Brasilien - x Brasilien Trinidad Lokalpost 1894
BRAZIL, PRINCIPALITY OF TRINIDAD LOCAL POST, 1894, 5 cent green Die Proof showing the island with a sailing ship (printed in typography on chalk surfaced paper), with inscriptions in English "Principality of Trinidad" instead of "Principauté de Trinidad" and Specimen overprint. Such a Die Proof was unrecorded up to date (see the excellent book of Wolfgang Baldus on this subject), UNIQUE and one of the most spectacular items of this fascinating local post.
One can compare this rarity with the 1899 Acre local post were an unused 300 Reis (5 known) was estimated at 5000 CHF in the David Feldman sale of april 1986 (lot 22567)
(poste locale, Privatpost, Lokalpost, locals)
In 1894, one James Aloysius Harden-Hickey, an adventurer who styled himself "Baron of the Holy Roman Empire by command of the Supreme Pontiff," proclaimed himself Prince of Trinidad (Portuguese, Trindade), an island off the coast of Brazil. Harden-Hickey was apparently born in San Francisco, California, in 1854 but taken by his mother to be raised in Paris. He graduated from the French military academy at St-Cyr but declined his commission in the army and became a novelist and journalist instead. He was continously embroiled in libel suits and scandals and eventually left France for India aboard the British ship Astoria after his luck finally ran out in 1888. En route, the Astoria stopped briefly at the unpopulated island of Trindade, which Harden-Hickey proceeded to claim for himself, notwithstanding that it had already been claimed by both Britain and Brazil. He then continued on to India.
In 1890-91, Harden-Hickey met and married the daughter of John Henry Flagler, one of John D. Rockefeller´s main partners in Standard Oil, and took up residence in New York, living off his father-in-law´s fortune. Then, on November 5, 1893, five years after his visit to the island, Harden-Hickey succeeded in planting in the New York Tribune a story on his purported plans to establish Trinidad (Trindade) into an independent country with himself as its military dictator. He announced that the flag of Trinidad was a yellow triangle (presumably for the Holy Trinity, the meaning of Trinidad/Trindade in English) on a red ground. According to one version of the story, he had raised this flag on the island on his original visit, although that would seem highly unlikely--why would he have had such a flag with him in the first place?
At any rate, Harden-Hickey made the best of his declaration of sovereignty. He designed court uniforms and an elaborate protocol; he invented a system of orders and decorations; he promised titles of nobility to settlers from the proper social classes; he began offering Trinidad bonds and issuing postage stamps. He commissioned a crown from a jeweler (with which he crowned himself Prince James I) and appointed a friend as his foreign minister, with a "chancellery" first at the Flagler residence and later in a room of a house on New York´s West Side.
Although he did apparently fund the transportation of several hundred Chinese coolies from San Francisco to Trindade to develop the island´s infrastructure in preparation for fuller colonization.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the British landed troops on Trindade in 1895 to assert their claim, having in mind to use it as a submarine cable station. Harden-Hickey got word of this and challenged the claim, getting little but ridicule in return. The Brazilians also challenged the British claim. They got the islands.
Harden-Hickey descended further into his imaginary world, eventually dying of an overdose of morphine in a hotel room in El Paso, Texas, in 1898 at the age of 43.
(This historical description: by Joseph McMillan, 19 February 2003)