Jamaica: Mail Packet Boats

The featured image is of the mail packet boat Thames which is one of four vessels that appear on stamps issued by Jamaica in April 1974 to commemorate those that frequented Jamaica and neighbouring British embassies, colonies and outposts in the 19th century. The issue was accompanied by a miniature sheet included a depiction of some of the routes, calling at ports across the Caribbean, Central America and the southern United States.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats miniature stamp sheet
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats miniature sheet

The stamp issue comprises four stamps all printed on paper with the multiple ‘J’ and Pineapple watermark and perforated 13½ and 14½:

  • 5c Mary 1808-1815,  Perf 13½ & 14½
  • 10c Queensbury 1814-1827, Perf 14½
  • 15c Sheldrake 1829-1834, Perf 14½ 
  • 50c Thames 1842, Perf 13½
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 5c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 5c

The history of some of these vessels is difficult to trace and the names used on the stamps do not necessarily coincide directly with vessels that appear on the Lloyds List of Shipping. For example, Mary is believed to be the Princess Mary that was built in Dartmouth in 1805. She made regular voyages as a mail packet boat to the Caribbean including the Leeward Islands and Jamaica as well as Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe. She made a lengthy stop-over in Jamaica in 1816 for repair but was subsequently wrecked in a storm near Plymouth in 1817.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 10c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 10c

Similarly, Queensbury is given in the Lloyds List as the Marchioness of Queensbury which made its maiden voyage in June 1814 from Falmouth, England to Lisbon. Thereafter, she made regular voyages as a mail packet boat to the Leeward Islands and Jamaica in the Caribbean, as well as New York, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and the Mediterranean.

1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 15c stamp
1974 Jamaica, Mail Packet Boats 15c

From 1823 mail services to the british colonies were serviced by Admiralty vessels under the Post Office Packet Service. That was certainly the case for HMS Sheldrake, a ‘Cherokee’ class brig-sloop built at Pembroke and launched in 1825. Like many of the packet service ships of this era, she was lightly armed and relied on speed for security. HMS Sheldrake was equipped with 10 guns, eight 18lb and two 6lb canon, and by 1827 was commissioned by the Post Office Packet Service, operating out of Falmouth.

In 1839, Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and in 1840, the Admiralty commissioned the company to provide a fleet of not fewer than fourteen steam ships for the purpose of carrying mail to the Caribbean – as a result the ships were known as the West Indies Mail Steamers. The West Indian Mail Service was established by the sailing of the first Royal Mail Steam Packet from Falmouth in 3 January 1842 – the Thames featured on the 50c stamp. She was a wooden-hulled paddle-wheeler as was capable of speeds up to 10.4 knots.

To view postal issues of Jamaica, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Thematics: Day of the Stamp

The ‘Day of the Stamp’ is typically a day of the year set aside by postal stamp-issuing authorities to publicise, and in some cases subsidise, philatelic events and exhibitions. The issues were popular in many European countries during the mid 20th Century including Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary.

Germany 1943 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1943 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1944 Day of the Stamp
Germany 1944 Day of the Stamp

The Day of the Stamp is not to be confused with World Post Day that is celebrated each year on 9 October to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland. ‘Day of the Stamp’ issues were first released in Germany inscribed with ‘TAG DER BRIEFMARKE’ between 1942 (featured image) and 1944 and others were subsequently issued at intervals by both East and West Germany. Stamps featuring a similar inscription were issued annually in Austria from December 1949. France issued a stamp bearing the caption ‘Journée du Timbre’ annually from 1948. This first issue featured the portrait of Etienne Arago who is credited with having introduced adhesive stamps to France in 1848.

France 1949 Day of the Stamp
France 1949 Day of the Stamp
Spain 1961 Day of the Stamp
Spain 1961 Day of the Stamp

In Spain and associated Colonies, stamps were inscribed ‘DIA DEL SELLO’ although many stamps were issued to raise funds for philatelic purposes with no inscription or obvious indication of purpose at all. Netherlands stamps issued for this purpose included the inscription ‘DAG VAN DEN POSTZEGEL’ and those for Italy, ‘GIORNATA DEI FRANCOBOLLI’. Hungarian Stamp Day issues bore the inscription ‘BELYEG-NAP’ and were typically issued in September each year.

Netherlands 1943 Day of the Stamp
Netherlands 1943 Day of the Stamp

With interest in philately dwindling, the practice has been become less common. However, ironically, the issues represent an interesting thematic domain for the stamp collector.

