site logo

The First Issue

In common with the other Colonies of British North America Canada was granted the privilege of administrating its own postal service in 1850, and in the same year an Act was passed providing for the change. It is hardly necessary to quote this Act in full though the following extracts are of interest:—

Cap. VII.

An Act to provide for the transfer of the management of the I

land Posts to the Provincial Government, and for the Regulation of the said department.

II.—And be it enacted, that the Inland Posts and Post Communications in this Province shall, so far as may be consistent with the Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in force in this Province, be exclusively under Provincial management and control; the revenues arising from the duties and postage dues receivable by the officers employed in managing such Posts and Post Communications shall form part of the Provincial Revenue, unless such monies belong of right to the United Kingdom, or to some other Colony, or to some Foreign State, and the expenses of management shall be defrayed out of Provincial Funds, and that the Act passed in the Eighth year of Her Majesty's Reign, and entitled An Act to provide for the management of the Customs, and of matter relative to the collection of the Provincial Revenue, shall apply to the said Posts and Post Communications, and to the officers and persons employed in managing the same, or in collecting or accounting for the duties and dues aforesaid, except in so far as any provision of the said Act may be insusceptible of such application, or may be inconsistent with any provision of this Act.

VIII.—And in conformity to the agreement made as aforesaid between the Local Governments of the several Colonies of British North America, be it enacted that the Provincial Postage on letters and packets not being newspapers, printed pamphlets, magazines or books, entitled to pass at a lower rate, shall not exceed Threepence currency per half-ounce, for any distance whatsoever within this Province, any fraction of a half-ounce being chargeable as a half-ounce; that no transit postage shall be charged on any letter or packet passing through this Province, or any part thereof, to any other Colony in British North America, unless it be posted in this Province, and the sender choose to prepay it; nor on any letter or packet from any such Colony, if prepaid there; that Twopence sterling the half-ounce shall remain as the rate in operation as regards letter by British mails, to be extended to countries having Postal Conventions with the United Kingdom, unless Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall see fit to allow this rate to be changed to Threepence currency; that the prepayment of Provincial Postage shall be optional.

That all Provincial Postage received within the Province shall be retained as belonging to it, and that all Provincial Postage received within any other Colony of the British North American Colonies may be retained, as belonging to such Colony. That no privilege of franking shall be allowed as regards the Provincial Postage. That Provincial Stamps for the prepayment of postage may be prepared under the orders of the Governor in Council, which stamps shall be evidence of the prepayment of Provincial Postage to the amount mentioned on such stamps; and that such stamps, prepared under the direction of the proper authorities in the other British North American Colonies, shall be allowed in this Province as evidence of the prepayment of Provincial Postage in such other Colonies respectively, on the letters or packets to which they are affixed and which have been mailed there.

The passage of the above Act and its approval by the Imperial government was followed by a notice to postmasters which gave the date at which the transfer of the postal system from Imperial to Provincial authority was to take effect, gave more explicit instructions with regard to rates of postage, and stated that postage stamps were being prepared. Mr. Howes gives the chief provisions of this Notice as follows:—

Notice to Postmasters.

General Post Office.

Montreal, 14th March, 1851.


I am commanded by His Excellency the Governor General, to communicate to you the following instructions, for your guidance in the performance of your duties, under the New Post Office Law of the 13th and 14th Vict., chap. 17, passed at the last Session of the Provincial Parliament, which will take effect, and supersede the Imperial Post Office Acts, hitherto in force in Canada, on and from the 6th day of April next:

1.—From the above date, all Letters transmitted by the Post in Canada, with the exception of Packet Letters to and from the United Kingdom, will be liable to a uniform rate of Three Pence, currency, per half-ounce for whatever distance conveyed: prepayment will be optional: the charge increasing according to the weight of the Letter, one single rate for every additional half-ounce, counting the fraction of a half-ounce as a full rate, thus:

A Letter, weighing not exceeding ½ ounce, will be liable to 3d postage.

