Cayman Islands 1935, one group of Caribbean islands avoids poverty by breaking away and staying a colony

As Native Americans are discovering, the autonomy granted their areas can lead to business opportunities. This gaming of the system can raise a people up when there is in fact little inborn proclivity to industry. 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 was from English King George V Silver Jubilee stamp issue of 1935. All of the colonies and dominions celebrated with commemorative stamp issues. The issues really are brilliantly put together. A standard portrait of George V with maps and sights from the still far flung Empire. The issue was so successful that it was copied by later Monarchs up to Elizabeth II. There is a whole group of stamp collectors that try to collect the full set of colonial issues of a specific Monarch, George V is getting quite expensive, but George VI is more doable, Elizabeth II issues are just too numerous with her long reign. While most colonies are still in the British Commonwealth, I don’t think Prince Charles will be able to pull off such a grand stamp issue when he ascends the throne. The sad part for the hobby is that the idea of it will probably not occur to him. The Cayman issue is slightly different than some other colonies as more birds and turtles are shown than bridges or port facilities. This is part of the genius of the stamp issue, by being both standardized and yet showing the character of the individual colony.

Todays stamp is issue A8, a 1/4 Penny stamp issue of the Cayman Islands, then run as a dependency of the then Crown Colony of Jamaica. Imagine the value proposition of being able to send a letter for just a quarter of a penny, but Grand Cayman is a small island. The stamp was part of a 12 stamp issue in various denominations celebrating the 25th anniversary of the beginning of George V’s Reign. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 60 cents mint. The value doubles if the stamp is used. The 1930s were the pinnacle of stamp collecting and this was one of the great stamp issues. The downside is that the high demand meant many more copies were printed than needed for postal use.

The Cayman Islands were uninhabited until the 17 century when escaped veterans of Oliver Cromwell’s army set up a community. A treaty between Britain and Spain secured the islands for Britain. The islands were administered by the colonial authority in nearby Jamaica. African slaves were brought in but not in the numbers as most Caribbean islands. After a failed West Indies Federation, Jamaica was set for independence. Independence usually meant the flight of British, Indian, and Chinese residents who simply were not welcome by the now in control black majority. Cayman decided to stay a colony and the protections of the British colonial institutions. This kept the islands diverse demographically.

There was still the problem of economic development. Here the continued colonial status paid big dividends. Sir Vassel Johnson was the first Financial Secretary of the colony after the break from Jamaica and designed the financial system to be a tax haven. The islands themselves were tax free and therefore tax evasion was not a crime. Banks had no requirement to report ownership of accounts. The government is funded by tariffs on imported goods. The tax free status lead to a proliferation of banks and other corporations in the islands. The islands are home to more corporations than people and that has resulted in a top 10 in the world per capita GNP. The island hosts more guest workers than natives and is in the process of forming a coast guard to ward off migrants. A far cry from the poverty and misery of nearby now independent Jamaica.

The world organizations of course resent tax havens but again here the colonial status pays off. Caymaners can rightly say that their foreign relations are handled by the Queen Elisabeth II, the head of state. The Queen can then honestly say that her subjects on Cayman are self governing and it is not her place to interfere with that. That does not mean that there is no corruption. The current Speaker of the Assembly was elected despite being arrested for misuse of government credit cards in Las Vegas when Premier. In 2018, the British appointed governor had to be recalled to London after being drunk, bullying staff, beating his wife, and demanding shirtless massages from a young maid in the Governor’s mansion. He had just been appointed with some fanfare as he was of Bangladeshi rather than British heritage. I assume there was less fanfare at having him back in London.

Well my drink is empty and I have yet to receive a government credit card to pay for another round. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Switzerland 1979, A country of many languages host a Congress for Esperanto, that proposes to replace them all

In the 19th century, there was an internationalist movement toward standardization of things like weights and measures, and even languages. The hope was that it would make the world more peaceful by different people having more in common. 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.

Neutral, rich, picturesque Switzerland. What a great place to hold international conferences. Not just for the attendees but for the country. The conference recognized on todays stamp attracted over 1600 people for 8 days of activities. The hot air balloon on the stamp suggests that all waking hours were not filled with business. Conferences like this bring a lot of money into in this case Lucerne. The conferences often also bring important personages to town, for the benefit of all. I wonder how many locals in Lucerne were inspired to take up the study of Esperanto.

