Germany 1920, if we are still a Reich, what happened at Weimar?

Germany after World War I was a place of much suffering and soul searching. On how to move forward, people had different ideas, and indeed different stamp offerings. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp in a 1920 printing of a stamp that first appeared in 1902. The statement at the bottom of the stamp translates into always united. The symbols of the stamp relate to symbols of German unification in 1870 under the Prussian King. Germany had just lost a little over 2 million soldiers plus over 800 thousand civilians to the Allied blockade and the Spanish flu. The economy was devastated and the last Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated both his German and his Prussian title and was in exile in Holland. A new constitution had been ratified making a much smaller, not united German Republic.

So how could this stamp still be in use in 1920. Without even a Spanish style overprint to track the flip flopping. There were other stamps out at the time that reflect more the situation. There was a much less grandly printed stamp showing a live tree stump with a little new growth. It was to show Germany surviving the difficulties. Reich does not appear on it. It might have been too much for everyone to just suddenly fall into line. While acknowledging the defeat not all were ready to abandon the ideal of all German people united under one government. For a while at least people could display their future hopes on their letters. An austere but freer and less aggressive Germany or a return to the vision of a strong united Germany.

One should also contrast the visuals of the stamp with the later issues of the Nazis.Those stamp offerings came from a very different tradition that was more in tune with populism. This 1920 stamp is just not that. It appeals more to the old aristocracy, trying to inspire a new Bismarck to put the old system back together.

Todays stamp is issue A21, a 2.5 Mark stamp issued by Germany in 1920. The obvious difference between it and the 1902 version is the higher denomination. This reflects to inflation gripping Germany as money was printed to meet obligations both foreign and domestic. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 50 cents mint. The prewar version of the stamp with a lower denomination and a different color is worth $120 mint. Collectors seem to side with the early believers rather than the somewhat pathetic holdouts of 1920. Remember one thing the Weimar Republic was great about was keeping the printing presses humming.

There still are a few holdouts. Huis Doom, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s home in exile in Holland still hosts 25,000 Germans annually on his birthday celebrating German Royalty. Kaiser Wilhelm is buried at this home as he refused Hitler’s offer to be buried in Germany until the House of Hohenzollern is back on the throne, at least of Prussia.

Well my drink is empty and this stamp has me wondering which stamp my maternal German ancestors would have used. I expect the Reich stamp but my German cousins today would prefer the live tree stump stamp, or more likely just a Euroland stamp offering. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


North Korea 1991, Our Communist Royal House will survive because we have Juche

North Korea’s regime survived the fall of communism. Perhaps because they modified Marxism to become self reliant and therefore less influenced by life outside. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp is big, well printed and aimed at the international collector. Sure Giant Pandas are more to do with China than North Korea, but they are cute. Note also that the date on the stamp uses the Gregorian calendar rather than the Juche calendar used in North Korea. This easy source of foreign exchange for the Eastern Bloc did much to help specialized stamp collectors.

Todays stamp is issue A1379, a 50 Chon stamp issued by the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea(North) on January 10th, 1991.It was part of a 6 stamp souvenir sheet displaying giant pandas. According to the Scott Catalog, the souvenir sheet is worth $1.75 cancelled to order. I only possess one stamp of the six on the sheet so that puts its value at 30 cents.

The Korean peninsula was divided between North and South in 1953 at the conclusion of the hostilities of the Korean war. There was still a technical state of war with the south and a large compliment of American military there. North Korea was thus required to stay on a war footing  and invest the bulk of the recourses on it’s military. It was still the case that much development occurred in the North with the help of substantial Soviet and Chinese aid. Agricultural reform went more smoothly in the North than in China or the Soviet Union. Through the late seventies, the North at least matched the South in output although with much less emphasis on consumer goods.

Kim Il-sung realized that the North could not rely indefinitely on aid and needed to become self sufficient. He developed a political ideology that built on Marxism but more emphasized the individual in achieving self reliance. The system was called Juche and was credited to Kim Il-sung and exported to open minds throughout the third world. The idea of not having to be reliant on foreigners had much appeal to newly independent former colonies. Achieving the ideal was not however in those countries reach

The development that went on was much in the old Soviet model with things like steel mills and mining at the forefront of the planned industrialization. There was a drive to boost exports by bringing in capitalist technology but this required debt and the monies realized in the market were below what was hoped. When the plan did not work out the debt was quickly defaulted on.

