Today’s date marks 62 years since the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC) earned its “Royal” designation.
Known as “Canada’s national stamp club,” the RPSC can trace its roots back to 1887, when advertisements were placed in Canadian and U.S. philatelic magazines leading to the establishment of the Canadian Philatelic Association. That association’s first meeting was held in Toronto on Sept. 18-19 of the following year, when a constitution was adopted and officers elected.
After periods of growth and decline through the world wars as well as the Great Depression, the organization gained a foothold in the late 1940s following an “intensive” membership drive, wrote Kenneth Rowe – a Senior Fellow of the RPSC and signatory of the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists – in a story in the January-February 1969 issue of The Canadian Philatelist, the official journal of the RPSC since 1950.
It wasn’t until 1959 – 71 years after the Canadian Philatelic Association was formed – that the society received permission to use the “Royal” prefix from Queen Elizabeth II.
“Supported by The Canadian Philatelist, the Society has continued to expand,” wrote Rowe, in 1969, two years before he was named a Fellow of the RPSC.
“One of the highlights of this expansion and a sign of our status in the field of international philately was the permission received in 1959 to use the title ‘Royal.’ This honour was due to the untiring efforts of the late Dr. G. M. Geldert.”
Geldert, who was serving as the president of what was then known as the Canadian Philatelic Society, began seeking permission to use the “Royal” prefix in 1958, wrote Charles Verge in the summer 2009 issue of PhilaJournal.
“At the time, as it is today, such requests must have the support of the Government of Canada,” wrote Verge, who was named a Fellow of the RPSC in 1997.
“Although the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada has no files on hand on the negotiations undertaken by Dr. Geldert, it is safe to say that he built a substantial file to submit to the Governor General-in-Council, i.e. the Cabinet, through the offices of Henri Courtemanche, the Secretary of State. He also lobbied the Post Office Department and its Minister, the Honourable William Hamilton. Furthermore, Dr. Geldert had strong ties and links with the influential Royal Philatelic Society, London.”
While the society was formally advised of the Queen’s consent on May 20, 1959, the request was approved by the Queen in mid-April.
Members were advised of the decision at the Canadian Philatelic Society’s 31st annual convention banquet, which was held on May 16, 1959, in Sarnia, Ont.
“On this occasion, the Postmaster General, William Hamilton, the guest of honour and guest speaker, made the announcement that The Queen ‘had been graciously pleased to Grant … the right to incorporate the word ROYAL in its name and that it henceforward it would be known as THE ROYAL PHILATELIC SOCIETY OF CANADA,’” wrote Verge.
“This quote from The Canadian Philatelist of July-August, 1959 (Vol. 10, No. 4) was followed by these comments, ‘For a moment, the 300 people present were stunned, and then a furore broke out and a standing ovation was given to the Postmaster General. Our President, Dr. G. M. Geldert, could hardly contain himself and he was just bubbling over.’”
The RPSC has enjoyed vice-regal patronage since 1947, when Viscount Alexander of Tunis extended it to the Canadian Philatelic Society. This has since been continued in the ensuing years by all successive governors general up to Julie Payette, who served in that role from 2017-21.
Beginning in 1959 with the announcement of the “Royal” decision in Sarnia, Ont., and ending with the 2019 convention in Mississauga, Ont., the RPSC held its annual show 60 times.
The in-person 2020 and 2021 conventions – both planned for Fredericton, N.B. – were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Later this year, the RPSC will host its first virtual convention.