Belgium hosts an irrevelant world body convention, in other news the sun rose this morning

These sinecures that go to the powerful. Conventions of the connected in swank cities while partying on the dime of others. How does one sign up? Also how did something noble but perhaps futile degenerate into this. 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.

In Brussels, it is big business hosting international organizations, today notably NATO and the central staff of the European Union. Think of how great this is for Brussels. A lot of well paid staff with a healthy sized support staff that are hired locally. The big shots will be spending lots of money that comes from the outside. Probably more than their high salaries as most are old money. In addition there will be subsets that will be constantly hosting conventions, where lesser big shots will be coming from far and wide to spend, spend, spend. So Belgium puts out a stamp to celebrate an especially important convention. How nice of them to emphasize the history and noble original purpose of the organization. A stamp issue showing a fancy restaurant, a 5 star hotel, a disco, and a fancy mall would have been a little too real.

Todays stamp is issue A157, a 3 Belgian Franc stamp issued by the Kingdom of Belgium on September 14th 1961. It was a 2 stamp issue celebrating the 50th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that was held in Brussels that year. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

The Inter-Parliamentary  Union was the brainchild of French parliamentarian Frederic Passy and English Parliamentarian Randal Cremer. Both men were avowed pacifists that hoped an international body could arbitrate disputes before they lead to war. They were part of a large movement of the time that included American William Jennings Bryant and steel baron Andrew Carnegie. The IPU started in Bern, Switzerland in 1892 but soon moved to ironically Brussels. World War I went unprevented and the organization moved to Oslo and then to it’s current home in Geneva. The work and noble intentions of Messers Passy and Cremer saw both men individually awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Cremer had guided through parliament a bill that all disputes between the USA and the UK be handled by arbitration. Passy had been useful in an international dispute involving the future of Luxembourg in the 1860s.

The organization changed after the passing of the founders and became less about peace and more to do with promoting vague notions of representative government. One party states are still welcome to the parties and the most recent, the 138th was held in the home base in Geneva earlier this year.

It was decided that a woman from the Americas should be the current President of the IPU so after a contest with a lady from Uruguay, Mexican Gabriela Cuevas Barron was given the title in 2017. She is young. still in her thirties and had to change left wing parties in Mexico with the rise in fortune of the National Regeneration Movement at the expense of her former party PAN. Her short resume includes work for NGOs, so I bet she is adept at party planning on an international scale. Nice work if you can get it, but none of her biographies list the wars she prevented. Hopefully then the Nobel committee will hold off on her award.

Current IPU President Gabriela Cuevas

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast Ms Cuevas on her title. Maybe that would get me invited to one of those great living large on someone else’s dime conventions. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Slovakia 1942 Right wing Priests try to achieve a seperate Slovak state

The Eastern European Nazi collaborators are tarnished by the association. In Slovakia’s case, for good and ill, these leaders were practicing Catholic Priests. 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 issued by a semi independent Slovakia, under the “protection” of the Third Reich. Yet here you have a Priest, who called Hitler a cultural beast, being honored as a recently passed founding father. It points to the strange situation the nation found itself.

Todays stamp is issue A20, a I.3 Koruna stamp issued by Slovakia on March 20th 1942. The stamp was a single issue that honored Father Andrej Hlinka, a priest and politician who had died in 1938. Father Hlinka has been honored by other stamp issues of modern Slovakia and the 1939-45 entity. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used.

Up until 1918, Slovakia was ruled by the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburg Emperor. Father Andrej Hlinka was a parish priest who moved in conservative political circles to try to gain more self determination for the Slovak people. In doing so he angered both the Hungarian authorities and his Bishop. He was suspended as a priest and sentenced to jail for his political activism. While in jail a new church finished construction in Cernova that Hlinka had been the force behind. The local parishioners wanted to wait to consecrate the church until Father Hlinka could do it. Instead the bishop sent a Hungarian speaking priest to do it guarded by 15 military police men. The local protest turned to rock throwing and the soldiers then fired on the crowd killing and wounding many. Father Hlinka’s story was now out and a appeal to the Pope got him released from prison and his priestly duties restored. As the post Austro-Hungary breakup Slovak future was being decided in Versailles in 1919, Father Hlinka traveled to Paris to try to get a better deal for the Slovak people. At this point he was in favor of a united Czechoslovakia, but only with rights of autonomy for Slovakia. His presence was not welcome and he was again jailed in Paris for allegedly traveling to France on a fake passport. This again raised his status with the Slovak people. Czechoslovakia became independent but with perhaps too much power in the hands of the Czechs. In 1920, Father Hlinka was again released from jail and elected to parliament as a member of the right wing Slovak People’s Party.