One aspect unique in the communist world was the personal aggrandizement of Kim Il-sung. This allowed him to introduce his son into politics as his heir so that the family could act as a royal house with hereditary succession. The country even introduced a Juche calendar timing dates based on the number of years since Kim Il-sung’s birth. It is definitely a cult of personality but does not extend to North Korea’s leaders having any Godlike powers as is suggested in some African countries.

Kim Il-sung died in 1994 having escaped the tumult that befell other communist countries in the 90s. That in itself does bolster his ideas of self reliance. His son and now his grandson have remained in power and although economic development has not kept pace with the South in recent years there must be some respect for the ability of the North to go it alone.

The giant panda is only native to China. At the current time there is no zoo in North Korea in the program to lease pandas for 10 year periods as exist in many parts of the world. The lease program has been successful in raising money and awareness of the need to preserve and increase numbers of the endangered pandas.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open the conversation in the below comment section. The country of North Korea shows for bad and good what a country is like when it takes complete control of itself. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Napoleon III, from exile to prison to president to emperor and back to exile

Political heirs can sometimes capture the imagination. Imagining a return to the grandiosity of the past but hopefully without the missteps. Followers and the heirs themselves hold out the hope but it rarely works out. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp is a very early issue of France. It does a good job displaying the transformation of France back to Empire and Napoleon. The first French stamp issue featured Ceres the Roman Goddess of Agriculture. The Napoleon stamp very much resembled the Ceres stamp, with the details of the long stamp issue changing to reflect the details in the transformation of France’s longest serving head of state.

Todays stamp is issue A5 a 30 Centimes stamp issued by the French Empire in 1867. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $12.50. There is an imperforate version of this stamp that was solely for the use of the Rothschild banking empire that is worth $190.

Louis Napoleon was born to Napoleon’s younger brother and a daughter from Empress Josephine’s first marriage. The marriage was not happy and was only to produce heirs as by now Josephine was barren. After Napoleon’s defeat and death, Louis went with his mother into exile in Switzerland. He studied as a soldier and with German tutors. He tried as a young man to march back into France and claim the throne, but was stopped in Strasburg and forced into exile this time in London. He later tried again landing in Boulogne and immediately arrested by customs officers. He spent several years in French  jail writing widely read political manifestos. He was able to escape back to England. In the uprisings of 1848 King Louis-Philippe abdicated. Louis Napoleon was able to return from exile to Paris and win election to the Presidency of the new French 2nd Republic.

There were many achievements in France under Louis Napoleon. The education system was modernized and made to also educate women. The banking, agriculture and trade systems were modernized with much benefit to the economy. There was major public works including in Paris where the city center was first given its modern look and sewers, gas street lamps, boulevards and many parks were laid out. .

Louis Napoleon also ended the republic and became Emperor. The constitution did not allow him to run for another term and when he failed to get that changed there was a coup. A self coup that took much power from the Assembly and gave it to Emperor Napoleon III as he was now styled. Napoleon II had theoretically ruled for a few weeks in 1815. With Empire came a lot of attention to Empire and Napoleon III added colonies in Africa and Indo-China and sent troops to help keep the Vatican from being absorbed in a new Italy. He also sent many troops to Algeria and Mexico where he supported a pro French Emperor Maximillian. All these foreign adventures stretched the French Army thin. It was the period when conscription was being used to build large armies. France was late to this and as a result the small number of French troops in France were easy to defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Napoleon III was defeated, and again went into exile where he soon died.

Napoleon III did have time to find an Empress and produce an heir. After being rebuffed by two potential candidates, he married Eugenie of Montijo in 1849 when she was 23 and he 42. She became Empress Consort and produced an heir in 1856 Napoleon. Prince Imperial. He grew up in exile in London and died while serving in the British Army in South Africa during the war with the Zulus in 1878. After the death of her husband and son. Eugenie retired to the south of France to Villa Cyrnos that was built for her. She died in 1920 at age 94.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open up the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


China Famine stamps in the 1920s, signal your virtue by decorating your letters

If there was a benefit to China opening up to western countries, it was when there was a crisis, help would come from far away. Probably too late and with a lot of hucksters involved. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp is not useful for postage. The idea was that people would buy the stamp, mostly in the USA, to decorate their letters. The proceeds would go to famine relief in China. It was not to be used for postage either in the USA nor China.

