Royal Reels: Gambling


Here I go again showing another philatelically inspired paper, but my excuse this time is that there are several aspects of this registered air mail cover that warrant researching and recording this cover. There are several features worth discussion of the six stamps of colonial Australia with late use in 1950: the lilac ‘Two Pence’ of Victoria with the red ‘ONE PENNY’ overprint, the orange ‘Four Corners’ ‘One Penny’ of Queensland, the pink ‘One Penny’ of South Australia, the lilac 2d ‘Pictorial’ of Tasmania with the black overprint ‘One Penny’, the ‘One Penny’ ‘Swan’ stamp of Western Australia, as well as the blue 3½d ‘Universal Postal Union’ and brown 6d Kookaburra stamps of Australia, all framing the spectacular multicoloured ‘ONE PENNY’ plus 1/- Consumptives Home stamp of New South Wales. The stamps are cancelled 10 MY 50. The red crayon cross hatch and the blue Cabramatta N.S.W. Registration label, as well as a pair of blue BY AIR MAIL labels add further colour. There is a manuscript ‘Do Not Bend- Ne Pas Plier!’ and it is addressed to J. Wertheimer-Ghika, Bucuresti 1, Str. Belvedere 7, R.P. ROMANA, ROUMANIA (Figure1).

The reverse has manuscripts ‘Carta Postala/ Carte Postale Recommandée’, From/ Expéditeur A. Cronin, 142 Crown St., Sydney, N.S.W., Australia. There is an originating CABRAMATTA/ 10 MY 50/ N.S.W, a G.P.O SYDNEY/ AIR/ ( )/ 7/ N.S.W-AUST, as well as five European postmarks, including an arrival BUCURESTI/ I/ 30MAI1950-6)/ RECOMMANDATE/ SOSITE (Figure 2).

Jacques Wertheimer-Ghika, a multilingual (Roumanian, French and German) Roumanian philatelist was surprisingly difficult to research in English and I am indebted to Ellen Peachy of the American Philatelic Research Library for this sole finding of an English written review of his German written ‘Scharlatane als Altrumänien-Markenprüfer’, published by the author, n.d. [1977], n.p. (Munich, West Germany). This stiff cover book with 80 numbered pages including 4 color pages which was reviewed by Charlie Peterson. I apologise that the review is most uncomplimentary but it was the only information in English available, which I show in full, as Figure 3.

This inability to find information in English concerning Jacques Wertheimer-Ghika is made more surprising for he was regarded as an expert on the ealy Romanian stamps (the principality produced by the union of Moldavia and Wallachia on 23 December 1861). The stamps were produced by hand stamping onto the paper until 1865 when the stamps printed in Bucharest were issued. The handstamped ‘stamps’ were known as Ox Heads (Cap de Bou) and the frontispiece of the book on them by Jacques Wertheimer-Ghika, and the Ox Head stampings themselves are shown respectively in Figures 4 & 5.

The now named ‘semi-postals’ were the first stamps issued in the world in 1897, two for New South Wales and two for Victoria, partly for the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Victoria as well as a charity for the New South Wales Consumptive Home (whereas the Victorian pair were for a Hospital Fund). The lower value stamps were for postal 1d, with the remainder of the 1 shilling for the respective charity. The higher values were for postal 2½d with the remainder of the 2 shillings and 6 pence for the charity. The N.S.W. charity stamps were designed by C. Taylor and lithographed by the Government Printing Office, Sydney. The higher N.S.W. value is seen in Figure 6.

This was all the information I could find on the internet, until I found the following article in The Medical Journal of Australia by Professor J. Pearn MD: Phthisis and philately – an account of the Consumptives Home stamps of New South Wales: the world’s first charity stamps, December 1987 Volume 147, pages 575-577. In addition to be a physician, Pearn was also a historian and he had previously authored in 1969 in the same journal Medical philately of Australia on pages 1318-1324.What follows is my summary of his 1987 paper, much of which may never have been gathered together before, for Dr. Pearn had access to seven separate Minutes of Meetings of the Consumptives Hospital and its Queen Victoria Home Consumptives (QVHC) Fund for the dates of April 12 1897 until June 4, 1897. These minutes included high level meetings of the Governor(Viscount Hamden), the Postmaster General (Hon. M. Brinker of N.S.W)., leaders of various religious denominations, leading Physicians and Surgeons, as well as public meetings at the Town Hall, Sydney.

