Cinderellas part three: The first Cinderellas

fullsizeoutput_1932The question is asked: What was the first Cinderella? That is, what is the first artistic imitation of a postage stamp or “Artistamp,” not sanctioned by an official postal service?

My semi-authoritative source (Wikipedia) notes that “The first artist to produce an ‘artist’s stamp’ is open to interpretation.” Well, what do you know? I would say just about everything about this verfluchte subject of Cinderellas is open to interpretation. Nevertheless I shall soldier on, because I believe I have an interesting conjecture about the “first Cinderellas.”

Some consider the first Cinderellas were “local” mail delivery stamps — like the Pony Express, whose covers today are worth big bucks. Some local stamps were issued by regional postal authorities around the time the first U.S. stamps appeared, in 1847. In the later 1800s, commercial “poster stamps” are considered early artist’s stamps, or Artistamps. Otherwise, references seem to be mostly in the 20th century — a Dada postage stamp in 1919, World War II-era Artistamps, then the 1960s and beyond. (The term “Artistamp” is credited to T. Michael Bidner, in 1982. Bidner was a devoted archivist of artist’s stamps.)

My assertion is that Cinderellas appeared the same year as the world’s first postage stamp, the British Penny Black, in 1840; and that those very first Cinderellas helped determine the course of philately itself.

The story starts with the Mulready Cover, named for the artist, William Mulready. An associate of Rowland Hill who designed the Penny Black, Mulready was chosen to produce postage-paid envelopes, in one-penny and two-pence denominations. Think of it as the first aerogramme, about 80 years before  airmail service. The envelope Mulready came up with was an elegant engraving that featured Britannia with a lion at her feet, presiding over a kind of universal postal union — exotic animals and persons representing British subjects and others in different continents engaged in various activities, including getting and sending letters.

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Here is a Mulready Cover in my collection. It includes a pretty Maltese Cross red cancel on the front, and an 1840 postmark on the back that could be July or May — the earlier date would make it quite rare. I paid about $46 for it in an online auction — a pretty good deal, I’d say. Note Britannia dispatching winged, nude messengers from the center. Upper left, Asian elephants, camels and Chinese gentlemen crowd the space. Upper right are naked Indians and clothed Pilgrims, a mother with babe in arms and a busy cartwright. In the bottom corners are depictions of domestic letter-reading. These scenes figure in the caricatures to come.

Rowland Hill anticipated that his boring Penny Black stamp would be less popular than this exotic, engraved cover. He was wrong.

The Mulready Envelope never caught on.  There are at least three explanations out there. First, the cover was so busy that the public couldn’t really get the point. In fact, the Mulready Cover was subjected to public ridicule and scorn, some of it downright lascivious. The London Times took an immediate dislike to it. “We have been favored with a sight of one of the new stamp covers,” the newspaper editorialist opined, “and we must say that we have never beheld anything more ludicrous than the figure or allegorical device by which it is marked with its official character.” (More about this later.) A second factor was suspicion that the Mulready Cover was a government conspiracy to control the flow of information under the Postal Reforms Act that had just become law. The third explanation, which I want to dwell on at some length, was the threat posed to stationers by this new postal instrument, sold in 12-copy Formes for 1 shilling or 2 shillings. Since the aggrieved stationers had ready access to engravers and printers, they launched a media blitz. In the  milieu of 1840, this meant printed cartoons and caricatures. The satirical artwork began appearing almost simultaneously with the release of the Mulready covers. The public fuss was not lost on Rowland Hill. Less than a week after the covers went on sale May 12, Hill wrote in his journal: “I fear we shall have to substitute some other stamp for that design by Mulready.” He added testily: “The public have shown their disregard and even distaste for beauty.” Within two months the postal powers-that-be had decided to scrap the Mulready Cover.

Is the cover beautiful? Ludicrous? Lascivious? Let’s take a look at some of the caricatures, and see how they manage to undermine the hifalutin notions of the Mulready Cover.

fullsizeoutput_18ffThis first caricature is noteworthy not just because of the pipe-smoking figure of Britannia, but because it comes with a detailed description in a contemporaneous gazette.  I will quote from the commentary at some length, because it goes directly to the point that the Mulready Cover is so elaborate, obscure, even ribald, that any point is lost and the hapless viewer must  make up his or her own story. Herewith the 1840 text, to accompany blow-up images of the section being satirized:

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Below, a detail from the Mulready Cover; above, the caricature.

