Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs (WFSC)
Across the Fence Post Newsletter
2006 Selected Articles

          This page includes selected articles from the 2006 issues of Across the Fence Post.

January issue

It's Quite A Bridge! (Canada's Confederation Bridge)

By Jack Searles, Published in the Olean Stamp Club Newsletter, APS Chapter 1442, searles@eznet.net

This last Summer my family and I vacationed on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. Traditionally, the majority of people visiting PEI arrived on the island via ferry service between Nova Scotia and the island. This service was guaranteed to the smallest Canadian province when PEI joined the Canadian Confederation in 1873.

Specifically, the national government agreed to provide "continuous and efficient year round transport for people, goods and services" between PEI and mainland Canada. For years, however, other options for crossing the Northumberland Strait were talked about, planned and even attempted without much success... until recently.

In 1987 the Government of Canada sought proposals from the private sector for an environmentally, technically and financially sound alternative to the ferry system between PEI and the mainland. Proposals were generated, bids let and ultimately contracts signed on October 7, 1993 with the Strait Crossing Development, Incorporated, representing a consortium of Canadian enterprises, for the planning, engineering, building and operation of a bridge across the Northumberland Strait. This bridge cost $840 million dollars to construct. Construction costs are fixed for Canadian taxpayers for the period 1997 through 2032.

The bridge is rated with a 100-year life. However, during the first thirty five (35) years period the Strait Crossing Development has responsibility for all costs and will collect and retain bridge tolls ($35.00 Canadian collected as your leave PEI). In 2033, ownership of the bridge will be transferred to the Federal government. Bridge tolls are calculated based on 1992-ferry service costs plus inflation.

Well, on June 1, 1997, this engineering marvel dubbed the Confederation Bridge was opened to traffic. Let me give you some specifics about the bridge, which connects PEI with New Brunswick. It is 12.9 kilometers (8 miles) long and 11 meters (36.1 feet) wide with two lanes (one going each direction) with an emergency lane on each side of the road. The bridge, typically, is 40 meters (131.24 feet 11stories) over the water with a navigation span (so ships can pass under the bridge) having a height of 60 meters (196.9 feet) above the water. The speed limit on the bridge is 80 km/h (about 45 mph) with no passing.

The crossing, assuming no delays, is estimated to take about 10 to 15 minutes. To aid those of us who really don't enjoy bridge crossings, a retaining wall obscures the view of the water on all but the navigation span.

The bridge is also lightly "S" shaped to reduce the hypnotic effect of straight bridges. Located in one of the windiest parts of Canada, it's currently the largest span in the world over a body of water that regularly freezes.

Justifiably, Canada is quite proud of its architectural giant. To commemorate the event, Canada Post issued on May 31, 1997 a se-tenant pair of stamps attached to a label that depict the Confederation Bridge. These stamps are designed to provide a three part panoramic view of the bridge from the New Brunswick side. The tab or label which joins the two stamps depicts the beginning of the navigation span on the bridge. The two stamps are valued at $.45, the current Canadian domestic postal rate.

Crossing the bridge is certainly a not to be missed part of the PEI experience. I encourage those traveling in this part of Canada to see "the bridge" firsthand. For what it's worth, "the bridge" means many things to many people. Some islanders share its many positive aspects: increased island access, communication heightened, commerce enhanced. Others feel they'll be too "challenged" by the traffic and the numbers of people brought to them via "the bridge."

Only the future will tell the ultimate impact of this engineering marvel of the Confederation Bridgewill have on the residents of PEI. For now, suffice it to say, PEI is a fantastic vacation spot populated by wonderfully hospitable people. For me, the bridge is a spectacular means to an end. If you're going to PEI, the bridge is worth the effort!

Canada Post, "Hands across the Water"- Canada's Stamp Details (Vol 6, No 3, May/June, 1997)

Journal Pioneer. Confederation Bridge: Official souvenir edition. May, 1997.

Strait Crossing Development, Inc., "Confederation Bridge: For a Strait Forward Experience." Internet web page.

February issue #1

Hong Kong's Philatelic Days of Thunder

By Tom Fortunato, Chairman, APS Chapter Activities Committee, stamptmf@frontiernet.net

The last few days of independent Hong Kong were a philatelic once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or a nightmare, depending on one's point of view. The "thunder" came from collectors and speculators alike lining at up at 22 post offices for the latest stamp issues.

Above is the last philatelic issue from British Hong Kong. This souvenir sheet was sold only between the hours of 8-2 on June 28. Although difficult to see, it bears the royal cipher of QEII, making it invalid for postage by 12:01 AM on July 1, the time of the official transfer of the territory to China. The special postmark was available on a hand-back basis for collectors July 28 at all post offices and July 29-30 at special philatelic branches. There was a limit of 10 per person for this sheet.

