Professional Stamp Experts

New Brunswick's Contribution to Stamp Collecting

Michael O. Nowlan - April 5, 1999

New Brunswick is one of the smallest provinces in Canada, but its contribution to stamp collecting ranks near the topmost rung of the ladder.

Before Confederation (1867) when four provinces joined to form the Dominion of Canada, New Brunswick issued its own stamps. The initial stamps were in a pence issue of 1851, but when the colony decided to move to decimal currency in 1860, new stamps were required. The 1860 stamps were to leave their mark on the history of stamp collecting in at least four distinctive ways.

The most famous stamp of the lot was the five-cent Connell, which bore the image of colony's Postmaster-General Charles Connell. The stamp, which was never issued for postage, created quite a furor in government forcing Connell to resign and destroy all the stamps. Since all the stamps were not destroyed, the 60 or so that remain in existence are much in demand and may command five figure prices at auction.

The Connell stamp is a story that has often been told, but little recognition is given to the one-cent brown, the 12 1/2-cent blue, and the 17-cent black in the series. All of them were firsts in the marketing and production of stamps.

The one-cent brown features a wood-burning locomotive, the first stamp ever to feature a train. Although the train has no positive identification, two models have been suggested as prototypes. One was the locomotive Ossekeag No 9 of the European and North American Railway. That line was opened between Pointe de Chene and Moncton, New Brunswick in 1857, and by 1860, shortly after the stamp was issued, the line had been extended from Saint John to Shediac, 108 miles.

Nicholas Argenti (THE POSTAGE STAMPS OF NEW BRUNSWICK AND NOVA SCOTIA) says the train looks more like one built for the Portland Locomotive Company for the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railway. Argenti is probably correct, especially since the stamps were printed by the American Bank Note Company in New York. A significant feature of the one-cent brown focuses on the many color shade varieties.

The 12 1/2-cent blue stamp in the 1860 New Brunswick series depicts the first ship to appear on a stamp. It is a steamship, but there are conflicting accounts as to which one. Probably, the best theory follows that used for the train. One source suggests it is the Royal William, a ship built at Quebec in 1831, which was the first steamship to carry mail. It sailed from Pictou, Nova Scotia to England in 1833 setting a record of 19 1/2 days. The Royal William was the subject on a Canadian stamp (Scott 204) in 1933.

The more likely ship on the New Brunswick stamp is the Washington which was launched in 1847 and became the first American Transatlantic Mail Steamship. Most collectors concede the resemblance is closer to the Washington than the Royal William.

The last stamp in the series, the 17-cent black, which was used for postage on letters sent from New Brunswick via an American port to England or Europe, bears the image of the then Prince of Wales, who became Edward VII on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. It is the only stamp of its era to portray a member of royalty other than Queen Victoria, so it also gets distinctive billing as a first for collectors.

The other stamps in the New Brunswick decimal series, namely the two-cent orange, the five-cent green which replaced the infamous Connell stamp, and the ten-cent red, had the famed Alfred Chalon painting of Queen Victoria.

This 1860 stamp series from what was then a colony of Great Britain is far from obscure. Stamps and plate proofs often appear in auctions or on dealer lists, and they are quickly snapped up.

Charles Connell, who caused the scandal with his own image on a stamp, left a timeless legacy to the hobby by selecting non traditional images for the colony's stamps at a time when only heads of state got that honor.

Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.

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