I didn’t use the camera much this winter. I hate wandering around in the cold. But, there’s a hint of spring in the air and it’s time to start thinking of photographic expeditions into the wilds of Toronto. To prepare, I meandered through some of last year’s work. I’m fussing a lot over the quality, trying to figure out how to improve the sharpness and clarity. In the meantime, here’s one of my favourites from last year.
Bauhaus has the best signage in Toronto
This has to be the best store signs in the city – Bauhaus – fine windows and doors. If you’re strolling along Avenue Rd, and Davenport, check it out.
What is this animal? Dragon? Dog? Rodent?
The animal is a bit of a mystery. At first I thought it was a dog, but then maybe a cat? But not with that tail. So I’ve settled on a dragon-cat mutant. I stood back quite a bit to take these photos and am pleased with the level of detail that popped on the carving. I worked hard with the various settings until I could see all the fine details and sharp shadowing. One of the successes!
I’m looking forward to this year. There will be more architecture, signage and hopefully flowers as well. The old tripod is ready to go, camera cleaned and polished. Come on spring.
Canada Post’s latest release, Canadians in Flight honours 5 significant Canadians and Canadian creations. This has to be my favourite subjects – Canadian history & pioneer flight. There are 5 stamps, a booklet, souvenir sheet and 5 covers to in the set.
Stamps from the Canadians in Flight booklet
Starting at the top left and working across:
Elsie MacGill – The Queen of the Hurricanes
Elsie MacGill, the underappreciated hero of aeronautical engineering, feminist and all around amazing Canadian. She was a woman of many firsts – 1st female graduate of electrical engineering at U of T, 1st woman to earn a Master’s in aeronautical engineering, 1st female practicing engineering in Canada, when recovering from polio MacGill designed airplanes and wrote articles about aviation, rode along with test pilots to observe her designs in flight, chief aeronautical engineer at Canadian Car & Foundry, headed the Canadian production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter planes in WW2, feminist activist, commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and tireless advocate for women’s rights1.
How bad ass was Elsie MacGill? She had a comic book written about her in 1942 called Queen of the Hurricanes – Elsie MacGill. MacGill was the Queen of Badass Women. Not enough Canadians are taught about her contributions to engineering, aviation and feminism so this is a long overdue tribute to a great Canadian.
1942 comic – Elsie MacGill, Queen of the Hurricanes
William George Barker, VC
Next is William George Barker, VC, enlisted as a private in the Canadian army, ended his career as a Wing Commander in the new RCAF. The lad from Dauphin, Manitoba who went on to be a WW1 Royal Flying Corp and RCAF pilot, businessman and the most decorated serviceman in Canadian history. Barker was one of those legendary fighter pilots that emerged from WW1, a small town prairie boy who became larger than life because of a war they were tossed into. Here’s an excerpt from the Barker’s official military records2:
William George Barker’s service record note about his Victoria Cross win
Second page from William George Barker’s service record note about his Victoria Cross win
Memorial to William Barker at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto
Bush Pilot Punch Dickins
C. H. Punch Dickins, another flier from the prairies, was one of Canada’s great bush pilots. After WW1 ended, many pilots bought decommissioned biplanes and headed north to carry freight, mail and passengers to remote towns and mining camps that dotted the Canadian north3.
In Canada, the word “bush” has been used since the 19th century to describe the hostile environment beyond the clearings and settlements. In bush flying it has been used to refer to flying in adverse, if not hostile, conditions in the remote expanses beyond the ribbon of settlement in southern Canada, into the “bush” of the Canadian Shield and the barren Arctic. By the end of WWI most of southern Canada had been linked by railways, but the North remained as inaccessible as ever by land. Its innumerable lakes and rivers did, however, provide alighting areas for water-based aircraft in summer and ski-equipped aircraft in winter. Bush Flying | The Canadian Encyclopedia
Punch Dickins cut his teeth fighting on the Western Front, serving in the RFC and later RCAF. After the war, he flew to remote locations surveying over 10,000 miles of northern Canada for Western Canadian Airlines.
Western Canadian Airways Semi-official stamp
Western Canadian was one of the companies allowed to print stamps and collect money for the delivery of mail to remote locations. Punch delivered the first mail to the NWTs for WCA. By the end of his career, Dickins flew over 1.6 million miles across the northern Canada.
On the second row is the Avro Arrow, continuing Canada’s fascination with the best aircraft that never got a chance. A Canadian designed fighter craft capable of flying 2x the speed of sound, but buried and sunk in Lake Ontario for political reasons. The cancellation of the Avro is still considered a national scandal 60 years later and hotly argued about.