He was a leader of the party and when he died in 1938, leadership passed to another Priest, Father Josef Tiso. The troubles with Germany and Czechoslovakia were then coming to the fore. Hitler suggested to Tiso that Slovakia declare itself independent and that would be recognized by Germany. This was done and Father Tiso was named Prime Minister. The collaboration with Germany lead to the expulsion of many Jews to labor camps that became death camps. This crime was protested by the Vatican and temporarily stopped in 1942. There was also a lot of bribery of lower officials from Jews of the Bratislava Working Group. In late 1944 there was an uprising that was violently put down by the Nazis and now Father Tiso was just a figurehead. The Germans restarted the rounding up of Jews. With the Red Army approaching, Father Tiso fled to a monastery in Bavaria where he was arrested by the Americans and sent back to Bratislava to face a war crime trial at the hands of the new again united Czechoslovakia communist regime. He was found guilty and hung while still in his priests garb.

Well, my drink is empty and I may have a few more while I ponder the Slovaks then plight. First association with Hungary, then Chechia, then Germany, then Chechia again, when the desire was just to stand alone, with God. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Sudan 1948 50 years of stamps and the temporary end of the closed door South

Another story of the breakup of the Ottoman empire and another British mandate to try to stand between different races. 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 design of this stamp is one of the longest lived I have come across. As it states on this jubilee edition  the design dates from 1898. What the stamp doesn’t make clear is the design with very few modifications was in use until independence in 1956. There was no 1998 100th  anniversary version but the stamp was not done. It came back virtually unchanged in a 2003 issue, except reflecting the current debased currency. The camel rider is actually a postman.

Todays stamp is issue A9 a two Piaster stamp issued by the Sudan on October 1st 1948. It was a single stamp issue that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Sudanese stamp issue in 1898. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 50 cents.

Sudan in theory was to be jointly administered by Egypt and Great Britain as the Ottoman Empire was fading. The Egyptian royal family was still tied to the Ottomans but the reality was that the British in Sudan were running the show. There is a divide in the country as the north is Arabic and Muslim with traditional ties to Egypt. The south is black and not Muslim. The British addressed this by having a closed door policy to the south, with no outsiders allowed in. This did not sit well with the Arabs to the north. Britain pretty much left the south alone except  for tamping down on tribal warfare and fighting the banned slave trade.

The north saw much more development. The Nile was damned and the increase in arable land was taken by cotton plantations. Railroads and new Port Sudan allowed for exports. Khartoum also grew with more Sudanese taking their place in the administration. Into this Egypt declared it’s independence but left vague its claim on Sudan. The British Governor General of Sudan was then assassinated in Cairo and the British then removed all Egyptians from the Sudanese administration and armed forces. The northern Sudanese were divided as to whether they wanted a union with Egypt and the south was divided as to whether they wanted to stay with Sudan or go with the then British colony of  Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. At this point the British were getting ready to leave and so the question was who to turn it over to.

The independence movement was overwhelmingly Northern and Arab but strangely its leader was a southern black named Ali Abd al Latif. He was part of an educated group of blacks that became left wing politicized and agitated for insurrection. This landed Ali in jail and later exiled to Egypt and put in an insane asylum where he died in 1948. His fame grew though and his white flag movement provided a good cover for the Northern Arab minority who wanted independence from both Britain and Egypt to succeed taking over the whole country.

