New definitives seemed eerily familiar

By Ian Robertson

In a case of déjà-stamp – you thought you’d seen them before – the UNESCO set of five P-denominated 85-cent definitives released on Jan. 11 repeat the designs of the five larger-format 2014 commemoratives that feature photos of World Heritage Sites in Canada.

They are: Canyon cliffs at Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump, Alta.; the harbour at Lunenburg, N.S. and the Landscape of Grand Pré, N.S., on $1.20 stamps (Scott #2739a-41, 2739b-40 and 2739c-42); plus an evergreen forest at SGang Gwaay, B.C.; and the Rideau Canal beside Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on $2.50 stamps (SC #2739d-43, 2739e-44).

The same photographs provided by Ward Isnor, François Gaudet, the Alberta government, Brodie Guy, and Tourism Ottawa were again used by Lime Design Inc. The Victoria, B.C. firm’s staff placed small red and white Maple Leaf flags in the bottom-left corners of the 2016 definitives, beside “CANADA” in red and white lettering, with the “P” symbol in black lettering within small white maple leaves to the right.

The UNESCO and World Heritage logos printed in phosphor ink between the stamps horizontally can be seen under ultraviolet light.

Lowe-Martin provided continuous printing of the booklet stamps, using five lithographic colours, and 125,000 five-stamp souvenir sheets.

The Ottawa-based security printing firm also continuously printed the “P” definitives featuring a photo portrait of a smiling Queen Elizabeth, which Canada Post described as showing “a very strong woman who has very kind eyes with a mischievous glint.”

For several decades starting in 1953, after her coronation as queen of Canada, and until new definitives were released in recent years, her images were much more formal.

The black-and-white portrait used on the 2016 stamp was made by veteran British fashion photographer David Royston Bailey. Born in 1938, his career included fashion photography for Vogue magazine, photographing music album covers for groups including the Rolling Stones, and directing TV documentaries, commercials, films and dramas.

Designed by Steven Slipp, the definitive was printed with four litho colours by Lowe-Martin for booklets of 10, with production continuing as needed. The “P” denomination symbol denoting first-class postage – 85 cents – was printed on the upper right, outlined in white on a small red maple leaf.

The official first-day cover, with a Victoria, B.C. special cancel, reproduces a profile black-and-white photo of the future queen as a young princess.

Year of the Monkey, Black History Month

In keeping with tradition, Canada Post celebrated the start of last year with its latest Lunar New Year commemorative, the only non-souvenir sheet stamp issued in 2016 with old-style pin perfs and moisture-activated gum.

That version of the Year of the Monkey stamp was printed on panes of 25 by Colour Innovations Inc., of Toronto, which Canada Post announced in 2015 had become a new member of its security printing contract team.

Produced with seven lithographic colours and embossing, the predominantly red-hued “P” 85-cent stamp features a golden warrior monkey leaping between two white clouds. A total of 100,000 panes, plus 2.5 million versions with die-cut simulated perfs and self-stick gum in booklets of 10, were delivered.

Designed by Albert Ng and Linna Xu, based on Ng’s artwork and the legend of the Monkey King Sun Wukong, the figure represents “an all-powerful symbol of honour, luck, riches and longevity, according to Chinese custom,” the post office’s Details magazine reports. “Monkey symbols traditionally include an element of ‘godliness’ – one of the reasons they are ubiquitous in classic Chinese art and architecture.”

Also following tradition, two Lunar New Year souvenir sheets were produced.

Colour Innovations used seven lithographic colours to print 130,000 narrow 40-by-140-millimetre vertical mini-sheets with the monkey figure above a perforated $2.50 overseas rate commemorative. A “transitional” horizontal mini-sheet, with a press run of 115,000, has the same $2.50 stamp above a reprint of the $2.50 Year of the Ram stamp issued in 2015.

Both souvenir sheets were produced with pin-perfs and moisture-activated gum.

The same printing firm used seven lithographic colours and embossing for 140,000 booklets of six embossed $2.50 Year of the Monkey stamps, which reproduces a Monkey King mask inspired by the stylized makeup of Beijing operas. Ng and Xu were also its designers, with artwork by Ng.