A Letter, weighing more than ½ ounce, and not exceeding 1 ounce, will be liable to 6d Postage.

A Letter, weighing more than 1 ounce, and not exceeding 1½ ounces will be liable to 9d Postage, and so on.

It will be observed that the above scale differs from that now followed, in advancing one rate for each half-ounce after the first ounce.

2.—The single Packet rate for Letters by the Atlantic Steam Packet Mails to and from England, via the United States, of 1s 2d sterling, if unpaid, and 1s 4d currency, if prepaid, as also the rate on Letters, by those mails, via Halifax, of 1s sterling, if unpaid, and 1s 1½d currency, if prepaid, remain unaltered, and the present scale of weights is to remain in force as regards such Letters.

Post Masters must be very careful to observe this distinction when taxing letters, weighing over one-ounce, intended for the English Mails.

3.—The regulations now in force with regard to Letters to and from Soldiers and Sailors in Her Majesty's Service, by which under certain conditions such Letters pass through the Post on prepayment of a penny only, remain unaltered.

5.—Letters addressed to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, or Newfoundland, are to be rated with the uniform rate of 3d per half-ounce.

6.—Letters to and from the United States will be liable to the uniform rate of 3d per half-ounce, between the Frontier line and the place of posting or place of destination in Canada; and until further arrangements can be made, this charge on Letters from Canada to the United States must be prepaid at the time of Posting.

9.—The charge on Letters posted at an office for delivery in the same City, Town, or Place, and any additional charge made on Letters delivered at the residence of parties to whom they are addressed, are to remain as at present, until further instructions.

10.—No Franking Privilege is allowed under the New Act, except with regard to Letters and Packets on the business of the Post Office, addressed to or transmitted by the Post Master General.

13.—Stamps for the prepayment of Postage are being prepared and will be distributed for the use of the public at an early date.

T. A. Stayner.

Deputy Post Master General.

Shortly afterwards a Notice, or Department Order, dated April 2nd, 1851, was issued to postmasters regarding the rates of postage between Canada and the United States, California and Oregon. It is hardly necessary to reproduce this in its entirety and it will suffice to state that the rate on single letters to the United States was sixpence currency, equivalent to ten cents in United States money, while to California and Oregon the rate was nine pence currency per half-ounce. On newspapers, pamphlets, etc., the rates were the same as those for Canada itself with the stipulation that all such mail must be prepaid. Certain offices were named for handling the mail between Canada and the United States, viz: Post Sarnia, Windsor, Fort Erie, Queenston (the channel of communication with the United States for the country west of Toronto), Niagara, Toronto, Cobourg (a communication during summer only, by steamer to Rochester), Kingston, Brockville, Prescott, Montreal, St. John's, Dundee, and Stanstead.

On the 21st of April, 1851, an Order was issued from the Post Office Department referring to the issue of stamps. The most interesting paragraphs from this order are:—

Postage Stamps are about to be issued, one representing the Beaver, of the denomination of Three pence; the second representing the head of Prince Albert, of the denomination of Six pence; and the third, representing the head of Her Majesty, of the denomination of One shilling; which will shortly be transmitted to the Post Masters at important points, for sale.

Any Letter or Packet, with one or more Stamps affixed, equal in amount to the Postage properly chargeable thereon, may be mailed and forwarded from any office as a prepaid Letter or Packet; but if the Stamps affixed be not adequate to the proper Postage, the Post Master receiving the Letter or Packet for transmission will rate it with the amount deficient in addition. This Regulation concerning Letters short paid has reference only to Letters passing within the Province.

Stamps so affixed are to be immediately cancelled in the office in which the Letter or Packet may be deposited, with an instrument to be furnished for that purpose. In Post Offices not so furnished, the stamps must be cancelled by making a cross (X) on each with a pen. If the cancelling has been omitted on the mailing of the Letter, the Post Master delivering it will cancel the stamp in the manner directed, and immediately report the Post Master who may have been delinquent, to the Department. Bear in mind that Stamps must invariably be cancelled before mailing the Letters to which they are affixed.

