1869. Clara Rothe
Bogus vs. Forgeries
St. Thomas functioned as the mail distribution center for the British sailing and steam ships during the years 1843-1877. Some 20.000 letters were brought here every month by the ships of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (‘RMSP’) and these were loaded on to smaller ships for further distribution. The Danish Government closed contracts with ship owners to transport mail from St. Thomas to various other islands and these had to sail within six hours after the arrival of the RMSP mail boat. One of the ship owners was George Nunez from France who operated a line between St. Thomas and St. Croix since 1865 and he had a steam/sailingship called Clara Rothe, named after the daughter Clara of the former Danish governor. Since the transport volume between St. Thomas and Puerto Rico was the highest and most irregular, the Danish Government asked Nunez to operate a line to Puerto Rico as well and they closed a 7-year contract and he started May 6th, 1865 to Arroyo and Ponce. Nunez terminated the contract in March 1866 after collision and hurricane damages and the last sailing took place on April 1st, 1866. He sold his ship to Haiti where it served as a warship/gunboat until it sank some years later.
Nunez wanted to attach his own stamps to the mail he transported and ordered the printing of stamps from M. Stern in Paris, France. The stamps show the ship Clara Rothe in an oval at sea with the arms of the Government of Denmark, the text ‘St.Thomas Porto Rico’ on top and Clara Rothe under the ship plus the value of the stamp. However, these stamps were only delivered in 1869, long after Nunez had ceased operating. Since he could not pay to the printer, they were taken back to Paris sold to collectors. They became so popular that forgers many years later reprinted the stamps (1st forgery) and again many years later (2nd forgery).