Ali Abd al Latif

The south of Sudan was hardly at all consulted and the division left Sudan divided with a hot and cold civil war that still did not end when South Sudan became independent in 2005. The British did manage to get out of the Sudan in the mid 1950s so probably are the real winners of the story.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the camel riding postman on todays stamp. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Danzig 1923, a very early airmail stamp from a German city that suddenly found itself outside Germany

Many of the early Danzig stamps are air mail when sending letters that way was expensive. Perhaps subconsciously they were showing the airplanes as a way to maintain a connection to the Fatherland. 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 font and the style of these stamps could be nothing but German. In certain ways an earlier prewar Germany.  The interwar time in Germany was a time of some longing for the past and others going headlong into a modern harsh future. The separation lead to Danzig coming down in the former camp.

Todays stamp is issue AP3, a 25 Mark stamp issued by the League of Nations administered Danzig Free State in 1923. This was the time of great inflation in Germany and the stamps reflect that with ever higher face values. It was part of an 18 stamp issue. According to the Scott catalog. the stamp is worth 40 cents used.

Germany was heavily shrunk at the end of World War 1. In the east, Prussia lost a great deal of territory to make way for a reestablishment of Poland. This was done both to satisfy the long held desires of the Polish people but also to create a barrier between Germany and the Soviet Union. To prevent Poland from being landlocked, a further chunk of coastline was carved out separating still German East Prussia from the rest of Germany. For the further benefit of Poland the harbor German city of Danzig was made a free state with Poland having access to the port and the city entered a customs union and later switched to the Polish currency. At the time the city was less than 10 percent Polish and mostly Lutheran as opposed to Catholic Poland. Interestingly for stamp collectors. in addition to the line of German stamps that today’s stamp is one, there was a separate Polish post office in Danzig that issued overprinted Polish issues. In a sign of the future, they were overstamped Gdansk, the now standard Polish name of the city.

The city was something short of a Free State. The local Senate Leader had to answer to a high commissioner appointed by the League of Nations and the foreign policy was in the hands of Poland. The local leaders elected tended to be fairly right wing but with cold but businesslike relations with Poland. Relations worsened when the Nazis took over in 1933 both in German elections as well as in local elections in Danzig. Interestingly the First Nazi leader Hermann Rauchning broke with them and moved pre war to the USA. There he related his interactions with Hitler and put forth a desire for the return of the Prussian monarchy and Poland to become a vassal state of Germany. Since most German emigres of the time were of the political left. He was quite a contrast, as fitting someone from Danzig.

The end of World War II saw Danzig change forever. The approaching Red Army in early 1945 saw many ethnic Germans flee west and the trend was further enforced by the new Polish communist regime. The ethnic cleansing left Gdansk much smaller but now a real Polish city. My German born(1929)mother always thought the revolts against the communist regime in Gdansk around 1980 were really related to the city still being German. I disagree, when you think of Poland, you think of Lech Walesa. It is hard to imagine him a closet German.

The airplane on the stamp is a Sablatnig P.III which was one of the first German designed airliners. It had 2 crew in a open cockpit and carried 6 passengers in an enclosed cabin. The plane was wooden and had folding wings and a carried a tent that could form a makeshift hanger. Sablatnig had built seaplanes for the German Navy in World War I and post war was in partnership with the aviation arm of Norddeutscher Lloyd, the large German shipping concern. In 1926 the Lloyd airline merged with a rival airline Junkers to form German Luft Hansa, the German flag carrier. No further aircraft orders went to Sablatnig and the P.III was retired in the early 1930s. Hansa in Lufthansa refers to the Hanseatic League of trading and shipping to which many northern German and Dutch cities belonged, including Danzig when it was still German. Danzig had requested and been denied having Hanseatic in their Free State title.

Well my drink is empty and I will pour another and toast the pilots of the P.III on the stamp. Flying was quite dangerous then but moving mail allowed frayed connections to continue. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Christmas Island 1963, the island passes from Singapore to Australia at her request

An island can get a lot of action depending on who it belongs 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.

The visuals of the stamp is very British late colonial except for one thing. Where is Queen Elizabeth? The island going to Australia answers the why. Australia took over the administration of the island as it contained a lot of Aussies, no natives and Britain was fading from the area. It was the 60s and Christmas Island was east of Suez in the expression of the day.