It is rather interesting to note that the series comprised only three values, though the postal rates, as shown in the Notice quoted above, and further amplified in a lengthy set of “Regulations and Instructions” called for numerous rates of ½d and 1d as well as 7½d so that it certainly seems strange that no provision was made for stamps by means of which such rates could be prepaid.

The beaver is typical of Canada, for the prosperity of the Colony is largely founded on this animal, whose skin has been a valuable article of commerce since the days of the early trappers in the land of the maple tree. The choice of a beaver as the central theme of the design of Canada's first stamp—the 3d value—is, therefore, particularly appropriate. The stamp is rectangular in shape and the centrepiece is enclosed within a transverse oval band inscribed “CANADA POSTAGE” at the top, and “THREE PENCE” below. Above the beaver is an Imperial crown which breaks into the oval band and divides the words “CANADA” and “POSTAGE.” This crown rests on a rose, shamrock, and thistle (emblematic of the United Kingdom) and on either side are the letters “V R” (Victoria Regina, i.e. Queen Victoria). In each of the angles is a large uncolored numeral “3”. Mr. Howes tells us that this stamp was designed by Sir Stanford Fleming, a civil engineer and draughtsman.


The beaver, depicted on this stamp, rejoices in the scientific name of Castor fiber. It is a rodent of social habits and was at one time widely distributed over Europe and North America. It is now practically extinct except in Canada and even there it is said to be in great danger of extermination. Full-grown animals vary in length from thirty to thirty-six inches. They are covered with short, thick fur, which is of considerable value and their structural peculiarities are well worth noting. The beaver is furnished with powerful incisor teeth, with which it is able to bite through fairly large trees, and its fore paws are very strong. Its hind feet are webbed, so that it is a powerful swimmer, and its tail is flattened, and serves as an excellent rudder. Its ears are small and when laid back prevent any water entering them. Beavers generally live in colonies, and show remarkable intelligence and ingenuity in the construction of their homes or “lodges” and in the building of dams, where water in the vicinity of their dwellings has become too shallow to suit their tastes. These dwellings are often constructed on the banks of rivers, but the Canadian beaver is particularly fond of building lodges in the centre of large expanses of fairly shallow water. These are made of turf, tree-trunks, and other materials, and are often used as store houses for food reserves, as well as for living in.

The 6d stamp follows the usual upright rectangular form and its central design consists of the portrait of Prince Albert, the Royal Consort. The portrait is enclosed within an upright oval inscribed in a similar manner to the 3d but with, of course, “SIXPENCE” on its lower portion. The numeral “6” is shown in each of the four angles. Albert Francis Charles Augustus Emanuel the younger of the two sons of Ernest, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was born in 1819. He was carefully educated at Brussels and Bonn (1836-8), where he showed himself an ardent student, acquired many accomplishments, and developed a taste for music and the fine arts. King Leopold and Baron Stockmar had long contemplated an alliance between Prince Albert and Princess Victoria, and the pair were brought together in 1836. When the succession of Victoria was assured the betrothal took place, and on February 19th, 1840, the marriage, which was one of real affection on both sides, was solemnized in the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace. The Prince Consort's position as the husband of a constitutional sovereign was difficult, and in the early years of his married life his interference in matters of state was resented. Ultimately he became “a sort of minister, without portfolio, of art and education”, and in this capacity won much esteem and popularity. He also interested himself in agriculture and in social and industrial reform. To him was due the Great Exhibition of 1851, which resulted in a balance of a million dollars available for the encouragement of science and art. His personal character was very high, and he exercised great influence on his children. He was an ideal consort, and entirely worthy of the title “Albert, the Good”. On December 14th, 1861, he succumbed to an attack of fever, and was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. His remains were afterwards removed to the mausoleum at Frogmore.



