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The First Dominion Issue

The steady growth of Upper Canada, chiefly due to immigration, until it had twice the population of its sister Province, Lower Canada, aroused cries for a readjusted representation, which threatened the French with a hopeless minority in Parliament and the country with another impasse. The federation of all the provinces under something like the American system was the only solution; and with, for the most part, the cordial coöperation of the maritime provinces, the great sch

me was carried through, and the new dominion launched in 1867. Each province retained its local autonomy and separate legislature under a lieutenant-governor, always a Canadian, nominated by the federal executive. To the latter was reserved all great affairs, such as defense, customs, Crown lands, Indians, and the organisation of the vast western territories then just beginning to open up.

The famous Sir John Macdonald, the most illustrious of Canadian statesmen, was prominent in the federal movement, as also was Sir Charles Tupper. A final meeting was held in London, and early in 1867 the British North America Act was passed through the Imperial Parliament. The new capital was fixed at Bytown, a small town up the Ottawa well removed from the frontier, fairly central to all the provinces, and felicitously rechristened Ottawa. Here were erected the stately houses of parliament for senate, commons, and the entire government staff, familiar to all travellers, and there, too, the governor-general of all British North America took up his residence, Lord Monck being the first to hold this high office, and Sir John Macdonald the first premier.

The British North America Act, referred to above, provided for the division of the Dominion of Canada into four provinces named Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and also made provision for the admission of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, etc., when such admission should be deemed advisable. The Act went into force on July 1st, 1867, and as a mark of the importance of this event the first day of July is now a national holiday known as “Dominion Day”.

It only remains to say that Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Manitoba (not then organised) came into the federation shortly afterwards.

One of the chief duties of the first Parliament, which met at Ottawa on November 6th, 1867, was the revision and consolidation of the laws of the various provinces now federated, and amongst these were, of course, the laws relating to the Post Office. The Act passed for the regulation of the postal service is a lengthy one and the only provisions of special interest to us as philatelists, those relating to the rates of postage,—are more clearly and definitely tabulated in a Department Order issued from Ottawa on March 1st, 1868, to which we shall make reference later. Before doing so, however, we make a short extract from the Post Office Act insofar as it relates to definitions of various terms and expressions, viz.:—

The term “Letter” includes Packets of Letters;

The term “Postage” means the duty or sum chargeable for the conveyance of Post Letters, Packets and other things by Post;

The term “Foreign Country” means any country not included in the dominions of Her Majesty;

The term “Foreign Postage” means the postage on the conveyance of Letters, Packets or other things, within any Foreign Country or payable to any Foreign Government;

The term “Canada Postage” means the postage on the conveyance of Letters, Packets and other things by Post within the Dominion of Canada or by Canada Mail Packet;

The term “Mail” includes every conveyance by which Post Letters are carried, whether it be by land or water;

The term “British Packet Postage” means the postage due on the conveyance of letters by British Packet Boats, between the United Kingdom and British North America:—And the term “British Postage” includes all Postage not being Foreign, Colonial or Canadian;

The term “Post Letter” means any letter transmitted or deposited in any Post Office to be transmitted by Post:—And a letter shall be deemed a Post Letter from the time of its being deposited or delivered at a Post Office, to the time of its being delivered to the party to whom it is addressed.

The Department Order addressed to “All Postmasters, and Other Persons Employed in the Postal Service of Canada” dealt chiefly with the rates of postage and as these are important we feel it is necessary to reproduce most of this rather lengthy document in extenso:



5.—On letters passing between any two places within the Dominion of Canada, a uniform rate (irrespective of distance), of three cents per ½ oz., if prepaid; and five cents per ½ oz. if unpaid.

6.—On letters between any place in the Dominion and any place in the United States, 6 cents per ½ oz., if prepaid; and ten cents per ½ oz. if unpaid.

7.—On letters to or from the United Kingdom, in Mails by Canada Packets, to or from Quebec in summer, or Portland in winter; or by Mail Packet to or from Halifax, 12½c per ½ oz.

On do. in Mails via New York Packet, 15 cents per ½ oz.

On letters to Prince Edward Island, if prepaid, 3 cents per ½ oz.; if posted unpaid, 5 cents per ½ oz.

On letters to Newfoundland, to be in all cases prepaid, 12½c per ½ oz.