“Look directly at the centre, and you will perceive the besotted figure of Britannia with her shield upon her knee. She has just put up a covey of postmen, with the wings of wild geese — naked in the pictur, but here, you will perceive, clothed for families.  … At the foot of Britannia is the Version 2British lion, looking as mild as if suckled upon ass’s milk, and having not so much as a growl  inside of him. With spectacles on nose, and his nob covered with a Palmerston cap, he is leisurely reading the latest foreign intelligence. This once vigorous animal appears to be in his dotage, and his tail hangs as limp as a thread-paper! …”

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Two versions of the domestic letter-reading scene described below. Left is  from the Mulready Cover; the slightly creepy one above is a caricature.

Version 4I’m not done yet. Here is the satirist’s impression of the domestic scene in the lower left corner (see enlargements): “… There is the portrait of a venerable old lady of the name of Smith. She is bed-ridden, ladies and gentlemen, and is listening to a letter read by her niece. Mark the figure of Mrs. Smith. She is looking all sorts of gratitude, and her two hands is clasped. The letter is from her grandson, John Smith, reported to have been hanged for burglary and murder; whereas that letter, just received by the penny post, assures the delighted parent that her grandchild is transported for life, for robbing on the highway, with the minor offense of slitting an attorney’s nose. …”

This business of lampooning the Mulready Cover went viral, 1840s-style.  An online collectors site lists 47 satirical covers. The effect must have been dramatic, and the battle was quickly won. While there would continue to be designed envelopes through the Victorian era and beyond, and while we all know about aerogrammes and stamped envelopes, the postage stamp quickly became the preferred and indispensable mailing device. Score a victory for the first Artistamps! (Though I suppose the Mulready Cover technically was not a stamp … )

I have had fun looking over these caricatures and would like to share images of some of them. I got the images from the Internet, mind you, since they are expensive and rare. An original cover can cost $550, sometimes much more, though

you occasionally may find a bargain.  Unfortunately, I have not yet uncovered any other colorful narratives to accompany these images. However, I shall endeavor to  pass along in captions some of my own impressions from close observation; and as Yogi Berra said, you can see a lot just by observing.

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In this Mulready Cover caricature, Britannia looks clueless and self-satisfied as she dispatches her letter-carriers, who are not naked but clothed in appropriate uniforms. A foreign gentleman on either side of Britannia is conspicuously thumbing his nose at Her Imperial Eminence, while at her feet, a pint-size admiral rides a British lion who appears emaciated and decrepit, letters dangling from a tail outstretched like a clothesline. In the lower corners, two postmen on horseback gallop in opposite directions, while in the upper left, a carrier weighed down with sacks gazes woefully at the viewer; upper right, a town bell-ringer is so mesmerized by his envelope, he forgets his task. All in all, not a very positive, respectful depiction of the people’s response to this new postal gimmick, wouldn’t you agree?

 

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Here is one in a series of lampoons issued under the satirical rubric, “Rejected design’s (sic) for the postage envelope.” A dowdy Britannia with a goofy grin presides over a constellation of what seem to be nude acrobats, while the English lion peeks out (lasciviously?) from behind her skirts. In the middle ground, a pair of women of questionable repute share a bottle over their envelope, counterbalanced by a gentleman reader in a pith helmet and a leering pasha. The foreground is bracketed by two peg-leg pirates, each gleefully brandishing a Mulready Cover. What a disgraceful, disorderly scene!

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Here is another from the “rejected design’s” series. In this depiction, a cross-eyed Britannia looks positively looped. Her dog-like lion is delivering a Mulready Cover in his teeth to a surprised recipient. The postage envelope is everywhere in evidence, though to what purpose is not clear. Nor is it clear to me what the two misbehaving boys in the foreground have done with a Mulready Cover that leaves their master so perplexed. — and the woman behind them so downcast. At the lower left, the bloke seems to be offering a Mulready Cover to the tradesman for use in polishing shoes.

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Here is a third cover from the “rejected” series of caricatures. Britannia and the lion look OK, compared to their comportment in other illustrations. What distinguishes this work is that all the recipients of the bothersome Mulready Covers are women. Look at them: idling away their day reading scribbles on an envelope when they could be doing useful work. Notice the supply of letters fluttering down, top left, and left foreground being thrust at the lady on the divan. I say, these Mulready Covers are corrupting the women and undermining the moral fiber of the nation! Will no one bring this sinful indulgence and indolence to a stop?!

