2021 News

Text Box: Henley and District Philatelic Society

Members’ Evening 

8th December 2021

10 members gathered at Bix for an evening to be related to Festive Food. As usual the scope of the subject was cunningly broadened to include much more than Christmas Nosh. Subjects included:
Austrian 2nd Republic`1945 – Christmas and other stamps
Dogs on stamps; [Dog, for Christmas dinner, was once offered – but rejected - in a prison camp]
GB mint commemoratives 1964-1975
GB Christmas stamp first day covers for many years from 1977
Early stamps of Iceland, [Iceland being a shop where you buy frozen food]
London Coffee houses, of which there were once about 2,000. Some of these graduated to become restaurants, hotels or even the London Stock and Baltic exchanges
The military World War II career of Steve’s father which, after jungle training and Libyan desert warfare was spent largely in a German prison camp; memoirs included a photo of Allied destruction of a nearby oil refinery (bought from a guard for one cigarette) and a diary now being transcribed
Norwegian Christmas stamps.

Visit to Henley by Philip Cant

24 November 2021

10 members welcomed Mr and Mrs Philip Cant to Bix.  Philip’s display of Messing about with Boats concerned the story of ships on stamps.  It comprised a wide selection of fully described stamps from a considerably larger British Empire and foreign collection.

Geographically, ships on European stamps were represented by most western countries, particularly France, and by Russia, Poland and other eastern European states.  Great Britain produced little more than a short booklet but this was amply compensated by the ship issues of Britain’s southern outpost at Gibraltar. 

North America included many early and later Canadian and US issues, and the Caribbean with many colonial ships and ship 'badges’.  South America was well represented by Argentina and Chile – and also Ecuador and Peru, which once fought a decisive battle with antique warships.  Asia included modern Indian ships, old and new Chinese vessels, warships from Thailand and native craft from New Guinea and North Borneo.  Marine interest in the Pacific was directed at some US stamps provided for the Caroline and Marshall Islands. Apart from a few Egypt and land-locked Zambia stamps of other countries’ ships, Africa was not noted for its ship stamps; but the Antarctic dependences, the Falkland and related islands, and Argentina and Chile showed many views of Antarctic exploration, rescue and, later, supply vessels.

Some designs were repeated over several monarchs’ reigns, for example themes from the British Caribbean and South Atlantic islands and long-lived Far Eastern themes like the boats of British New Guinea – Papua – Papua New Guinea.

Examples of well-known or notable sets included the early 20th century German colonial small and extended views of the Kaiser’s yacht, the 1913 Chinese junks or the Ottoman Empire’s naval cruiser Hamidiye in the 1914 pictorials – overprinted for Iraq after the demise of the Turkish empire.

Of famous vessels, the most commonly seen on stamps was Columbus’ Santa Maria. Others were the Mary Rose, the Great Britain, the US Constitution, the Cutty Sark, the Royal Yacht Britannia, the explorer ship and the subsequent submarine Nautilus, the Russian Aurora, the Greek Averoff and five different Ark Royals.

Particular-purpose ships depicted included
a great many naval fighting and support ships – especially from Russia
cable laying and radio transmission vessels
ice breakers, particularly for the Russian Arctic, and some other Arctic vessels
Antarctic exploration, rescue, and service ships
‘tall’ sailing ships, both historic and modern, now built for training, racing or leisure.

Notable in Philip’s display were a number of photo and other reproductions of scarce stamps and some acknowledged forgeries.  Particularly interesting was a photo of an envelope bearing the first Trinidad stamp, issued by the owner of the S.S. Lady McLeod and hand-cancelled in the early ugly fashion.  These all combined with stamps or ships of great beauty to provide an evening of splendid fantasy.

Members’ Evening

10th November 2021

Ten members assembled at Bix to present displays mainly related to Rivers. Aspects of these included
Argentine rivers, from those running down from the Andes to the very wide estuary of the River Plate, where fresh water apparently reaches far into the Atlantic Ocean.
Austrian river views and items related to regulation of international river traffic on the Danube and Rhine rivers. 
Bridges – from ancient walkways over streams to large structures carrying roads or railways across rivers or canyons.
Canadian rivers, mainly in comparatively modern sets of stamps; description of these rivers from the very long Mackenzie, Yukon and St Lawrence rivers, through the two named Churchill River (one flowing into Hudson’s Bay, one into the Atlantic from Labrador – down to shorter rivers such as in Newfoundland.
City riverscapes including Paris, London, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Lyon, Angers and Avignon.
Engineered control of rivers – types of dams and spillways, storage reservoirs, hydroelectricity, weirs and barrages, flood alleviation.
Norwegian boats and the men who built and operated them; charity stamps issued to help distressed fishermen displaced or limited by World War II.
River boats worldwide but particularly also used for traffic of all sorts in Sarawak, where there was only one road before the 1950s. 
Thames bridges  - old prints of those in London.
Victoria Falls – comprehensive displays of the many stamps depicting the Falls plus postcards and maps showing the U-turn of the Zambezi River gorge downstream.
Other waterfalls, worldwide.
Wetland and riparian habitat; river birds, fish and mammals shown on stamps.