The 12d stamp is very similar in design to the 6d denomination but bears the portrait of Queen Victoria. The life and reign of Queen Victoria are matters of such general knowledge that biographical details are hardly necessary. A few words, however, regarding the source of this handsome portrait, which was used to adorn so many of the earlier British Colonial stamps, will not be amiss. Mr. Howes tells us that this portrait “was taken from the full length painting by Alfred Edward Chalon, R. A., which was ordered by the Queen for her mother, the Duchess of Kent, as a souvenir of Her Majesty's first visit to the House of Lords. The occasion was the prorogation of Parliament, on July 17th, 1837, and the Queen is portrayed in her robes of state, because of which fact the painting is sometimes described as ‘in Coronation Robes’, but this is erroneous.”

The 12d requires a few words in explanation of the manner in which the value was expressed for “One Shilling” would appear to be a more natural form for this amount rather than “Twelve Pence”. Mr. Donald A. King says:—“This was undoubtedly done intentionally, as though it was intended for a one shilling stamp, yet it could not be called that, as there were a number of shillings of different values in circulation in the Colony. If the stamp had been lettered ‘One Shilling’, the Post Office was liable to have tendered for it 6½d, 7½d, 10d or 12d, according to locality”.

Mr. Howes gives a fuller explanation which we cannot do better than quote in his own words:—

“A glance back at the rates of postage we have already quoted will show that it was generally necessary to give them in two forms, ‘currency’ and ‘sterling’. The somewhat depreciated Canadian currency required fifteen pence, as will be noted, to equal the shilling sterling—a point brought out on the two stamps issued subsequently for the British Packet rates. Add to this fact that in New England the ‘shilling’ was a current expression for 16⅔ cents (10 pence currency), while in New York it represented 12½ cents (7½ pence currency) and we can readily see that in Canadian territory contiguous to these sections the number of pence to a ‘shilling’ might often be a debatable quantity. As a matter of fact the French Canadians of Lower Canada made general use of the ‘shilling’ as reckoned at 10 pence (20 cents) in the old currency, while the ‘York shilling’ was extensively used in Upper Canada. ‘Twelve Pence’ was without doubt wholly intentional, therefore, as the designation of the stamp, and was happy solution of any ambiguity in its use, even if it has proved a stumbling block to the understanding of latter day collectors.”

The three values forming this first issue were manufactured by Messrs. Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, of New York, who are, perhaps, better known to fame as the engravers of the 1847, 5c and 10c stamps for the United States government. All three stamps were printed from plates engraved in taille douce the plates consisting of one hundred impressions arranged in ten horizontal rows of ten each. The manufacturer's imprint—“Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, New York”—was engraved twice on each of the four sides quite close to the stamps. The imprints were so placed that the bottoms of the letters are always next to the stamps with the consequence that on the printed sheets of stamps the imprints read upwards at the left, downwards at the right, and upside down on the bottom margins.

A variety of the 3d denomination is catalogued with “double transfer”. This is, of course, a plate variety caused like all similar ones by a faulty or incorrect rocking of the roller impression on the plate and a correction on top of this impression which did not always entirely obliterate the first impression. Mr. Howes says this variety “is recognized by the letters EE PEN being ‘doubled’ at the top, making it appear as if a line had been drawn through the words and giving it the name occasionally used of the ‘line through threepence’ variety.” There are at least two other similar varieties of “double transfers” known on this value for in the Philatelic World for December, 1908, Mr. A. J. Sefi described and illustrated three different ones. One of these is a variety mentioned by Mr. Howes, another shows a distinct doubling of parts of the details of the two left-hand corners, while the third variety shows a doubling of the upper right hand corner. It is quite possible a close study of these stamps would reveal others and also similar varieties in the 6d and 12d. “Double strikes” are not uncommon on stamps produced by the line-engraved process though they are not often so striking as the first of these Canadian varieties and those found on the United States 10c stamp of 1847.