Todays stamp is issue A277, a 70 Centimes stamp issued by Switzerland on February 21, 1979. It publicized the annual World Esperanto Congress being held that July in Lucerne. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 70 cents used.

The language of Esperanto was the work of Polish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenhof. His work grew out of an earlier effort of his to standardize Yiddish. He soon expanded his efforts to construct a universalist language that would be simple to learn and incorporated aspects of Hebrew, Latin, and German. He dispensed with verb conjugation, He also attached adverbs and adjectives to the noun as is done in German. The alphabet is a simplified Latin. This achieved a shorter alphabet and many fewer words. The hope was that it would replace French as the language of diplomacy and make literacy more achievable by new countries starting out with public education. The language achieved many adherents and was an official language for a part of Belgium(Moresnet) that was jointly administered by the Dutch and the Prussians. Shah era Iran was also a big user and the type of country that was rapidly trying to expand literacy. The League of Nations in 1935 suggested Esperanto as a second language of instruction for member countries. Dr. Zamenhof was repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Esperanto became most common among Eastern European and Soviet Communists, who were heavily Jewish in the interwar period. As such opposition popped up. France felt the language was a challenge to French being the language of diplomacy. Hitler was dismissive of Esperanto, saying it was just a method of uniting Jewish diaspora around the world. He banned the teaching of the language in Germany. In 1937 there was a more unexpected blow. Stalin declared it a language of spies and banned its use. This was during his purges and many Jews were targeted at the time.

Post war the language has continued to lose momentum. There are still annual congresses and the United Nations has repeated the suggestion that member states teach Esperanto as a second language. The fact that is a secondary language to all it’s users means that even after a hundred years there has been little reversion to slang as is otherwise common. In 2017 a new smartphone app called Amikumu was launched that helped find nearby speakers of a certain language. The first language it started with was Esperanto.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Switzerland. A country with three languages might think that was enough and some thought Esperanto abandoned Switzerland while  the organization avoided Hitler and Stalin. Yet still they hosted the conference and thought it important enough for a stamp issue, always a high honor. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Tajikistan 1998, since former Soviet republics don’t put out enough topicals, heres a fake

I should have known this would be fake. Tajikistan puts out many stamps, but it has even more issues that it has declared illegal. So any Tajik readers I have may want to stop reading now. I wouldn’t want to tempt you with forbidden fruit or dogs. So besides Tajiks, 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 today fake Philatelist.

Todays stamp features a German Sheppard and a Dalmatian. Tajikistan is spelled correctly in both English and Tajik. The currency is presented without detail but many Tajik real stamps also did it that way. The cancelation to order looks standard Soviet farm out. Yet Tajikistan topicals tend to cats, fish, and airliners. No dogs. Among fake issues banned are topicals featuring cartoon characters, The English Queen Mother, and Osama bin Laden, hopefully all not on the same souvenir sheet. Who buys this stuff? There are actually people in the world who take the time to carefully design and print stamps from small countries without authorization. With the hobby shrinking like it is, how can it still happen.

The stamp claims to be from 1998 but is not in the catalog so I can give no estimate of value. A realish 1997 stamp with a cat is valued at $2.00. A real stamp from 1998 Tajikistan featuring academic Bobojon Ghaferov is down at 30 cents. One could perhaps learn something of Tajikistan by reading up on Mr. Ghaferov. but from values it is obvious people would rather look at cute cat pictures on stamps that nobody mails.

Tajikistan got it’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It was one of the poorest areas of the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, Soviet Leader Khrushchev attacked the problem of low food production with a virgin land campaign that sought to put under cultivation land not previously used in places like Tajikistan. The effort  had very little success as the climate was too dry and the soil too poor without fertilizers, which the Soviets were short of.

Tajikistan was heavily Muslim and soon after independence a civil war started with the goal of ethnically cleansing the area of non Tajik Soviets, especially Jews. The Russians responded with Speznas troops that were able to install a former electrician and labor leader Emonali Sharipovich Rahmononov as President for life. He dutifully changed his name to sound less Soviet and often emphasizes his Muslim religious beliefs. At the same time, he has banned beards, burkas, Arabic sounding names, Soviet sounding names, and loudspeaker calls to prayer. This he says allows the more unique to Tajikistan culture to flourish. The war in nearby Afghanistan has proved lucrative, as Tajikistan shares a border and therefore is useful to route military supplies through. Russian troops have been invited back in to help secure that border.

