Bavaria 1900, with King Otto too crazy to rule, the Prince Regent peacefully eases into Germany

With such an overabundance of Royals, it became devilishly difficult for Germans to unite. For Bavaria, a long lived but schizophrenic King Otto was sidelined by his uncle and therefore the inevitable unification happened. 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.

What is a Kingdom to do when the King is drugged and confined to castle. Do you do a nice portrait and put him on the stamp anyway? In Bavaria’s case, the coat of arms was used on the stamps of the period. The Regency is going fairly smoothly after all, so the system is working well enough.

Todays stamp is issue A5, a 40 Pfennig stamp issued by the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1900. The stamp had gone through numerous variations from 1867-1910. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.10 used. A lilac 10 Kreuzer version from 1870 is $4,800 used.

In the nineteenth century, the Kingdom of Bavaria sought the type of dominance that Prussia had in northern Germany, for itself in Southern Germany. It was natural that there would be rivalries with Prussia to the north and Austria to the south. Bavaria did not have the military tradition of Prussia and was landlocked, so was playing a weaker hand.

Part of that weak hand and head was the state of the Royal House of Wittelsbach that had ruled for centuries. During the troubles of 1848, the last Bavarian King to have his sanity abdicated. His son, Ludwig was more interested in building castles than ruling and his cabinet was forced to declare him insane and remove him. He was found dead in a lake two days later under mysterious circumstances. That left the throne to Otto, who was King for 27 years but never ruled. Bavaria had agreed to affiliate with Prussia and Prince Otto had fought with the Bavarian army during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He found the unification of Germany humiliating even though Bavaria was allowed some separateness. including an army and postal service. His mental state though was rapidly deteriorating with the onset of schizophrenia. There is debate whether this was caused by post-traumatic stress disorder from his war service or syphilis. Either way, Bavaria declared Otto melancholic and had his uncle Luitpold named Prince Regent. Otto had made a spectacle of himself by charging into the Catholic Cathedral during high mass in hunting clothes and then dropping to his knees and begging forgiveness for his sins from the Arch Bishop. He was then taken to his castle and heavily drugged the rest of his long life.

Crazy King Otto, no stamp for him

The Regent presided quietly allowing ever more integration with Germany but also much work building Munich as a cultural center. When he died at age 92 in 1912 his son took over the regency. Bavaria then finally changed it’s rules so that if there is not prospect for the King to actually serve after a year the regent becomes King. King Ludwig III was a lot like the earlier Ludwig and was more interested in the Royal Estates than his people. At the end of World War I, the Royal line was deposed and the people were finally heard from  in the form of the short lived Bavarian Socialist Republic of 1919. Even defeated Prussia/er Germany wouldn’t have that  and sent the Weimar Army to bring them back into the fold. The House of Wittelbach was anti Nazi and the current pretender to the thrown, Franz spent time in his youth at Nazi concentration camps. He still lives alone in Nymphenburg Castle, but not restrained there like crazy King Otto was.

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

British Guiana 1934, interesting picture but the wrong type of Indian

The sugar cane plantations were no longer making anyone rich. Diamonds and gold were also discovered but not in any great quantity. So why are we here again. To fight communism? 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 must have loved this portrait of a local Lucayan Indian fishing with a bow and arrow. A version of this portrait lasted from George V through to Elizabeth II. It does have an exotic flair. Alas Guiana had been changed forever by the British. They had brought in first Africans and then post slavery contract worker Indians to work the sugar cane plantations. How the two groups interacted was the real story of Guiana, not the few and far between Lucayans.

Todays stamp is issue A41, a 2 cent stamp issued by the Crown Colony of British Guiana on October 1st, 1934. It was a thirteen stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.90 used.

British Guiana was first discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh, His settlements did not last though as they were soon taken over by the Dutch, who also started the large scale importation of African slaves to work on sugar cane plantations. The British retook the area during the Napoleonic wars when Holland was occupied by France and therefore distracted from defending their colonies. In 1834, the British Empire banned slavery and the freed blacks were not anxious to continue on the plantations at the meager pay offered.