The first issues of Chinese Hong Kong were spawned on July 1 along with the commemorative postmark (if desired) depicted here. It, too, bore a HK $5 stamp in a souvenir sheet, worth about US 65 cents at face value. Only 20 souvenir sheets per person could be purchased. Six additional stamps of various denominations were also on sale.

Hong Kong stamps continue to be popular throughout the Far East, especially in its new motherland, China. With a bustling secondary market for new Hong Kong issues, often at rates of 5-10 times face value, is it any wonder that the Hong Kong Post Office warned patrons that stamp values can eventually go down as well as up?

By the way, the entire Hong Kong region received torrential rains for more than a week after their day in the spotlight. Hope all collectors there are storing their treasures in a dry place! Happy stamping!

Hong Kong's New Flag

For additional details, go to the Hong Kong Post web site: http://www.info.gov.hk/hkpo/forth.htm

February issue #2

Diana: One Collector's Perspective on the Aftermath

By Jack Searles
Published in the Olean Stamp Club Newsletter, APS Chapter 1442

I am a collector of British Commonwealth stamps. My connection to the late Diana-Princess of Wales stops, on one level, with the fact that she has appeared, oftentimes with Prince Charles, on recent British Commonwealth stamps.

I am not quite sure, therefore, why Diana's recent death has fixated me. After all, the stamps issued in her memory are simply more stamps in a long, seemingly endless line of an Omnibus stamp sets published by the British Commonwealth.

I have to say, however, that my overwhelming impression of the proceedings associated with Diana's death have left me both appalled and angry. I am upset by drunk drivers. I'm upset by the role the media played in the circumstances. I am upset by the role, or more appropriately the lack of empathetic role, played by the English monarchy.

I sincerely feel for Diana's two sons and only wish that she could have really known the acceptance and support she had from her nation and the world in life rather than in death. For me, the whole situation is a gut-wrenchingly sad and lamentable situation. Maybe it's the circumstances, maybe it's the mood.

However, I have to tell you within hours after Diana's death stamp collectors and speculators throughout the world flooded the Internet with outlandishly high "buy" offers for any stamps depicting Diana. If you want to sell your auction lot, put a Diana cover in it!

In a perceived effort to seemingly corner and profit from the ghoulish market her death created, I am sure many have profited. Bets have already been lain as to which country will be the first to issue "mourning stamps." I can click off about 15 countries right away- you know, the ones that flood the market with millions of stamps about any popular topic you want to mention. Somehow, this does not seem like tribute to me. Instead, it seems like distasteful indisecretion.

This collector, because of my feelings, refuses to participate in this circus. The best approach I can think of to discourage this activity is to not support it. So... all you nations that seek to exploit Diana in her death, count me out! Again, I can't explain my feelings other than being introspective and not wanting to participate in the "feeding frenzy".

Further, I guess we all have Diana in our lives- people who are special to us yet largely not acknowledged. Why not acknowledge them in life rather than only in death?

March issue

From the "Top" of the Barrel

by Tom Fortunato, Chairman, APS Chapter Activities Committee stamptmf@frontiernet.net

Have you heard of "lock" stamps? Below you'll find an example of this rather unknown area of back of the book American philately. I last saw an article about them a few years back in Linn's Stamp News. It dealt with U.S. Customs and similar seals (green, I believe) used to guarantee that the contents in the locked room were not tampered with after inspection. Note that these below are similarly without denominations of any kind. According to the dealer, these smaller cousins were used on individual barrels of liquor locked to guarantee that no additional "watering down substance" was added. That sounds plausible to me. They're not listed by Scott's.

Although a bit difficult to read, they have the inscription "U.S. Inter. Rev. Lock Seal," and in very small print, "Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Litho." They are rouletted horizontally all the way across and vertically through the gutters, leaving straight edges on the sides and bottom. When I spotted them, there were 8 seals: 4 on each side separated by a wide gutter. Each "pane" started life as 10 seals mounted in a booklet at the top. Here is the lower pair. Three additional pairs were attached, bearing black sequential numbers 40552 through 40555 on left handed seals, and 40557 through 40560 on the right. Additionally, there is scoring on each running from Liberty's left eye to the bottom of the frame line, running through the black overprint "SERIES B." Have you seen these before, or know more about their use?

Since posting this article, several people have responded back with more information.

The most comprehensive response came from Ron Lesher, noted American revenue collector and writer, who has the following article posted at http://www.ericjackson.com/lesher7.htm...

U.S. Internal Revenue Lock Seals

Finally we turn to a fifth purpose of revenues, to insure that taxes will be paid. Although this category of "stamps" does not show that a tax was paid or that it is exempt from taxation, these "stamps" are required by law to insure that the proper taxes are or will be paid. Both hydrometer labels and lock seals fit into this category.