Tajikistan does not lack for stamps that portray the country as it desires to be seen. Yet all that gets out our topicals aimed at the young and young at brain. Hopefully local collectors will preserve these stamps so future generations of stamp collectors will have a guide to what Tajikistan was like. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Japan 1938, a national park offers a calming refuge while the army pushes for unending war

Japan was achieving much in the early 20th century. There was rapid industrialization and leaps in educational achievement. In world affairs, Japan was seen as a major player, the only Asian country to be so seen. The achievements were not enough for the army that wanted to set up a wider Asian Empire, even over the objection of Emperor Hirohito and  the last civilian controller, Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. 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.

This stamp is an early version of a stamp that would be very common post war. A calming scene of natural beauty. It must be remembered that even so long ago Japan was a very crowded place with many new arrivals in the cities from the countryside. Parks were a big part of getting through such a transition. It was a great marker of an advanced civilization that effort was expended to see that parks are set aside and protected.

Todays stamp is issue A101, a two Sen stamp issued by Imperial Japan on December 25, 1938. It was part of a four stamp issue in various denominations that showed the sights of the then new Nikko national park. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 50 cents used.

Emperor Hirohito began his long reign in 1926. There was a crisis of politics early in his reign as the civilian politicians were having a hard time reigning in the ambitions of the leaders of the military. The Emperor was more than ceremonial but the Prime Minister and the Diet had real power. Not for long though. An example of how out of control the Army was can be seen by what happened in Manchuria. Hirohito had ordered that there be no attack on China as was required by international treaties that Japan was a signatory to. Without orders to do so, the Army bombed a Japanese owned railway. They then blamed the Chinese and used the pretext to invade Manchuria, conquer it and set up a puppet government. Remember all without orders.

The Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi then withheld even Japanese recognition of the new puppet government in Manchuria. This did not sit well with the armed forces and group of young soldiers went to the official residence of the Prime Minister and assassinated him by firing squad. At the same time other politicians were attacked as were some prominent business leaders and there was also an explosion inside Mitsubishi Bank. The Emperor declared this a rebellion and ordered the perpetrators arrested. This was ignored and only some teenage soldiers were arrested and received only token sentences. From then on there was no civilian oversight of the military and Hirohito was no longer opposing the wishes of the Army. From then on when told of war plans he would only try to caution the armed forces by asking what Russia or the USA would do if the plan was carried out. The answer of course was start a long bloody and loosing war for Japan.

Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi

The Nikko park opened as a national park in 1934. Earlier it had been an Imperial park but the Diet had passed a law making such places national parks and open without charge. The Park was expanded several times post war and is a major tourist attraction.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Prime Minister Tsuyoshi. His last words to his firing squad were reportedly that if you would listen you would understand me to which they responded, the time for dialog is over. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Guinea 1959, work, justice, solidarity, but really poverty, exile, and no elephants

France mismanaged their colonies. In 1958 a new French republic was formed to deal with it. Part of that was an option of a vote in the colonies whether to continue a relationship with France. Only one colony, Guinea opted to end the French relationship immediately. It did not go well for them. 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 first issues or a new country coming out of colony status are often the best. The issues are not yet the farm out topicals that always come later but show the country and it’s leaders at a time when there is still hope for a better future. In addition to nature scenes, this issue of stamps showed cultural objects and hard working Guineans working for a better future. Stamp issuance in Guinea seems to have stopped but among their last known issues honored the anniversary of Elvis’s death. I like Elvis as much as anybody, but what does he have to do with Guinea.

Todays stamp is issue A14 a 25 Guinean Franc stamp issued by Guinea in 1959. It was part of a 8 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $2.25. This seems to be one of the most valuable stamp issues from the country, so lucky me.