Todays stamp is issue A2, a 2 cent(Malaysian)  issued by the phosphate commission of Christmas Island in 1963. The stamp shows a map of the island and was designed and printed in Australia. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1 mint.

Christmas island was first spotted by a British vessel the Royal Mary on Christmas day 1643. The island was uninhabited and the ship was in the employ of the British East India company. The company was also involved in the founding of Singapore and  once settlement of the island occurred in the 19th century, it was administered by the British Straits Settlements Colony, that also had roots in the British East India Company. Lucrative phosphate mines were set up in the late 19th century and Australians arrived to administer and Malayans, many of Chinese decent were brought in as indentured servants to work the mines.

During World War II the threat to Christmas was real and a token British force of  1 officer, 1 cannon, 4 British sergeants, and 27 Indian soldiers was sent to garrison. After a ship was sunk in the harbor and there was naval bombardment by the Japanese, the white flag was raised but the Japanese still sailed away. After they were gone the British flag went back up. The next night the Indians mutinied killing all 5 British and a few days later the Japanese landed to no opposition. The people had fled into the bush but were rounded back up to get the mines back into operation. The mutineers were tracked down post war and 5 were sentenced to death. At the request of newly independent India, their sentences were reduced to life in prison.

After the war the Australians took more of an interest as they had come to understand that the British couldn’t be relied on in this part of the world. Money was paid to Singapore in exchange for the dropping of a Singapore claim to the island. Perhaps a mistake given subsequent events.

Australia closed the phosphate mine in 1987 although a much smaller operation was restarted privately by former miners later. There was an attempt at a casino but that also failed. What as happened recently, is that as Australian territory, it has become a draw for asylum seekers mainly from the middle east and brought by Indonesian smugglers. The Australian Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers that make it to Christmas have a right to have their claims adjudicated. The detention facilities that hold them during their cases hold now more people then the  entirety of the local population. If the islands had stayed with Singapore, this would not have happened since they don’t allow asylum seekers and therefore haven’t been overwhelmed by them, despite Singapore’s wealth.

One of 5 immigration detention centers on the island

Australia Post formally took over the issuance of Christmas Island stamps in the 90s. Either Australian of Christmas Island stamps are valid for postage in either place. Christmas previously switched to the Australian Dollar in 1968

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

Berlin 1966, a new divided and more corporate Berlin

Berlin once rivaled Paris in it’s progressive café society. The Nazis of course put an end to that but after the destruction a much different more corporate replacement was constructed. Businessmen the new masters? How perceptive. 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 issue of stamps were made to celebrate the new Berlin. Berlin’s post war division had recently become more permanent by the wall and at least in the western section there was much rebuilding and new construction. So a brand new glass tower shopping mall, the Europa Center was included. The stamp designer carefully disquised the most controversial part of the design to me. The large Mercedes emblem on the roof is there but shown at an angle so it is not clear what it is.

The stamp today is issue A53, a 60 Pfennigs  stamp issued by West Berlin Germany in 1966. It was part if a twelve stamp issue in various denominations that displayed new or restored architecture of West Berlin. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth 35 cents used.

The site of the Europa Center was once the Romanisches Haus. It was one of the premier sites of Weimar era café society. The customers were all left wing and included such notables as Bertoit Brecht, Otto Dix, Erich Kastner, and Erich Maria Remarque. Naturally a group like this would be perceived as a threat to the Nazis. Upon Nazi taking the reigns of government, many of the Romanisches Haus patrons went into exile and at one point the Nazis staged a riot that damaged the declining place. The building was later destroyed  in an Allied air raid in 1943. The Café building was topped by a German style Golden Eagle.

In the early 1960s the site was acquired by shopping center developer and electronics retailer Karl-Heinz Pepper. He was concerned about Berlins divided situation and wanted to assert Berlin’s world prominence not in terms of café society but rather in terms of shopping venues. In this he claimed to be inspired by American shopping malls, but what he built was a glass tower more resembling something built in the Asia of today. American malls being suburban and horizontal with large parking lots. The center contained shopping, resturants, office space, a hotel, a movie theatre, an ice rink and a large parking deck. To top it all off instead of the German Eagle is a star. A rotating three pointed metal star that is the symbol of Mercedes Benz automobiles. At night the Mercedes emblem is lit by over 600 light bulbs. It is the biggest Mercedes star of it’s type, as though there is now a bigger one in Hong Kong, it doesn’t rotate.

