The oldest stamp club in Canada is celebrating its 125th anniversary this October.
The Ottawa Philatelic Society (Société Philatélique d’Ottawa, or OPS) was established in October 1891 by John Reginald Hooper.
It was the first branch of one of the first groups to focus on Organized Philately in Canada, the Canadian Philatelic Society, which was founded in 1887. The charter membership list of the OPS contains 41 names, 16 of which are of Francophone origin; this is a reflection of the bilingual—as well as bicultural—nature of Ottawa that existed shortly after Canadian Confederation and persists to this day. The OPS is now Chapter 16 of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.
“The club,” as it’s affectionately referred to by its members, has enjoyed what’s described as “great prosperity” since its formation more than a century ago. After seeing a period of decline during both the Great War and Second World War, it thrived with philately’s rise worldwide.
Meetings were initially held in the Russell Hotel; followed by a long stint at the Chateau Laurier Hotel; University of Ottawa; and finally the Hintonburg Community Centre. In 1926, the club was formalized with a constitution and by-laws that survive to this day (albeit with amendments).
A high point in OPS history followed the Second World War until the end of the 1950s, when philately was booming the world over. There were big membership rolls and successful turnouts at weekly meetings, and it played host to all the philatelic luminaries of the time, including Robson Lowe and Alfred Lichtenstein, who made frequent visits to Ottawa and the OPS. The ’60s and ’70s saw a gradual decline in membership; however, this was reversed during the 1980s, when club membership enjoyed a stable position with at least 40-50 members on the books at all times until the turn of the century.
A REVITALIZED CLUB
It was not a large club but formed a strong foundation for future expansion. A revitalized program and recruiting campaign in 2000 saw OPS enrolment jump to 100 members. The club currently boasts upwards of 85 members, who frequently include senators, Members of Parliament, senior civil servants, teachers, nurses, doctors, students, retirees, high technology workers, and white- and blue-collar workers; of course, the club thrives on their diverse interests.
Members continue to write monographs for journals throughout the philatelic world on most aspects of the hobby and a number have published books on various topics. The OPS library is among the best philatelic libraries in Canada, and the club provides multiple up-to-date catalogues, periodicals and specialty books that members can borrow on a weekly basis.
The OPS is not only the oldest Canadian club but also one of the largest stamp clubs in Canada; however, unlike most stamp clubs that come together once or twice a month, the OPS meets weekly from September to July. The OPS is also a sponsor of Orapex, Ottawa’s national stamp show, and Miniex, also held in Ottawa.
The success of the OPS is based on four aims that date back one hundred and twenty five years:
• to promote the enjoyment and study of philately and postal history in all aspects;
• to cultivate friendship and fraternity among philatelists, postal historians and others interested in philatelic matters;
• to assist the members of the society in acquiring and disposing of stamps and other philatelic and postal history material; and
• to encourage ethical practices in every aspect of philately and the study of postal history.
To celebrate the 125 anniversary, the OPS has released a souvenir booklet as well as specially designed covers and stamps. It will also host an anniversary dinner on Oct. 20 for members and guests.