Ahmed Sekou Toure was born to subsistence farmers and his education ended at age 15. He however was the great grandson of the last African ruler of the area in the 1890s. He was literate enough to get hired by the French colonial postal service and become involved in trade union organizing and had contact with a major French communist trade union. He was quite anti French but that did not prevent him from being appointed the mayor of Conarky, the capital. He organized a successful strike in 1957. France was tiring of its Empire and the new Fifth Republic President Charles De Gaulle proposed the colonies vote on a new constitution that granted self rule leading to independence in a decade with continued French aid and assistance. A no vote meaned immediate independence with the French washing their hands of the area voting that way. Toure campaigned for a no vote and Guinea voted that way 86% and was immediately granted independence with Toure as the first President. Toure indeed had no relations with France but accepted aid from the East and West. Progress and stability did not come fast enough and Toure banned all politics but his own and set up a brutal prison called Camp Boiro run by his brother. This did not prevent close relations with Ghana President for life until coup Nkume and American civil rights leaders Stokey Carmichael and Malcolm X.

President Toure in 1983 on a visit to the USA

Toure also supported anti government forces in neighboring Portuguese Guinee and held several Portuguese POWs at Camp Boiro. In 1970, the Poruguese Army raided Conarky and freed their prisoners but could not find Toure. After they left, Toure claimed a military victory over them and sent many of his staff to Camp Boiro as disloyal collaborators where many were starved tortured and killed. As many as 50,000 died at Camp Boiro and another 500,000 went into exile. Toure was elected with no opposition to 4 seven year terms as President but died at Cleveland Clinic after a heart attack in 1984. His successor fell to a coup a few months later.

Loffo Camarra, Health Minister and member of Guinea’s Politburo. In 1971 she was starved to death at Camp Boiro

Guinea has still failed to prosper after Toure. There is a large deposit of iron ore that the Chinese, an American hedge fund, and Australian mineral giant Rio Tinto have competed to develop. The competition seems to be bribing government officials for rights to proceed but nothing ever happening. Surprisingly, Guinea has never moved to change it’s colonial name as many African countries did post independence. Guinea comes from Portuguese and referred to any black person from below the Senegal River. The Arabic Berbers from north of the Senegal river were referred by the Portuguese as tawnys. Guinea no longer has elephants or any other large animals in it’s nature preserves left over from the French

Well my drink is empty and President Toure doesn’t get a toast. Instead I will toast De Gaulle for allowing Guinea a vote and then immediately leaving them alone when that was what they wanted. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Syria 1930, France tries to enforce it’s Syrian mandate

Replacing the Ottomans was hard and unprofitable. The European League of Nations ratified the division of Palestine, the Levant, and Iraq between France and Britain. A mandate to be where they were not wanted. 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 somewhat disingenuous. By showing architectural sites around the French Mandate, there is an implication that France was a good steward of the area and a protector of the history. In the 26 years of the French mandate Damascus was attacked by French forces twice and then they themselves were attacked by free French and Australians during World War II. Not a great record of stewardship.

Todays stamp is issue A10, a 4 Piaster stamp issued by the French League of Nations Mandate in Syria. It was part of a 24 stamp issue in various denominations that show architectural sights around Syria. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

Syria had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years up until 1918. The Ottomans had buttressed their often precarious finances by granting self rule to areas of the Empire in return for an annual tribute paid by the territory. As such, the area had a large degree of self rule. That said, when the Arab Legion arrived in Damascus toward the end of World War I, they were welcomed and a Hashemite was named King of Syria. Though the Arab Legion was affiliated with Britain through Lawrence of Arabia, they were not authorized to take Syria. A deal had be struck between Britain and France that divided the area up postwar. This allowed the continued influx of European Jews into Palestine but just replaced an Ottoman ruler with an even more foreign European.

The Syrians tried to fight for the freedom the Arab legion had won. The entrance into Syria by Algerian and Senegalese French troops was actively resisted. The French won the battle of Maysalun and then laid siege on Damascus. The Hashemite King was forced into exile and French administrators came in quickly to try to replace the local administration. This meant more direct rule by France than under the Ottomans. An uprising by the Druze minority was quickly taken up by many Syrians in 1925. The French had allowed their number of colonial troops to drop and the uprising met with much initial success. It took a mobilization of 50,000 French troops to restore the French authority. Doing so again meant bombing and a siege of Damascus, for the second time in a decade.

