Royal Reels: Gambling


It is just over two years since I first saw a cover addressed to a doctor in Arequipa Peru, and it has taken me all this time to find enough, albeit very limited, information about the addressee. I had been attracted to the name Arequipa, since my success in buying a modest number of shares of Arequipa Resources, a goldmine in Peru, prior to its takeover by the giant Canadian Barrick Gold.

The registered airmail cover was sent from Randwick, N.S.W. on 13 November 1957 which was the first day of issue of the violet pair of 7½d QE II definitive. The First Day Cover was described as the ‘New Design and Value of/ Elizabethan Series/ Foreign Postage Rate/ 13th November 1957′, and the rest of the stamps were make-up value stamps. The cover was addressed to Dr. C.A. Ricketts, Castilla 265, Arequipa, Peru (Figure 1).

The postmarks on the reverse were easier to read: RANDWICK/ 13NO57/ N.S.W-AUST and G.P.O. SYDNEY/ 13NO57B/ N.S.W-AUST with an arrival double circle PERU/ C/ FEB 1 1957/ AEREO/ LIMA, which is obviously an incorrect date. The purple boxed postmark at the SECTION CERTIFICADOS was ( )9 NOV 1957 (Figure 2).

Arequipa (founded in 1540) is the capital of the department of Arequipa and is the most important city of southern Peru (black arrow). It stands at the foot of the snow-capped volcano El Misti (5,822 metres). It has many fine colonial era Spanish buildings built of pearly white volcanic rock (sillar) used extensively in the construction of the city, from which it gets its nickname of La Ciudad Blanca (the white city). It is located at an altitude of 2,380 metres (7740 feet) above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, and is the second largest city in Peru, with an estimated population in 1998 of 710,000. It is 1000km from Lima (estimated population in 1998 of 7 million), the capital of Peru, which is shown with a red arrow (Figure 3).

Dr. Carlos A. Ricketts, was both a physician and senator in the 1920’s, and he had written extensively on the Coca habit and addiction, as well as attempting an unsuccessful attempt to introduce a law restricting its use in the natives of Peru where chewing coca leaf was endemic. He was still publishing in 1948 concerning the metabolic and social problems associated with coca. In 1952 he published a chapter on ‘The Coca Habit in Peru’ in a book on Drugs in the Western Hemisphere: An Odyssey of Cultures in Conflict.

My research on Dr. Ricketts was not very informative, but it did lead into another subject of which I had a vague notion, namely the controversy concerning the early recipe for the beverage Coca Cola. It was invented by Dr. John Styth Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, in 1886 when it was formulated with extract of coca leaves and kola nuts, hence the derivation of the name. Originally it was marketed for its medicinal properties, and there was a time when many patent medicines contained coca leaves or cocaine (an alkaloid extracted from the leaves). Coca Cola never contained much cocaine, and this small amount was quickly reduced to almost undetectable amounts after a few years, when cocaine’s negative properties started to become evident. Since 1929 there has been no cocaine in Coca Cola, but the leaves were still used for flavour, as the alkaloids had been completely removed.

Addenda:  Two more covers from Australia, the first from Victoria and the second from Tasmania, both in 1946, a decade earlier than Figure 1, both addressed to Dr. C.A. Ricketts at the same address as before.  Both have a fine reception postmark for AREQUIPA on the reverse, which was not the case for the original cover.  As both covers are very fine, no commentary is necessary, but now 3 Australian States are the source of the correspondence, and one has to wonder why the airmail postage on Figure 4 was 5 shillings and one pence?

An additional finding was that Dr. Ricketts was a stamp collector for on a 1955 F.D.C  there was a handstamp that the cover was sent by the Koala Stamp & Hobby Club of Cross Street, Toorak, Victoria, as well as a F.D.C. in 1945 from  the Radio Stamp Club, Hamley Bridge, South Australia.  This information is more definitive of Ricketts being a stamp collector than in Figure 1.