On letters to British Columbia and Vancouver Island, in all cases to be prepaid, 10 cents per ½ oz.

On letters to Red River, to be in all cases prepaid, 6 cents per ½ oz.

Newspaper Rates.

8.—Newspapers printed and published in Canada may be sent by Post from the office of publication to any place in Canada at the following rates, if paid quarterly in advance, either by the Publisher, at the Post Office where the papers are posted, or by the subscriber, at the Post Office where the papers are delivered:—

For a paper published once a week, 5 cents per quarter of a year.

For a paper published twice a week, 10 cents per quarter.

For a paper published three times, 15 cents per quarter.

For a paper published six times, 30 cents per quarter.

If the above rates are prepaid by the Publisher, the Postmaster receiving payment must be careful to have the papers so prepaid separately put up, and marked, distinctly, as prepaid.

When the above rates are not prepaid in advance, by either the Publisher at the office of posting or by the subscriber at the office of delivery, the papers are to be charged one cent each on delivery.

9.—Canadian Newspapers, addressed from the Office of publication to subscribers in the United Kingdom, the United States, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, may be forwarded, on prepayment at the Office in Canada where posted, at the above commuted rates, applicable to such papers within the Dominion.

10.—Exchange Papers passing between publishers in Canada, between publishers in Canada and publishers in the United States, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, are to pass free—one copy of each paper to each publisher.

11.—Transient Newspapers include all Newspapers posted in Canada, other than Canadian Newspapers sent from the Office of publication, and when addressed to any place within the Dominion, to the United Kingdom, to the United States, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, must be prepaid two cents each by postage stamp.

12.—Newspapers coming into Canada will be subject to the following charges on delivery:—

If from the United Kingdom, by mail packet to Quebec, Halifax or Portland—Free on delivery.

By mails via the United States (New York), two cents each.

If from the United States, two cents each, to be rated at the Canada Frontier, or exchange office receiving mails from the United States.

If from Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, when received by regular subscribers in Canada from the Office of publication, the ordinary commuted rates applicable to Canada Newspapers.

Transient Papers—two cents each.

13.—The Canada Postage rates on Newspapers coming or going to the United Kingdom and the United States, will thus be the same as those charged in the United Kingdom and the United States on Newspapers there received from or sent to Canada.

14.—Canada News Agents may post to regular subscribers in Canada, British Newspapers free, and United States Newspapers unpaid, such papers in the latter case, must be duly rated two cents each for collection on delivery.

Printed Papers, Circulars, Prices Current, Hand Bills, Books, Pamphlets.

15.—The rate on printed matter of this description posted in Canada, and addressed to any place in Canada, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland or the United States, will be one cent per ounce, to be prepaid by Postage Stamp; and a like rate will be payable on delivery, when received from the United States, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland.

Periodical Publications.

16.—When posted in Canada, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland or the United States, the rate will be one cent per four ounces.

17.—A like rate will be payable on delivery in Canada, when received for the United States, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland.

18.—Periodicals weighing less than one ounce per number, when posted in Canada for any place within the Dominion, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland or the United States may, when put up singly, pass for one-half cent per number, to be prepaid by Postage Stamp.

19.—As the Postage Rates on Periodicals, other than Newspapers, will be payable in advance, and as certain classes of such periodicals, printed and published in Canada, and sent from the office of publication to regular subscribers, have for some time past been exempted from postage when exclusively devoted to the education of youth, to temperance, agriculture and science, or for other reasons, it is ordered, that with respect to periodicals which do now enjoy this privilege or exemption, the exemption shall continue until the expiration of the current year—that is, until the 31st December, 1868, and that from the 1st January, 1869, all such special exemptions and privileges shall cease.

Parcel Post.

20.—The rate on Parcels, by Parcel Post, will be 12½ cents per 8 ounces, that is to say:—

On a parcel not exceeding 8 oz., 12½ cents.

Over 8 oz., and not exceeding 1 lb., 25 cents.

Over 1 lb. and not exceeding 24 oz., 37½ cents.

And so on, to the limit of three lbs.

Book and Newspaper Manuscript, and Other Miscellaneous Matter.