Two members chose the option of showing us items not related to rivers. These were
Gold exploration, extraction and transport with numerous photographs and fine forms related to the transport of gold by railway or river.
Turkish 1917 stamps, with a figurative overprint (denoting PTT?) – an extensive collection of these on stamps -  both recent at the time, or first issued as far back as the 1850s.
Some of the latter and some Turkish postage dues also shown carry very high Gibbon’s valuations. Scarce stamps in the river category included the British South African 1905 5/- of Victoria Falls (SG99) and the 1932 Australia 5/- Sydney Harbour Bridge (SG143).

Members’ Evening

 13th October 2021

Three members were absent for Covid-related lockdowns – one had Covid 19, one’s wife had it and one was suspect after attending Stampex 2021.  Nevertheless, ten members all contributed to a theme of My Favourite Postcards (or Stamps). 

Postcard exhibits included
A range of views of Wargrave Hall, a fine residence on Wargrave high street backing onto the Thames.  It was the scene of negotiations and the signing of an agreement to set up the independent Irish Free State in 1921.
Postcards of early Henley street traffic, the Regatta, and views of the river, bridges and locks up stream as far as Goring and Streatley; many of the early (100 year+} pictures were from paintings.
FRAN cards of Norwegian Arctic and Antarctic exploders– Nansen and Amundsen -their ships and their achievements some with reference to their British contemporaries, Shackleton and Scott.
Old maps of the South American states and of 1700s Buenos Aires, already on a grid street pattern; cards of Argentine statues.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway and some of the intricacies of its steam and rack-rail operation.
These colourful postcards were complemented by a fine original painting by Joanne Hodder of a Venetian sunset.

Favourite stamps displayed included
A range of French stamps from a collection started originally by swapping British for French stamps with a Pen-Pal.  The range included some fine early ‘heads’ and a later air set with both mint and used 50 Franc ‘bank-note’ stamps.
Examples of Canadian early and later steel-engraved stamps.
Most of the very large high-value Canadian animal stamps up to the very large (both stamp and animal) blue whale, a globally endangered species fortunately still well-represented in the Canadian Pacific and Atlantic.
A range of the, mainly young and elegant, portraits of Queen Victoria depicted in various Canadian colonial stamps.
The different patterns for each French colony in the FRANCE LIBRE issues.
The largely unfavourite GB lilac and green set followed by the improved De la Rue ‘jubilee’ sets of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.
A selection of sets in which the high values were similar but larger than the lower values, including some particularly large French pictorials.
Some attractive GB landscape and animal minisheets.

Members’ Evening

8th September 2021

15 members gathered at Bix to display material related to the theme of BROWN.

Accordingly, several members showed generally brown stamps of their particular countries of interest including early issues of Denmark, 1930s and 1940s Germany, the great variation in US brown ‘postage dues’ and various issues of Canada; also Argentina depicting General Péron’s 1947-51 5-year Plan for posts and telecommunications

Great Britain figured prominently in several displays.
An introduction to the various issues known widely as the Victorian ‘penny reds’ but described by Stanley Gibbons as ‘reddish-brown’ and varying from that colour to dark (chocolate) brown.
A substantial collection of ‘1d reds’ and accompanying comment that these were best thoroughly cleaned at the back and displayed on Hagner sheets. These particular stamps, introduced because the colours or cancellations on 1d blacks had a tendency to run or be removable, do not run even sitting in boiling water and can withstand ironing flat after cleaning.
A fine and very valuable embossed 10d stamp on an envelope posted in 1854.
Later, George V+ issues including some high values.

The surname Brown evoked various several prominent people including
Queen Victoria herself, together with the 1d black on which she was first depicted philatelically and in a much more recent commemorative stamp series. She was known scurrilously as Mrs Brown during her widowed friendship with the gillie John Brown, recently made into a somewhat more respectable film;
an Argentine Admiral Brown with full explanation of his activities
Lancelot (‘Capability’) Brown. 
Early picture postcards were most easily reproduced in brown (sepia); the alternative, before colour printing became economic, was black but that was regarded as too sobering, especially after World War I. A wide variety of cards was displayed including long-forgotten freight steamers on the Thames and in Africa, empty street scenes, and locomotives – all in sober brown (which the Greta Western Railway used for passenger carriages but never for its engines).
Brown is not the most attractive colour for many people – something which the bright colours of Titian r Picasso, for example, may fade if neglected. However, one member produced his skillful painting of a sandstorm in the drier part of Mexico, with different shades of brown for such features as the earth and rock, trees and dwellings and the sky itself.