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Here’s an unusual Mulready Cover caricature that appears to be hand-drawn in pen and ink. Notice how it is a “complete” envelope — that is, the four corners can be folded over and sealed to create the letter suitable for mailing. The cover is attributed to John Menzies, and while it briefly was offered online for L5,000 ($6,534), it apparently was withdrawn from sale. Noteworthy are the vignettes of a poor fellow watching carriers deliver armloads of envelopes (upside down, top — see inset, below), a woman (right flap) receiving an envelope from a “postman” whose pockets seem to be bulging with loot, and a guy (left flap) whose whole visible outfit, as well as his eyes, nose and mouth, are fullsizeoutput_1937.jpeg made out of Mulready Covers. Kinda creepy!
By the way, it looks like this cover actually went through the mail. Since it isn’t a pre-paid Mulready Cover, I figure the sender supplied the necessary penny for postage, and the clerk applied that bold red “paid 20 JY 40” date stamp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is another busy caricature of the Mulready Cover. Britannia and some of her naked messengers are presented fairly straightforwardly — except at left, a naked minion rides a glue stick with a belching smokestack — and delivers a Mulready Cover to the mouth of a waiting camel. Britannia has a jester’s bells on her cap, and the shield replaced by a penny coin — the price of a Mulready Cover. Lots going on here: The English lion is all but obliterated by his cap; among other envelope-readers, a bespectacled elephant (upper left) rests her letter on a block that is inscribed by the printer, “W.H. Mason, Repository of Arts, Brighton”; note the faces carved into the foundation … note also the scenes, bottom left and right. Is the postman a clean, personable public servant (left), or a wily rascal (right)? By now you must be getting the same impression I’m getting — that the cumulative effect of these published caricatures makes it impossible to take the Mulready Cover seriously.

 

What follows is a small gallery of Mulready Cover caricatures from the 1840s,  with notes and comment

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Online description: 1840 an example of the Mulready “Caricature” envelope by Spooner issue No 2, illustrating the characters all receiving letters addressed to West Wycombe from Petersfield dated for NO 12 1840, being sent un-paid and bearing on front a “2” charge mark in black ink. The envelope is sealed by a gold on black wafer illustrating a hangman placing a noose around the condemned prisoner’s neck with the legend “I trouble you with a line”! A rare and most attractive item of Victorian humour.

The caption above accompanies the online offering of this extraordinary Mulready Cover caricature. At the center is a dour, pipe-smoking Britannia and her lion, flanked on one side by a devil with a mail sack, and on the other by a gunpowder explosion throwing victims into the air. The envelope is embellished with six scenes of letter exchanges, each one worth a story of its own. All this busy-ness reinforces the overall point of the anti-Mulready campaign, which is that the Mulready Cover is so confusing and misunderstood and busy that it should be scrapped immediately.

One more thing about this cover. I have not yet made the connection, but don’t you think the figures in these comic caricatures, with their big heads, expressive faces and tiny bodies, look an awful lot like the work of John Tenniel, illustrator of the Happy Families playing cards — as well as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”? Well, maybe. Maybe not. Tenniel would have been only 20 at the time. So if it wasn’t Tenniel, who drew these wonderful characters?

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In my opinion, those Tenniel-like characters are more interesting than the crude ones in this caricature. Britannia looks like a thug, the distracted lion looks more like a turtle. Then there’s all the busy-ness. In this iteration, everyone is using the post — that is, the Mulready Cover — as an excuse, a quick fix, a way to avoid personal responsibility. Here are the comic sketches of 1840:

Upper left:
Daughter: Oh please, Mr. Smut will you bring Mother half a hundred of coals.
Mr. Smut (enjoying a snack): I can’t bring them cos I’m engaged. But I’ll put em in the post directly.

Lower left:
Miss: Have you sent my mutton Mr. McSticken?
Mr. McSticken: The boy has just put it in the post Miss.

Upper right:
Diner: Waiter, how long will my soup be.
Waiter: It’s just put in the post sir.

Middle right:
Postman (handing baby to surprised matron): It’s returned, marm They won’t take it in.

Lower right:
Child (to grandmother, who is threading a needle): Granny, can’t you send belly aches away by the post?