According to a valuable summary from official records published in the Metropolitan Philatelist we learn that the first delivery of stamps from the manufacturers took place on April 5th, 1851, when 100,000 of the 3d denomination were delivered to the Canadian Government. On April 20th, a second supply of the same value comprising 150,200 stamps arrived in Canada. On May 2nd 100,400 of the 6d were received followed two days later by 51,400 of the 12d this latter being the only consignment of the highest value ever received from the printers. We have already pointed out that the 3d was placed on sale on April 23rd, 1851. The date of issue of the 6d is not known for certain as there are no official records relating to this though, as a supply was received on May 2nd, they were doubtless issued some time during the same month. The 12d was issued on June 14th as we shall show later.

The three values of this series, as well as other denominations in pence issued later, were withdrawn from use on July 1st, 1859, when decimal currency was introduced. By means of much diligent search through Post Office Reports and other records Mr. Howes has determined that a total of 3,528,700 3d stamps were issued and a total of 402,900 of the 6d value. Some of both these values were issued with perforation late in 1857 or early in 1858. Unfortunately there is no means of separating these from the imperforate ones as shown by the official figures but if we use the somewhat rough-and-ready means of reckoning afforded by catalogue quotations it would seem that of the above totals about three million of the 3d and 325,000 of the 6d were imperforate.

The 12d value, as every collector knows, is a very rare stamp. Even had the full supply of 51,000 stamps, received in the first and only consignment from the manufacturers on May 4th, 1851, been issued, it would have been a rare variety, but as a matter of fact, the greater portion of the consignment was destroyed and only 1510 were actually issued. An interesting article published in the Metropolitan Philatelist in 1902 shows that this denomination was first issued on June 14th, 1851, and supplies were made to various post offices as follows:—

No. Stamps
June 14th, 1851, Hamilton, 300
Oct. 17th, 1851, Chippewa, 100
Nov. 13th, 1851, Thorold, 20
Nov. 25th, 1851, Toronto, 200
Mar. 8th, 1852, Montreal, 200
Sept. 14th, 1852, Ingersoll, 100
Apr. 5th, 1853, Ottawa (then known as Bytown), 100
Oct. 20th, 1853, Sherbrooke, 15
Jan. 13th, 1854, Smith's Falls, 50
Jan. 20th, 1854, Ottawa, 100
Feb. 8th, 1854, L'Islet, 15
Feb. 27th, 1854, Ingersoll, 20
Mar. 22nd, 1854, Sault S. Marie, 25
May 15th, 1854, Port. du Fort, 15
Oct. 21st, 1854, Rowan Mills, 50
Oct. 26th, 1854, Melbourne, 50
Oct. 27th, 1854, Montreal, 100
Dec. 4th, 1854, Smith's Falls, 50
Total stamps, 1,510

The consignment sent to Smith's Falls on December 4th, 1854, was the last distributed. While we can trace no official notice referring to the discontinuance of this denomination, or the actual date at which it ceased to be used, the writer of the article referred to above says that the balance of 49,490 stamps were destroyed on May 1st, 1857, “in accordance with the practice of the Department in cases of the discontinuance of stamps” though as this was the first Canadian stamp to be discontinued, a precedent could hardly have been established.

The following interesting excerpt from the Stamp Collectors' Magazine for April, 1870, states that the 12d value was discontinued in 1855 and it also lays considerable stress on the scarcity of used specimens of this stamp, viz:—

One of our readers observing from a reply we made to a correspondent in the last October number, that we were in doubt as to whether the 12d was ever actually used, has been good enough to write the Deputy Postmaster-General on the subject and has obtained from him the following reply:—

“Ottawa, 28th October, 1869.

Dear Sir:—In reply to your note of the 26th inst., let me say that the twelve penny postage stamps were issued to the public in 1851, but did not find favor, and so few were sold—only a few hundred altogether in three or four years—that they ceased to be issued in 1855.