The QVHC Fund On April 28, 1897, a group of influential men and women met at Government House, Sydney to formalize the plans for a philanthropic fund to help tuberculosis victims and specifically to establish a hospital for consumtive patients in New South Wales. With the patronage of the wife of the Governor (Viscountess Hampden), senior members of the medical proession , the legislature, The University of Sydney, the churches and the influential social elite were present”.

A public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Sydney, on May 17, 1897, with both the Governor of New South Wales and the Honourable Edmund Barton (soon to be Australia’s first Prime Minister) on the stage. Four leading Sydney doctors, who were influential in the practical management of tuberculosis in the Colony were also on the stage….. The Town was crowded…a large portion of those present consisting of ladies. The following resolution was carried unanimously : …in view of the fact that no adequate provision for the treatment of consumptive patients has been made in this Colony, it is expedient that homes, to be known as the ‘Queen Victoria Homes for the Consumptives’ should be established in commemoration of the Record Reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria”.

“The philanthropic and royalist fervour on that occasion was such that an extended General Committee of over 100 persons was constituted, including in its ranks no fewer than 18 Sydney doctors. The meeting resolved to implement ‘a subscription list’…(and) it was decided that such Stamps should be issued, of the values of 1s and 2s 6d. (Two people ) were directed to consult further with the Post Master General on the question of the special stamps he proposes to issue for the benefit of the Hospital Fund, (and) the Committee still recommended they be a shilling and a half-crown”.

The NSW Government Printing Office undertook the task of engraving the designs and ultimately printed the stamps in sheets of 40 stamps. On June 4, 1987 (sic, should read 1897?) at a meeting of the Town Hall, the Fund secretary ‘reported the result of our interviews with his Excellency, on the subject of the issue of special Hospital Stamps of the value of 1s and 2s 6d, and submitted correspondence between His Excellency and the Government in the Matter; specimen designs were also submitted….and the Department (was) requested to extend the time of the issue to two months”.

“The final designs for the stamps were outstanding, and indeed the 2s 6d stamp (line engraved and printed in multiple colours including gilt and a rich waratah crimson) is, in my view, Australia’s most beautiful stamp. This 2s6d stamp (postal value, 2½d) was described officially by the Government Printing Office: the motif of restoration is typified by two figures draped in white, the strong gently leading the weak and pointing to the motto ‘Redifico’. The vignette is placed in a diamond shaped frame surrounded by flowers, with the inscription ‘Consumptive Home’ directly above it”.

“The 1s stamp (postage value, 1d) portrayed ‘an angel supporting an exhausted human being with a potrait of Queen Vitoria in the upper right. Across the top appears the inscription ‘Consumptive Home’. The meeting resolved to implement a Subscription List….that the monies collected for the Consumptive Hospital be vested in Trustees approved by the General Committee who shall have full power to dispose of the same, for the objects intended. Thus was born the Queen Victoria Homes for Consumptives Fund. In the first year of fund-raising, a flurry of ideas bore much fruit.

The additional ideas included: Promissory donation cards; sales of Governor’s speech as well as one by the Lady Mayoress; collection boxes were shaken at public events; business groups gave donations; theatrical and musical events were held; The Sydney Telegraph opened a subscription list; collections were made at the Tattersall’s Club and leading Sydney hotels; and every medical man in N.S.W. received a circular about the Fund and its aims of establishing Consumptive Hospitals. ” Initial sales were slow, perhaps because of the novel concept, or perhaps because of the high price….The stamps were never popular with the public, and as a result the QVHC Fund Committee felt that the Government should be more active in advertising the stamps. The Committee themselves finally bought a number of the stamps for indirect sale to business firms”, including banks and stationers. The Hospital issue eventually proved a financial success for the QVHC Fund….(with the sale of) £2928 16s 6d, some 23% of which was collected in the first year….. The Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives, Thirlmere continued in this role until 1965, in turn celebrating its own Diamond Jubilee”.

These charity stamps were the forerunner of the New Zealand Health stamps (since 1929), the anti-tuberculosis stamps of Belgium (from 1922) and the Pro-Juvenate issues of Switzerland.