And finishing out this set is the nibble twin engine Ultraflight Lazair, a Canadian designed ultralight craft that still buzzes around the skies5. Between 1979 and 84, over 2000 were built and sold for under $5000 US. It is considered one of the most successful aircrafts sold in Canada.
This is an OUTSTANDING set. I rushed out and bought the booklet and souvenir sheet the morning they were released.The covers were missing in action everywhere I looked. so it looks like they’ll have to be ordered from the Canada Post website. The booklet of 10 stamps costs $9.50 CDN as does the set of 5 covers. The souvenir sheet of 5 stamps costs $4.50.
Hats off to designer Ivan Novotny6 of Taylor | Sprules Corporation for this beautiful set.
Canadians in Flight 2019 spring Canadian stamp release booklet
It’s been 50 years since the Apollo Moon landing, and this little stamp captured the world’s excited glimpse of humans stepping out beyond earth. I remember watching this on a black and white tv. As a child, I had the barest awareness that I was watching an important moment in history.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – 1969 commemorative stamp for Apollo Moon landing
To celebrate this event, USPS issued an airmail stamp (Scotts #C76) in Sept 1969, 2 months after this watershed event. This artistic rendering of the first footstep on the moon is immediately recognisable to everyone.
While that stamp didn’t go to the moon, Apollo 11 did carry something that should pique the interest of any airmail fans – the first extraterrestrial airmail. The “Flown Apollo 11 covers” are genuine postal covers, complete with stamps, cancels, interesting cachets and serial numbers to identify each.
The 214 covers bore one of 2 different stamps – Scott 1371, the Apollo 8 issue celebrating the first manned flight around the moon or Scott 1338, US flag over the White House – and autographed by the 3 astronauts. The ultimate airmail collectable. Unlike the Apollo 15 unauthorized covers (I’ll write on that at a later date), NASA did know about these and okayed their trip.
Flown to the Moon postal cover
Three different cachets were used, the one above, Project Apollo 11 displaying the 3 astronaut profiles and the Apollo 11 mission seal.
Each has a stamp that reads “Delayed in Quarantine at Lunar receiving laboratory M.S.C. Houston, Texas”. Like everything else aboard Apollo 11, quarantine was mandatory. The covers have a Webster, Texas Aug 11, 1969 cancel.
The Moon covers also bear a handwritten inscription “Carried to the Moon aboard Apollo 11”. Covers pop up for auction occasionally, but is unusual to see them. According to the website Space Flown Artifacts, Neil Armstrong took 47, Buzz Aldrin 104 and Collins 63. Each used numbering their covers to identify the owner: N = Neil Armstrong, C = Michael Collins and EEA and A = Buzz Aldrin.
A second set of autographed covers remained on earth, with family members, in case of catastrophic mission failure. These are referred to as “Insurance covers”.
“These covers were currency to our families in the event that we did not return.” Michael Collins r/f Space Flown Artifacts
Undoubtedly these covers would have been worth a fortune had the unthinkable happened. It’s unknown how many exist, but it’s estimated around 1000 were left with the 3 families. There are a couple of differences between the Moon covers and the insurance covers, including no quarantine markings, no “carried to the moon” hand inscription and a different location for the signatures.
Space Flown Artifacts tracks auctioned covers and their prices. The earliest known auction was 1991 and the cover fetched $13,750. The most expensive cover, to date, sold in Nov 2018 for $156,250. This one was a rare one – it came from the Armstrong Family Collection and had the number N-28. Armstrong held onto all the covers during his life and they never came up for sale or auction until his death. To date, 2 Armstrong covers have been sold – N-28 and N-18. 14 Collins and about 30 Aldrin covers have been put up for auction, with not all selling. If you are a big fan of the Apollo missions, check out Space Flown for updates on the status of covers.
Now that the 50th anniversary has rolled around it’ll be interesting to see what stamps are issued to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission.
Here’s one last image to wind up the article. In 2010, NASA sent up the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter which captured stunning images of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. You can even see the footpath left by astronauts along with rover tracks, untouched for decades. Something to think about over your morning coffee.
LRO photograph of Apollo landing site showing still visible footpaths and moon buggy tracks – NASA website
NOTES & EXTRAS Interested in space oddities? Check out the article on NASA patent & technical drawing bonanza. I dug around NASA and Google patent pages and found a lot of great tech drawings for space suits, astronaut underwear and control panels.
I’ve been rooting around looking for interesting patents to explore and came across NASA’s Apollo Drawings and Technical Drawings page. I was looking for a couple of space-related patents and started with NASA’s website to see if I could narrow down specific items to research. If you dig deep you’ll be rewarded with a treasure trove of documents, including some impressive technical drawing.
