Star Overprints: A Mysterious Cover – which address is correct?

While gathering material for a collection of the Transcaucasian star overprints I bought the following item.

Letter from Baku to America front-side.

A bit roughly opened but looking quite interesting and showing a lot of cachets and added script texts. A typical oversee letter.

There are all kinds of nice cachets in this. First of all the cachet of the Baku town sub-office no 1.

The corresponding cancel BAKU 1 “* e *” (Baku town sub-office no 1) is the Ashford type 87 cancel introduced in Soviet Azerbaijan period and used till 1923.

In New York several more cachets were added:

  • REGISTERED
  • FORWARDED N Y P.O. STA.
  • MISSENT. N.Y.P.O. STA G
  • Directory Service Given Englewood Station.

The address is in red ink and reads as follows:
A. Tamiroff; Al. Jolson’s 59th; Theatre, Moscow Art Theatre, Chicago

Akim Tamiroff (Armenian name Hovakim Tamirian) was an Armenian-American actor, born in Baku. He learned in the Moscow Art Theater and moved later to the United States where he was very active in the movie business, participating in more the 80 movies – enjoying a successful Hollywood career.

Al Jolson (Russian-born) was at his time (1920s) America’s most famous and highest-paid entertainer. A theater in Manhattan (shown in the address) was named after him.

The first mystery of the letter is the address. It is a mixture of three different locations:

  • Jolson’s 59th Street Theater in Manhattan New York (can be found in Wikipedia)
  • The Moscow Art Theater is a theater company in Moscow. (also in Wikipedia)
  • Chicago

Moscow, New York, Chicago? Which is correct? Moscow Art Theatre possibly means he was part of a group of actors touring the States. Perhaps they visited Chicago?

The post office of New York tried to make sense out of this and corrected the address. However, the only thing I can decipher is “39th St(reet).”

The sender can be found at the bottom of the front side and reads:
“sent[or]sender/ Baku, Kladbishchenskaya 100 [cemetery street], flat of M. D. Dzhafarov, P. M. Kara-Myrza for A. M. Tamirov/. “.

So it was written to him by Mr. Kara-Myrza on his behalf. The reason may be some bureaucratic requirements that needed to be fulfilled so the letter could be sent abroad.

The next mystery is the timing of the letter. According to the Wikipedia article Tamiroff visited the United States for the first time in January 1923, staying for three months and returning later in November staying till 1924. The cover tries to reach him in June 1923.

Letter from Baku to America front-side.

The franking is made out of a block of ten 35 Kopeck stamps with a red star overprint and five 10 Kopeck stamps with a black star overprint. According to the used revaluation scheme of the RSFSR the Kopeck face value is multiplied by 1 million giving the new value in Rubles. A possible exception is the 35 Kopeck stamp where some source give the value as 30.000 Rubles instead of 35.000 Rubles. As a result the franking is either 350,000 or 400,000 Rubles. There are also a lot of receiver cancels of the New York post office but no Chicago cancel can be found.

The ink of red overprint is partially water-soluble which can be seen at right side of the star on this detail view.

All other stamps were overprinted using black ink. There is only on exception, a rare variation in blue ink.

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