it has always kept its deserved privileges and with whom we wish to march in the most complete harmony.
But if the use of the mentioned stamps is harmful or forbidden by the laws of the country, the company I represent is willing to dispense of them and, to that effect, I have issued the corresponding order to the agencies of this city and La Vela, so that the agents of the respective stations suspend the use of the mentioned stamps, while the Government, through your considerable organ, informs me if this company can continue to use them or not in the future. And I have the honour to transcribe it to you as a result of your letter number 27, concerning the same matter.”
God and the Federation.
After this letter, on May 2, a letter was sent to the company demanding the immediate cessation of these seals in any form.
On 17 May, the company responded to this request as follows:
Coro, May 17, 1898.
Citizen Minister of Development.
I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your polite letter dated 3 of the currents, marked with the number 198, in which you order me the suspension of the seal or stamp on small packages that were travelling along the line, because of the opposition of the legislation of the country. In reply to you, I am pleased to say that from the moment your letter came into my hands, on 5 March last, I ceased the use of this seal in the service of this company completely.
Atte. s.s. by W.F. Ton.
General Manager / J.A. Capriles, Manager
Due to these letters, Architect Bermudez concludes that these seals were in use for a short time which he defines as “between January or perhaps February 1898 and April of the same year, that is two or three months at most and only on small packages that circulated along the line”.
The starting date, January or February 1898, is due to the fact that this railway began to operate on December 29, 1897.
And finally Architect Bermudez adds: “The probabilities of finding this stamp genuinely used, naturally postmarked with the company’s stamp and not with that of the post office of Coro a La Vela are very remote, witnessed by the fact that in ninety years it has never been seen”.
Well, today I am pleased to announce that the first of these pieces has appeared which, in my opinion, was genuinely used during the short period of life that this piece had. It is the same one that heads this article and which I also show below, rotated and with its brightness and contrast manipulated to increase the cancellation.
I am of the opinion that this cancellation is indeed the one used by The Coro and La Vela Railway and Improvement, Co.
Dated March 17, 1898, the lower part of the piece clearly reads LA VELA.
At the top you can clearly see a “RR & IN”.
Before RR it seems to show the bases of the letters “LA”. Also, after “IN” there seems to be another letter and a space and ending in “CO. The legend was, probably, “CORO A LA VELA RR & IMP. CO.” Or perhaps “THE CORO A LA VELA RR & IMP. CO.”
It is very difficult for me to imagine that we are not in front of a unique and genuinely used piece of this mysterious series issued in 1898.