Members’ Evening
8th September 2021

15 members gathered at Bix to celebrate a return to live meetings atter 18 months of Covid 19 lockdown restrictions. Following a short Extraordinary General Meeting to resolve two outstanding AGM matters, the evening was devoted to Recent Acquisitions and similar displays by members. These included:

Argentine commemorations and exhibitions, and a host of sheets of colourful landscape stamps.

Austro-Hungarian post offices in the Ottoman Empire; A selection, from thousands of stamps and covers, dispatched from some of the 58 Austrian postmarks authorised in the Turkish empire between 1863 and 1915.

Baden: 9 pages of stamps – a German Grand Duchy issuing its own stamps from 1851 to 1871.

A postcard from Gracie Fields in Capri, with family connections.

Finland: 4 pages of multiple mint (i.e., with no tears) rouletted stamps.

Halley’s Comet: commemorative stamps concerning its appearance and related astronomical discoveries; and a description of its various appearances, going back to that of 1066, depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Horn of Africa – stamps of the three European colonies or protectorates in Somaliland that later emerged as the small but important port state of Djibouti and the much more extensive but deeply troubled land of Somalia.

A map depicting the early Portuguese voyages of discovery of the west African coastline.

Spices: AR display sheets illustrating the developing trade in spices from Malacca and similar places.

Switzerland: four sheets of 1908+ stamps.

Unrecognised rarities, exemplified by a malformed S in the midst of a long set an album.

Virtual Meeting

28 June 2021

Members contributed zoom displays on the theme of Music. Topics displayed included:

Angst: extreme anxiety suffered by Norwegian Edvards - composer Grieg and painter Munch.

Argentine Tango music: displaying – with musical background – the fine dress, exaggerated movements and orchestral accompaniment, particularly ‘squeeze box’ accordions/concertinas

Cachets and postmarks depicting musical themes on British and Canadian letters. 

Canadian stamps commemorating Canadian music and musicians.

DDR: the last East German stamp = on last day cover 2nd October 1990.

European Music Year 1985: three members’ reviews of various aspects of the GB 4-stamp Europa issue featuring the works of Handel, Holtz, Delius and Elgar. As well as Elgar and in spite of their names, Holtz and Delius were undoubtedly English whilst Handel (born German, see below) spent the latter part of his life in England – as did his sponsor King George I.

German composers: a wide variety shown on stamps and including Mozart, JS Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Telemann and Schweiz plus various instrumental themes.

GB musical commemoratives including Boys Brigade, Live Aid and Christmas carols.

Grieg: Norwegian pianist and composer who was born, lived and died in Bergen (1843-1907) with pictures and stamps illustrating some of his works and the Bergen Opera House.

Hungarian and other opera stamps including the bomb-devastated but rebuilt Semper Opera House in Dresden.

London Music Halls: transformed from theatres around 1918; and contemporary performers.

New Zealand Royalty/Copywrite stamps included those attached to gramophone records and album covers – from 1913 until recent times; complex pricing posed difficulties in stamping.

Right first time: examples of long-enduring designs from Id blacks* to GB Machins; also Beck’s classic London Underground map and British motorway and major road signs   
* but not the less popular and forgeable Mulready envelopes

St Vincent: Christmas and other stamps designed by Jennifer Toombs

Wartime cover from 1943occupied Oslo with censor cachet.

Whitechapel Bell Foundry: casting church bells from 1420 to 2000 including ‘Big Ben’; the foundry now makes only hand bells.

Virtual Meeting 

24 May 2021

The target theme for this members’ evening was Islands of the South Pacific.

The Dutch East Indies, at the extreme westward limit of the South Pacific, were developed for trade mainly by the Dutch United East India Company (VOC), based in Batavia. It was a powerful company issuing its own currency, targeted first at Moghul India but soon concentrating on the islands spice trade. A 17th century map was one of the central East Indies. Old postcards and other pictures illustrated the ports and commerce of later times.

Fiji was related to mining and correspondence, as were the Gilbert and Ellis Islands, now known as Kiribati and Tuvalu; these and other islands could be located by maps of the Pacific islands presented by several members. Gold Mining also featured in pictures, stamps and covers related to New Guinea, 

Great Britain is a North Atlantic island, diametrically opposite to the South Seas on the globe. A mint set of all the King Edward VII issue from 1/2d to £1 – with variations in colour or chalk paper – of the set some to new designs, many following the Victorian Jubilee formats. The almost unique Tyrian Plum 2d (SG 266a) was cunningly contrived from a later commemorative

King George VI British Empire stamps featured various British islands, including various New Zealand overprints plus a bicentenary French issue for the New Hebrides Condominium.