Since todays stamp is not an official issue of a government, it is not in any catalog. I did find one identical to mine on Ebay for $5.00. This stamp was issued after the famine by the China International Famine Relief Commission.

The famine of 1920 centered in Northern China in the area south of Beijing. The previous year had been very dry and so the harvest was small. The area had been heavily denuded of trees and it is thought that that contributed to the drought as tree roots tend to hold moisture longer. The area had been hit by a much deadlier famine in 1879. The famine in 1920 was believed to have killed 500,000 people.

China was in it’s warlord period. That does not mean the government did not do things to help. The tax on shipping grain between provinces was dispensed with in order that grain could pass more easily and cheaply from less affected areas. The distilling of grains into alcohol was also banned in Beijing to lessen this demand for grain. 1921 was a wetter year and so the harvest was better and that ended the famine.

During the famine, a different aid agency sold a 3 cent stamp raising over 4 million dollars. The three cents was supposed to equate to feeding one Chinese person for one day. This group wrapped up  with the 1921 harvest that was the end of the famine.

Todays stamp was the issue of a later group, the China International Famine Relief Organization. It issued relief stamps in several denominations from 1923-1929, both in the USA and China. They usually sold in the period of Christmas through to Chinese New Year. These were much less successful in raising money. The famine being over the overage was spent on making the area less drought prone. Most years however the stamp sales did not cover expenses.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast those who bought these stamps in order to help people they didn’t know so far away.  Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Remembering Maejima confirming Japan’s decision to look west

Remembering the founder of the post office on a stamp seems pretty obvious. The decision to learn western ways was not an easy decision in Japan and the decision was hardly unanimous. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The look of this stamp is quite western. Yes of course it contains Japanese style writing. In fact of two different styles. The first Japanese stamp from 1871 shows the early Chinese style lettering called Kanji and the later simplified Shinjitai style on the rest of the stamp. Nevertheless the style is quite western for a Japanese stamp issue. This was appropriate to honor the founder of the post office. He was an important voice of his day suggesting that the best way to preserve Japan was to adopt western ways and technology but within the Japanese system as a way to avoid foreign domination.

Todays stamp is issue A1860, a 80 Yen stamp issued by Japan on August 10th, 1994. It showed the father of the Japanese post office, Baron Maejima Hisoka and the first Japanese postage stamp of 1871. The stamp was part of a series that year that honored Japanese postal history. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents used. In case you were wondering the first stamp from Japan displayed on this stamp is now worth $250 in the form shown on this stamp.

Maejima was born in 1835 when Japan was still ruled by the Shoguns that did their best to keep Japan closed off to the West. Westerners were considered barbarians and Japan eyed nervously what had happened in China giving in ever more to Western domination. There were however frequent intrusions of Western naval ships into Japanese waters. They possessed cannons that the Japanese had no defense against and no ability to build themselves. Treaties were pressed on Japan forcing open trading posts and allowing the presence of westerners.

The Shoguns were discredited by this and voices like Maejima arose suggesting the learning of Western ways in order that there be some defense against western encroachment. Maejima even proposed to the last Shogun ruler Kanji writing be removed from the Japanese writing system. That did not happen but the Meiji restoration occurred in 1868, Maejima was quickly hired and put in charge of arraigning for a postal service. He went to Great Britain to study their postal service and the first postal service linking Tokyo and Osaka was in operation within a year. When Maejima left the postal system 11 years later there were over 5000 post offices throughout Japan and the country was a member of the Universal postal union. The system was made self sufficient by offering banking services through the post office including savings accounts and money orders. This was the first option for this available in the countryside.

Maejima did much more beyond the postal service in later life. He cofounded a University and a newspaper and a political party. He invested in several of the early railroad concerns. He was even made a Baron under the then in place peerage system and served in the House of Peers in the 1910s. This was the upper house of the Japanese Diet. He died in 1919.