Damascus in flames during the 1925 uprising

In World War II, Syria initially sided with the pro Nazi Vichy government after the fall of France. In 1941, there was a coup in neighboring Iraq where a Arab nationalist group asked for Nazi German aid routed through Syria.. This was not acceptable and Iraq and Syria were invaded, in Syria’s case mainly by Australians. This was an embarrassment to the Allies as the Vichy French forces fought. The battles saw American made Martin bombers given to France used by the Vichy forces fighting American P40 fighters given to the Australians. The campaign was little covered in the west as it implied the French were then on the German side and willing to fight to retain colonies. Damascus was again bombed and fought over. The Vichy were defeated but the French had learned their lesson and left Syria at the first opportunity in 1946.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the Hashemites. Building an effective army of locals meant they were the only ones to realistically succeed the Ottomans. Instead the French and the British arrogantly came in only to find they lacked the will to stay. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Cuba 1980, Embargo stamps hint at a red dawn

Cuba was the only country in the Americas to go full bore Marxist Leninist. The USA did not like that and decided to end all trade even postage stamps. That does not mean that farm out stamps were not being produced for the international collector. The stamps now get out and we can see some of our fears reflected. 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 Cuban participant in the sport of shooting in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Some of the Olympic sports like competitive shooting arise from the nineteenth century skills of a gentleman soldier. Today the sport still exists but is the province of Middle Eastern petro states. So where does that leave Cuba. The rich quickly left after the revolution and the remaining worker class is not allowed guns. The exception of course was the greatly expanded Cuban Army. This is where the team came from.

Todays stamp is issue A618, a 2 Centavo stamp issued by Cuba on February 20th, 1980. It was part of a six stamp issue in various denominations that celebrated Cuban participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. There was also a higher denomination single stamp souvenir stamp released. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents whether it is mint or cancelled to order.

The Cuban revolution occurred in 1959. Pre 1959 Cuba was typical of Latin America. There was some prosperity in the capital but much poverty in the countryside. The revolution started in the countryside but was coopted by urban Marxists as was typical of the era. Part of the change in government was grudge settling with the previous hierarchy and this lead to the emigration in mass of the upper class. For example, over half of the doctors left for Miami.

The Marxists somewhat succeeded in Cuba at least in terms of the lower classes. Food was cheap and plentiful and rents were token. The Soviets invested much aid in Cuba and education increased, soon Cuba had amongst the highest rate of doctors.

There was a price for this aid. The Army was greatly expanded. Expeditions of Cuban troops were sent to Africa to fight in favor of Soviet client states such as Angola and Ethiopia. They were functioning almost as colonial half black Askari troops where deployments of Soviet white troops were not justified. In Angola they came up against the apartheid era South African Army and were much bloodied. The all too serious theory at the time at the time was one Cuban soldier in Africa was worth 5 African soldiers. One white South African soldier was worth 10 Africans. Not sure when the Cuban people signed up for that. Indeed the communist Cubans have never been able to provide much more than basic subsistence, especially after the end of Soviet aid. The people have voted with their feet and over 10% of the population has emigrated to the USA. That is about average for a Caribbean country, but before the revolution Cuba was better off than the black Caribbean, and communism was to make it better still.

We can see how this stamp plays into then USA fears over Cuban militarism. In 1984, the movie “Red Dawn” prophesized a Soviet invasion of the USA using mainly Cuban troops. Cuba did have many troops relative to its population but the movie failed to recognize that if one arms embargo addled South African soldier was worth 2 Cubans, how many Cubans would be needed to match up to the USA army.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the Soviets. If their investment in Cuba had gone better, the country really might have been a model for South America, with all its inequality and migrant caravans. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Uganda 1942, a British bridge in self governed Buganda

Crossing a river seems pretty basic. The British built bridge on this stamp was recently replaced in 2018 by a new bridge financed interest free by the Japanese. The question might arise why Uganda can’t do for itself. The answer comes from realizing Uganda was self governed and part of that is nothing gets done without outside help. 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 British like to show off accomplishments like the Jinja Bridge on their colonial stamps. And why not, getting something like this done in a place so far away from civilization was quite an achievement. Uganda had proved to be a major loss leader for the previously empowered British East Africa Company. See Yet the new British protectorate of Uganda succeeded where the company failed by working through the traditional local tribal system of Buganda. So much self rule did not mean there was not a desire for independence, even if that makes for an end to progress.

