First PHSC Symposium ‘overwhelmingly successful’

By Jesse Robitaille

The Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) hosted its inaugural Symposium this July, and according to the society’s President Stéphane Cloutier, it was an “overwhelmingly successful” four days.

Aside from an extensive bourse and exhibit display, the symposium offered a chance for PHSC members from across the country to meet for the first time.

“The camaraderie – I think that’s word that comes up a lot – has been very big. A lot of members of the PHSC have never met each other, myself included,” said Cloutier, who has been president of the society for eight years and secretary-treasurer for another eight years before that.

“I’ve emailed and corresponded with a lot of these members but never met them. Today, I can see a lot of these people.”

According to Cloutier, there were about 10 members visiting from British Columbia, several from the Maritimes, one from Yukon, several more from the U.S. and at least one from across the pond in England.

“We have members in a couple of other countries, such as Israel and Africa, but they didn’t make it,” he added, with a laugh.

Cloutier said there was “a lot of talk” throughout the four-day symposium that it was the first symposium of its kind in Canada.

“I don’t know of anything else which is not purely just a bourse and an exhibition, or sometimes one or the other, where sometimes there are talks and breakout sessions, which are super interesting.”

One of the breakout sessions – held July 22 by Alec Globe and Bill Radcliffe – featured an in-depth analysis of Canada’s two- and four-ring fancy cancels.

“The social aspect is also stronger,” said Cloutier, adding the four-day PHSC Symposium is more like a vacation than a quick two-day visit.


Nine presentations by prominent postal historians – all members of the PHSC – were held in Hamilton and Toronto during the first two days of the symposium.

Symposium Chair David Hobden said two days of mingling at social events and presentations leading up to the two-day bourse “offered a lot” to attendees.

“Everybody had a lot of fun and saw a lot of interesting historical items. It’s something everyone can come to and appreciate the history they’re seeing.”

Symposium vice-chair Bill Longley agreed the show was “fabulous.”

“The first day, people really enjoyed the Greene visit, going to Fort York, the talks and the meal. It’s a combination of all the best things that stamp shows have, all rolled in to one. It was really superb.”


On July 21, Dr. Robert Galway spoke about the development of air transport in Canada and the evolution of early airmail at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.

“There were a lot of people at the talk on the history of airmail in Canada, and although I have no interest in that at all, I learned so much by going,” said Cloutier, who added the room was completely full. “The fact that we had it in a venue such as the Warplane Heritage Museum with biplanes landing and taking off right outside our window was amazing.”

Another presentation, this by Hobden at Toronto’s Fort York, detailed the mails and dispatches of the War of 1812 and reviewed the relationship between the civil and military dispatch systems of Canada during the war.

“It’s the same with David’s talk about the War of 1812 at Fork York; how better could it be?”


An important part of the symposium’s aim is to help philatelists build relationships with one another, Longley said.

“We wanted to have an event that wasn’t just a bourse so people could build those friendships and look for material for each other,” he added. “It’s the friendships that will keep people coming back, so if you can do it in a social setting – tied in with historical events, such as Fort York and the Haida and Warplane Heritage Museum – that will develop a unique product that people will revisit.”

Longley, who also owns Longley Auctions, said the symposium is a “fairly unique combination of social events, tours, the bourse and the exhibits.”

“It takes many aspects from the successes of other shows. The CPSGB (Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain) has a big social event calendar,” he said. “BNAPS (British North America Philatelic Society) has a very strong bourse and exhibit.”

The goal was to bring all of these components together for the perfect philatelic gathering.

“Our intention was also to let the dealers join in,” Longley said, adding the tours and presentations were held outside of the symposium’s open hours. “Go have fun and learn about history together, and build those social friendships. Everybody goes together and everyone has fun together.”


Longley said the goal for next year’s symposium – slated for the same dates, July 20-23 at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel – will be “similar in nature with different events.”

“I think once the word gets out of how successful this is, we’ll make it bigger and better.”

Organizers are aiming to host the annual show at the same location for two years, so while next year’s venue will remain in Hamilton, the home of the 2019 PHSC Symposium is still up in the air.

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