The issue included 8,000 uncut press sheets with 12 of the two-stamp souvenir sheets, plus 700 framed $59.95 souvenirs containing 25 “P” commemoratives and the $2.50 mini-sheet. An $88.95-priced 305-by-660mm enlargement of the $2.50 mini-sheet and a $2.50 postcard were also produced.

Unlike in recent years, when two Black History Month commemoratives were issued, only one was released on Feb. 1, 2016.

It’s a fabulous, poignant and very appropriate stamp.

Printed in black and white, with some red lettering, the 32-mm square commemorative pays tribute to the men of the No. 2 Construction Battalion that left Halifax on March 28, 1917 to participate in Canada’s war effort in Europe.

Designed by Lime design Inc., based on an illustration by Dennis Budgen and Istockphoto, the “P” first-class rate stamp features the somewhat ghostly photographs of four unnamed members of the battalion, above tiny silhouettes of comrades pushing forward through a dense forest. The full photo of the four soldiers, who were assigned to harvest wood for the Canadian Forestry Corps, is reprinted in the annual Collections album, which shows a fifth soldier standing beside them. The photo was provided by the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.

Despite the need for soldiers during the First World War, black Canadians “were less than welcome in the eyes of some recruiters, and many were turned away due to prejudice,” the post office’s Details magazine notes.

“This stamp celebrates the drive, commitment and effort of these somewhat forgotten soldiers,” designer Lara Minja is quoted saying in a news release. “I hope that uncovering their story allows them to take their fair place in Canadian history.”

Lowe-Martin used six lithographic colours to produce 140,000 of the stamps in booklets of 10. The booklet cover and the official first-day cover postmarked in Pictou, N.S., reproduce the No. 2 Construction Battalion’s brass cap badge.

Flowers, women’s
suffrage, photography

The Canadian Bank Note Company Ltd. (CBNC) used six litho colours to print one million booklets containing five of each version of two 85-cent “P” flower commemoratives, released on March 1.

The designs are the work of Benny Corrigan, with art directed by Karen Satok and David Sacha of Toronto-based Sputnik Design Partners Inc., based on illustrations by Montreal artist Marie-Élaine Cusson.

Tiny fully blooming white or pink cultured blossoms with billowy heads cover the leafy tips of a hydrangea shrub on each stamp.

As in past years, smaller coil versions with the same designs were produced. With a press run of 50-stamp coils reaching 90,000, 2.25 million of each 24-by-20mm stamp were printed by Lowe-Martin.

The booklet and coil versions have simulated die-cut perfs and self-stick gum.

The CBNC also printed the two 26-by-32mm commemoratives on 120,000 mini-sheets, using pin-perfs and water-activated gum.

An appropriate subject, but one considered too simplistic by many collectors, an 85-cent “P” commemorative marked the 100th anniversary of the first Canadian women winning the right to vote.

Designed by Winnipeg-based Tétro Design, the black and gold stamp released on March 8 features “VOTE” in capital letters, with a gold bar running diagonally from the letter “O” to create the letter “T.” The resulting clever combination forms the Venus symbol of femininity.

Small text to the right identifies “Women’s Suffrage/Droit de vote des femmes” and the years 1916-2016.

“While the suffrage movement began to form nearly four decades earlier, the struggle to secure the vote did not significantly advance until the First World War, when women worked in hospitals, factories, and offices, and often raised families alone, spurring demands for equality,” Details magazine notes. “In 1916, women in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta became the first in Canada to win the right to cast provincial ballots.”

The official first-day cover features a copy of the 1915 right-to-vote petition delivered to the Manitoba government and a portrait of Nellie McClung, a women’s suffrage leader. Following their victory in that province, Alberta and Saskatchewan, women gained their voting rights in British Columbia and Ontario in 1917, the East Coast provinces between 1918 and 1925 – the latter being Newfoundland, which joined Confederation 24 years later – Quebec in 1940 and the Northwest Territories in 1951.

All Canadians, including Inuit and First Nations people, became eligible to vote nine years later.

