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S. ORLO-SMITH, PHILATELIST, MASONIC LODGE PRESIDENT, &THEOSOPHIST.

This S. Orlo-Smith Australian POST CARD is the earliest I have seen and it has a printed red 1d stamp of King Edward VII? or King George V?, and it has a roller cancel from Victoria, but the date is not visible. It is addressed to S OrloSmith (with no hyphen) 46 Park Street, St. Kilda, and the reverse was not seen.  An enlargement of the printed red 1d stamp is shown, overlying the lower left side of the cover. (Figure 1).

 

 

The registered second cover has a Wyndham, Western Australia label and is addressed to Melbourne, Victoria with a return address for Orlo-Smith and Co., at a G.P.O. Melbourne address. The red Opening of Australian Parliament 1½d and the blue Explorer Captain Charles Sturt 3d stamps are cancelled as a Derby-Wyndham flight in July 1930 flight (Figure 2).

The entry in the Nelson Eustis book 4th edition (1984) ‘The Australian Air Mail Catalogue’ for this flight is shown as item 164/165, seen as Figure 3.

The third cover was a First Day cover prepared by Orlo-Smith with a copy of the blue KGVI definitive stamp postmarked on the day of issue at MELBOURNE/ 430 PM/ 2 AUG/ 1937 with a slogan REGISTER/ VALUABLE/ M(AIL) and sent to his company Messrs. Orlo-Smith & Co. at a Melbourne G.P.O. box (Figure 4).

Through the generosity of Richard Breckon I have a photocopy of a paper written by A.J. Derrick who in 1926 was a former President of the Philatelic Society, and at the request of the Philatelic Society of Victoria, he had written a history of the Society for the years 1892-1926. On page 46, Stan Orlo-Smith became a member of the Society in February, 1908. He was next mentioned on page 62 when it was stated that he had become the Secretary, Treasurer and Exchange Superintendent of the Society for a 5 year period from 1910, except for the 7 month period in 1914 when he had been out of the State of Victoria. He was mentioned in the minutes on p. 69 when in January 1919 he was chosen as one of two members, the other being B.H. Altson, and they recommended the removal of the Society’s meetings to a better site, which was approved by the Society. In October 1917 Orlo-Smith had resigned his triple position in the Society after holding the position for seven years, and a resolution of appreciation and thanks was passed for his long and efficient services. The minutes on p. 72 recorded that the ‘Australian Philatelic Record’ (‘A.P.R.’) in July 1929 was made the official organ of the Society, displacing the ‘Australian Philatelist’, and that in January 1920 S. Orlo-Smith had purchased the ‘A.P.R.’

The minutes on p. 74 discussed the holding of a Philatelic Congress and Exhibition, and three of the Society members, one being Orlo-Smith, were appointed to act as representatives of the Society on the Congress Committee. This philatelic meeting was to be named as the ‘Second Congress and Exhibition’, and Orlo-Smith was appointed Secretary of the Congress. On March 16, 1927 Orlo-Smith stated that due to pressure of other business he was unable to carry on the ‘A.P.R.’ and he suggested that the Society should take over its publication. Orlo-Smith was appointed as the auditor of the Society for 1921-22. In September, 1923 Orlo-Smith was accorded a resolution of congratulations and felicitation on his triumphal acquittal of the charges which had recently been brought against him, and he thanked the members for their expression of sympathy and confidence. This legal case had reference to the use of duty stamps which had been taken from his business stock and were apparently unused, but which proved to have been cleaned, presumably by another person. The last position for Orlo-Smith recorded in the minutes of the Victorian Society of Philatelists was shown that he was President of the Philatelic Society of Victoria in 1919-20, and this position was presumably a reward for his untiring assistance to the Society in the last 12 years.

Two additional pieces of information were found in a newspaper, one about him and the other about his wife. The Argus (Melbourne) on Saturday 23 March 1946, page 4 headlined OBITUARY. MR. S. ORLO-SMITH: Mr. S. Orlo-Smith, a leading figure in Masonic and philatelic circles, died in Melbourne on Wednesday. He was a past master and founding master of the first philatelic lodge in the world, as well as past master of the Surrey Hills (Victoria) lodge. A former president of the Melbourne Theosophical Society and chairman of the trustees, Mr. Orlo-Smith was a president of the Glenferrie Hill Recreation Club. As a stamp collector, Mr. Orlo-Smith handled a famous specialised collection (of stamps), and until the outbreak of war supplied to the Royal collection all new issues of Commonwealth stamps, including a number of rarities of Australia and the Pacific Islands. Mr. Orlo-Smith is survived by his widow.

The Argus (Melbourne), Monday 7 April, 1947, page 4 was headlined THEOSOPHISTS IN CONFERENCE and it mentioned that Mrs. S.E. Orlo-Smith was made a member of the Australian Council.