Todays stamp is issue A16, a 30 cent stamp issued by the East African Post Administration that covered the postal system of  the colonies and protectorates of British East Africa including Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. The unit continued issuing stamps for the area for over a decade after 1960s independence and even added Zanzibar in 1968. The stamp featured Jinja Bridge on the Nile River and King George VI and updated an earlier issue showing King George V. The later Queen Elizabeth II update of the stamp issue deleted the Jinja Bridge in order to show the new for 1954 nearby Owen Falls Dam. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 35 cents used. A mint version of the number 14 perforation is worth $130.

The British gained influence over Uganda in the 1885 Conference of Berlin, the areas tribes had previously affiliated with the Sultan of Zanzibar. British interests were mainly elsewhere and the area was governed by the British East Africa Company, a private entity. When the company proved unable to develop the local economy and bankrupted itself putting down a tribal rebellion the area was taken over by the British directly and named a protectorate. The British had no interest in losing further money on the area and the government left to the local tribe of Buganda. With this the desired connections between Entebbe and Lake Victoria were achieved and cotton plantations overseen by the Bugandans themselves were formed. Indian traders  saw to the export and their were very few British involved. This was different from neighboring Kenya which had a fair number of white settlers. The British differed heavily to Buganda’s prime minister Sir Apolo Kagwa who did much to expand local educational opportunities. The Bugandans were keen to keep out British settlers as they felt that would reduce their level of self rule.

The plantation system of worker exploitation and the new educated cadre of young Ugandans lead to increased resentment of the tribal system. In 1952, the British sent a “reforming” new governor, Sir Andrew Cohen to prepare for independence. He promoted new political parties of the disaffected at the expense of the Buganda tribal hierarchy. So independence consisted mainly of taking from the old favored tribe and giving to the new British favorites.

The bridge on the stamp was an early achievement of the Uganda protectorate, which sought to improve trade connections. Jinja is very near the source of the Nile River on Lake Vitoria. In 1954 a new dam was constructed that flooded the nearby falls. The British saw that the dam did not impede the water flow of the Nile as Egypt feared. Later the energy output of the dam was greatly reduced by the mismanagement of the Idi Amin years and lately by falling water levels in Lake Victoria attributed to climate change. A new bridge, now called Source of the Nile Bridge partially replaced the old bridge as part of a new expressway from Jinja to Kampala, the capital. The Ugandans are still not doing for themselves 56 years after independence, the new bridge relying on Japanese interest free financing. Construction was by Zenitaka of Japan and Hyundai of South Korea.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Sir Apolo. Compared to the British before and afterward and their hand picked Ugandan successors, his was a time of real progress. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


Ceylon 1935, hinting the money was drying up for Great Britain

Ceylon was heavily down the road to independence in 1935. Some may attribute this to recognition of natives peoples right to self determination, but I expect the money for Britain dried up. 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.

These type of British Empire issues are just great. Stamps from all over showing exotic views and ancient sites with the Monarch, in this case George V, looking on benevolently. These were done into Elisabeth II’s Reign but the early ones are best. They are just a bit more realistic as to why the British were there. So in addition to the view of Colombo harbor and the Temple of the Tooth, we have Tamils picking tea and tapping a rubber tree on the plantation. Gone in the later similar George VI Ceylon issue. By then Great Britain was signaling it’s exit. In a post independence issue of 1954, the tea pickers and rubber trees were back. Independent Ceylon’s British trained, socialist leaders had high hopes that the plantations could again be profitable for the state, or at least for it’s socialist leaders. The British knew better.

Todays stamp is issue A47, a 2 cent issue by the self governing Crown Colony of Ceylon in 1935. It was part of an eleven stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 55 cents used.

Great Britain acquired Dutch trading posts in the then Buddhist kingdom of Kandy during the Napoleonic wars to prevent them falling into French hands. France had conquered the Netherlands at the time. There was then a series of wars that completed the conquest of Kandy. The British were interested in coffee plantations that could then export their product. To their credit, the locals refused to work the plantations and so Britain imported large numbers of Tamil contract labourers from nearby India. This forever changed the ethnic makeup of the island as the Indians practiced a different religion and spoke a different language. Coffee product wound down after a disease outbreak and was replaced by tea and rubber for export. There was rice cultivation for food but not enough and rice had to be imported. The British presence was not all bad as there was much work on education of locals and infrastructure building. At the height of the colony in the 1920s, seven percent of the gross national product returned to Britain in terms of remittances and payments to investors.