The Kontiki Expedition recalled the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the South Pacific on a raft from South America to Polynesia. He proved that this could be done but his theory that the islanders migrated from America has been disputed.

New Guinea, also known as Papua, is the largest island in the Pacific. Stamps were issued from about 1895 – Dutch for the western part of the island, German for the North, Australian for the South until World War I at the eastern end, combined later as Papua New Guinea.

New Zealand was one of the islands that featured gold mining. But its main role in the evening was a display of Health stamps of different attractive designs every year from 1932.

Steam locomotives made a welcome appearance, surprising in a region notable for its absence of railways. First, we saw a handsome 0-8-0 tank engine transported to a Pacific island as a cultural symbol. Then, on the island of Tierra del Fuego (see below), we enjoyed cinefilm of colourful steamy action on ‘the railway at the end of the Earth’ at Ushuaia. 

Tierra del Fuego – the extreme eastern Pacific opposite of the Dutch East Indies – features on various Argentine stamps and literature. One stamp was a map with the area of Argentine Antarctic and Tierra del Fuego marked in black (as were the Falklands and South Georgia). Ushuaia, the capital of the island, first a missionary outpost, was largely constructed by convicts also building a substantial prison, now a maritime museum. The original intention had been to setup a penal colony for serious criminals in the fashion of Tasmania and Devil’s Island.

Virtual Visit by Jean Alexander

10 May 2021

For 30 years from 1980 to 2010, Jean enjoyed membership of the British Stamp Advisory Committee, appointed to advise the Royal Mail on their stamp issuing policy. For her Zoom presentation, Jean chose Modern Stamp Design, showing many stamps and related material from among those issued or contemplated over the last four decades.

Jean focussed particularly on the works of Andrew Davidson, an artist and illustrator who, for postage stamps, worked in gouache or wood engravings. He produced artwork for other stamp designers or acted as a designer in his own right. Besides the normal stamp sets he designed front page and other illustrations for stamp booklets, letter cards, and Collectors or Presentation packs.

One of the sets designed by Davidson himself was the Sherlock Holmes Centenary set of 1993 – 5 high vertical scenes from stamps of five Holmes cases, including The Final Problem, a view of his clash with Moriarty at the top of the Reichenbach falls in Switzerland; Jean added a photograph of the Falls.

Christmas stamps featured frequently in Jean’s display of Davidson’s and others’ work, for example the 1998 Bethlehem set, the 1992 set of outdoor winter activity (co-designed by Davidson), and the 2018 issue showing six different red pillar boxes with six different monarch’s cyphers (VR etc.), recognisable in Cotswolds towns selected by Stroud-based Davidson. 

Among other notable stamp issues was the 1988 Trade and mail services set. Jean gave particular attention to the BY TRAIN 18p stamps depicting the record-breaking steam locomotive 4468 Mallard. In this connection we were also shown
mementos of a heritage train trip hauled by 4468 for the Press preview of the set.
a picture of 4468 with a large replica of the 18p stamp, stretched across the streamlined door of the smoke box, and with a photographer, Jean’s husband,  standing on the platform,
her husband’s picture of the cab and crew of 4468 and the autographs of the driver and fireman on the picture and on other items commemorating the trip.

A variety of other Royal Mail issues described by Jean included the Millennium issues – twelve sets each of four large square stamps – and the 2012 London Olympic set depicting 30 different sports; of the latter, some detail was presented as to production of the Dressage and Judo stamps and attempts to combine the two se-tenant.

A very entertaining and interesting evening, enjoyed by all who attended as was seen by the many questions Jean spent time in answering.

Virtual Meeting

26 April 2021

Members contributed zoom displays on the theme of Lilac and Mauve. These were mostly related to stamps of those or similar colours in the context of a variety of philatelic and other topics.

Amethysts and tanzanite are precious stones of similar colour. With some similar properties, tanzanite is found in Tanzania, amethysts more widely but especially in Brazil and Uruguay. Amethysts – consisting of citrine, a violet or purple variety of quartzite – are the most widely known and were illustrated by stamps, covers, pictures and explanations.

Argentine lilac or purple stamps shown included the ½ cent definitives of 1923 and 1935, and also two different ½c stamps commemorating the 30 September uprising in 1930; one was a small depiction of soldiers and civilians, the other a wider picture of a ‘victorious’ procession. The same display was preceded a full depiction of lilac and other colours including those as defined by Stanley Gibbons.