To view postal issues, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

St Lucia: Saint Lucy’s Day

The featured image is of a 50c postal stamp issued by St Lucia commemorating National Day, 13th December 1971. Beneath the ‘National Day’ banner is a coat of arms, but what is the significance of the female character whose image appears on the left of the stamp? The answer is associated with the naming of the Caribbean island itself.

St Lucia is one of only a few countries in the world named after a woman – in this case, the historical figure, Saint Lucy of Syracuse. Legend suggests that French sailors were shipwrecked on the island on 13 December, the feast day of Saint Lucy. Subsequently, the island was named in her honour.

Saint Lucy of Syracuse was a martyr who died during the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Romain Empire. According to tradition, Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283 AD. Lucy distributed a great part of her wealth among the poor which aggravated the Romain elite. When guards arrived to persecute her, they were unable to physically move her. Bundles of wood were heaped about her but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by sword, thrust into her throat. The image on the stamp is from a baroque period painting by the school of the Italian artist, Dolci Carlo (1616-1686) and depicts Saint Lucy of Syracuse with the wound to her throat clearly visible.

The Christian feast of day Saint Lucy is observed on 13 December and, as well as being celebrated in Scandinavia and Italy, is also commemorated as National Day in St Lucia. The 1971 issue included four stamps, all with identical design but each of different denomination (5c, 10c, 25c and 50c) and background colour to the coat of arms.

1971 St Lucia National Day 5c, 10c & 25c stamps
1971 St Lucia National Day 5c, 10c & 25c

The St Lucia coat of arms comprises a blue shield with a stool at the centre (of traditional African design), two Tudor Roses (symbolising England) and two Fleur de Lis (symbolising St Lucia). The shield is supported by two Saint Lucian parrots, a species found only in Saint Lucia. Beneath the shield is the national motto ‘The land, the people, the light’. Incidentally, Saint Lucy of Syracuse is also regarded as saint of light – Lucy sharing the same Latin root with the word for light, lux.

To view postal issues of the St Lucia, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

United Kingdom: Platinum Jubilee

This weekend, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II – a Platinum Jubilee. Stamps issued almost 70 years ago commemorate the coronation rather than the accession but comprise more than 100 stamps issued across 68 countries.

The accession of Queen Elizabeth II, aged 25, took place on 6 February 1952 following the death of her father, King George VI. In accordance with tradition, she was proclaimed queen by her privy and executive councils shortly following the Kings death but it was not until more than a year later that the coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. Not surprisingly therefore, the first United Kingdom stamps following accession was not the commemorative coronation issue but the first definitive issue featuring the new monarch.

United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 1½d stamp
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 1½d
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 2½d stamp
United Kingdom 1952 Wilding Definitive 2½d

The first Queen Elizabeth II definitive issue was the ‘Wilding’, so named as the design featured the Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of the Queen. The photographs were taken during a session held on 26 February 1952, just a matter of weeks after accession. The first stamps of the issue, denominations of 1½d and 2½d, were issued by 5 December 1952. Another 15 denominations would be released as part of this issue until 1954 although the design would be used for other definitive issues until 1967 when the design was replaced by that of Arnold Machin.

United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 4d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 4d
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.3d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.3d
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.6d stamp
United Kingdom 1953 Coronation 1s.6d

The coronations commemorative issue appeared a day after the coronation on 3 June 1953. The issue comprises four stamps, all of different denominations and by different designers (although all except 1s.3d denomination feature the Dorothy Wilding portrait):

  • 2½d design by E. Fuller [Carmine-Red]
  • 4d design by M. Goaman [Ultramarine]
  • 1s.3d design by E. Dulac [Deep Yellow-Green]
  • 1s.6d design by M. Farrar-Bell [Deep Grey-Blue]

The stamps were printed by Harrison and Sons Ltd. on paper with the Tudor Crown watermark and perforated 15×14. The United Kingdom issue was accompanied by a further 102 stamps issued across 67 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations from Aden (South Arabian Federation) to Turks and Caicos Islands. In the majority of cases this was based on a common design, engraved and printed by De La Rue.