Well my drink is empty and so I will pour another to toast Japan’s entry into stamp issuing. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Belgium celebrates 100 years of independence by remembering their first German King

The nineteenth century European small country Kings are fun and invariably German. The German city states they were from were being absorbed at the same time new states were popping up seeking legitimacy. In Belgium’s case, the fact that it and the same Royal house was around 100 years later proves legitimacy is what they got. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp remembers the first Belgian King Leopold I by using his official portrait painted by Belgian portrait painter Lievin de Winne. The stamp engraving was done by Jean De Bast who himself was later honored with a stamp we covered here. See He always treated the Royals well and todays stamp is no exception.

Todays stamp is issue A67, a 60 Centimes stamp issued by the Kingdom of Belgium on July 1st, 1930. It was a three stamp issue on the occasion of the 100th anniversary  of Belgian independence from the Netherlands. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether mint or in this case used.

Leopold was born Royal in Coburg Germany in a small German state in modern day Bavaria. When his home was overrun by Napoleon he traveled to Paris to seek an appointment in Napoleon’s Court. Unsatisfied with an offer of an adjunct position, Leopold was off to Russia to fight France as a part of the Czar’s Army. His service was distinguished and he was made a Lieutenant General by the age of 25 in 1815. Post war he moved to London and obtained British citizenship. There he married Princess Charlotte who would have been Queen of Great Britain had she lived. Leopold would then have been Prince Consort. It was not meant to be however as Charlotte died a year later a day after giving birth to a stillborn son. Leopold then had a long relationship with German actress Caroline Bauer. In her late in life memoirs she claims to have had a private religious marriage to Leopold but this is denied by his family.

Greece was breaking off from the Ottoman empire and offered it’s new throne to Leopold. He thought their situation was too precarious and refused. Greece found another German King. Belgium was in a long war to break away from the Netherlands. A series of French royals was considered and rejected but then Leopold was a compromise choice favored by Great Britain. Leopold accepted becoming King Leopold I of newly independent Belgium. There was a last short war with the Netherlands that was  beaten off with help from the French. Most Belgians were closer to France ethnically then Dutch. Leopold entered a second marriage to Louise of Orleans, the daughter of French King Louis Philippe. This resulted in four children. Leopold worked very hard to avoid European wars of the time by staying neutral. The economy however was not in good shape since ties with the Netherlands were cut.

Leopold managed to survive the insurrections of 1848. A group of Émigré alleged Belgians crossed from France to overturn the monarchy but Belgian troops managed to capture and disarm them. The political conflicts at the time were between conservative Catholics and secular liberals. As a Lutheran, liberals saw Leopold as one of them but he tried to keep an aura of being above politics. This worked as the liberals won most of the elections of the period.

Queen Louisa died of tuberculosis in 1850 at age 38. Her children were the Royal line. During this period Leopold fathered two sons via a mistress. At his request the sons and the mistress were given minor titles by the German city state of his birth. Leopold’s close connection to the British royal line is shown by the fact that both Queen Victoria and her husband Prince consort Albert were Leopold’s niece and nephew in different but close lines. Leopold died in 1865 and was succeeded as King of the Belgians by his son who served as Leopold II.

Well my drink is empty and I find the close interconnection of European Royals to almost like a prototype of modern Euro integration. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.



Flip Flopping toward reality in French India

In stamp collecting there is much about colonies. If there is a universal theme, it might be that trouble comes when a settlement goes beyond a trading post. Sometimes maintaining a trading post is not realistic when the times are against it. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The aesthetics of this stamp are fun. It celebrates the 1939 New York World Fair. But colonial issues stay around a while probably as they have to be ordered/requested from the home country. In this case the colony of Pondicherry and a few other trading posts had aligned with the Free French on the Allied side of World War II. Hence the old New York Fair is overprinted France Libre. These were issued in the French trading posts. Vichy France, the German puppet also printed stamps for French India which they still claimed ownership. These new issues did not get to the colony, only collectors.

The stamp today is issue CD82, a 2 Fanon 12 Cashes stamp issued by the Territories of French India in 1941. The overprint was on the 1938 two stamp issue of the New York Worlds Fair in 1939. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $4.75 mint. The version without the overprint is $1.25. A later version of the overprint that added a cross is $7.25.

Several European countries set up trading posts in India. France and Britain agreed to respect each others posts and both agreed not to meddle in Indian affairs. While that is pretty laughable it explains how the relatively tiny area around present day Puducherry was allowed to last into the mid twentieth century.