Britain still had India though, and a large number of Indians came as contract laborers. The plantations were consolidated under the Booker group, a British food wholesaler. Most Indians stayed after their labor contract expired. The colony became half and half ethnically with only a few British and Lucayans. As the British rule was winding down, an African decent politician named Forbes Burnham was trained at the London School of Economics and groomed to take over the colony for independence. This ignored the large Indian community and an American educated, Hindu (Kurmi caste), dentist named Cheddi Jagan formed a rival political party. To the British shock and horror, the Indian party won the pre independence election. While in America, Jagan had married a Jewish communist wife and ran in Marxist circles. During the cold war it would not have done for the British to have a colony go immediately communist post independence. So after the election, a state of emergency was declared, and the British tried to figure a way to give the colony to Burnham. This was done but delayed independence for a decade. Ironically, but not surprisingly, once independent Burnham ruled in the African president for life style and surprise, he was also a communist and nationalized the Booker plantation system. The sugar cane production only continues in now Guyana as the European Union buys the sugar at double the market rate as an aid scheme. The USA provides for free a grain supply to keep the country fed. One and a half percent of the country immigrates out every year, mainly Indians and mainly to the USA and Canada. They are currently trying to attract the Chinese to come in and take over the sugar industry.

Cheddi Jagan, the scary Indian communist

British Guiana is a famous place from a stamp collecting perspective. In the early 1850s there were a tiny number of stamps issued and printed poorly by the local newspaper publisher. The circular cottonreel stamps are quite valuable. A more professional stamp printed in London followed in 1852 but when these stamps ran out a local  badly printed copy became the most valuable of all. The 1 cent magenta stamp from this sold in 2014 for $9.5 million, the most valuable stamp in history.

Well my drink is empty and I will poor another to toast the Lucayan Indian fisherman. I hope he caught his families dinner. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

French Guiana 1947, falling short of the motto work brings wealth

Is it better to leave some places uninhabited? Columbus labeled the place the land of pariahs and moved on. Perhaps France would have been wise to do the same. 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 over 70 years old. It shows an African man relaxing in a hammock. By then the plantations and slavery were gone and even the notorious prison was winding down. What was left. Cayenne, the capital and central settlement stresses the motto that “work brings wealth”. It hasn’t so far though and maybe  relaxing in the hammock and collecting subsidies is more attractive anyway.

Todays stamp is issue A23, a 10 Centimes issued by the overseas French department of Guiana on June 2nd 1947. This 17 stamp issue in various denominations was the last stamp issue of Guiana as a French colony. However colony status actually ended the year before. The stamps were probably already in process and went ahead. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 30 cents mint.

Columbus spotted Guiana on his third voyage. The Caribe Indians he found there were not friendly and he labeled the place the land of pariahs and moved on. Europeans followed but perhaps they wish they had also moved on. A settlement was started by the French at Cayenne and passed through Dutch and British hands before returning to the French. It was the last French territory on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere. As such several thousand French colonists were sent from France. They had hoped to strike gold and quick wealth but what they found were hostile Indians, harsh weather and tropical diseases. After three years, 90 percent were dead and the rest waited to be rescued from an offshore island. The importance of Empire prevailed and the French gave it another shot. Sugar cane plantations were started and large numbers of African slaves from Guinee were brought in to work them. The end of slavery in 1847 saw the now former slaves disappear into the bush, abandoning the plantations and forming communities resembling the Africa left behind. Several shiploads of Indians, Malays, and Chinese were brought in to work the plantations but most just became merchants in Cayenne and the plantations ended.

A farm provided an interesting legal case for France. A freed African slave women named Suzanne Amomba Paille married a white French soldier. They remained childless but over time built a large farm and a home in the town and over 60 slaves. When her husband died, Suzanne inherited the substantial estate. She was elderly and illiterate and was beset by hucksters and marriage proposals. The colonial Authority used her case to ban interracial marriage and appointed a custodian of her assets. She appealed demanding that her wishes be followed. She wanted to give the farm, city house and slaves to an educational charity who would then allow her to live in the city house for the rest of her years. The court sided with her and today a street in Cayenne is named for her.