Lowe-Martin used three litho colours to print 140,000 booklets containing 10 of the 32-by-24 mm stamps.

A photographer since an older colleague of my dad’s gave him a 1922 box camera for me in the mid-1950s, I have appreciated the annual series of Canadian Photography commemoratives released since 2013.

Issued on April 13, the fourth of five planned sets reproduced a wide range of images.

The commemoratives include the work of seven photographers, selected by curators and gallery owners across the country.

Designed by Stéphane Huot – who also designed the previous sets – they feature photos taken over more than a century-and-a-half.

All seven were printed by the CBNC in booklets, with self-stick gum and simulated die-cut perfs, along with two souvenir sheets with mixed denominations, pin perfs and moisture-activated gum.

The 130,000 booklets with pairs of five 85-cent “P” stamps were printed with six lithographic colours. Three of the commemoratives are in colour, with two featuring black-and-white photos.

Three litho colours were used to produce 120,000 booklets of six U.S.-rate black-and-white $1.20 stamps and 120,000 booklets of six overseas-rate black-and-white $2.50 stamps. With press runs of 100,000 each, one souvenir sheet with three stamps and a second with four stamps, were also printed.

The most unusual image is on one of the “P” commemoratives, which features award-winning Michel Campeau’s multi-colour photo titled Sans titre 0310, in the series La chambre noire, or The Black Chamber.

As noted in the news release, it “explores the obsolescence of the darkroom by focusing on items and objects found in the darkroom environment.”

A 159-year-old photograph by Humphrey Lloyd Hime, called Freighter’s Boat on the Banks of the Red River, MB, 1858, was reproduced on a “P” stamp in a brownish-yellow sepia tone.

Working as a photographer and surveyor on the Canadian government’s 1858 Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition that year, Hime recorded historically important images of the Red River settlement buildings, Hudson’s Bay Company trading posts and indigenous people’s camps. He later became president of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The third “P” commemorative reproduces a dramatic black-and-white view of Victoria Bridge, a three-kilometre Grand Trunk Railway span over the St. Lawrence River, which has linked Montreal to the south shore city of Saint-Lambert, Que. since it was opened in 1859.

The photograph was taken of the-then Victoria Jubilee Bridge around 1878 by Alexander Henderson, who was heralded for his romantic, pastoral depictions of Canadian scenes and photos of urban life and outdoor activities.

On the fourth “P” stamp, a dream-like colour photo called simply Window shows two women silhouetted against six panes of a window, with nothing visible beyond the glass.

The image was made in 1988 by Angela Grauerholz, an award-winning Montreal photographic archivist and photographer who specializes in notions of “memory, space and place,” according to the news release.

The fifth “P” stamp reproduces Lutz Dille’s lovely 1960 black-and-white photo of a woman sitting on a Toronto park bench, holding an open sun-blocking parasol behind her. Lauded for his gritty but compassionate postwar street photos, Dille “is considered one of the country’s leading documentary photographers,” the news release says.

Four mountain climbers, featured on the $1.20 commemorative, were photographed in silhouette on a wind-blown, snowy Mount Habel peak in 1909 by famous Tacoma, Wash.-born Byron Hill Harmon, who became the first official photographer of the Alpine Club of Canada after moving to this country.

In a previous feature story in Canadian Stamp News, I wrote about Harmon’s love of the Rocky Mountains and production of hundreds of black-and-white “real photo postcards” in the early 1900s. More than 6,000 of his images are at the hyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alta.

The seventh stamp, with a $2.50 denomination, reproduces a stunning closeup photograph of Hastings, England-born Archibald Belaney, best-known as Canadian outdoor author and naturalist Grey Owl after he adopted a First Nations identity. The black-and-white portrait was taken in 1936 by famed Armenia-born Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, shortly after he opened his Ottawa studio.

He became famous for capturing the images of a wide variety of luminaries, including popes, monarchs, world leaders, actors, actresses, authors, and playwrights.

His portraits of wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill, the Queen and actress Audrey Hepburn have been reproduced on Canadian stamps.

NEXT ISSUE: Dinosaurs, birds, Haunted Canada, hockey, surtax fundraisers, and Christmas. 

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