Danish purple and lilac stamps up to the 1930s were comprehensively shown – in skilling, ore and krone values. The close relationship between Denmark and Norway was shown by a map of the shipping connections between the two countries and covers using air, sea and rail routes between the two countries.

Dominica’s 1903 and subsequent 6d purple pictorial was displayed in various guises as was its successor - the twin-oval 1923 set. These were also presented in miniature sheets.

Forged German stamps were produced by the 1942-1945 US Office for Strategic Services (OSS), an agency coordinating espionage and activity behind enemy lines. One branch was responsible for subversive propaganda and in 1945 dropped hundreds of thousands of letters from the air. These bore forged 1941 series Hitler portrait 12 pf stamps for onward transmission and contained subversive propaganda as German defeat became imminent. Some contained Hitler ‘death mark’ stamps. Of the civilians who recovered those stamps, few dared to risk posted letters onwards. So the forged stamps are very rare in cancelled condition.

GB Victorian lilac stamps included variations of the 1867 6d, the 1873 3d on 3d and 6d on 6d overprints, a mint set of the 1883 lilac and green issue, several 1883 2/6d, the 1881 1d lilac – with its five forerunners, the 1d black, the 3d reds and the 1880 venetian red – and the rest of the 1897 Jubilee issue. Much more modern GB was the special Machin QEII underprinted issue of 9 September 2015. This stamp, commemorating the Queen (‘Long to reign over us’) having reigned for a lot longer than Queen Victoria, was issued in a variety of forms from stamps with variations in the under prints, selvage security symbols and methods of printing and production. There were a variety of miniature sheets, some combining celebration with the Rugby Union World Cup also in 2015.

Nigerian stamps were represented by a huge variety of the 1973 new currency 10 k multicoloured Yankari Game Reserve leopards stamps.

Virtual Visit by Barry Stagg

12 April 2021

Barry Stagg, who visited Henley to present Parachuting a year or two back, was introduced by our Secretary as a prominent member of ABPS and the Thematic associations, an expert daffodil judge and a philatelist of wide interests. On this occasion his subject was John Williams – Missionary and Martyr.

The story of this remarkable gifted and dedicated man was presented by Barry in a display well-illustrated by maps, pictures, medals, etc and by stamps – global but mostly from Pacific islands – depicting most of the topics he touched on; these included beer (the staple worker’s beverage of the day shown on a German stamp), two beers (two stamps), tools then in use in Britain, scenes on SE Pacific islands, coconut trees, and many of the types of sailing ship of the type in use for John’s ocean and local voyages – a rich variety of pictorial stamps.

Born in Tottenham in 1796, he served an apprentice as an iron worker and was clearly destined for a successful career as an artisan. He gave all this up when he met some missionary explorers from a ship recently returned from the South Pacific, thereupon married his sweetheart and devoted the rest of his life to the service of the London Missionary Society in those far distant and very numerous islands. His first voyage to Tahiti in two stages took almost a year – 10,000 miles form England via Rio and the Cape to Sydney and another 6000 miles thence by schooner to Tahiti.

Outstanding aspects of John and his wife Mary’s achievements were
the considerable hardship in adapting to extremely primitive conditions; Mary bore ten children of which only three survived to adulthood;
their ability to communicate and collaborate with the natives;
John’s skills in building houses, fashioning metals over charcoal and the complete construction of a replacement ship, The Message of Peace, on Rarotonga;
his achievements in raising money on his visits back to England (1834-1837), during which he supervised the printing of 5000 copies of the Bible that he had translated into Raratongan as well as his book in English on missionary experiences in the South Seas.

Whilst he was clearly successful in winning the hearts of the islanders and in deputing his missionary zeal to many of them, strange vessels arriving in places not visited before were not always immediately welcome. Hostility arose particularly from the behaviour of some of the crews of foreign ships who tended to steal the food and crops of the native ‘savages’ and sometimes stole their wives. It was a few days after such an unfortunate encounter that Williams lost his life in 1839; he and his companion led the way in landing on the island of Erromango and were killed by revengeful native men. In a 2009 reconciliation the place was renamed Williams bay.

The legacy of John Williams’ achievements in the Pacific islands were presented by Barry as his huge impact on the culture of the islands,
the commissioning of seven ships by the London Missionary Society from the John Williams in 1844 to the John Williams VII in 1968.
The last exhibit shown in Barry’s display was a letter posted from one of these ships.