Devils Island became the next draw but as a penal colony. In addition to political prisoners the French sent anyone convicted of thievery 4 times to prison exile on Devil’s Island. It was only to be a six month sentence after which they were freed in the colony. They were stuck there and most quickly died from tropical disease and poverty. The prison closed in 1951 except for one wing that contained prisoners too crazy to release. The book and movie “Papillion” made Devil’s Island famous.

The colony in 1946 became an overseas department of France. They are therefore citizens of France and Euroland whatever their ethnic background. It is the only Euroland territory in the Western Hemisphere. A site in Guiana was chosen for the European space center due to it’s remoteness and proximity to the equator. This is the largest part of the local economy after French subsidies. In 2011, Guiana voted against autonomy from France.

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

Veteran’s Day Special, The devastation of World War I 100 years on

Welcome to a special weekend offering from The Philatelist. Today is a special Veterans Day as it is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I that inspired the holiday. I chose a German stamp from their new government in 1919 that well captures the devastation of that war. 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.

Todays stamp shows a tree stump with a little bit of new growth coming out of it. Imagine a country presenting itself that way. This was a German stamp issue, not emanating from some sort of occupation force. The best the government of the time could muster was that we are not dead yet. There is an honesty to this stamp that I find deeply moving. Even the printing and the paper quality are far below typical German standards, a reflection of the difficult time. In the post office at the time, you could still use new printings of old Imperial German issues. I covered one of those here, You still had some clinging to the old but the world changed and not just in Germany but throughout Europe.

The stamp today is issue A23, a 10 Pfennig stamp issued by the National Assembly government of Germany in 1919. It was part of a three stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.50.

Between 16 and 19 million people died in World War I. In France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary we are talking 4 percent of the population and that is not including the many more injured or as they said then shell shocked. Turkey’s percentages are even higher but include the Armenian genocide that was tendential to the war itself. Britain and Russia also had over 2 percent dead and the devastation lead in Russia to revolution and a total reordering of society. In Britain we see the cracks in the empire. The British percentage of deaths is 8 times the percentage of the empire as a whole. Parts of the empire that were not ethnically British mostly sat it out. This told the British that their time in such places was nearly up. The natives just did not feel part of things enough to fight for King and Empire.

We have talked some about deaths because the annihilation did so much to change Europe. Like the new growth on the stamp though, Veteran’s Day is about remembering the survivors to thank them for what they have been through in service to their country. Those from World War I have all aged out now but we can still thank the many veterans from the all too frequent wars since. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

China 1929, Is Chiang Kai-shek poison for stamp values

The same portrait of a airplane is modified to show the new emblem and the stamp value plummets. Not really unique but shows stamp collectors have their favorites, 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 Stamp today shows an American Curtis Jn-4 Jenny warplane flying over the Great Wall of China. The plane is in Chinese service, in then western recognized government out of Beijing. The early version of the stamp has that flag on the tail. That government fell to the forces of Chiang Kai-shek in 1928. In 1929, the rapidly aging warplane is redrawn to show the Nationalist sun emblem. This unfortunately is the version I have. The stamp was modernized in 1932 with a slightly newer German Junkers F-13 over a different view of the wall. This earns even a lower value today, so the problem wasn’t the stamp still showing an embarrassingly old airplane.

Todays stamp is issue AP2, a 15 cent airmail stamp issued by China on July 5th, 1929. It was a 5 stamp reissue of the 1921 stamp in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $3 used. The 1921 version, with the Beijing government emblem on the tail is worth $50 used. The early version was in use longer so I don’t think the relative valuation has to do number of stamps printed. It is also not do the popularity of the 1920s Beijing government, as it was not popular. I think the real issue is just the personal unpopularity of Chiang. I while back, we did a Taiwan stamp featuring Madame Chiang, see here, There was a China stamp the same year featuring Madam Chiang’s sister, Sun Yat-sen’s widow. Despite much poorer printing, it is worth 10 times as much. Is Chiang philatelic poison?