Command Module Main Control Panel
from Apollo Operations Handbook Block II Spacecraft
(October 15, 1969)
The drawings are high quality, allowing the viewer to zoom in close and see lots of detail. If you are a history or space buff, the NASA site is a must stop place.
All Dressed Up & Ready for a Space Walk
The Shuttle space suit, to accommodate the large number of astronauts with widely varying body sizes, was designed to be made up of many interchangeable parts. These parts (upper and lower torso’s, arms, etc.) are fabricated at ILC in different sizes, inspected/tested, then shipped to Johnson Space Center (JSC) where they are inventoried for the astronaut corps.
The immature child in me couldn’t stop giggling when I hit the Maximum Absorbency Garment (MAG). “The Maximum Absorbency Garment is worn under the LCVG and provides for hygienic collection, storage, and eventual transfer of astronaut urine and feces discharged during extravehicular activities”.
Space underwear for the active astronaut
Astronaut underwear for those of us earthbound. The document hammered home the complexities of space travel. Scientists had to consider every aspect of safety, many that we take for granted. I never stopped to think about how astronauts go in space before this.
After I stopped being juvenile, I popped back to Google Patents and did a search for Extravehicular Mobility Unit. Silly me – all I needed to do is look up space suits. I was surprised at how many patents were listed. Patent #3,751,727 Apollo Space Suit was the one that captured me.
ABSTRACT Disclosed is a pressure suit for high altitude flights and particularly space missions. The suit is designed for astronauts in the Apollo Space Program and may be worn both inside and outside a space vehicle, as well as on the lunar surface. It comprises an integrated assembly of inner comfort liner, intermediate pressure garment, and outer thermal protective garment with removable helmet and gloves. The pressure garment comprises an inner convoluted sealing bladder and outer fabric restraint to which are attached a plurality of cable restraint assemblies. It provides versatility in combination with improved sealing and increased mobility for internal pressures suitable for life support in the near vacuum of outer space
This patent was filed in 1968, a year before the July 1969 moon landing. It’s hard to tell if this is the actual patent for the suits used on the moon. It’s incredibly detailed, which shouldn’t be surprising given the source. I spend a lot of time trawling through patents, many of which are poorly written and badly illustrated, so, this one was pure pleasure.
Moon boots and ring adapter
Apollo moon boots
Boot rings for Apollo boots
The opening paragraph includes a synopsis of the development of space suits, including details on how the suit will improve an astronauts ability to move and perform duties while working independently from the space capsule:
This invention is directed to a pressure suit to be worn by human beings in a hostile environment, and more particularly is directed to a life support suit to be worn by U.S. astronauts in the Apollo Space Program. The suit is designed to provide life support not only within a space vehicle but also during extravehicular activities including exploration of the lunar surface. It may also be used by aircraft pilots during high altitude flights …A primary feature of the space suit of this invention involves the retention of a pressurized atmosphere about the astronaut in the vacuum of free space, while at the same time providing significantly increased mobility, both in the torso and the limbs, so that the astronaut may freely move about and perform useful tasks.
The total weight of the suit was 60lbs, including the helmet and protective shielding. Even in an environment with gravity, this would still be functional. It was designed to be useable ‘in the wild’ as well as inside a space vehicle:
For example, both the gloves and helmet are completely removable and may be taken off by the astronaut within the pressurized cabin of a space vehicle when it is not necessary to rely on the suit for life support.
Fascinating, isn’t it? The patent is available to download and the drawings are wallpaper worthy as well. I’ll leave you with one last image from the patent to enjoy.
This invention is directed to a pressure suit to be worn by human beings in a hostile environment, and more particularly is directed to a life support suit to be worn by US. astronauts in the Apollo Space Program.
Decided to share an early airmail from my collection. It’s a little ratty around the edges, but I love this ’37 Australian airmail cover.
Nice bunch of cancels on this Australian airmail cover
The Scotts C3/SG 139 6p Air Mail Service stamp was issued on Nov. 4 1931 and the Scotts C4/ SG 153 1sh6p Mercury and the Hemispheres was issued Dec. 1 1934. Nice to have them on one cover especially having them tied together with such clear cancels.
I’m not sure what the bottom left cancel is. It’s an interesting pattern and unclear what it represents. I’ve scrolled through some Australian cancels, but couldn’t find it. Can’t quite figure out what it is.
Interesting cancels on this Australian airmail cover
The cover has some good back cancels as well.
Follow the route by looking at the cancels
So the flight left Sydney, NSW Australia May 12 1937, landed in Athens, Greece May 25 1937 and finally, Vienna, Austria May 26 1937. A fast trip! We have Airmail, Poste Aerienne and Flugpost markings on one cover. Even after 20 years, I still feel tickled over this find.