Aden 1953 Coronation 15c stamp
Aden 1953 Coronation 15c

To view postal issues of the United Kingdom, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Jamaica: Self Government

The featured image is of a stamp issued between 1945 and 1946 to commemorate the New Constitution and Self-Government of Jamaica. The issue is typical of many following World War II that introduced sweeping decolonisation. As for many British colonies in the Caribbean, this represented a step in the transition from a Crown Colony to a fully independent state.

Jamaica had originally been a colony of the Spanish Empire from 1509. During the Anglo-Spanish War (1654-1660), a large British military contingent landed at Kingston Harbour and took the island on 11 May 1655. Jamaica remained a British Crown Colony until 20 November 1944 when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) led a government that enacted a new constitution and organised an Executive Council with a legislature chaired by the newly created position of Premier.

The New Constitution commemorative issue was released on 20 August 1945 and featured seven denominations (six designs):

  • 1½d Courthouse, Falmouth [Sepia]
  • 2d King Charles II and King George VI [Green]
  • 3d Institute of Jamaica [Ultramarine]
  • 4½d House of Assembly [Slate]
  • 2s Labour and Learning [Red-Brown]
  • 5s Scroll of New Constitution and Flag [Indigo]
  • 10s Institute of Jamaica [Green]

The King, George VI, remained Head of State and his portrait features on five of the designs. His portrait is missing from only the 2s Labour and Learning design – interestingly, it was the British West Indian labour unrest of 1934-39 that generated nationalist sentiment and set the country on the path to independence. Three of the designs feature buildings of national importance for self governance. Seemingly in an attempt to acknowledge some continuity of British influence, the design featuring King Charles II and King George VI (2d denomination) commemorates the 280 years between the First House of Assembly (during the reign of Charles II) and the New Constitution.

Following World War II, several constitutional amendments were introduced under the premiership of Norman Manley to speed up the process of decolonisation. These amendments facilitated greater self-governance and the establishment of a cabinet of ministers under a Prime Minister of Jamaica. Independence was granted on 6 August with the Queen as Head of State.

To view postal issues of Jamaica, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

France: 1946 Airmail Issue

France were early pioneers of aviation, powered flight and airmail services. It is therefore somewhat surprising that it was not until 1927, that France issued its first airmail stamps (Poste Aerienne). That inaugural issue featured two stamps of the noted Merson design, commemorating the first International Display of Aviation and Navigation hosted in Marseilles, and were overprinted with an image of the Blériot XI aircraft made famous by Louis Blériot in 1909 to make the first powered flight across the English Channel. This issue was following by others, including that of 1946 that is the subject of this post. 

The first recorded manned flight was launched in Paris in a hot air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers on 21 November 1783. As early as 1870, France had established an airmail service using hot air balloons, referred to as ‘Ballon Monte’ (Manned Balloon). This became a critical line of communication during the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent Siege of Paris. Between 1970 and 1871, more than 60 balloons were constructed and launched from disused train stations such as Gare du Nord and Gare d’Orleans to convey mail, as well as escapees, from the besieged city.

1946 France 40f stamp featuring the Centaur
1946 France 40f featuring the Centaur
1946 France 50f stamp featuring Iris
1946 France 50f featuring Iris

France released many stamp issues in the early 1900’s reflecting the pioneering role they played in the evolution of powered flight. The airmail issue of 1930 was the first in France to feature an image of an aircraft in the design – in this case a Farman F.190, a utility aircraft built in France, flying above the church of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles. By 1946 there had been numerous airmail and commemorative issues featuring powered flight including a single stamp was issued in 1934 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Blériot’s flight across the Channel.

1946 France 100f stamp featuring Jupiter
1946 France 100f featuring Jupiter

The 1946 airmail issue is notable for the designs, typical of the post-war French issues but stunning none the less. The issue was designed by the prolific illustrator and engraver, Pierre Glandon, whose name appears on each of the stamps. There were four stamps in the issue of denominations between 40f and 200f and all feature a image comprising Roman and Greek mythological characters and depictions of aircraft of the era:

  • 40f Centaur (creature said to have been born of the Cloud, Nephele) [Green]
  • 50f Iris (goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods) [Pink]
  • 100f Jupiter (god of the sky and lightning) [Blue]
  • 200f Apollo (god of the Sun, light and more) [Red, featured image]

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Bermuda: Down at the Docks

Around the time of the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, pictorial stamp designs were introduced across the British Caribbean territories. Jamaica saw the introduction of the ‘Arms of Jamaica’ issue (1903) and the Bahamas ‘Queen’s Staircase’ issue (1901). This was a break from the traditional young portrait image of Queen Victoria that had graced many stamp issues to date; noting a few exceptions such as the ‘Llandovery Falls’ issue of Jamaica in 1900. Whilst not strictly speaking in the Caribbean, Bermuda followed suit with it’s iconic ‘Wet / Dry Dock’ pictorial issue which was first released in November 1902 and remained in circulation until 1910.