Not sure what the deeper meaning of all this is. That you shouldn’t rely on the post office — or the Mulready Cover? Hey, not bad …

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This is a caricature where I initially found myself at a disadvantage. The small title at the top announces, “Punch’s Anti-Graham Envelope.” Who is Graham? Apparently the guy standing in for Britannia. And then, who is guy drawn as the head of a black snake taking the place of the English lion? One of them must be Mulready. I know Punch is the venerable British humor (humour) magazine. And I can see a snake in the grass when it’s right in front of me. Another thought occurs as I take in those little postmen in their coats and top hats, flitting about in great numbers, peering through a keyhole, reading over shoulders, even sticking their heads right into a Mulready Cover to see what’s inside: Isn’t this a visualization of the conspiracy theory — that the Mulready envelope is the leading edge of a campaign to control the free flow of information? A snake in the grass, indeed!

Why is this cover blue? My guess is that this particular caricature is not aimed at the (black) one penny Mulready Cover, but at the (blue) 2d. cover. One more note: This is not the first caricature where there is a small icon at the bottom of a bottle with an “S” on it. Meaning? Could be an artist’s mark …

Addendum: Now I have more authoritative background (and confirmation) on this cover, which dates to 1844, courtesy of the web. This is from the William James Linton Archive at the Melton Prior Institute for reportage drawing and printing culture: “The politician who suffered most from Punch … was the most unpopular of a long line of unpopular Home secretaries, Sir James Graham. … His capital offence was directing the opening of certain of Mazzini’s letters (ed: Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian, a politician and journalist who led the early movement for unification.) … in consequence of the statements made to our Government by that of Naples, to the effect that plots were being carried out – of which the brilliant and popular Italian refugee was the centre – to excite an insurrection in Italy. … (T)he popular feeling roused by it was intense, and Punch, up in arms at once at this supposed violation of the rights of the subject, fanned the excitement … This consisted in the famous Anti-Graham Envelope (…) drawn by John Leech — a sort of burlesque … . The circulation attained by this envelope was very wide, and although I have not ascertained that many were actually passed through the General Post Office, it certainly brought a flood of bitter ridicule on the unfortunate Minister.” (M. H. Spielmann, The History of Punch, 1895)

More from the Melton Prior Institute: “The original prepaid Mulready envelope was the world’s first postal stationery, issued in 1840, at the same time as the first postage stamp. It had been decorated by the painter William Mulready with a representation of Britannia at the centre top, sending out her winged emissaries to all corners of the British Empire. Leech and Linton turned this document of Imperial pride into the vision of a total surveillance state with the detested minister as “Big Brother” Britannia, who sends out his winged flock of clerks to violate people’s privacy. The Anti-Graham envelope followed a favoured radical strategy of using fake documents and bogus money as means of criticism and propaganda … For Linton, it was a first encounter with the art of creative forgery.”

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OK, this caricature is just too busy for me. The quality of the reproduction makes it nigh-on for me to decipher everything. It’s fair to conclude the gist of the thing is: Mulready Cover bad!

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Now look at the blowup, right. It’s from the upper right of the last caricature. And here we come, finally, to the lascivious angle. Notice how the naked Indian conferring with the Pilgrim (no, wait! It’s now a postman!) looks like a Vaudeville extra. So does the Indian seated on what looks like his pants, whose buttocks are modestly concealed by … what? A Penny Black postage stamp! It’s altogether quite a garish scene, don’t you think?

For comparison purposes, fullsizeoutput_18a2I include a blowup of the same corner of the authentic Mulready Cover. In the dignified scene, one (naked) Indian shakes hands with a (fuilly-clothed) Pilgrim, while others stand back. In the foreground, another (naked) Indian sits on a mat, facing away from the viewer. Never mind the (naked) winged messenger in the background, or the (naked) Laplander driving his reindeer sled. Focus on the buttocks! They surely grabbed the attention of the British public, even as they found their way into the caricatures. Were Victorian sensibilities titillated by this expose of supple young butt cheeks? Was there outrage? Gossip? Protest? (Gee, someone should do a paper on this …)

Now let’s take a quick look at other lascivious close-ups in Mulready Cover caricatures.