The Curtis Jenny was the most common American fighter plane of World War One. It was used sometimes for mail delivery postwar and is the same model used in the famous American upside down airplane stamp. The model was used by both the Beijing government and Chiang’s Nationalist forces although I believe only examples captured from the Beijing government. There are many examples of the plane in the USA, some even flyable, but none seen to survive in China.

The Beijing Chinese government lasted as the recognized government from 1912 and the end of Imperial China until 1928. It had many of the affectations of the old regime and contained many of it’s aging figures. It was successful in building a modern army that did much to keep it in charge against the forces of Sun Yat sen. One thing that was important to the outside world but devastating to the regime’s credibility in China was that the regime honored the old treaties granting western nations and Japan concessions in China. The leaders of the Beijing government were in talks with the Nationalist forces but the talks collapsed with the 1925 death of Sun Yat-sen. Chiang sent a military expedition north in 1926 and had defeated the Beijing government by 1928.

Stamp collectors from the country are usually the deciding factor as to the value of old stamps. German collectors often shun issues from the Third Reich that many others find interesting period pieces. The shunning keeps the value down so many non German collections have many. The same must be true in China today. Unfortunately  for holders of todays stamp, just his emblem on the plane is enough to kill the value. No love for the Chinese Generalissimo?

Well my drink is empty and I will have another while I recall my visit to Beijing in 2002 that included the Great Wall. There was a short section to climb after which they would sell you a card declaring you a Hero of China. I bought the card. Perhaps if they put Chiang’s emblem on it, I could have gotten it for less. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting

USA Panama Canal Zone 1928, remembering those who built the canal, while they were still alive

The USA Canal Zone did not recognize Panama. They operated under the spirit of the USA constitution but not it’s particulars. This added leeway made the labor intensive construction possible, but also allowed the American tradition of not putting live people on stamps to be dispensed with. 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 doesn’t look like much. A simple portrait with a last name and a denomination. This is in keeping with the prewar time but understates the achievements of the men who worked on the canal. There were many schemes to build a canal through Central America. The British and the French tried and failed, the Panamanians would have probably tried if and when they ever progressed. The Americans succeeded, due in large part to the engineering and logistical work of the men honored on this series of stamps.

Todays stamp is issue A43, a 30 cent stamp issued by the Canal Zone in 1928. It was part of a 10 stamp issue in various denominations the honored the men behind the Panama Canal. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 70 cents used. Strange that the value is so low, far below the inflation adjusted value of the denomination, ($4.42). We are perhaps not in a time when the long ago achievements of old white guys are properly valued.

The Panama Canal was constructed between 1903 and 1914. The work had been started by a much smaller capitalized failed French venture. Most of the French work had returned to nature. After a few years of fits and starts, it was decided that the US Army Corps of Engineers should run the project, after civilian contractors proved incapable. The project required the construction of locks, canals, and docks required large amounts of engineering skill and large amounts of physical labor at a time when slavery was banned. Contract workers were brought in from Barbados and Jamaica to do the labor. No American blacks were involved.

The contract workers have in the years since generated much controversy. The workers in the Canal Zone were divided into gold coin and silver coin workers, with the gold coin workers being almost all white and silver coin workers being all black. Whites were not allowed to apply for silver dollar jobs and the blacks were only rarely promoted to gold coin status. The coins were of course how they were paid although over time the Gold coin workers were paid in USA paper money and the silver coin workers began to receive American coinage to replace the Colombian coins they were paid early. The Gold Coin workers also received better food and housing and were encouraged to send for their wives at home while the silver coins had to survive on the local economy. When the USA saw that the silver coins were receiving poor food at inflated prices from the Panamanians, a Commissary was set up that sold them imported food at cost. Unionization  was banned, strikes dealt with harshly and an attempted West Indian workers association went unrecognized. On a brighter note unlike so many modern projects, it got done and worked as hoped.

