Franklin at forefront of postal service tribute

Although Ben Franklin is getting all the attention, the new Canadian stamp featuring his likeness actually honours a long history of postal service in this country. In 1753, Franklin opened the first post office in Canada, in Halifax, to link the Atlantic colonies with Britain. Prior to 1753, Franklin had been postmaster of Philadelphia, before being promoted to joint deputy postmaster general for the British colonies. But eventually, Franklin’s involvement with the growing revolt against the British Empire made it necessary for him to leave his post.

One of Franklin’s achievements during this time was establishing scheduled postal service between major centres. Postal service in Canada continued to expand. On June 10, 1763, Hugh Finlay was confirmed as postmaster general in Quebec. The ambitious Finlay arranged for a courier from Montreal to New York to connect with the monthly packet sailing to Britain. By 1771, weekly service was available year-round. His innovations earned a profit for the British Post Office Department, which paid Finlay a fifth of gross receipts.

In 1833, the Quebec-built Royal William was the first steamer to carry mail across the Atlantic Ocean. Canada’s first railway line was established in 1836, and became quickly recognized as a way to carry mail faster and farther. In 1840, Samuel Cunard’s new steamer Britannia transported mail between Liverpool and Halifax. Following Confederation on July 1, 1867, postal systems from Halifax to Fort William, on Lake Superior, amalgamated. And on April 1, 1868, the Act for the Regulation of the Postal Service officially created Canada’s uniform postal system. Stamp designer Andrew Perro commented on the challenge of depicting such a long, detailed history. “Realizing 250 years of Canadian postal history on a stamp is like trying to summarize it in one sentence – not easily done,” he said. “Instead, the design focuses on the system’s early establishment and how it helped to shape Canada’s future.”

The permanent-rate domestic stamp shows Franklin’s image in the foreground. In the background is a representation of the harbour of Quebec City, from the late 18th century. The same image appears on the booklet cover and on the official first-day cover. Lowe-Martin produced 1.35 million stamps in booklets of 10 using seven-colour lithography. The self-adhesive stamps have simulated perforations and general four-side tagging. The OFDC has a Quebec City cancel and is dated June 10, 2013, the 250th anniversary of Finlay’s appointment.

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