World War II created a conundrum  for the still far flung French Empire. This can be seen in the behavior of French India governor Louis Bonvin. Bonvin had been appointed governor by the prewar French government after serving in Gabon, French Africa. After the German invasion on June 20th 1940, Bonvin radioed that he felt it was his duty to fight on the Allied side after French defeat. On June 22nd, an armistice between France and Germany was signed and Bonvin immediately recognized the authority of the new German backed Vichy government under Marshal Petain. He was quickly informed by the British that French India would be occupied if it sided with Vichy France. By the 27th, Governor Bonvin announced is unwavering loyalty to the Free French cause. The Vichy government tried Bonvin in a military tribunal in Saigon, Vichy French Indo China convicting him of delivering French territory to a foreign power. He was sentenced to death and his wife sentenced to life in prison. Since the couple was not present the sentences were not carried out. Bonvin returned to France in late 1945 but died the next year of an ailment he received in India

French India was later made untenable by the independence of India in 1947. Already there had been stirrings in labor troubles at Pondicherry textile mills. France and India agreed that the territories should vote on their future. In the event the vote never happened. Socialists unilaterally declared union with India with the support of the mayor of  Pondicherry but not the colonial governor. However when the Indian flag was raised over the police station in 1954 that was the de facto end of French India. No one was forced to leave the area and French was still an allowed language. The French government formally ended French India in 1962. Pondicherry was formally renamed Puducherry in 2006 and the left over French architecture is a major tourist draw.

Well my drink is empty so I will pour another to salute the dancing ability of Governor Bonvin. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Sweden’s August Strindberg. He hates everything, except himself

This one is going to be a difficult one. Strindberg is well remembered in Sweden, but his life and work shows far more hypocrisy than what his works tend to lampoon. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The aesthetics of todays stamp are terrible. The printing is bad and the paper is cheap. Sweden prospered in the years of this stamp issue so one can only deduce that postage stamp issuance was just not a priority.

Todays stamp is issue A93, a 20 Ore stamp issued by the kingdom of Sweden on January 22, 1949. It was part of a 4 stamp issue in various denominations celebrating the century of the birth of August Strindberg, the playwright and author. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

August Strindberg was born the son of a shipping executive and his wife who had been a maid before marriage. He resented his mother for her religious convictions and stupidity. He resented his father for not passing enough money to him, I am sure that also convinced Strindberg of his father’s stupidity. That his mother had been a maid allowed Strindberg to see himself as a working class invader in the world of the aristocrat. The fact that his father spent enough on his private education and university to give Strindberg entry into the aristocratic world where there are plays and literature seems not to have made any impression on him.

After university, Strindberg saw a play of his staged at the Royal Theatre in Stockholm while still in his early 20s. The King of Sweden thought enough of the young playwright to give him a monetary stipend. Strindberg did not like his play. His elaborate and expensive education had seen him exposed to the more modern form of play called naturalism that was the idea of the Frenchman Emile Zola. It sought more reality  in language and less plot and more characterization and politics. Strindberg sought to emulate this supposed ideal.

The first thing though was his affair with a married baroness. He eventually married her when she was 6 months pregnant. The affair and marriage led to his biggest success in a novel named “The Red Room” and a play named “Miss Julie”. Both were quite popular and satire the lives of the female aristocrat from the point of view of a seducing servant.

Strindberg thinking himself a nihilist wanted to go much further. He believed society was unreformable and needed to be burned down. To put him in the right frame of mind there were all the usual tropes. Dabbling in the occult. travel, psychedelic drug use, heavy alcohol consumption. repeated divorce and marrying ever younger wives. Sounds more like a narcissist. oh well….

As Strindberg aged he sought to become the national poet of Sweden and thought a return to his routes in historical works was the way to get there. The honor was not forthcoming and these works were not well received. What was working was many of his middle period works were redone and much seen worldwide giving him much fame. Perhaps in the way that Paul McCartney and Elton John perform their work from 40-50 years ago to much acclaim. The new stuff, not so much.

I have been somewhat harsh on Strindberg who was thought to be influential. Perhaps he was but personally I resent people spitting at a system they are living well off of. Feel free to correct me with facts in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

The colonials take advantage in Djibouti

Ethiopia is landlocked. However there are trading posts on the coast that have been there forever. Controlling them goes a long way to benefiting from Ethiopian trade. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Todays stamp shows a Mosque in a French colony. In doing show it goes along way to describing the colonies purpose. Getting products into and out of African and Christian Ethiopia has long been a job of Arab traders. However progress meant that railroad construction would be helpful. To get that done, the French were invited in by the Arabs. Hence the area becomes French Somaliland and there is little effort put toward Christianizing. The target was Ethiopia.