The man on todays stamp is Col. Sydney Williamson of the Army Corp of Engineers. He had a degree in Civil Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute. He was hired by General George Washington Goethals to work on the Western End of the Canal. After the canal was completed in 1914, Williamson went into private practice. Goethals called him back into service to work on logistics involved with the American deployment to France. After the War the two men worked together in private practice. Among the post canal projects he worked on were copper smelters in Chile, street cars in Brazil and Argentina, the water supply in Genoa, Italy and the port facilities of West Palm Beach, Florida. He died 7 years after his stamp in 1935.

General Goethals in addition to Canal Zone stamps was honored with a USA stamp in 1939, ten years after his death. The Panamanians have not given either man a stamp. There was a stamp for the failed French effort in 1980, and President Carter is on a few stamps celebrating the USA giving the Canal to Panama in the 1970s. I guess gratitude and success are not things to celebrate in Panama.

Well my drink is empty and I will have a few more pondering a stamp website that could pay me in gold coins, or even silver ones. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting and remember our sponsors and their unobtrusive banner ads.

Uruguay 1889, we will grow by immigration, merino wool and corned beef

The countries of South America were sparsely populated after independence. There was little incentive to pledge to the new governments as citizens in spread outposts were on their own when trouble came. Uruguay hit on a path out of this, take in large numbers of immigrants and allow them to build for themselves and you a new economy. 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 country trying to build a separate identity. The Army was perhaps the most durable institution. This is a conservative influence and that can be seen in a stamp displaying a coat of arms. The population of the time was over two thirds immigrant, so the coat of arms probably did not mean much, but hey talk to your army recruiter and get into the spirit.

Todays stamp is issue A36 a 10 Centesimos stamp issued by the Republic of Uruguay in 1889. It was part of a 24 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 85 cents used. A stamp mistakenly printed on both sides is worth $20.

Uruguay was growing quite quickly in the late 19th century. There was a wave of immigration mainly from Italy and Spain. They mainly settled in Montevideo and that city was growing even faster than the country as a whole. What was growing even faster than the number of people was the number of sheep. There were three sheep for every person and merino wool became an important export.

What was also becoming big was the production of tin cans of corned beef sold worldwide under the brand Fray Bentos, the port where it was processed and shipped from. Corned beef had before been largely Irish with production for export. The potatoes famine saw a decline as land was shifted to food for Irish to eat. The production in Uruguay was controlled by a Scottish firm looking to replace Irish corned beef. Corn refers to corns of salt used in the curing. It was a low cost preserved meat that fed many during the industrial revolution and through the World Wars adding much prosperity to Uruguay. In the 1960s, production of Fray Bentos left Uruguay after a series of typhoid deaths in Scotland were traced to the corn beef and the untreated Uruguay river water used in the cooling process. The water contained too much human waste.

As one can imagine, the politics of Uruguay was less than stable. The army had arraigned a grand compromise between the more conservative white party and the more liberal colored party. The party names are not racial. The Presidency was held by the coloreds and certain government departments were reserved for the whites. This was not really stable and there were regular rebellions and intrigues. When President Maximo Santos was shot in the face in an attempted assassination, he wisely chose early retirement and a European tour. His abandoned mansion in Montevideo was taken and still serves has the headquarters of a government ministry. His former country house now also serves as a museum  for disappeared persons from 1970s military rule. I hope the museum also remembers the disappeared former President and first owner Santos.

President Santos after being shot in the face in 1886

Well my drink is empty, and I am afraid all this talk of corned beef has killed my appetite. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Ethiopia 1965, The Emperor tries to build a sugar industry and offer African leadership

Ethiopia was the only African nation to not give in to colonialism. So it was natural to look to them for leadership, even if their style was not what was intended for Africa’s future. 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.

