The postcard was addressed to W.H. Schmalz Esqre, Secretary, Economical Insurance Co., Berlin, Ontario, Canada and it had a blue 2½d ‘Swan’ stamp of Western Australia with 2 cancellations, a duplex PERTH/ 1/ AP 10/ 01/ W-A with a barred obliterator GPO/ D, as well as a SHIP MAIL ROOM/ 1/ AP 10/ 01/ PERTH. WA (Figure 1).

The reverse has a dramatic depiction of an Australian aboriginal dance involving 5 near-naked men, and the sender had placed a ms. Down the left edge explaining it depicted ‘a native “Coroboree” (sic) or dance’ and gave an address of 825 Hay St., Perth, April 8th 1891, corrected to 1901, at the upper border. At the lower border there was a message: ‘Thanks for various communications. Sorry to find your fine building has been burned down. This is just (the meaning of the message not certain, ending with:) our native blacks’. I have never seen the white ‘cartwheel’ head-dress before but I am not an authority on corroborees (Figure 2).

In 1871, a group of people in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario created a plan to protect their neighbours from the devastating hardships caused by fire and lightning. Economical Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Berlin issued its first policy on a house and barn on November 25. Today, the Canadian-owned Economical Insurance Group is one of the largest property and casualty insurers in Canada serving customers from coast to coast. We have held fast to our “neighbour helping neighbour” philosophy. We contribute to our communities by sponsoring fund raising events and enthusiastically supporting local charities. We also live our philosophy daily when we serve our customers.

Berlin Ontario was proclaimed a city on June 10, 1912. The Dominion of Canada Census of 1911 had credited Berlin with 15,195 citizens. It was the first town in Canada to wait until it had the statuary fifteen thousand citizens before applying for a city charter. The proclamation was read one second after midnight on June 9 1912 in the presence of six thousand citizens assembled in the square. On the Town Hall steps stood Mayor W.H. Schmalz, (the 27th mayor of Berlin, Ontario), together with the Reeve W.D. Euler and 17 aldermen (all with Germanic-origin names), as well as other prominent men. When the twelfth stroke of the post-office clock had ceased reverberating, the mayor read the official notice. The announcement was hailed with a mighty cheer and a band melody. Mr. Schmalz then congratulated the citizens on having entered into the charmed city circle. Church bells pealed and cannon-firecrackers detonated. Afterward the band and lines of rejoicing citizens marched up and down King Street until cockcrow.

Among those who arrived in the village of Berlin was the mayor’s father, Balthazar Schmalz (1834-1891). The mayor’s son, W.H.E. Schmalz was the designer of the city’s first Town Hall.

The mayor was of an artistic bent, and one of his works was to alter the original crest that the Berlin village council adopted in 1854 which had 4 images: the crown, symbolizing allegiance to Queen Victoria; the beaver, which represented citizens’ industriousness; the axe and saw, paying tribute to the pioneers; and the locomotive, which stood for a bright future. This crest served the Village of Berlin (1754-71) and the town of Berlin (1871-1912). When Berlin was officially designated as a city in 1912, Mayor Schmalz designed a new crest, keeping the crown and a beaver from the original design. His design was kept from June 1912 until August 31 1916, when the name of the city was changed to Kitchener. A picture of Mayor W.H. Schmalz, who served The Economical Fire Insurance Company for fifty years, and was its Manager from 1902 to 1933, is seen in Figure 3.

I had no idea well into researching for this paper that he was a philatelist of note, and then I found the statement that he was “a great stamp collector at the turn of the century.” This was given credence when I found a remarkable cover at a notable Toronto philatelic auction house. The cover was described as follows: Large & small Queens – grey with cracked plate variety used on round the world cover originally mailed with additional six small Queen values from Berlin Ontario 14 JY 96 to Australia, remailed with 4 different Australian stamps 25 AU 96 from Melbourne to Austria, and thence with seven Austrian stamps (plus 4 additional on reverse) on 27 Sep 96 from Hallein, Austria to Canada, a lovely and most colourful cover, but especially nice with the variety (grey Queen with cracked plate variety) escaping notice of one of the keenest stamp minds at the time, W.H. Schmalz (my italics). Estimate $1250+. Price realised: $2,100 (Figures 4 & 5).

I acknowledge that much of the information concerning Mayor W.H. Schmalz was derived from a Google Book on a history of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada originally written in 1975 by Kathleen Wilken and Vera Tanner, Wilfred LaurierUniversity Press ISBN 0-88920-024-6, updated by W.V. Uttley as a History of Kitchener-Waterloo.  This book is a veritable treasure for the region, highly recommended.