There is some debate as to whether the image is of a Wet or Dry Dock. The original badge, based on a seal approved by the Admiralty in 1817, clearly depicts a Wet Dock and it is this image that was used as the basis for the image on the stamp design by De La Rue. The design shows an empty dock in the foreground with three sailing ships in open water beyond. The scene alludes to the fact that the islands were a stopover base for the sailing ships of the period.

Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d stamp
Bermuda 1903 Dry Dock Definitive 3d

Three denominated stamps were issued between 1902 and 1903 – ½d Black & Green (first issued December 1903), 1d Brown & Carmine (first issued November 1902) and 3d Magenta and Sage-Green (first issued September 1903). The issue was printing by typography on paper watermarked with Crown CA and perforated 14.

Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d stamp
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ¼d
Bermuda 1908 Dry Dock Definitive ½d stamp
Bermuda 1909 Dry Dock Definitive ½d

From 1906, the design was reused with four new denominations – ¼d Brown & Violet (first issued September 1908), 2d Grey & Orange (first issued October 1907), 2½d Brown & Ultramarine (first issued December 1906) and 4d Blue & Chocolate (1909, featured image) – and a watermark change to Multiple Crown CA. Subsequently, to comply with Universal Postal Union standards, the 1d was reissued in Red (1908), the ½d in Green (1909) and the 2½d in Blue (1910). The design was used for all the definitive stamps of Bermuda during the reign of Edward VII.

To view postal issues of Bermuda, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

France: Le Mans 24 Hour Endurance Race

2022 will mark the 90th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance Race organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). The race will take place between 11th and 12th June 2022 at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans, France. The featured image is of a French stamp issued in June 1973 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the race, designed by the talented stamp engraver, Georges Bétemps.

The first Le Mans 24 hour endurance race was held on 26–27 May 1923 and has been held annually since then at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans France. The race has been cancelled ten times including 1936 (Great Depression) and between 1940 and 1948 (World War II). The event was noted for its ‘Le Mans start’ in which the drivers were separated from their vehicles and at the starters signal, were required to run across the track, start their cars without assistance and drive away. Due to safety concerns, from 1971 the ‘Le Mans start’ was superseded with the ‘rolling start’.

Unlike many other forms of motorsport, the winner of Le Mans is determined by the car that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours – last years winners completing 371 laps and more than 5,000km. The event represents one leg of an unofficial prestigious Triple Crown of Motorsport – the other events being the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. Indeed, there has only ever been one driver to win the Triple Crown; Graham Hill secured the win at le Mans in 1972, Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Since 2012, the race has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The featured stamp was issued in June 1973, denominated 60 centimes and commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the race. It was recess printed in two colours, blue and carmine brown and was designed by the talented stamp engraver, Georges Bétemps. Bétemps started engraving stamps in 1946 with his first issues being a number of values of a definitive set issued in Cameroon – his first French stamp did not appear until 1961. He is perhaps most noted for his designs featured on French Tourism and Europa issues. By the time of his death in 1992, Bétemps had been responsible for the design and engravings of more than 1500 stamps. The Le Mans race has appeared on the stamp issues of several countries including Belgium, Mali, Mexico, Sierra Leone and Togo.

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Germany: Berlin Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition

The striking image that appears on the featured 1939 stamp is of two sports cars of the era battling it out on the track. It is one of three stamps that were issued in February 1939 for the Berlin Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition, also known as the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA). The event became a target for Nazi propaganda prior to World War II and the 1939 event would be the last to be hosted in Berlin. However, the stamp issue commemorates a number of notable motoring achievements.

The first IAA was held in the German capital of Berlin on 30 September 1897. At this first event, just eight motor vehicles were on display from Benz Velo, Lutzmann, Diamler and Kühlstein; the latter a manufacturer of electric cars between 1898 to 1902. The 23rd IAA in 1939 was inaugurated by the new German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who used the event to announce major road construction and state-funded motorsport. The event became a showcase for German engineering and was attended by more than 825,00 visitors. However, this would be the last IAA event to take place in Berlin as a result of World War II, although it would eventually reappear in Frankfurt in 1951.