Todays stamp is issue A24, a 3 Centimes stamp issued by French Somaliland in 1940. It shows the Sunni Mosque in Djibouti city. It was part of a 33 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents mint or used.

The area had been ruled into antiquity by Arab sultans who pledged their allegiance to Egypt. The villages on the coast of the Red Sea were transshipment points  for camel trains of goods in an out of landlocked Ethiopia. Ethiopia was Christian and fairly uniquely in that period, African ruled. The trade in coffee and other goods was quite lucrative. It was thought that a train line from Ethiopia through the Ogaden dessert would be lucrative and the French were invited in to get one built.

The train was initially successful  with Djibouti experiencing a population and trade boom at the expense of other trading posts in British and Italian Somaliland. The new population however was largely Somali and therefore African and Muslim.

Eventually a second train line opened up through Eritrea to the coast and the train line to Djibouti failed requiring a French government bailout. When Somalia got it’s independence there was a push to join that was resisted. Eventually Djibouti achieved a measure of independence under a one party state headed by the French selected President and now his nephew. Independent Somalia did not fare much better after plunging into war with Ethiopia over the Ogaden desert.

The Sunni Mosque on the stamp still stands. The country of Djibouti today is 96 percent Muslim and it is the state religion.

Well my drink is empty and to me the French come across fairly badly for getting sucked in to build the railroad. I doubt any profit from it ever made it back to France. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

Royal Castle Warsaw, Poles worldwide unite to restore after German destruction

After Germany invaded Poland, the Germans destroyed the old Royal Castle not as a fortune of war but as a direct attack on the nation. So even though the post war government was communist and therefore not much inclined to royalty or history, the decision was taken to rebuild. Something all Poles agreed with and many worldwide donated to. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Photobombing todays stamp is the also put back together Sigismund’s Column. Remember the 1920s Polish stamp featuring the column. Here is a link. Notice the quality of printing on the two stamps. Now the stamps are almost 50 years apart but still this was one area the communist regime was doing a good job.

The stamp today is issue A557, a 60 Groszy stamp issued by Poland on October 14, 1971. It was a single stamp issue celebrating the rebuilding of the castle and it being declared a heritage site. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether it is mint or used.

The Castle was built on the site of a previous royal residence by King Sigismund III coinciding with the move of the Polish capital from Cracow to Warsaw around 1600. The site was devastated by World War II. It partially burned in the initial attack and the castle staff stabilized the damage and began to hide artifacts. Hitler ordered the Castle dynamited and a historian team of Germans and Poles removed other artifacts. The building was not actually dynamited at this time but left a shell. After the Warsaw uprising was put down by the Nazis the dynamiting happened. The Germans planned to build a large Nazi center on the square but their time in Warsaw was almost over.

The new communist government put in place by the Red Army agreed to have the palace rebuilt and care was taken to recollect as many of the old artifacts as possible. A subscription was organized to pay for the restoration that occurred over many years and was still ongoing at the time of todays stamp. A majority of the funds for the work came from Poles in the United States.

A lot of Polish legends involve the castle. An interesting one involves King Sigismund Augustus who was mourning the death of his beloved wife Barbara. He sought out the services of mystic Pan Twardowski to conjure his departed wife in a séance. It was believed that Pan Twardowski had sold his soul to the devil in return for special powers. His wife appeared on a magic mirror that still exists in the castle. It was thought that this was achieved by the King’s mistress also named Barbara playing dress up with the assistance of the royal chamberlain. Pan Twardowski had a special codicil in his contract with the devil in that his soul could only be taken in Rome, a city he never intended to visit to cheat the devil. However the joke was on him when the devil came for him while staying at the Hotel Ryzm, Ryzm is Rome in Polish. When taken away, Pan Twardowski prayed to the Virgin Mary who had Pan Twardowski dropped on the moon with his friend that he turned into a spider. He still lives there today and his spider friend occasionally returns to earth on a string to bring him news of Poland.

Well my drink is empty and I will definitely have a few more pondering that legend. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.