 Stanley Orlo-Smith commenced philatelic trading in Melbourne in 1910 (see obituary, given as 1917), and his firm produced inscribed generic First Day Covers from 1927 until the late 1940's.  His greatest philatelic contribution was publication of 'The Australian  Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue' from 1926, and he was considered to be an expert on the variety of colours of the red one penny KGV 'Red Heads'.  In 1930 he negotiated the sale of the R.W.J. Purves Australian Commonwealth collection, considered to be the world's best at that time, to King George V.  Rod Perry mentioned that Purves was his mentor in the early stage of his career, and Purves had once mentioned that Orlo-Smith  "had suggested during negotiations that a higher offer might be forthcoming, given a little arm-wrestling.  To that suggestion, Purves snapped back "Good Lord, man.  You don't do that sort of thing to the King of England". 

Richard Breckon, Team Leader Philatelic Archives, Australia Post, supplied me with text and a fine cartoon drawing by the artist 'Tram', who has not been identified, and this is seen in Figure 5.

A brief obituary was found by Richard Breckon in the 'Australian Stamp Monthly' on April 1, 1946,  page 163:  "We regret to record the death on March 20 of Mr. Stephen Orlo-Smith, who for very many years  has been a prominent figure in Australian philatelic circles....(he) disposed of his stamp business a few months ago and it was hoped that this release from business burdens would enable his improvement in health.... this was not to be, and we mourn the passing of a great philatelist and a kindly man".

"Mr. Orlo-Smith was born in London in 1880 and set up his stamp business in Melbourne in 1917... he will be remembered for his stirling work for the 1934 (Phillatrlic) Exhibition and of his many courtesies and kindnesses over a long space of years.  It then goes on to mention Purves' article in a recent issue of the 'A.S.M.' which was also supplied by Richard Breckon, and it appears below as an abbreviated account of Purves' 'Mr. Orlo-Smith, in Retrospect' which appeared in the 'A.S.M.' January 1, 1946.

He is eulogised for his many sterling  qualities in the first 2 paras and para 3 states that 'after many wanderings he arrived in Melbourne in 1907, his joining the Philatelic Society of Victoria and his work there-in is described, which has already has been recorded above.  Purves speaks of the importance of Orlo-Smith's 8 editions of the  Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue, his handling of the sale of the specialised philatelic collections of Messrs. Purves, Rosenblum and Burchett.  Before wishing Orlo-Smith a happy retirement, the penultimate para sums up the qualities of the man: 

"His was truly an exclusive business, but it was exclusive only in the best sense, by reason of the personal imprint he placed upon it.  He radiated a kindness and urbanity which might, indeed, as a characteristic of the past, be  well copied by the high-pressure artists of the present".  There was no additional biographical information, and also no reference to the 'Theosophical' Orlo-Smith. 

The Theosophical aspect of Orlo-Smith's life included a finding of 7 articles in The Campbell Theosophical Research Library between 1924 and 1945, published in the Australian Theosophist (as well as 1 article written by his wife, S.Ethel Orlo-Smith).  Only one of these articles will be reviewed here, for it is the only one that has autobiographical data in it.  It is entitled "How I came into Theosophy" and it appeared in the the above Journal, 16 December 1927, pages 221-2.  It is written in an amusing 'chatty' style which was somewhat self-deprecatory.  I have severely pruned the article.

"I was brought up on a liberal diet of hell-fire and damnation, my parents being srtict Plymouth Brethren...at my age of nine my father died.  At 15, I first encoutered the Big Business World, and refused to adorn any further meetings of the Brethren.  I then made a few cautious  pilgrimages, at long intervals to various other sects, but could find nothing to suit my particilar fancy.  ...I went across to America....Some time after arriving in Australia in 1907, I felt the urge to exercise my vocal cords (I had belonged to a male Orpheus Club in America) and was thinking to join something similar here.  A friend suggested my joining a Church of England choir.. I enjoyed the singing ... after a few years the choir work became monotonous - I left the choir (and the religion).  Then I married, and at (my wife's request) I occasionally allowed her to drag me off to various meetings of various sects... my wife made enquiries about the Theosophical Society (at) its Lodge in Melbourne...she attended a meeting but I refused to go.  When she returned she was so enthusiastic that I determined to accompany her  the next Sunday.  I went and knew that I had found what I had always been groping after;  I had found a philosophy which taught that one could live a good life and gain perfection  without ever going to church.  I joined the library and rushed through several books a week.  In March 1916, I took the plunge and joined the Melbourne Lodge as I thought it was up to me to do what I could to help things along.    I wanted to be quite certain that I was in earnest.  My wife and her sister followed me 3 months later.  In February 1917 I was asked to take the position of treasurer of the Lodge and I have been permitted to keep a seat warm at committee meetings since then".

I acknowledge that all the information on Orlo-Smith's life as a Theosophist was provided by Jennifer Hissey. She and I were surprised that she could not find an obituary on him in any of the Society's records.

  

 

 
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