The 1930s worldwide depression hit hard on commodity prices and demand. Investors, as usual were first to pay the price. Great Britain had just been bled dry in World War I and had not failed to notice that areas of the Empire ethnically British had been willing to sacrifice far more for the cause than colonies of other ethnicities. That of course is natural but perhaps not what the British expected, who had often viewed the Empire with rose colored glasses. When combined with the drop off in return on the investment in Ceylon, it was time to fade out.

Unlike Spain and Portugal, who simply walked away from their empires when their governments changed in the 1970s, Britain tried to prepare Ceylon to go it alone. Administrators were sent for education at Oxford  to prepare them to administer the place. The universities trained them with a socialist philosophy  that wanted to replace British planters with state management but keep the plantation system in place. To have worked that would have required high prices and output and they of course would not have learned how to achieve that at Oxford. Even today though, the two rival parties in Sri Lanka are family run enterprises with decendants of those trained by the British. Of course they claim to be anti colonial, but still have bizarre amounts of contact with London. Great Britain of course no longer gets that 7 percent of the GNP, where it goes now is anyone’s guess.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the former Kingdom of Kandy. Left alone, they still might be what President Trump might describe as a shit hole, but at least they would have stayed their own shit hole. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Czechislovakia 1970, remembering the cannons of the Hussite Bohemian Rhapsody

Cold war era eastern European farm out stamps could be fun and were often aimed at children. Here our communist Czech friends remember the Bohemian uprising against the Catholics and the following Hussite Crusades. 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.

In stamps we don’t often get to travel back before 1840 and the first postage stamp. Here we do, because a noble ancient war with crusades fought by knights around castles with cannons is always fun. To increase the fun, the stamp is oversized with a lot of disparate things going on for children of all ages to deduce. This is a fun stamp but comes through with what was going on with the hobby at the time. Stamp values were rapidly inflating and stamp makers were using new printing techniques to make ever more bold stamps. Somewhere in this we lost the serious adult collector who really doesn’t look much at stamps after World War II. The hobby came to be seen as a hobby for children and many big collectors took advantage of the high prices to cash out. The young collecters, myself excluded, did not continue into adulthood and we are left with a much smaller hobby. Most of us think the answer is get more kids involved but I say lets get the old rich guys back, this time from the new countries that have interesting, often colonial postal histories.

Todays stamp is issue A620, a 60 Haleru stamp issued by Czechoslovakia on August 31st, 1970. It was part of a five stamp issue in various denominations that displayed cannons over time. Todays stamp shows cannons from the time of the Bohemian Hussite Wars in the 15th century. According to the Scott catalog the stamp is worth 25 cents whether it is mint or used.

Jan Hus was a Bohemian priest who rebelled against the Catholic church’s habit of selling indulgences. This was over a hundred years before Martin Luther. At the time there were rival Popes and the one in Rome was trying to raise a lot of money to fight his rival. Hus thought this wrong and lead his followers to Prague where they attacked church and Holy Roman political leaders. His people stormed the palace and threw many of the occupants out the windows to their death. The Pope then launched a series of 5 Crusades that attempted to bring Bohemia back into line using mainly German knights. None succeeded as the Bohemians had developed new tactics taking advantage of new developments in artillery and personal arms. Hus himself however was captured and burned at the stake for heresy. After this the Hussites began fighting amongst themselves and the Polish King turned on his own force that he had sent to fight with the Hussites. Though Jan Hus did much to inspire the Protestant Reformation, Bohemia/Chechia remained Catholic.

The stamp also features Saint Barbara who has roots in Roman mythology where her command of lightning lead her to become the patron saint of explosions and by extension artilleryman and miners. The lack of clarity of whether she was merely a figure of myth have seen the Catholic Church deemphasize her. Really they are probably not to in to praying for artilleryman. She is still important in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The British Royal Navy Gunnery School is named for her and in Chechia her statue is still placed at the entrance to a new road tunneling projects.

Well my drink is empty and I may have another as I imagine the bombs bursting in the air and hoping Saint Barbara will see that the flag is still there in the morning. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.