Over the years there have been some renovations, the ice rink is gone so Tiffany’s could expand and the theatre is also now gone. The shopping center hosts more than 25,000 shoppers a day. The café past is not totally ignored as there is an Irish Pub with big greasy portions, multiple Asian restaurants, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. No doubt they attract all the intelegencia, or perhaps make them want to go back into exile.

Well my drink is empty and I will wonder the food court looking for a happy hour cocktail special. Ah, the life of an intellectual. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


China 1950, China figures out how to scare the USA

The Cold War was a time of diplomatic games to get an advantage. Here was a stamp that displayed one of the key turnabouts. 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.

There are both German and Italian stamps from the 30s and 40s that similarly show Hitler an Mussolini, but face it. Italy was a second string power in terms of military if not cultural power. Stalin and Mao signing a treaty that amounted to an alliance is really much scarier to potential rivals like the USA. Just 5 years earlier, Stalin was our ally against Hitler and in the last days at least against Japan. Two years before China was ruled by the USA allied nationalists. Chinese troops at the exact time were pouring into North Korea and pushing back the American gains in Korea. 6 years after World War II the effect of all this must have been terrifying.

Todays stamp is issue 1L177, a 5000 Juan stamp issued by the Northeast China Postal Service (Manchuria) on December 1st, 1950. It was the last days of Manchuria being postally administered separately from the People’s Republic. The stamp honors the treaty of friendship between China and the Soviet Union earlier that year by showing Mao and Stalin shaking hands. The Northeast China issue is in different colors and denominations from the same stamp issued by the PRC. The 4 vertical Chinese characters on the upper right of the stamp also signify it. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $29 in mint condition. There are reprints of this stamp that have a lower value, but they are printed on a duller paper.

Manchuria had been occupied by the Japanese during World War II and before. In the late days of the war, the Soviets invaded in order to be in place to take the Japanese surrender. The area had been important to Russia since czarist times as railroad and port access was helpful to a Soviet Far East presence. After taking the Japanese surrender, the area except the needed ports and railway was turned over to Mao’s communist forces. This explains why separate postal administration lasted into the first years of the PRC.

A treaty of Friendship was signed in 1950 was closely modeled on the one signed with the Chinese nationalists in 1946. It replaced that one and had some additional goodies for China. It allowed for the turnover of the Russian railway and the ports of Dalian and Lushun to China. These were some of the last enclaves of European colonialism except for Hong Kong and Macau and getting them back was an important accomplishment. The treaty also provided to China a 300 million dollar loan at a time when civil war recovery and supporting the invasion of Korea was a big expense to China. The treaty ran until 1979 but did not prevent the Chinese-Soviet communist doctrinal split after the end of Stalinism. Deng Xiaoping did not want to extend or have a new treaty with the Soviet Union. He was then anxious to attack Vietnam, a Soviet ally that the treaty would have prevented.

With Chinese troops pouring over the border into Korea pushing back America’s hard won victory over the North Koreans, the effect of the alliance was profound. The American General Macarthur was removed after suggesting a nuclear attack on China was the only military solution to the Chinese onslaught. Instead the line was stabilized into trench warfare very near the original North-South border until a cease fire was finally arraigned in 1953. Chinese troops in North Vietnam in the 60s also kept America from bringing that war to a successful conclusion, showing how important the treaty was. War with China now meant World War III.

Well my drink is empty and I wonder how scary the early 1970s pictures of Nixon and Mao were to the Soviet Union. Very scary I am sure,  No stamp of that though, the closest I could find was the Chinese ping pong stamp. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

The United Nations wants to help you with your factory, or did until the developed world realized the implications

Today we look at the cycle of the United Nations. The initial promise, the flawed execution, the abandonment, and then the reassessment to perhaps justify a continuation. 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 is the first United Nations stamp I have covered. It is a great period piece of a different time. Factory smokestacks spewing not pollution but streams that turn into arrows signifying economic growth. It makes one want to join Gregory Peck and don the grey flannel suit. Notice also the acronym on the stamp. It is the French acronym for the organization. The lower denomination of the stamp issue is similar but has the English acronym UNIDO. Remember French and English are the international languages of diplomacy.