21. On Book and Newspaper Manuscript (meaning written articles intended for insertion in a newspaper or periodical, and addressed to the Editor or Publisher thereof, for insertion), Printers' Proof Sheets, whether corrected or not, Maps, Prints, Drawings, Engravings, Music, whether printed or written, packages of Seeds, Cuttings, Roots, Scions or Grafts, and Botanical Specimens, the rate will be 1 cent per ounce, when posted for any place in Canada or the United States, and prepaid by Postage Stamp.

Postage Stamps.

22.—To enable the Public to prepay conveniently by Postage Stamps the foregoing rates, the following denominations of Postage Stamps for use throughout the Dominion, have been prepared, and will be supplied to Postmasters for sale:—

Half cent Stamps }
One cent do. }
Two cent do. } All bearing, as a
Three cent do. } device, the effigy
Six cent do. } of Her Majesty.
Twelve and a half cent do. }
Fifteen cent do. }

23.—The Postage Stamps now in use in the several Provinces may be accepted, as at present, in prepayment of letters, etc., for a reasonable time after the 1st. of April; but from and after that date all issues and sales to the public will be of the new denomination.

The section regarding “Franking and Free Matter” provides that only letters sent to or by the Governor-General, the Speaker or Chief Clerk of the Senate or of the House of Commons, Parliamentary papers, and legislative documents, such as petitions, addresses, and votes, shall be carried free of postage.

The most important change effected by the above quoted regulations was the reduction of domestic postage from five cents to three cents. It will be noted there are now no prepaid 5c or 17c rates and but one at 10c (on letters sent to British Columbia and Vancouver Island) consequently these denominations were dropped from the new series. On the other hand the ½c rate on transient newspapers, which had to be prepaid, the regular 3c letter rate, the 6c rate to the United States, and 15c for the new British Packet rate made necessary the issue of these four values in addition to the 1c, 2c, and 12½c denominations, which were retained. All these stamps were printed by the line-engraved process, as in the case of the earlier issues, the sheets consisting of one hundred specimens arranged in ten horizontal rows of ten each. A new firm—the British American Bank Note Company, of Montreal and Ottawa—were entrusted with the manufacture of these stamps and, like their predecessors, they applied their imprint to the plates, so that it is shown four times on the margins of the sheets of the printed stamps. Mr. Howes describes the imprint as follows:—

The imprint appears in colorless capitals on a narrow strip of color with bossed ends, and reads BRITISH AMERICAN BANK NOTE CO., MONTREAL & OTTAWA. This strip is framed by a very thin parallel line, its entire width being but one millimeter, while its length is about 51 mm. It occurs but once on a side, being placed against the middle two stamps (numbers 5 and 6) of each row at a distance of about 3 mm. The inscription reads up on the left and down on the right, as before, but the bottom one is now upright, instead of being reversed.

In the case of the half cent stamp at least, we find an additional marginal imprint over the second and third stamps of the top row. This consists of the words HALF CENT, in shaded Roman capitals 4 mm. high, the whole being about 40 mm. long. Presumably the same thing, varied for each denomination, occurs on other values of the series, as we find it does on the succeeding issue; but a strip from the top of a sheet of the 15 cent stamps proves that it was lacking on that value at least.

The new stamps came into use on April 1st, 1868, and are all much alike in design. All values show a profile portrait of Queen Victoria, with head to right, on a background of horizontal lines within a circle, but the ornamentation and disposition of the inscriptions and numerals of value in the surrounding frame is different on each. The Stamp Collector's Magazine for May, 1868, in announcing the issue, gives a good description which we cannot forbear quoting, viz:—

We are now in possession of, as we presume, the entire series of stamps for the Dominion of Canada, consisting of seven values—½ cent, 1, 2, 3, 6, 12½, and 15 cents. It would be indeed odious to compare them with the issues for another confederation lately formed. They are the work of a newly-formed colonial company, and are worthy to take rank beside any which have been manufactured by the rival companies of New York. The design, as we stated last month in noticing the 15c—the first of the set to appear—bears a resemblance to that of the lower values of Nova Scotia, but shows the Queen's head turned to the right. The new “British American Bank Note Company, of Montreal and Ottawa”, has done well to copy so good a device, and certainly has not spoilt it, as the English engravers did in the four penny South Australian. Moreover, whilst retaining the central figure, by enclosing it in a differently-patterned frame for each value, they have given greater variety to the series. In all, care has been taken to make the numerals distinct; and it is as well that this has been done, as two of the values assimilate considerably in shade. The half cent is distinguished from the rest by its smallness—it is quite one-third less in size, but the device is the same. The stamps are all printed on substantial paper, are perforated, and of the following colors:

