Intriguing tours highlight third annual PHSC Symposium

By Jesse Robitaille

While a two-day bourse is held towards the tail end of the annual Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) Symposium, there’s plenty of off-site action to interest even the most adventurous collectors.

A handful of historic sites were toured beginning in mid-July, before the 15-dealer bourse opened July 20 with the PHSC’s first president Peter Wiedemann cutting the ribbon.

Nearly 50 years ago, Wiedemann attended the initial planning meeting and eventual founding meeting of the Ontario Postal History Society, which would later become the PHSC. He also later served as the society’s secretary, treasurer, director and editor of its journal, The Postal Histo-mine.

At this year’s “awards party,” Wiedemann, Stéphane Cloutier and Hank Narbonne were inducted into the PHSC’s fellowship, which was established in 2017.

“The people who came had a really great time,” said assistant symposium chair Bill Longley, who added the hobby is “alive and well in Canada.”

“We had a busy summer schedule here in Ontario with four major shows all around the same time,” said Longley, who was joined on the symposium’s organizing committee by chair David Hobden, who’s also the president of the PHSC, and about 10 other volunteers.

“We had people come from different parts of Canada and the U.S., but not huge numbers. Collectors can’t come to four shows in four months unless they want to spend thousands of dollars.”

First PHSC President Peter Wiedemann (left) was named a Fellow of the PHSC during this July’s Symposium by President David Hobden. (Photo by Kevin O’Reilly)


From its base in Hamilton, Ont., the symposium visited several landmarks, including a day-long trip to the Archives of Ontario on the campus of Toronto’s York University.

This first tour was hosted July 17 by librarian, collector and exhibitor Kathy Hartley, of the Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library, who was joined by eight researchers.

“There, staff introduced us to what the collection contained and how this material could be accessed. We were then taken on a behind-the-scenes tour to discover how the collection was conserved,” said Hartley, who added artifacts “relating to postal history” were displayed for the group.

“These included maps, correspondence and even a back issue of Canadian Stamp News. The day was a success as many philatelists learned that there was information available to them in a repository they hadn’t looked in before.”

The festivities continued July 18 with a tour of the SS Keewatin, the last remaining Edwardian steamship, which was in service from 1907-65 and is now docked in Port McNicoll, about 50 kilometres north of Barrie, Ont.

“The Keewatin is a beautiful, enormous ship,” said Longley, who added the ship’s rooms are now decorated according to different periods, each complete with contemporary clothing, newspapers and more.


Chief Judge John McEntyre (right) presents the Grand Award to Jacques Poitras (left) and Christiane Faucher. (Photo by Kevin O’Reilly)

With about 45 collectors in tow, the touring continued that day with a visit to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near present-day Midland, Ont.

The earliest interior settlement in all of North America and a National Historic Site since 1920, the settlement included a mission that has since been rebuilt on its original foundation and now operates as a museum.

As part of the tour, collector and PHSC member Graham Searle led a presentation on early Canadian stampless covers from 1763-1830. A collector for more than 45 years, Searle highlighted examples of the early postal rates and different ways of indicating rates before 1730 plus examples of the various straight-line postmarks and “Bishop” marks used before 1830.

On July 19, collectors travelled to Dundurn Castle, another National Historic Site, this in Hamilton, for a presentation by Ronald Majors on cross-border correspondence during the U.S. Civil War.

Several special souvenirs were produced by organizers for the PHSC Awards Party on July 20. (Photo by Kevin O’Reilly)


The following day, after a series of other presentations – with one by Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada (PSSC) member Alec Globe – the symposium hosted its “awards party” at the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology.

Within the 150-year-old Hamilton Waterworks, which is also a National Historic Site, the party was headlined by Juno Award-winning blues musician Harrison Kennedy, of Hamilton.

Organizers had a special beer – called “One Dog Barkin” in honour of Kennedy’s 2009 album – brewed for the party alongside souvenir covers affixed with customized Picture Postage stamps.

“The covers sold instantly, and Harrison autographed them all,” said Longley, who added all 20 covers sold for $5 each, and the resulting $100 was donated back to Kennedy.

“We treated him great, and he wants more stamps – he even posted a picture of one to his Facebook page.”


With more than 60 frames vying for the Grand Award, there was “good competition” among exhibitors at this year’s PHSC Symposium, Longley said.

“It was mostly seasoned exhibits because exhibiting takes a lot of work, but there were some new people,” he said, adding a novice winning the Reserve Grand Award was “a nice surprise.”

“Most people who exhibit already have it down to a science – once you’re good, you’re good – so we want to encourage these new exhibitors to share what they have.”

Aside from offering a way to organize, better understand and identify holes within your collection, exhibiting also serves as a flag to other collectors and dealers, who can help in finding new material.

“It’s a form of advertising and shows everyone what you collect, or what you might need,” Longley said.

The Grand Award went to the husband-and-wife duo of Jacques Poitras and Christiane Faucher for their five-frame exhibit, “Postal Usages in the Province of Quebec and Lower Canada until 1831,” which also won a Royal Philatelic Society of Canada Excellence Award.

The Reserve Grand Award went to Charlie Girard for his five-frame exhibit, “BNA Transatlantic Handstamps 1840-1875,” which also won the Novice Award.

Lastly, the Intermediate Grand Award went to Laurent Belisle for his three-frame exhibit, “Montreal Carrier Handstamps,” which also won the PSSC Specialization Award as well as the Postal Markings Award.


Looking ahead to next year, organizers are planning to host the fourth annual PHSC Symposium in July 2020, “using the same model as a fun, summer event with historic tours, talks and camaraderie,” Longley said.

Because the symposium’s main venue, the Hamilton Sheraton Hotel, has sold out of rooms in advance of the show for the past three years, Longley advises show-goers to act fast once the announcements for next year are made.

“The hotel is very busy, so if collectors can do one thing to avoid a headache, it’s book early,” he said.

“We’re always looking for volunteers with new ideas, so if someone is interested in volunteering, we’re open to new energies and ideas and happy to have you join our team.

For more information about volunteering at the 2020 Symposium, contact Hobden at

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