Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. 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. We will remember a daring crossing of the English Channel, and ponder what it meant to a city state at a different crossing point.
The stamp today is 90s African from the city state of Djibouti. While the stamps from this period are vey attractive and well printed. They also strain credibility, The countries had farmed out their stamp issues and the issues became commemorative issues that appeal to some specialized stamp collectors but have nothing to do with the country of alleged origin. This to me is a big problem. I approach stamp collecting has a way to learn about far away places and different historic periods. I try to approach a stamp by trying to figure out what the stamp issuer was trying to get across with the stamp. So on a communist stamp I might be talking up the glories of the five year plan or on a mythical Donald Trump stamp, I might be telling how he hopes to make America great again. I am putting myself in their place. That is not possible on a stamp like this. Djibouti has gotten better about this. They have declared many recent commemoratives fakes and the few stamps issued in the last decade relate to things happening in the country. Progress!
Today’s stamp is issue C204, a forty franc airmail stamp issued by Djibouti on June 8th, 1994. It was part of a three stamp issue that celebrated the 85th anniversary of the first crossing of the English Channel in 1909 by Frenchman Louis Bleriot. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 40 cents used.
Louis Bleriot made a fortune in France by inventing the first useable truck headlight. Later in life he developed a passion for aviation and used his wealth to build gliders and then powered airplanes. His was the first monoplane, which means a single wing on each side of the plane. In 1909 an English newspaper had a 1000 pound contest on who could fly first across the channel in a powered airplane. 3 French aviation pioneers set up shop in Calais to try to win the prize. Bleriot flew at first light to be first. He had missed out earlier on the first cross country flight by one day. A French Destroyer ship would lead the way to Dover and fish you out when you crash. This did not work though as the plane was slightly faster than the ship and so was on its own to find its way. Winds were higher than Bleriot thought so he came over England off track and had to search until he found someone waving the French flag and directing him where to land. He won the prize.
Mr. Bleriot lived long enough to greet Charles Lindbergh when his plane made it across the Atlantic first in 1934. That plane was also a monoplane.
Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. I did end up learning much about early flight thanks to this stamp. Proving there is always a story to be learned from stamp collecting. Come again tomorrow.