Virtual Meeting

22 March 2021

The theme for this zoom meeting was Revenue Stamps.  As well as displays concerned with particular countries or printers, a number of common topics emerged. Aspects referred to by several contributors included the development of revenue stamps. From early overprints and special labels, there followed adaptations of postage stamps and more elaborate versions of designs showing the monarch’s head etc, often of vertically or horizontally extended shape. A variety of uses was indicated from plain REVENUE to stamp duty, foreign bills, inland revenue, land registration, court fees and bankruptcy. 
Revenue stamps of De la Rue included many British Empire – and some Italian - issues of postal size or extended dimensions. Among observations on a range of revenue stamps were comments on various key-plate designs – for use adapting postal issues or for more elaborate designs in which the duty plate specified the type of revenue or actual amount collected. Inventor Brian Donkin made ingenious printing machinery to cope with different shapes.

The Victorian revenue stamps of Dominica were 1877 REVENUE overprints of current 1d, 6d and 1/- postal stamps and a later 1d carmine one. Comprehensive description and samples of all these were shown together with an 1882 cover at a time when postal rates had just been changed; new stamps were not available and four revenue stamps were used, each obliterated firmly by AO7 postmarks.

New Zealand fiscal stamps were shown for the period 1867 to 1931. For much of this time, for practical and security reasons, an enormous number of value, colour and shade varieties were produced. The face value of some of the stamps – such as related to payment of bankruptcy or death duties – were of very large and precise amounts. So, instead of using high £ and numerous shilling and pence value stamps, revenue stamps were produced on which the appropriate precise amount could be added by the authorized official.

Some Norwegian Nazi Party (NSH) labels were used for postage due or fiscal purposes during World War II; but their main purpose was as propaganda. A variety of pamphlets and many of the stamps were displayed. The NSH was formed in 1933 under the leadership of Vidkun Quisling. Failing to win a seat in two pre-war Danish parliamentary elections, he gained nominal control of the country under German supervision after the German invasion. He was supported mainly by Nazi sympathisers, several hundred of which were later arraigned before a war crimes court. 50, including Quisling, were executed and many of the others emigrated, some to USA. The US émigrées seem to have become a source of such NSH material as is still available.

Outside the topic of revenues – but encouraged as items of general interest at our open meetings – was a set of the GB Wilding definitive 1959 issue (the set with phosphor bands on the front and graphite lines on the back). It was good to see again a mint set of the first Elizabethan stamps before interest was swamped by everlasting Machins. 

Virtual Visit by Wendy Buckle
Watermarks – from early trademarks to modern security features.

10 March 2021

As the second of our visiting ‘virtual’ speakers, Wendy Buckle presented a digital display, incorporating a comprehensive collection of stamps, drawn illustrations and actual watermarks. The latter were remarkable in their variety and clarity, because, in answer to a later question, Wendy said that no stamp watermark was satisfactorily reproducible unless you could detect it with the naked eye. It was therefore fascinating to see a wide range of watermarks such as
crowns – simple or related to more complex national crowns,
heraldry and coats of arms – again mostly simplified as very recognizable symbols,
flora (e.g. roses) and fauna such as various forms of lions, elephants, turtles (for Samoa) or swans (for Western Australia),
various forms of writing – from names of the maker spread across sheets rather than stamps to abbreviations like GvR which had to be E8R for King Edward VIII because the Latin eight would have been too long.

Watermarks have always been produced within the papermaking process; so Wendy explained both the manufacture of paper and the purpose of watermarks. After about 2000 years of the development of hand-made paper, modern machinery was developed, probably from 1799. Most commonly used from 1826 and dominating most of postal watermark era was the Dandy Roll process. A slurry of cellulose-based fibres (vegetation with the lignin removed) was fed as ‘stuff’ onto a moving screen and through rollers which rapidly pressed the material into paper before final drying-out. ‘Watermarks’ were pressed by wire lines or shapes onto the still wet paper resulting in the both the required texture of each face of the sheets and the more distinctive recognisable watermarks, usually spaced at one per stamp.

The purposes of watermarks have included
as indications of the paper manufacturer,
as a security measure asserting the genuineness of the postage stamp or, in more elaborate forms in recent times after postal watermarks were no longer common, that of banknotes and valuable financial certificates.
Some legal documents have carried very elaborate watermarks. Wendy showed two examples of reproduction of old master painting, one of a Leonardo self-portrait.
A host of other aspects were introduced ranging from stitchwork to postal stationery and Chiaroscuro treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.

Lively questions and discussion following the display included mention of 
recognition of watermarks to identify stamps,
the various raw materials for paper-making,
taxation on paper c.1694 to 1864,
mystery in assigning who paid for the De la Rue pineapple watermarks,
the recent demise of paper-making in Britain with an obvious exception of James Cropper’s works near Kendal; he founded this firm on an existing printing works site in 1848 and it has remained in his family’s control; today it specializes in intricate work but has also contributed considerably to the science of recycling paper.