When viewing this stamp, it must be remembered how hopeful the 1960s were for Africa. Country after country was achieving independence, and with that came the hope of a better future. With that in mind, look at the vast sugar refinery on todays stamp. Not constructed by a colonizer, with the output going to Europe, but African, with the dignified Emperor Haile Selassie looking on where other countries would have Queen Elizabeth. This was heady stuff then, even if the factory was constructed by a Dutch firm with aid.

Todays stamp is issue A81 a 10 cent stamp issued by the Kingdom of Ethiopia on July 19th, 1965. It was part of a 7 stamp issue in various denominations that displayed industrial progress in Ethiopia. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

In the late fifties, many states in Africa were achieving independence. Their new leaders were for the most part western educated Africans chosen by the colonies and indoctrinated by the then fashionable socialism. Emporer Haile Selassie was from a different tradition as his Royal house had grown in power from the indigenous tribal system. Ethiopia tried to offer leadership to Africa and hosted/lead the newly formed Organization of African Unity in Abbes Ababa. The goal was African political unity but beyond help  for remaining anti white rule forces in Southern Africa, it was mainly a debating society. The new nations could not agree on forming a joint military force and how to replace aid and influence from outside Africa. So a pan African union became an elusive goal.

The sugar refinery on the stamp showed promise. Prior to this plant and one other, all sugar in Ethiopia had to be imported. The factories provided much employment and freed up valueable foreign currency that otherwise went abroad. The sugar refineries eventually closed around 2010 after years of low output after the Selassie regime was deposed. There is currently a program to build 6 new sugar refineries that if everything went well would employ 300,000 workers and see Ethiopia become an exporter of sugar. The project is late, over budget, and is beset with claims of corruption.

The Emperor had a long rule but by the 70s he was quite old and perhaps less vigorous. A British ITV documentary “The Unknown Famine” showed graphically a famine in 1974. This discredited the government which responded by elevating more left wing political figures. The documentary was hoped to attract foreign aid. Newly empowered, the left began showing the documentary over and over on Ethiopian TV interspersed with video of the Emperor’s grand lifestyle and finery. Soon the whole country was in rebellion with riots and strikes in the capital and an army mutiny lead by Marxist young officers. 60 former officials including a Prince, several ex Prime Ministers, and the General staff were summarily executed in September 1974. The Emperor was confined to the Jubilee Palace where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1975. His remains were put beneath a latrine on the palace grounds. The country was run terribly by a Marxist junta for the next 16 years. Much aid flowed to the country, most famously Live Aid, but it was squandered.

Emperor Haile Selassie 1n 1971 at age 79. He was well preserved

The Organization of African Unity was succeeded by the African Union that grew out of the work of former Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi. It is still based in Abbes Ababa and has a fancy new headquarters  built by Africans themselves. I kid of course, it was built  as a gift of China.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast self reliance. The Emperor was not a perfect exemplar of that but his efforts toward it give  a dignity so lacking among his successors. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Austria 1983, 1000 years of upper Austria, so show an empty castle

You can’t tear it down, your country is no longer a kingdom and most of the royals are not well remembered. So lets make some money and rent it out for weddings. 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.

To be frank, I am not much enamored with this stamp. The stamp is logical. Celebrating a thousand years of Upper Austria with a castle that was very near a thousand years old. Except that it wasn’t. The town is much older and had been the capital of a Roman Empire Province. The early castle was wood and replaced by a stone structure 600 years later. That is what is shown on the stamp. It was redone to be one of the many castles available to the Hapsburgs. If the Hapsburgs were so great though, why aren’t they still ruling? A 1000 years of upper Austria should be a time to show what is unique about upper Austria, what changed when the area affiliated with Austria. An empty place to stay by long departed royals doesn’t do that for me.