The featured image is of two racing cars models of 1938 dubbed the Silver arrows – a nickname given to Germany’s dominant Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix teams between 1934 and 1939. These two German teams dominated Grand Prix racing until the outbreak of World War II. The Auto Union Type D won the Italian Grand Prix in 1938 and the French Grand Prix in 1939. The Mercedes Benz W154 won Grand Prix in France, Germany and Switzerland in 1938 as well as Belgium, Germany and Switzerland in 1939. The Silver Arrows nickname remains to this day in reference to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team.

The 12pf + 8pf stamp was accompanied by two other stamps, one denominated 6pf + 4pf featuring an image of Benz and Daimler motorcars of 1886 and another denominated 25pf + 10pf featuring an image of a vehicle introduced as the KdF-Wagen, later to become more popularly known as the Beetle.

German9 1939 6pf + 4pf stamp featuring Benz and Daimler motorcars of 1886
Germany 1939 6pf + 4pf featuring Benz and Daimler motorcars of 1886

Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz are widely recognised as pioneers of automobile manufacture. Interestingly, Daimler and Benz never met personally but simultaneously developed the world’s first automobiles in Stuttgart and Mannheim respectively in 1886. It took several years before the automobile was commercially popularised and not until 1926 before predecessor companies were merged to form Daimler-Benz AG.

Germany 1939 25pf + 10pf stamp featuring the KdF-Wagen (Beetle)
Germany 1939 25pf + 10pf featuring the KdF-Wagen (Beetle)

The KdF-Wagen was designed by Ferdinand Porsche following an order from Hitler to develop a people’s car or Volkswagen, insisting that it should transport two adults and three children at 100 km/h and would be available to German citizens through a purposely arranged savings scheme. Ironically, early production was limited due to World War II and only a handful of KdF-Wagen were produced primarily for the Nazi elite. Today, the Beetle as it would come to be known, is acknowledged as the longest-running and most-manufactured car ever made.

To view postal issues of Germany, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Netherlands: Erasmus

The Netherlands stamp issued on 30 September 1969 commemorates the 500th birth anniversary of Desiderius Erasmus. His name will be known to many, mainly in the field if education – many schools, facilities and universities employ the name and in Europe, the Erasmus Programme enables students to spend up to a year of their university courses at a university in another country. So, who was Erasmus and why does he feature on a stamp issue of the Netherlands?

As it happens, this was not the first time that Desiderius Erasmus had appeared on a Dutch stamp. His portrait appeared on an earlier 1936 stamp, one of four in an issue raising funds for cultural and social relief. Erasmus is featured on the highest 12½ (+3½c) denominated stamp on the 400th Anniversary of his death on 12th July 1536.

1936 Netherlands Cultural & Social Relief Fund 12½ (+3½c) stamp featuring Erasmus
1936 Netherlands Cultural & Social Relief Fund 12½ (+3½c) featuring Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus in believed to have been born in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in 1466. Although closely associated with Rotterdam, he spent only four years there and received a worthy education at a number of monastic or semi-monastic schools. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1492 and studied at the University of Paris. He went on to become a celebrated philosopher and  theologian and one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance. Most notably, he translated new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament that would influence the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Unlike the earlier stamp issue, the featured 25c denominated stamp was released as a single stamp on phosphorescent paper and quite striking maroon on yellow green. Erasmus was painted at least three times in 1523 by the artist, Hans Holbein. The portrait used in the 1936 stamp issue is based on the painting by Holbein that now hangs in the Louvre, Paris, and the later 1969 stamp based on the Holbein painting that hangs in the National Gallery, London. Despite more than 30 years separating the two issues, both were designed by Shem Hartz.

1523 painting of Erasmus by Hans Holbein
1523 painting of Erasmus by Hans Holbein (courtesy of wiki:contents)

Although widely celebrated in academic circles, it worth noting that Erasmus was capable of getting it wrong. The Greek proverb ‘ten skaphen skaphen legein’ can be translated to English as ‘to call a bowl a bowl’. Erasmus mistook the Greek skaphē (bowl) for a derivative of skaptein (to dig), hence deriving the phrase ‘to call a spade a spade’. It is perhaps a testament to the influence of the man that the inaccurate translation stuck!

To view postal issues of Netherlands, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.