I am, dear Sir, yours very faithfully,

W. A. Smyth.”

This is satisfactorily conclusive as to the emission of the stamp in question; but if even only a few hundreds were used, we are surprised that no used copies turn up. Were they used otherwise than for postage? Mr. Philbrick informs us that no unused copy of the stamp was ever seen by him, nor does he know of its existence. Plenty of proofs on India paper, etc., exist, but the paper of the stamp was laid and thin, of a hard texture.

An extract from the Stamp Collectors’ Monthly Gazette, published at St. John, New Brunswick, in September, 1869, shows that the rarity of the 12d was already recognised as witnessed by the fact that “even $5” could be obtained for a specimen. We give the paragraph in full:—

This stamp, as some of our readers are aware, was in use but a short time, so short, that many persons even those residing in Canada, knew nothing about it. One gentleman living in Quebec, to whom we had written on the subject some time ago, informed us that we must have been laboring under some mistake, when we asked him for some particulars about it. He told us that no such stamp was ever issued; but a subsequent letter from him told a totally different tale (as was expected)—he gave us a few facts, and that was all we wanted. It was first intended for postage to England, and was actually used for a time. The postage was afterwards reduced and the 10d stamp took the place of the 12d. The latter is now (the genuine) one of the rarest in existence, and very readily obtains such prices as $4.00 and even $5.00 for one specimen. Proofs are often offered for sale on India paper, with the word 'specimen' written on one side. Amateur collections must content themselves with this last, for it is utterly impossible to obtain the real Simon Pure article for less than the sums we name, and even then, it is doubtful whether it can be had at the price or not. The color of the genuine stamp is black, it is an adhesive, and contains a portrait of Queen Victoria in an inscribed oval, with figures 12 at corners.

All three values of this first set were issued imperforate and while the 3d, of which at least three millions were issued, varies but little in shade, the 6d, printed in comparatively small quantities, provides a number of striking tints. In his check-list, Mr. Howes gives “black-violet, deep-violet, slate-violet, brown-violet, dull purple, slate, black brown, brownish black, and greenish black”, and we have no doubt the list could be considerably amplified, though the above should be sufficient for the most exacting of specialists.

The catalogue gives two distinct sorts of paper—laid and wove—for all three values, with a sub-variety of the latter, designated “thin”, for the 3d and 6d denominations. But specialists are not satisfied with this meagre classification and recognise numerous other varieties such as thick white laid, soft white wove, thin and thick grayish, thick hard, thick soft, ribbed, etc. Mr. D. A. King, in his article in the Monthly Journal, says, “There are fourteen varieties that we are able to distinguish”, and he gives a general classification of their characteristics as follows:—

Series I, II, IV and V.—The texture of these papers is virtually the same, and it is indeed often difficult, particularly in the case of the 6d, to distinguish between the laid and wove papers. The lines in the laid paper are of a most peculiar character, and cannot, as a rule, be brought fairly out by holding the stamp between one's eyes and the light. The best way to test these two papers is to lay the stamps, face down, on a black surface, and let the light strike them at about an angle of fifteen degrees, when the laid lines are brought most plainly into view. It is necessary, however, to place the specimens so that the light will strike them parallel to their length, as the laid lines run horizontally in the 3d, and vertically in the 6d and 12d.

Series III.—This is an entirely different paper to those mentioned above. The laid lines are most distinct, while the paper is of a different texture and color from the regular gray shade.

Series VI.—The paper of this series is almost as thick as that employed for series XII. There is a vast difference, however, in its appearance, as the paper of series VI. is much harder than that of series XII. It feels greasy when rubbed between the thumb and finger, and the color of the paper is distinctly different from that shown by series XII.

Series VII, VIII and IX.—We are able to divide the thin-ribbed papers into three varieties, which the description plainly indicates. They are very distinct, and can be distinguished by a moment's inspection without hesitation.

Series X.—This is a very peculiar sort of paper, which is quite fragile, and will not bear much handling. It is quite as soft as that of series VII.

Series XI.—This paper is also of a peculiar texture; the surface presents a sort of hairy appearance, and the quality is better than Series X, although not as tough as series XII.

