Illustration, front-page story capture moments before and after tragic explosion
A stamp commemorating the devastating explosion that rocked Halifax on the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, when two ships—one loaded with explosives—collided in the narrows leading to its harbour was issued by Canada Post today.
Released one month before the 100th anniversary of that fateful day, the new issue also salutes the resilience of the Haligonians who rebuilt their city from the ashes.
“With this stamp, Canada Post remembers those whose lives were lost or forever changed in this terrible incident,” said Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post. “We also pay tribute to the residents of Halifax, other Canadians and people from around the world who helped those affected and contributed to the recovery effort.”
PAST & PRESENT
The stamp captures the moments before and after the disaster through elements from the past and present. Since few photos exist of the doomed ships just before the accident, local illustrator Mike Little recreated the scene based on historic accounts and materials. An image of the front page of The Halifax Herald the day after the explosion shows the heartbreaking aftermath.
“My street was completely demolished in the explosion, and one person – whom I was surprised to discover shared my last name – perished in a nearby home,” explained Little. “Those discoveries made this stamp issue deeply personal.”
The stamp was designed by Larry Burke and Anna Stredulinsky, of Burke & Burke in Halifax.
“ The post-disaster front page portrayed the enormity, the devastation, the human tragedy of the day,” said Burke. “Little’s illustration of the moment just before the explosion completes the story of a disaster that instantly shattered our city.”
Halifax was a bustling port supplying Canada’s efforts in the First World War in 1917. The blast occurred when a fire detonated munitions aboard the French ship Mont-Blanc after it struck the Imo, a Norwegian cargo ship. The largest human-made explosion in history, prior to the detonation of the first atomic bomb. It claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people, injured 9,000 more, and damaged property worth millions of dollars.
The new issue is available in booklets of 10 stamps measuring 32 mm by 32 mm and printed in four-colour lithography by Colour Innovations.
An official first-day cover (OFDC) was also cancelled in Halifax. This historical OFDC—and the stamp affixed to it—depict the aftermath of a collision between the French vessel Mont-Blanc and the Norwegian cargo ship the Imo.
On the front of the envelope, two young men gaze at the Imo while the reverse shows a clock—now held in the collection of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic—that was damaged by the explosion, its hands frozen at the fateful moment.
A total of 9,000 OFDCs will be produced.