½ cent black 3 cents vermilion
1 dull red 6 brown
2 green 12½ deep-blue
15 cents mauve

The two lowest values are for newspapers, and are far from being acceptable, notwithstanding their beauty of design, to the journalists. It had been expected that newspapers would be sent throughout the Canadian provinces free of charge; and there has been in consequence, a loud but ineffectual outcry against the general imposition of even a reduced rate of postage, and more especially at the enactment, that the charge must be paid by senders. “Proprietors of journals,” says the Quebec Chronicle, “find it hard enough at present to collect the simple subscription, without demanding postage in advance. People who writhe at present under the payment of their bare paper account, will find forwarding postage, in advance, an excruciating sacrifice.” The 2 cents is no doubt primarily intended for soldiers' letters. The 3 cents pays the new single rate for postage; the 6 cents the charge on letters to the United States. The 12½c represents the postage to England; and the 15c the rate for letters sent via New York. Possibly a 10c will yet be added to the series, but the old 17c will find no substitute in it. The new rates came into operation on the 1st April, and we suppose on that date all the pre-existing stamps of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were withdrawn.



The stamps of this series provide quite an extensive range of shades, especially as regards the 2c, 6c, and 15c. In the case of the latter value the range of tints is so great that it is difficult to know what was its originally intended color. The first shade was evidently mauve, as given in the Stamp Collector's Magazine chronicle, but, as is so frequently the case with mauves, lilacs and violets, tint variations were soon noticed. Shades varying from deep red lilac to grey and blue-grey are known. It is difficult to draw the line, in some instances, between true shades and “fades” but the grey would appear to be undoubtedly a true color variety and one that should be recognised as a provisional, if wholly unintentional, color change. Scott, in fact, lists it as a separate issue under the date 1875-77, but this is an arbitrary classification which has, apparently, no foundation in fact, and the best plan is to include the variety in its logical place with the rest of the 1868 series.

The paper used for this set of stamps is what is generally known as “wove” and it varies, as Mr. Howes states, “from a very thin, almost pelure quality to a quite hard and thick variety.” Mr. King, who was evidently untiring in his efforts to discover varieties of paper, says, “This series is of a most interesting nature, having a very large number of varieties of paper, all quite distinct, and specimens of some are of considerable rarity.” Mr. King then lets himself go and describes some seventeen varieties of paper but, with the exception of two well marked varieties to which we shall make extended reference shortly, they all seem to resolve themselves into minute variations of the wove paper such as can be found in connection with most stamps of the 'sixties and 'seventies with the aid of a micrometer and a well trained imagination! We doubt whether any specialist, however willing and enthusiastic, could follow Mr. King through his intricate listing.

Scott's catalogue lists a sub-variety of all values except the ½c on “watermarked” paper. The watermarked letters found in these stamps were known at least as early as 1870 and much speculation was rife as to their meaning. Mr. John N. Luff finally solved the problem by assembling a large number of the watermarked stamps so that he was able to reconstruct the complete watermark, viz:—


The letters are large double lined capitals 12½ mm. high with the exception of the initial letters E, C and B of the upper line, which are 13 mm. high. The “watermark” is, of course, the trademark of the paper manufacturer and, like other watermarks of a similar nature, it is not of very great philatelic importance. It is very generally presumed that the paper watermarked in this manner was used provisionally—an opinion with which Mr. Howes seems to concur by his statement that “the watermarked paper must therefore have been used sometime during the course of the year 1868, probably the middle, when supplies of all values except the ½c were printed.” But we fail to find from any evidence so far adduced that this watermarked paper was in use only during some well defined period. The fact that it is not found in connection with the ½c proves nothing for this value was of a different size from the others and doubtless paper of a different size, but the same quality was used so as to prevent unnecessary waste in cutting into sheets for printing. At best, as we have already stated, it is but a papermaker's trade mark, and it is difficult to understand on what grounds it is included in the catalogue as a variety to the exclusion of similar and well known examples in the stamps of other countries. We must confess that more importance seems to be attached to the variety than is warranted by its philatelic status and we commend to our readers' attention Major E. B. Evans' pertinent comments regarding it, viz:—

We feel bound to state that, unless the paper itself is of a different nature from the plain wove, this watermark seems to us to possess no interest whatever. It is evidently entirely unofficial, and it is quite possible that it only occurred in one sheet out of several of identically the same paper.

