Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Canada's 1969 sad little stamp commemorating first nonstop transAtlantic flight

Canadian stamp: First Transatlantic flight celebration 1919 issued June 13 1969

.15c Scotts #494 / SG #636 #494i (dull florescent paper)
Perf. 12  X 12.5

No watermarks          

Designer: Robert William Bradford
Printer: British American Banknote Co.

In the early days of flight, there was a mad scramble to be the first at just about everything – first across the English Channel, fastest, highest, longest flight. You name it, pilots pushed the limits. After Bleroit's successful crossing of the English Channel in 1909, the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK offered £10,000 to the first person(s) to fly the Atlantic nonstop. That was the sticky part – it had to be non stop in under 72hrs. No serious attempt was made until after WW1 which produced big advancements in air technology making the possibility of an ocean crossing feasible. 

A number of attempts were made but Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, flying a Vickers Vimy, claimed the prize. Photo of Alcock and Brown in front of Vickers airplane 1919

(Alcock and Brown are on the left and right. The archive doesn’t note who the man in the middle was.)

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Canadian #philately - 1859 5c beaver stamp & some not so tortured Canadian history

Canadian Stamp - 5c beaver 1859

July 1859 – pre-Confederation 5 cent Canadian beaver stamp

Cat #15 Scott’s & Unitrade Specialized Canadian and SG #31 (listed under Colony of Canada)

American Bank Note Company - New York – wove papers

Perforations: 11.75, 12 x 11.75, 11.75 x 12, 12

Designed by Sir Sandford Fleming

This has to be one of my all-time favourite Canadian stamps. It’s the one I coveted the most when I began collecting. I’d look at it, through the case in the local hobby store and wonder what it would be like to own it. I grew up with stories of the fur trade in Canada, the Coureurs des bois and the Hudson’s Bay Company, so the history that tiny piece of coloured paper represented was deeply ingrained. I often think it’s a slightly wonky, stoned beaver with Godzilla proportions on that small waterfall but still … it was THE STAMP, as far as my young collector self was concerned.

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Quercus suber stamps – magnficent cork stamps from Portugal

How much time do you spend thinking about the little stopper in wine bottles?  Most of us don’t think about it, beyond the fact it’s keeping our wine in the bottle. 

Cork comes from the Quercus suber, also called cork oaks by we mere mortals. Cool trivia: cork oak an evergreen tree. The average  Cork oak trunk sectioncork oak lives between 150 to 250 years and grows up to 65ft high. It's the bark off the tree that is used to produce cork. Once the trees hit maturity at 25 years, the bark is peeled off the tree every 10 years or so (between 9 and 12 years, depending on the tree).   

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans used cork for a number of purposes, including building, insulation and of course as a stopper for olive oil bottles. Archeologist in France have uncovered wine amphora with cork stoppers dating back to 3rd BC., with the wine still inside.

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BC Airways semi-official stamp & Canada’s first passenger plane crash

Buckle up stamp fans, time for another foray into my favourite area - Canadian history and airmail.

If you are an airmail collector, you should look at Canada’s fascinating semi-official airmail history. Semi-officials were a branch of airmail stamps, issued by individual airlines. Canada Post sanctioned the private printing, allowing airlines to collect fees for delivering mail, usually to remote bush areas like the northern mining communities. Although the stamps were supposed to be affixed to the back of a cover, they often snuck onto the front, proudly displayed beside regular postage.

It’s a rich history to explore for airmail and pioneer aviation fans alike. If you happen to be a history buff, well bonus all around! A couple of sources will help you explore semis – van Dam’s catalogue and website are treasure troves of information. van Dam is also one of the most reliable sources around for purchasing semi-officials.  You can pick up copies of Unity Canada and Sanabria Airmail catalogues for pricing and a bit of information about the flights. Sanabria is harder to find, but copies occasionally pop up on eBay. But the best book is The Pioneer and Semi-Official Air Stamps of Canada 1918-1934 by Longworth-Dames. Semi-officials are ignored by Scotts and Gibbons general catalogues, though they might be in one of their speciality catalogues. If you are serious about semi-officials, you need van Dam and Longworth-Dames, although I do wish van Dam sorted their dreadfully dated website out. I bang my head on the keyboard everytime I use it.

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And here I sit with my stamps in a complete muddle, and nobody has bothered to tell me what it's all about."
"Listen now, Hemul," said Snufkin slowly and clearly. "It's about a comet that is going to collide with the earth tomorrow."
"Collide?" said the Hemulen. "Has that anything to do with stamp-collecting?”

- Tove Jansson, Comet in Moominland   

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