Virtual Meeting

24 February 2021

The theme for this on-line meeting was islands of which these were displayed and discussed.  

British Caribbean islands: Two members presented comprehensive displays of early Victorian stamps from the British island colonies of the Lesser Antilles. Including mention of the British Virgin Islands and Barbados at either end and proceeding southwards, these comprised: St Christopher (later St Kitts/Nevis), Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada. Particular features of the displays included
mint blocks of the first stamps issued in most of these islands, as well as sheets of some of the subsequent issues;
explanation and illustration of how similar designs and key plates were issued at various dates for different colonies;
comparison of the early issues (e.g. produced by Perkins Bacon) and those which succeeded them (often by De la Rue);
display of early stamps valued by their colour (Barbados). Others, when not showing a QV head design, used various symbols such as Britannia, St Ursula or Columbus. 

Ceylon: Empire stamp designs or adapttations, such as Victorian high values and George V/VI pictorials, were succeeded by colourful stamps in independent Ceylon, later Sri Lanka.

Great Britain: Victorian stamp enlargements showing detail and errors from 1d blacks and 2d blues and then the Jubilee issue. Discussion of the techniques available for scanning or photography in making enlargements.

Iceland: a land of ice, snow and sub-Arctic climate, whose modest population have been very successful in harnessing natural energy, modern commerce and (perhaps) sustainable fishing.

Malta and the Maltese Cross: the origins of the Cross of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, which became the Maltese Cross – used in modified form as a 19th century cancellation and watermark and on Maltese stamps, for a while joined by the George Cross.

New Zealand Lighthouse stamps: These stamps, showing beams of light radiating from a hypothetical lighthouse, were issued by the Life Insurance Department from 1891, presumably for use on receipts of insurance premiums. However public enthusiasm persuaded the authorities to allow them for postage. Their popularity rose further when the 1947 and 1969 pictorial issues were inscribed POSTAGE as well as illustrating particular lighthouses (all in New Zealand, except Eddystone).

Singapore: Stamps showing the early development of a port, part of the Straits Settlements colony of which it became the seat of government and most important naval station. The economy was devastated by the Japanese occupation of 1942-45. Later stamps show its rapid recovery and growth as an independent city-state.

Virtual Meeting

10 February 2021

The theme for the evening was Transport. Some members displayed particular aspects of the transport of mail in particular - for example by special delivery, by post bus or by early airmail - largely illustrated by covers and cards. Others showed stamps illustrating particular modes of transport

New Zealand Special Delivery Post concerned stamps issued from 1903 for faster delivery in towns than the ordinary twice-daily service. The 1903 (SG E1) design followed the 1880s US special delivery form – but without the latter’s delivery runner (later a cyclist). In addition to the ordinary postage rate, the NZ stamp was 6d for up to one mile, 3d for subsequent miles. However, the design was judged unpopular and was replaced in 1939 by one showing a fast car (described by SG as an ‘Express Mail Delivery Van’).

German post buses operated in the first half of the 20th century, often in open/charabanc form – later Chrysler vehicles - and carrying mail (Drucksack) and passengers into country districts. Covers showed the postal procedures of the day; sometimes; additional labels were attached;  and the postmarks were often combined with cachets advertising the bus post services. A special feature at one time was ‘visa-free’ travel which could be authorized for mail and passengers travelling through Poland between Danzig and the rest of eastern Germany.

Early Airmail from Jamaica was carried by competing airlines – predecessors of British Caribbean (later BOAC) versus PanAm. Both PanAm and Jamaica Airways (and its successors) first used large flying boats. Other services to Caribbean islands were soon established and eventually a flying circuit around most of them; but Jamaican post to Europe had to be carried to Miami for eventual cross-Atlantic sea carriage. Direct flights across the Atlantic from Jamaica to Europe started in 1939; but war intervened.

Transport by water showed stamps portraying the historic development of shipping from early Mediterranean trade or war ships –ancient Egyptian papyrus ships of the type that carried Queen Hatshepsut’s expedition down the Red Sea c.1400 BC, then Venetian galleys, Portuguese warships and other galleons with improving sail-rigging up to the 19th century East Indiamen and early steam ships.

GB Queen Elizabeth II stamps portraying transport forms including those showing cars, hovercraft, Concorde and the earlier Vickers Vimy bomber/transport plane.

Mail and Transport as illustrated on Argentine stamps: a very comprehensive survey including displays and explanation relating to
Early mail out of Buenos Aires province
Early airmail surcharge stamps on air mail and Zeppelin flight overprints
Early port facilities, postbuses and chasquis postal stations; British pillar boxes
‘Recreational’ sailing: intrepid wartime supportless single-handed navigation; more comfortable subsequent tourist voyages
Equestrian, bicycle, car transport; infrastructure including quay cranes.

