HSPL seeking Post Office Department supplements, bulletins

By Jesse Robitaille

Supplements and bulletins issued beginning in the early 20th century by Canada’s Post Office Department – and later by its successor, Canada Post – are being sought by representatives of the Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library (HSPL).

The Post Office Department issued weekly and monthly supplements and bulletins to the Canada Postal Guide from 1913 until after the department was transformed into a Crown corporation called Canada Post in 1981. The guide contains detailed information about the post office’s various products and services.

“They were sent out to all post offices in Canada and to certain postal officials,” said Charles Verge, vice-chair and vice-president of the Toronto-based Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation, where the HSPL is located.

The material offers “a treasure trove of time-sensitive information such as the weekly mail ship departures or changes to postal rates,” Verge added, also referencing the Second World War practice of using supplements and bulletins to notify the suspension or return of postal service to foreign countries.

After checking with Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Verge believes there’s no complete set of either monthly or weekly supplements available.

He’s now working with other philatelists at the HSPL to find as many as possible of these multi-page documents, of which there are “hundreds.”

“The HSPL has a hundred or more,” he said, adding LAC has digitalized, optical-character-recognition supplements – both monthly and weekly – from 1913-32 (with the exception of 1927-28) available online.

Last winter, philatelist and exhibitor Alec Globe spent about a week in Ottawa photographing thousands of supplements at LAC. These were integrated with the HPSL’s holdings, and because the material is so scarce, researchers are including all language formats – English, French and bilingual – to complete as much of the collection as possible.

“We just wish to get as much information together as possible,” Verge added.

Once the project is complete in late 2020, most supplements up to 1975 will be available to the philatelic world for free via the Greene Foundation’s website.

Early next spring, researchers will make the last call for missing supplements to complete the collection before it’s digitized later in 2020.

Earlier this year, the Greene Foundation received a donation from the Winnipeg Foundation – and the Engel family in particular – and this money will be used to fund the digitization project.

“I‘m quite keen to see this project work out as an example of us reaching out to collectors with our resources,” said Greene Foundation Chairman Emeritus Ted Nixon.

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