Series XII and XIII.—This paper presents, even when looking at the face of the specimens, so entirely different an appearance to that employed in any of the other series, that a reference to the back is hardly necessary. It is found in two thicknesses, which have the same appearance, and seems to have been employed for all the values except the 12d.

Series XIV.—We are surprised that this variety has hitherto escaped notice. It is so distinct, both in paper and color, from any of the other 6d stamps. It has only been found in shades of a peculiarly brownish purple which is a color entirely different from that presented by specimens on any other of the papers employed. It is an exceedingly rare variety.

It would indeed be a task for the most intrepid of specialists to try and complete his Canadian stamps on such ambitious lines, to say nothing of acquiring the ingenuity necessary to differentiate between them. Their philatelic importance is, in our humble opinion, not a matter of very great consequence. At that period, hand-made paper was still being used to a very large extent and even machine-made paper was not manufactured with the nicety of standardisation that is possible with the improved machinery of today. Consequently, the sheets of paper, even in such a small commercial quantity as a ream, would generally show considerable variation in texture. Thin and thick sheets were frequently mixed to obtain the necessary weight per ream specified in any particular grade of paper. No particular quality of paper was, apparently, specified for the manufacture of these stamps, and so long as it looked much about the same it is very obvious the printers made no particular effort to maintain an exact standard. It is even questionable that the wove and laid varieties mark distinct consignments or printings of the stamps. Indeed, so far as the 12d is concerned at any rate, both varieties must have been included in the same consignment. But, more serious still, from the point of view of those collectors who consider the wove and laid papers should be treated as major varieties, Mr. King admits that “the lines in the laid paper are of a most peculiar character” and that “it is often difficult to distinguish between the laid and the wove papers”, while Mr. Howes states, “It happens sometimes that it is quite difficult to distinguish the laid paper, a very careful scrutiny or even the extreme resort to the benzine cup being necessary to bring out the watermarked lines, and perhaps then only in a half suspicious way.” Writing in the Canada Stamp Sheet (Vol. IV, page 142), concerning the 12d value, Mr. John N. Luff stated, “It is my opinion that both the wove and laid papers are quite genuine and I think it is possible that both varieties might occur though there was only one lot sent out by the printers. It does not, of course, follow that the entire batch was printed on the same day or that two varieties of paper may not have been used. The early printers were not always very particular about their paper, provided it was somewhat alike in a general way. Some collectors claim that laid paper is often of such nature that the lines do not show in some parts of the sheet, and I believe there is evidence to support this theory.”

It is quite within the bounds of possibility that the paper generally used for these stamps was intended to be what is known as “wove” to the trade, and that the “laid lines” originated in a purely accidental manner and are rather on the order of the “laid paper” varieties found in connection with the first 8c and 12c stamps of Sarawak. In short, it is probable that in some sheets at any rate the laid lines showed only in part. At best, therefore, it would appear that the “wove” is but a minor variety of the “laid” or vice versa, and while both varieties, as well as other varieties easily distinguished, such as the very thin and very thick, are of interest to specialists, they throw no light whatsoever on the history of the stamps, and do not, from all the available facts, represent separate printings, so that their philatelic importance (aside from comparative rarity as minor varieties, with its accompanying variation in monetary worth) is not of a particularly high order.