The other variety of paper which calls for special mention is a “laid” paper found in connection with the 1c and 3c values. It is obviously a true “laid” paper, the laid lines being very distinct, fairly wide and quite evenly spaced. While the use of this paper was, no doubt, quite unintentional, it is a distinct variation from the normal wove which cannot be ignored by specialists, though we hardly think it is entitled to rank as a “major” variety as shown by the classification followed in Scott's catalogue. The 3c was discovered first and was mentioned in the Philatelic Record for March, 1882, as follows:—“Mr. Tapling informs us that he possesses the 3 cents red, issue of 1868, on laid paper.” A few months later Mr. Corwin discovered a copy of the 1c which he described in the National Philatelist for January, 1883, as follows:—

Some time since I saw noted in the Philatelic Record the existence of a 3 cent Canada stamp, emission of 1868, on laid paper. In looking through my Canadian varieties, after reading this note, I discovered also a copy of the one cent red, same emission, on laid paper.

This laid paper was evidently used during the printing of the early supplies of the 1c and 3c denominations. Scott's catalogue lists the varieties under the date “1870” but we can find no evidence of any kind in support of this classification. Messrs. Corwin and King record a copy of the 1c postmarked November 27th, 1868, and the 3c is known dated August 31st, 1868, all of which points to the early use of this laid paper. The 15c on “thin paper, horizontally laid” was mentioned in the American Journal of Philately for October, 1892, on the authority of Mr. F. de Coppet but as the variety is not now catalogued and no copy seems to be known we presume its authenticity is a debatable question. The 1c, orange, was at one time listed on laid paper but this has been satisfactorily proved to be simply a “figment of the imagination”.

In his article in the London Philatelist Mr. C. L. Pack describes the 15c as existing on “distinctly soft ribbed paper”. Mr. King gives “ribbed” varieties for all values on both thin and thick soft paper but, as in the case of the earlier Canadian stamps found on ribbed paper, we think a lot of proof is yet necessary before these varieties can be accepted as anything better than accidental vagaries of printing.

The perforation used for the stamps of this series had a gauge of 12, as with the stamps of the preceding issue, and was the work of single line or guillotine machines. That is, each line of perforation, both horizontally and vertically, represented a separate stroke on the machine. The Monthly Journal for February, 1899, lists a minor variety of perforation in the 2c, 3c, 6c, 12½c and 15c denominations in which the measurement is 11½ × 12. Whether a machine with a gauge of 11½ was in temporary use at some time or other is uncertain but if such was the case it seems strange that no copies are known perf. 11½ all round or perf. 12 × 11½. Even if it were due to a slight error in the placing of the perforating needles in some part of the full row it is strange that specimens gauging 12 × 11½ are not known. We have been unable to find any further references to these varieties other than that stated above so that, until more information is forthcoming on the subject, they should be accepted with reserve.

The 15c of this series is known entirely imperforate and Mr. Howes records the ½c as existing in a horizontal pair, imperforate between.

The only “split” found in connection with this series occurs in the case of the 6c denomination, diagonal halves of which are known to have done postal duty as 3c. These appear to have been entirely unauthorized though, as they undoubtedly passed through the mail, they have an interest to collectors of stamps on cover.

Reference List.

1868. Engraved and Printed by the British American Bank Note Company, at Ottawa. Wove paper. Perf. 12.

  • 16.  ½c black. Scott's No. 21.

  • 17.   1c  brown red. Scott's No. 22.

  • 18.   2c  green, Scott's No. 23.

  • 19.   3c  red, Scott's No. 24.

  • 20.   6c  brown, Scott's No. 25.

  • 21.  12½c blue, Scott's No. 26.

  • 22.  15c  lilac, Scott's No. 27.

  • 23.  15c  gray, Scott's No. 39.