Todays stamp is issue A634, a 3 Shilling stamp issued by Austria on April 28th, 1983. It was a single stamp issue issued in conjunction with the Upper Austria Millennium Exhibition. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

The stamp shows the town of Wels in upper Austria. In Roman Empire times, it was known as Ovilava. Then it was the provincial capital of  the province of Noricom. The town retained some importance as a market town into the middle ages. The first mention of a wood castle on the site was in 773AD.

The castle was reconstructed of stone for Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I. At the time Empires were built by arraigning useful marriages of Royal offspring. So Maximillian sent off his daughter Margeret at age four to be raised by the King of France and hopefully eventually marry his son.  His son Phillip, who he marketed  as the handsome, was sent to Spain in order to get a Hapsburg on the Spanish throne. Margeret did not succeed as her betrothed broke the engagement and married her stepmother. Even failure cannot long hobble a Royal however and Margret ended up a regent in Holland. Maximillian died in 1519 at Wels Castle. The castle has been empty for many years but is open for tours and can be rented for weddings so the bride can be a Princess for the day before starting their life with their own betrothed, who hopefully is as handsome as Phillip.

The portrait of the castle on the stamp is by noted Swiss engraver Matthaus Merian. It was part of a collection of engravings titled “Topographia Germaniae” that captured views of many Germanic cities of the 17th century. This work went back into print in the 1960s.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Prince Phillip the handsome. Good looks and royal blood can take you far, perhaps all the way to Spain. A better designed stamp would have had me toasting Upper Austria. Come again tomorrow for another that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Phillip the allegedly handsome


German occupied Belgium 1916, Germania tries to divide with Flamenpolotik

Germany tried to occupy Belgium in a way that previewed their view of the post war era after a German victory. This was not of a united Belgium but rather one divided on linguistic lines. Belgium remember was a new country with the Walloons dominating the way the Flemish had under Holland. Was their room for this strategy to work? 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 common German stamp around from 1900-1920 featuring Germania, the female personification of the German state. Such female personifications were common in many countries in the 19th century. Where it is used on an occupation stamp, as here from WWI Belgium, it becomes provocative. That said, I am a fan of the old style font of the overprint. The government in exile put out rival stamps  of King Albert wearing a trench warfare style helmet. No mention on that of his German heritage and his German Queen.

Todays stamp is issue N16, a 15 Belgian Cent overprint of the 15 Pfennig issued by the German occupation General Government of Belgium in 1916. It was part of 16 stamp issue of German Germania stamps overprinted in the local currency for use in occupied Belgium. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 65 cents mint. This is double the value of the Germania stamp without the overprint.

Belgium was required by the treaty that allowed for it’s founding to be neutral in Great Power conflicts. Thus it could not allow for the passage of German troops through it’s territory to attack France as Germany requested. The Belgian army resisted the subsequent German invasion in 1914. Almost the entire country was conquered in short order but the resistance gave time for the allies to organize defenses in France and Belgian Army units fought along side them under the personal command of King Albert.

The occupation was described hyperbolically as the rape of Belgium in Western press. This was greatly exaggerated and indeed Germany allowed food shipped to the Belgian people from the then neutral USA financed by a Belgian industrialist Emile Francqui in association with future American President Herbert Hoover. The food was sold to those that could afford it and given to those that could not. One crime that the Germans were guilty of was shipping laborers against their will to work in Germany when volunteer goals fell short. They were paid and returned post war.

What perhaps was most threatening was the German use of Flamenpolitk. This was treating and administering the large number of Dutch speaking Flemish differently that the French speaking Walloons. The Dutch themselves were neutral in WWI but shared a language heritage with Germany and had ruled Belgium previously. The hotbed of strife was the University of Ghent, which had taught in French despite being in a Flemish city. The Germans forced the university to teach in Flemish. King Albert returned  after German defeat and in his first speech he promised a new Flemish University in Ghent. He also retook his oath in Flemish as well as French, which had never been done before. The University of Ghent tried to go back to French but became the only Flemish university in 1930 after King Albert’s death.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Herbert Hoover. When an old Belgian railroad rival in China called and asked for help for his people, Hoover was there, as the USA always is. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.