Todays stamp is issue A98, a 13 cent stamp issued by the United Nations in New York City on April 18th, 1968. It was a two stamp issue that celebrated the forming of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in 1966. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents, mint or used either denomination of the issue. Sometimes with collectibles, things go up in value as they become seen as a failed period piece. This stamp may have a shot at such a revival.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization arose out of whiz kid studies done for the Secretary General’s office in the 1950s. With so many new nations forming at the end of the colonial period, a universal plan for quick industrialization of the new countries was imagined. Expert help, capital, and help meeting international standards so goods could be exported were all parts of the plan. You have to admire the audacity of thinking they could actually pull something like that off. Remember though the 1950s was a more optimistic time. The Secretary General realized quickly that the task at hand was great and a dedicated organization was required, so one was formed in 1966.

This was something that the third world was highly in favor of. A UN organization would work most easily with the kind of socialist operations that were being envisioned by the new countries. A group of 77 such countries banded together in Lima, Peru during 1976 calling for more resources and setting the specific goal that 25 percent of the worlds industrial output originate from their countries. This may seem an understandable, low short term goal to the developing world that still had great hopes for the future now that they were setting their own path. To the developed world it crystalized that production was to them a zero sum game and the goal was to take from the rich and give to the poor. Such a pose cannot be received well by the people of the developed world, who were implicitly being asked to provide resources for the effort.

A large bureaucracy was formed in Vienna that absorbed much of the rich country largesse. The work of the agency did not successfully develop any of the 77 counties. Indeed UNIDO did little to keep going the socialist enterprises as economic reality struck in the 80s and 90s. During the 90s, the USA, the UK, France, Canada, and Australia all withdrew from the organization. The organization still continues with 700 employees and a budget of 500 million Euros, paid for mainly by Germany, Japan and Scandinavia. It has refashioned itself with talk of sustainable development and renewable energy, so President Trump probably wouldn’t have much success gaining UN funding for a scheme to bring smokestack factories back to the Midwest. Even if he allowed solar panels on the roof. An office building filled with children of the rich bureaucrats in a swank, jet set, European city. Now you are talking about something more realistic.

Well my drink is empty and I am left wondering what the former whiz kids thought when reality hit later and they were more mature. Something like the executers were not as smart as the planners, or was it always just a scam to get set up royally in Vienna. A little bit of that modern pessimism seeping in. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

Finland remembers Toivo Kuula for adding music to the new national identity

There is an old slogan from the Fennoman independence movement. Swedes we are not, Russians we can never be, therefore Finns we must be. 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 does a good job in telling the story of Kuula with just a picture. A very serious younger man of some class portrayed in a country setting. After all an areas natural culture arises from peasants in the countryside and then formalized by a more serious and educated upper class in the city.

Todays stamp is issue A356, a 30 Markka stamp issued by Finland on July 7th, 1983. The stamp celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of classical piano and choral composer Toivo Kuula. According to the Scott catalog, the single stamp issue is worth 40 cents used.

Toivo Kuula was born in Finland and studied under legendary Finnish composer Jean Sebelius. Though he had experience as a conductor and an unfinished symphony at the time of his early, unexpected death, he was most famous for his choral works that were usually accompanied by piano and perhaps a small string section.

The Finland of Kuula’s youth was a Grand Dutchy that pledged allegiance  to Czarist Russia. The people still had many ties to neighboring Sweden including language. Rising up from the peasant class was a unique local culture and language that many hoped could form the basis for a new independent Finland that was free of both Russia and Sweden.

