20th October 2015 Canadian Mail by Rail & Train – Ken Flint

On Tuesday 20th October Banbury Stamp Society welcomed Ken Flint, a keen stamp collector and active in a number of organisations: Chairman of the Coventry Philatelic Society, President of the Midland Federation and President of the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain. So it was no surprise that Ken’s presentation was of Canadian mail carried by a variety of means. Despite the title, the presentation started with examples of mail carried by dog team which of course is how much of the mail – if it was delivered at all – arrived in remote areas of Canada during the winter. Most of the covers were from commemorative events up to the present day and carried cachets showing that the mail was indeed carried by dog team.

Ken then moved on to mail by air. Use of aircraft grew after the First World War, driven by the improvements in technology and the arrival of trained pilots back in civilian life. Canada was no exception and experimental flights were soon being made between the bigger towns and cities as well as to explore the remote northern wilderness areas to support the growth in mining. Planes were adapted with floats to allow take-off and landing from water. The floats were replaced by skis for use on frozen lakes in the winter. One cover displayed by Ken was flown by William ‘Billy’ Bishop, a Canadian flying ace and Victoria Cross holder. Through the 1920’s routes were opened up by pioneering companies and early flight covers carried labels advertising the companies involved. Ken showed examples of all of these, finishing up with a label from Canadian Airways.

The second half started with steamship mail including pre-stamp covers from the early 1800’s between Montreal and Quebec and then moving on to mail either out of Vancouver and up the West coast, or down the St. Lawrence Seaway and up the East Coast to the Arctic. The best known of these eastern route mail was carried by the steam ship ‘Nascopie’ and is marked ‘Eastern Arctic Mail’. It provides one of the few sources for early postmarks from remote Arctic communities.

Canada’s existence was based on an agreement to provide a transcontinental railway joining British Columbia in the West and the Maritime provinces in the East to the centres of Toronto and Montreal. Ken showed a fraction of his collection: railway postmarks on cover up to the end of the Travelling Post Office in 1974 when air became cheaper, quicker and more efficient than the railway. The presentation finished with colour photographs of the Canadian railway in its steam heyday.

The next meeting is on Tuesday November 3rd at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre and is a change to our schedule. Society members will be showing off ‘My Best Buy’ and have the opportunity to ask other members questions on philately. The presentation from Colin Searle (‘Philatelic Congress of Great Britain’) will be on Tuesday December 1st.