Postal history symposium builds on inaugural show

By Jesse Robitaille

There was no shortage of postal history at the second annual symposium hosted by the Postal History Society of Canada (PHSC) in Hamilton this July.

The five-day show, which included a two-day bourse on July 21 and 22, was a marked improvement over last year’s inaugural show, said symposium vice-chair Bill Longley.

“The symposium grew in attendance for both the talks and tours as well as the exhibition portion,” said Longley, who added the organizers’ goal was to offer a range of tours to “appeal to a wider audience.”

“Of course, some subjects were very specific such as Jacques Poitras with his Québec favoured covers; Tom Watkins with semi-official airmail; and David Piercey with Newfoundland postal history, so there was a diversity of topics regionally, and we also had diversity of subject matter.”

Other topics included:

  • the uses of Canada’s Leaf and Numeral issues, which were released between 1897 and 1902;
  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s 1939 royal tour of Canada;
  • the Brown Brothers Nurseries post office in Ridgeville, Ont.;
  • Québec’s postal service from 1763-1851; and
  • the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway and mail service on the prairies up to the 20th century.

From a dealer perspective, Longley said the bourse was “well attended throughout the show.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with dealer and Canadian Forces Master Warrant Officer Hugo Deshaye preceded the opening of the bourse on July 21. He was invested as a member of the Order of Military Merit a month earlier during a ceremony at the Citadelle of Québec.


This year’s symposium also boasted a larger competitive exhibition, which amounted to nearly 100 frames.

“There was tight competition in terms of medals with tough judging and a good diversity of exhibits, including some very interesting single frames,” said Longley, who mentioned Kathy Hartley’s large silver-winning single-frame exhibit entitled “Toronto’s Philatelic Heart: Adelaide & Victoria Streets.”

“It laid the frame out as a street map, and that was a very creative way of showing the location of the dealers corresponding with covers.”

Hartley, who’s a librarian with the Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library (HSPL), said she “discovered all sorts of interesting things about the neighbourhood” while researching her exhibit.

“Do you know, for example, that in a dozen-block area of our city’s core, there were at least nine former sites or current post offices? And that’s not counting Shoppers Drug Marts. There’s simply a ton of postal history within the neighbourhood of Adelaide and Victoria.”

Chief judge David Piercey, of Edmonton, Alta., said the days-long symposium “was quite impressive.”

“The organizers do a great job putting a wide variety of interests into the mix and have done an exceptional job arranging this show for all of us.”


On July 18, the first of five days of events, Hartley hosted a walking tour of postal history sites across downtown Toronto.

The tour included visits to Toronto’s First Post Office, the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Foundation and HSPL as well as guest attendance at the evening meeting of the Philatelic Specialists Society of Canada.

“The key takeaway for me from that day was that while the HSPL has been doing very well networking within our philatelic community, we really needed to broaden our base by reaching out to other archives, museums, etc., that believe history is as important as we do,” said Hartley, who added the response to the tour was “fabulous.”

“I felt incredibly challenged because I had postal historian big brains on the tour like Charles Livermore, Simon Claughton and Rob Leigh. Livermore is one of my philatelic heroes, so when I found out he had signed up, I really pulled up my socks.”

Hartley added the tour’s participants were “really open to exploring the city, appreciating what they were seeing and learning and getting to spend a day with fellow keeners.”

As for the rest of the five-day symposium, Hartley said she was impressed with organizers’ efforts this year.

“They always bring an element of fun and surprise to symposium. Having Hugo cut the ribbon after Bill spoke of his accomplishments was so touching, and seeing how much stuff Grégoire has in his postal history museum is incredible,” she said, of the Travelling Postal Museum curated by Grégoire Teyssier and Antoine Babinsky.

The museum, which features post office and postal history artifacts, was displayed near the front doors of the bourse. It’s slated to return next year as an open-class display open to other collectors of postal office artifacts.


Next year’s symposium will return to the same venue, the Hamilton Sheraton Hotel on 116 King St. W., next July 17-21.

“We’re going to stick with the successful format we think we have, which is two days of talks and tours and two days for the bourse and exhibition in a very sociable summer format,” said Longley, who reiterated the event’s “laid back” feel is popular among attendees and added the awards banquet is an informal event with “more shorts than tuxedos.”

For more information, visit

See the next issue of CSN for a detailed story on the 100-frame exhibition.

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