Part of this is a movement to make more formal the local peasant culture that often included stiring, patriotic, and romantic songs sung in local dialects around the campfire at the end of a hard days work in the fields. I recently did a Yugoslav stamp featuring Vuk Karadzic who was doing similar work in Serbia. See . Ataturk in Turkey was doing similar things. He went so far as to bring in Austrians to do classical arrangements of the Turkish peasant campfire songs. The challenge of course is to keep the passion and local flavor of the music intact as it is turned into something played in a opera house. According to the music critics of the day, Kuula pieces such as “The maiden and the Boyar’s son.” and “The sea-baithing maids” did a good job of this. Kuula’s teacher Sibelius famously said “Don’t listen to critics, they don’t make statues for critics”. He has a point and after listening to a few of the pieces I wonder if Kuula did a better job with titles than the music itself.

Kuula did not live to enjoy an independent Finland he was so in favor of. He was partying in a hotel on a Saints festival day  when he was hit by a stray bullet fired from a group of nearby  Jagers.  Jagers were independence fighters that were Finns trained and funded by Germany as a way to shrink and weaken Russia. They were successful in breaking Finland off from chaotic revolutionary 1917 Russia and the soon after the collapse of Germany prevented Finland from becoming a German stooge. Interesting to me that Germany was behind the independence movement, I had detected some German influence in the music of Kuula as well. Why do locals so often get co-opted by outside forces?

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

A Honduran leftist fails to unite Central America

A generic portrait on an old Latin American stamp. Why not try to figure out who he was. 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 todays was printed almost 40 years after the liberal claudillo on the stamp lost his last battle, and the war to unite independent Central America as a progressive single country. While it is not Honduras’s first stamp, it is it’s first professional issue printed in the USA. Was it the country pining for what might have been?

Todays stamp is issue A4, a 1 Centavo (new currency that year so not yet debased) stamp issued by the Republic of Honduras in July of 1878. It was a 7 stamp issue in various denominations displaying Francisco Morazán, who at various times served as President of  his native Honduras, El Salvador, and the then Central American Federation. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 50 cents mint. There was a reprint of the stamp in 1889 by a different New York printer that used softer paper and a yellower gum. This version is worth $10 mint.

Francisco Morazán  was born in Honduras in what was then the Spanish Captaincy General of Guatemala, New Spain in 1798. He was of moderately well off Creole merchant background with a father from Corsica. He showed to be fairly intelligent and his parents found then rare educational opportunities for him with the Catholic church. Through the libraries of friendly friars, he became literate in the law and the ideals of the French revolution. In the last days of colonial rule he acted as a public defender in the Spanish courts. He married a rich widow and fathered a daughter by her and an illegitimate son via the daughter of a Nicaraguan politician. The money and the contacts placed him well when independence came.

In the early years of independence there was much debate over how to proceed. Most favored a single Central American country but conservatives and liberals differed. Conservatives favored by the Church, the landowning class and many Indian tribes featured centralized power under  a strong leader using the institutions of the old colonial administration. The Liberals wanted a Federal system  that delegated more power to the states modeled on the USA.

The Liberal system was agreed to but things quickly broke down when the first President tried to dissolve the legislature and start a new one more agreeable to him. Honduras was central to the rebellion against this and Morazán fought with the uprisers. He proved to be accomplished militarily in the skirmishes that followed and was made President of Honduras. He quickly left that job to fight on in El Salvador and then further success brought him into power over the entire Federation in Guatemala.

In power he enacted harsh treatment of the Church, taking away from them educational assets, making marriage civil and ended government support for collecting tithes. He also opened the door wide to new immigrants who were much whiter then the people who were mainly Indian. He lost out on a second term election but then his conservative rival died before he could take office so Morazán ended up getting a second term anyway.

There was much dissatisfaction among the majority Indians. Morazán started jury trials that featured white juries judging mainly Indian defendants. There was then a cholera epidemic that killed many Indians. The Indians came to believe that Morazán was poisoning the water so he could get rid of them and sell their land to companies sponsoring immigration. Conservative forces and Indians united to overthrow Morazán and he fled to El Salvador. There he was made President and lead an unsuccessful invasion of Guatemala to try to reclaim wider power. This time he went into exile and a few years tried to make another comeback. This time he was defeated, captured, and executed. At his request his remains were buried in El Salvador rather than Honduras.

Well my drink is empty and I have come around that a federal system was probably not right for a united Central America. When an area is almost devoid of institutions, it is probably a mistake to expend energy attacking the few institutions existing. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.