Inaugural Postal History Symposium opens this week in Hamilton

It’s finally here: the inaugural Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) Symposium will be held later this week.

The philatelic festivities will be centred at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel from July 20-23.; however, the four-day symposium will also visit several sites of historical interest in Hamilton and Toronto.

Symposium chair David Hobden said it will be the largest gathering of Canadian postal history this year and is the culmination of several years of “bandying about what we would like to see in a show.”

“The concept of the PHSC holding their own show is new; the concept of a postal history only show is not only new but also to the best of my knowledge unique in philately,” said Hobden, who’s also a director with the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.

“We have attempted to meet the interests of all individuals with an interest in Canada’s postal history in designing the show with a multitude of presentations, visits to venues of immense historical interest, breakout sessions and of course a national-level postal history exhibition and bourse.”


Symposium vice-chair Bill Longley said postal history is a “rapidly growing” part of Canadian philately, adding the symposium will offer an opportunity for postal historians to focus on their highly specialized interests.

“Above all, it is a chance for collectors to get together in a social setting beyond the bourse dealers’ tables and share research and learn from each other It offers the chance to get together with other collectors, share information and research,” he said.

“It provides time and space for like-minded collectors to get together and share information and research. And it is the combination of knowledge and friendship that increases the value of the hobby to the collector.”


At the upcoming symposium, there will also be a national-level postal history exhibition and a bourse with 15 dealers.

Both the exhibition and bourse will open on July 22 and 23 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The exhibition will include about 120 frames featuring British North America postal history exclusively. This includes military, transportation and postal stationery postal histories.

The bourse will include:

  • Hugo Deshaye (Philatelist) Inc.;
  • Coates & Coates Philatelist;
  • Canada Stamp Finder;
  • Eastern Auctions;
  • Canadian Stamps;
  • Peter Piszco;
  • Trajan Media, publisher of CSN and CCN;
  • Chris Green Stamps;
  • Greenwood Stamp Company;
  • John Beddows;
  • Brian Wolfenden;
  • Taylor Stamps;
  • Tom Watkins;
  • Roy’s Stamps; and
  • Longley Auctions.


Nine presentations by prominent postal historians—all members of the PHSC—are slated to take place during the symposium. They will cover the gamut of topics and locations from airmail to post office handstamps and the postal history of the Western District of Upper Canada, to name but a few.

The symposium kicks off on July 20 with a tour of the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation as well as the on-site Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library. A demo of the VSC (Visual Spectral Comparator) 6000 – a high-tech tool used in the process of expertizing a variety of material, including stamps and covers – will be given to attendees.

Transportation via coach bus will be available for purchase and depart from the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel at 1 p.m.

That afternoon attendees will visit Fort York, where presentations will be hosted before a guided tour and again after a catered dinner. Charles Livermore will lead a discussion on the postal history of York, as Toronto was originally known.

Following Livermore’s presentation, there will be guided tour of the fort and a catered dinner, after which time Hobden will give a talk on the mails and dispatches of the War of 1812. He will review the relationship between the civil and military dispatch systems of Canada during the war. Especially noted will be the dispatch systems of Upper Canada west of York, Lower Canada south of Montreal and the varied methods of handling both military and civilian mails during the conflict.

On July 21, the day will start back at the Sheraton with a presentation on the postal history of the Western District by PHSC Vice-President Rob Leigh, who’s also responsible for the development of the PHSC website and its postal history databases, which were established about 10 years ago.

Attendees will then carpool to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum for a tour of the facilities and a meal.

That afternoon, Dr. Robert Galway will also speak about the development of air transport in Canada and the evolution of early airmail. The presentation will include an overview of semi-official airmail in Canada in the first decade after the First World War; however , it will exclude those aviation entities residing in Western Canada.

On July 22 at 1:30 p.m., Gray Scrimgeour will give a talk on the Postal History of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Scrimgeour has been a PHSC member since 1975, and his main collecting area is the postal history of western Canada, including trans-Pacific steamship mail through Victoria and Vancouver.

This will be followed by Gary Steele’s presentation on post office departmental postal markings at 3:30 p.m. His presentation will cover the handstamps created for various departments within Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post). Many of these departments are small with only a few handstamps; however, several hundred can be found for other areas. More than 140 major departments have been identified with subsections for many.

On July 23—the final day of the four-day symposium—the PHSC will hold its annual general meeting at 8:30 a.m.

Later that morning, at 10:30 a.m., Ed Kroft will give a talk on Canada-Palestine postal history from 1890-1948. His presentation will review the postal relations between Canada and various postal authorities operating in the Holy Land before Dec. 31, 1948. Specifically, Kroft will examine rates, routes and markings pertaining to mail travelling between Canada and the Holy Land. Examples of various types of Canadian and foreign mail will also be shown.

Registration and payment for these events is required in advance. The cost of each event includes a catered meal as well as admission to the venues. For the Toronto venues, transportation via coach bus will be available for purchase. The remaining two venues are near the hotel, allowing for carpooling.

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