Virtual Visit by John Davies
1890 Penny Postage Jubilee

27 January 2021

As the first of our visiting ‘virtual’ speakers, John Davies presented a digital version of his display of the 1890 Penny Postage Jubilee. John’s interest in this mostly long-forgotten occasion was stimulated by a visit, with his large - then young - family to an exhibition at Alexandra Palace in 1990, 100 years after the original events. The 50th anniversary of universal penny postage and the 1d blacks – and the welcome revolution in mail then introduced - had been celebrated mainly by two institutions
the Corporation of the City of London which collaborated with the Post Office to set up an exhibition from 16th to 19th May 1890 and a conversazione (a scholarly social gathering) on the 16th May, both held at the Guild Hall;
the Post Office itself – also with an exhibition and conversazione but held on 2nd July only at the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum.

Although John’s display was split into one part each for the two events, there were numerous similarities. Both involved very considerable organization with collection of the material, layout within each venue, invitations, tickets, menus and programmes (of music by military bands, other orchestras and choirs), traffic planning and correspondence related to all this planning. Under the patronage of Queen Victoria, there were a host of distinguished guests as well as many ordinary people and stamp collectors. The Guildhall was visited by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) who also joined the dinner. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh were guests of honour at the Museum where a formal address of welcome was signed by Frederick Hill, surviving brother of Rowland. Although no actual commemorative postage stamps were issued, a variety of commemorative postal stationery was issued, including
at the Guild Hall, 1d letter cards sold at 5½d with the balance for charity,
at the Museum, 1d envelopes sold similarly for 1/- in vast numbers,
various unofficial, unauthorized or forged material.

There were also special decorative hand-stamps, i.e.
the octagonal ‘Guild Hall cachet’ in rubber and metal stamps,
at the Post Office exhibition, six different cachets, including the main one with an attractive crown at the centre.
Some of these cachets were used as cancellations on letters posted at the exhibitions; or they could be added for a penny - to programmes, tickets, invitations, menus, personal visiting cards, even blotting paper. Special demonstrations concerned Edison’s phonograph, 50 years of telegraphy and the pneumatic tube mail system.

The fundamental purpose of these events was to benefit the Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund, supporting postmen in hard times, their widows and children. Besides the two main events, there were smaller ones in ‘towns and villages’ throughout the country.  The London (later Royal) Philatelic Society held its own events – with dealers in attendance. A book describing the main events was published the following year and, much more recently, John’s own book entitled A Jubilee Reminiscence.

Virtual Meeting

13 January 2021

The nominal theme for this fourth on-line meeting was peace, war and remembrance and the first member’s display was given that specific title for Argentina. Battles, treaties and memorials commemorated on 20th century stamps were shown with full text explanation. The occasions recalled included
the formerly identified War of Independence from Spain in which the forces of General Belgrano defeated those the Royalists;
revolt against or reestablishment of the dominance in the country of the Buenos Aires governorship;
wars against neighbouring states like Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay; or against European powers such as the ‘English wars’ over control of the waters of La Plata;
the Malvinas conflict of the 1980s.

Savoie conquis concerned the conquest and rearrangement of the borders of the Savoy dukedom at the turn of the 18th/19th centuries. Since the 12th century the modest mountain territory of the counts of Savoy had ebbed and flowed, depending on the diplomatic skills of its counts (later dukes) in balancing the power of France, Spain and Austria. Opposition to France, in particular, brought invasion whilst alliance tended to make Savoy a French satellite. The particular conquests of this display were
its conquest by Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire,
after Napoleon’s defeat, the allocation at the Treaties of Paris of the western part of the Savoy lands to France.
However, the dukes of Savoy - whilst losing their traditional lands still known as the (French) Savoy - then became Kings of Sicily, then of Sardinia and finally of unified Italy.

Although well before the days of postage stamps, there were ample postal services in the Savoy regions, expanding as demand grew – much of it pre-paid at increasing price ranges according to weight and distance. These were illustrated by numerous addressed and post-marked covers of the period.

Christmas and other greetings cards included
wartime greetings from front line soldiers, the women’s ATS, an RAF stations whence flew Wellington bombers and Anson transport planes, and a barrage balloon unit;
a group photograph of a fierce contingent of North Borneo military warriors travelling to Britain for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Nostalgia for a return to Bix was expressed in pictures of four of our members holding forth on their displays in the good old days at the Village Hall plus a more recent view of three members celebrating locked-down Christmas at social distances in a garage.