Posts Tagged ‘stamp collecting’

My Great- (+ several more Greats) Uncle

November 10, 2010

As I flipped through my father’s stamp collection a few weeks ago, I uncovered a paper with some “family lore”. My father’s mother was named Dorothy Mowat (little did I know…) – I just called her “Granny”… I remember Granny telling me when I was about 12 years old that her family settled from Scotland in Kingston, Ontario (south of Ottawa on Lake Ontario) in the early 1800’s – in 1814, it turns out – read on to see how I know that.

Mowat – MOWAT – where have I run across that name?  Ah-ha, my Canadian History – Sir Oliver Mowat – one of the fathers of the Canadian confederation! A relative? Yes, it turns out. And then another flicker of memory from my brain – a little digging in my own stamp collection found a stamp commemorating him. Here is a nice scan from Canada’s Postal Archive Database:

Canadian Postal Archives Database – Sir Oliver Mowat, Scotts 517 (Canada, 1970)

Well, this is quite interesting. Mowat was:

  • born on 22 July, 1820 and died on 19 April, 1903;
  • a clerk for Canada’s first Prime Minister John Macdonald;
  • Ontario’s Postmaster General from 1863 to 1864;
  • a delegate to the historic Quebec Conference in October 1864;
  • a Vice-Chancellor of Upper Canada from 1864 to 1872;
  • the Premier of Ontario from 1872 to 1896;
  • knighted Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG);
  • and awarded the Grand Cross of that Order on 22 June, 1897.

What do you know… I think that my brother has the Grand Cross medal in a display case from my father’s office – and now we know why my father had it.

There is a story behind every postage stamp, and this is the story of Scotts 517, Canada, 1970! And of my great-great-(not sure how many greats) Uncle Oliver.

Stamp Collecting is a Dying Passion

October 12, 2010

When my father was late in his life, he pulled me aside one evening on a visit and said in the most serious and sincere tone of voice, “Brian, I want you to have my stamps. Take these boxes back with you.” For him, his stamp collection was a way to see the world from a distance. Every postage stamp told him a story – entertained his fantasy to travel, to meet interesting people and see fascinating places. I am afraid that collecting postage stamps is a dying passion. I don’t know anyone who seriously collects stamps today, but I still collect postage stamps. While I was looking at a box of his old envelops from the ’30s and the ’40s, I knew why stamp collecting was no longer appealing to young people today.

Aside from about two years studying physics at the University of Cambridge in England and a trip to France with my mother while he was between semesters, Dad’s travels in his life were limited to North America. Granted, there is a lot to see close to home, but the rest of the world is much, much more… And stamps were his window to the rest of the world he would never see first hand.

A cancelled postage stamp can cost nothing to obtain. My father came from a modest family with no disposable income to dedicate to his hobbies, but stamp collecting cost my father and his family virtually nothing but time.

Stamp collecting fed my father’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was a classic illustration of OCD… He collected everything – books, antiques, stamps, coins, engravings and lithographs, and on and on. I think that stamps were his first obsession.

Stamp collecting can also be very social. My father would talk and talk to people he knew, and just before saying “goodbye”, he would ask if they had any postage stamps. He had dozens of his friends “on the look-out” for postage stamps, and stamps were his excuse to visit many of his friends. I think this was good for my father.

It is a treat to look at my father’s old stamp albums – one from about the age of 6 or 7 came with a companion book for duplicates labeled in pencil and illustrated in crayon: “Stamps – Traders – Dominion of Canada”. See the somewhat polar view of North America? See the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean with the rather longish Pacific coastline south of Alaska? You can just barely make out “Dominion” in pencil across the Territories.

Today, the Internet provides that fantasy “window to the world” very effectively. Today, society provides many surpluses to feed a person’s OCD. Today, most children would rather sit in front of a TV or a computer. Today, time seems to be too precious. Today, stamp collection is a dying passion – but it is still one of My passions.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.