Lock seals were required by law to be used in securing untaxed distilled spirits in distillery warehouses and proprietorsí bonded warehouses. So we stray just a little farther to some items that have been enthusiastically collected by the devotees of revenues. In my own research (still unpublished) on the lock seals, I ran into an inquiry of Robert S. Hatcher (a stamp collector!) to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in the late 1880ís. So collector interest in the lock seals goes back more than a century.

There are six known basic types of lock seals, two glass types used by the U.S. Customs Service and three paper types used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and another paper type that was used in the late 1860ís by Internal Revenue inspectors. I shall confine myself here to the three paper types inscribed U.S. Internal Revenue. During the later years of National Prohibition the responsibility for alcohol was transferred first to the newly created Bureau of Prohibition and then to another new creation, the Bureau of Industrial Alcohol. These two bureaus used Slaight lock seals with new inscriptions. However, they otherwise resemble the lock seals of Internal Revenue used both during the early years of Prohibition and after repeal of the 18th amendment.

Lock seals did not have a monetary value and did not indicate that either a tax had been paid or that an item was tax exempt. Neither was a fee paid for their use. So why should they be considered as revenue stamps? Their traditional inclusion among the revenues is justified by their use to insure the integrity of the system for assessing and collecting the taxes on certain goods. In addition their use was required by the very acts that levied the taxes.

The same act which brought about the first paper distilled spirits taxpaid stamps in 1868 also required the use of seal locks on distillery warehouses. These locks required that at the time of closing something be inserted into the lock which covered the keyhole to discourage tampering with the lock. Plain paper seals were initially used with the storekeepers encouraged to mark the paper with a secret mark (to be changed frequently). It was not until 1872, when the patented seal lock of Thomas L. Slaight of Newark, New Jersey was adopted, that lock seals were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The brass Slaight locks, with only a few improvements over the years, were to be used continuously until 1951.

The Slaight lock seals themselves underwent some changes over the decades of use. The earliest seals used a four digit serial number with an alphabetical letter appended to the serial number as either a prefix or a suffix. The discovery of the thirteen letters of the alphabet that were used remains unpublished, but later this year a more full story of the early Slaight lock seals will be published. The increased demand for the lock seals led the Bureau to abandon the letters when a five digit serial number was introduced about 1880. Further increased demand led the Bureau to add a printed series designation which used 22 letters of the alphabet (omitting the use of I, J, O and Q). During these years the Slaight lock seals were printed from engraved plates.

The economic pressures of the early twentieth century led the Bureau to switch to offset printing of the Slaight lock seals beginning in 1913, one of the earliest conversions of revenues from intaglio to offset printing. The low denominations of documentary, proprietary, and wine stamps for the Act of October 22, 1914 were all printed by the offset method. Offset was used for the Slaight lock seals until the use of this lock was abandoned after 1951.

Seal locks were not abandoned, however. A larger seal (designated as the Series of 1952 by the Bureau) was introduced which in overall design was similar in appearance to the former Slaight lock seals. The Series of 1952 seals continued to be printed until 1970.

The third type of paper lock seal was for the Caton lock. It was introduced in 1878. Although the first government pronouncements indicate that it was to be a replacement for the Slaight locks, the continued production and delivery of Slaight lock seals throughout the 1880ís indicate that this did not occur. In fact, it was the Caton lock that was abandoned after 1893, when deliveries of the Caton lock seals ceased. A search of government records has not turned up the reasons for either the introduction or the abandonment of the Caton locks and seals.

The best listing of the lock seals to date was the Priester listing in the April, 1986 issue of The American Revenuer. The listing follows the practice of early catalogers by listing them alphabetically by color. This practice was adopted because of the paucity of information on the order of issuance. This situation should be remedied by the publication of my own research.

Also sending information was Andy Oniszczuk lockboyandgirl@msn.com who sent several pictures and the following details...

These locks were placed over the key hole of a special seal padlock. The padlock was special because it had a door with a hole through it: This door would trap the seal paper over the keyhole, and when the padlock was locked, the trap door would hold the seal over the keyhole. The only way to open the lock, even by picking, would be to create a tear in the seal.

In fact, the small rectangular cutout that you see in the seal is where the "hook" of the trap door went through. This hook locked the trap door over the seal paper.

BIR locks opened and closed

There are three styles of seal locks. One is marked "BIR" and they're known among collectors as "whiskey locks" because they were used to secure untaxed alcohol around the 1950's time frame. These were made by a company called "Slaymaker".

The second is marked "US INT REV" and is from c. 1910 (not depicted). It's a Thomas Slaight patent, but Slaymaker made this padlock also. God only knowns what the Internal Revenue did with them! Use your imagination, I guess.

American Seal lock

The third is an American Seal lock, which accepts a seal of a different size then the first two locks.

April issue No column this issue

May/June issue

July/August issue

September issue

October issue

November issue

December issue

Latest update: March 6, 2006

URL:   http://www.WFSCstamps.org/wfsc_atfp_articles_2005.shtml