One peculiarity resulting from the use of papers of such varying quality is an apparent difference in the size of stamps of the same denomination. For instance, the stamps on the thinner kinds of paper generally measure 22 × 18 mm., while those on thicker paper measure 22¾ × 17½ mm. and papers of other thicknesses provide still other measurements. These differences in size (fairly considerable in relation to the comparatively small area of a postage stamp) proved very puzzling to collectors of twenty years or so ago for, though it was felt that the stamps came from the same plates, it was at the same time found impossible to account for such varieties, except on the hypothesis that all the impressions of the plate were not all applied alike or that the hardening of the plates before printing resulted in contraction in parts with a consequent variation in the size of different impressions. The same sorts of varieties have been noticed in many other stamps printed by the line engraved process, notably in such stamps as the “pence” Ceylons, and proper investigation finally proved beyond a shadow of doubt that these differences in size were due to nothing more than uneven contraction of the paper after printing. It must be understood that in printing stamps by the line-engraved method the paper usually has to be slightly wetted (this was an invariable rule at the time these early Canada stamps were printed) and it can be easily seen that the wetting would have quite different results on different qualities of paper. Some would be more absorbent than others and would stretch while damp and contract again when drying. The amount of wetting administered would, also, result in differences even in the same qualify of paper. These variations in the size of the design, therefore, while interesting in themselves as examples of paper vagaries, are of little, if any, philatelic importance.

Bi-sected stamps were not used in Canada to anything like the same extent that similar varieties were used in the other British North American provinces. The 6d is catalogued as having been divided diagonally and the halves used as 3d stamps, though there can have been no real necessity for such bi-section. A bi-sected stamp of quite another character was mentioned in the Monthly Journal for April, 1898, as follows:—

The Post Office describes a so-called “split provisional” of the early 3d stamp, which is described as consisting of one and a half of the unperforated 3d on wove, upon an entire envelope postmarked “Port Hope, July 16th, 1855, Canada, Paid 10c.” Our contemporary does not appear to perceive that the postmark plainly indicates that the supposed half stamp is really only a badly cut copy; the 3d of Canada passed for 5 cents, and as this letter is plainly marked “Paid 10c”, the stamps upon it evidently passed as two 3d, not as one and a half, which would have corresponded to no rate of postage.

The same journal, two months later, made more extended reference to this variety and while its bona-fides as a “split” is established its use as a half stamp is as much a mystery as ever. We cannot do better than give the paragraph in full:—

In the New Issues column of our number for April, we called in question the character of a supposed “split” three pence stamp of Canada, which had been chronicled in the Post Office, New York. In reply to our criticism, Messrs. Morgenthau & Co., the publishers of that magazine, have most kindly forwarded to us the letter bearing the divided stamp, and have requested our opinion upon it. The specimen is such a curious one and presents, we think, such a puzzle for philatelists, that we have taken the liberty—which we hope its owner will pardon—of having a photographic block made from it, and we give a full size illustration, showing both the stamps and the postmarks, herewith. As our readers may perceive, we were quite wrong in suggesting that the “split” stamp was merely a badly cut copy, as it appears to have been carefully bi-sected diagonally and to have been intended to pass as a half stamp, making up, with the entire stamp to which it is attached, a rate of 4½d. If this were all, though the specimen would be a great rarity—indeed, we believe it to be unique—it would not be necessarily a great puzzle to us. It is true that we do not know of any 4½d rate in Canada, and there never was a 4½d stamp in use there; but still, such a rate might have existed, although there was no possible means of making it up except by the use of at least three ½d stamps; but the puzzling part about this letter is that it is addressed from Port Hope in Canada to New York, the single rate from Canada to the United States was 10 cents; the letter is marked “CANADA—PAID 10 Cts.” by the side of the stamps, and that rate was sixpence in Canadian currency. The whole document appears to us to be perfectly genuine and bona-fide; we have examined it with a skeptical mind and a powerful magnifying glass, and we can only say that if it is a “fake” it is wonderfully well done. On the other hand, if it is genuine, the half stamp must have done duty as a whole one, because it certainly took two 3d stamps to make up the 10 cents rate. The puzzle remains a puzzle to us, but we are grateful to Messrs. Morgenthau for their courteous reply to what may have appeared a captious criticism.

Reference List.

1851. Engraved and printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, New York, on laid or wove paper. Imperforate.

  • 1.   3d  vermilion, Scott's No. 1 or No. 4.

  • 2.   6d  violet, Scott's No. 2 or No. 5.

  • 3.  12d  black, Scott's No. 3 or No. 6.