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In this caricature (sorry about the hand-scrawled cancel), naked Indians cavort around the sober Pilgrims, while fellow sitting on the mat maintains a stoic silence. Indeed, his helmet or cap or mantle of hair makes him look like a (naked) Prince Valiant …

 

 

Version 2

 

In another caricature, the artist went off on a flight of fancy, doodling one naked sprite after another …

 

 

 

Version 2

 

In this cynical caricature, all the characters have become grotesques — Indians and settlers conniving in a tight group. Naked buttocks are much in evidence, including the fat cheeks of the obligatory seated-nude-facing-away. Next to him a reclining dandy is wearing a postman’s hat … and apparently nothing else!

 

 

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Finally, here is a detail from a caricature showing a youth in chains, seated, looking downcast. But see: A bird flies toward him, carrying in its beak — a Mulready envelope. All is not lost!

That notion that an airborne Mulready Cover can free a prisoner or slave is a bit visionary, particularly so for a satirist from the 1840s. What an image!

 

END OF PART THREE

Cinderellas part two: Artistamps

So far I have barely creased the surface of Cinderella “non-stamps.” You can do a deeper dive by going online to “Cinderella stamps images,” and get lost in the pictures and stories. I decided to take a little side trip into the wild and crazy world of Artistamps. Come along!

The Artistamp could be considered a sub-category of the Cinderella, but by rights deserves a category of its own. The hybrid term is charmingly defined as a  “portmanteau” — that is, not the two-part travel-case, but “a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others,”  like motel, or brunch. In this case, the two words don’t fold quite as easily as the portmanteau —  is it  “artist” and “stamp,” or “artist’s stamp”? The key word to hang on to is “art.” The Artistamp may have an ulterior motive, an ironic,  political, satirical or even subversive purpose, but it also needs the  saving grace of artistic merit.

 

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These may look like postage stamps, but do not be deceived. They are the deceptive and alluring work of Donald Evans. Who ever heard of a place called “Amis et Amants” (Friends and Lovers)? I can’t make sense of the captions, and the “cancellation” consists of the artist’s name. But they sure are pretty, aren’t they?

To me and no doubt others, Donald Evans did as much as anyone during his brief and remarkably productive career to elevate the Artistamp to its deserved niche  in the collectors  pantheon. (Where is that perch, you ask? Somewhere between Andy Warhol, Saul Steinberg and R. Crumb.)  This guy was an architectural draftsman who had been fooling around drawing stamps since he was 10. He picked up the pastime again as an adult, and went on to design  thousands of imaginary stamps and imaginary sets from 42 imaginary countries. Each stamp was a meticulously designed and executed miniature, using ink and washed-out watercolors. Evans pecked out “perforations” using the period key on a typewriter. The results were stunning — whimsical, irresistible, altogether delicious. fullsizeoutput_18e1Evans seemed to tap into the essence of philatelic joy  — the crisp order, the soothing color, the variety of the  imagery and messaging, all contained within the frames  of those little stamps. Emily Cleaver writes: “He used this sameness, this deliberate smallness, to explore the infinite. His stamps are pieces of physical evidence sent directly from the limitless landscape of the imagination.”

Alas, Donald Evans died in a house fire in 1977.  He was just 33. A few more Donald Evans works follow …

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This witty souvenir sheet by Donald Evans celebrates some long-ago air show of the imagination, and features a single-engine plane doing a lazy circle — around the sheet. To me, the sheet also resonates with echoes from the famous and spectacularly valuable Inverted Jenny U.S. airmail stamp error of 1918.

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Children and adults could have fun with this made-up set from somewhere called Nadorp. Each stamp contains a pair of images — a match and a rose; a sunset and a gold ring; a canary and a bicycle. I challenge you to tell a story that combines each image. Or is there some linguistic pun involved? Somehow, I don’t think Nadorp-ian postal officials can help us solve these riddles.

 

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I am including this last image from Donald Evans — a gorgeous set from “Tropides Islands” — because I love it so. Something about the colors first enthralled me, then the exotic shapes of the palm trees; and finally, the labels — cabbage palm, barrel palm, sentry palm — conjured up more visions. What a tour de force! These Images bubble like a refreshing stream, immersing the viewer in color and shape and order. The stamps take on totemic significance, as vibrant emblems of nature on orderly display. My eyes are bathed in an ur-spring of philatelic bliss …

 

Artistamps live on, and so do Donald Evans’ creations. A lavishly illustrated book, “The World of Donald Evans” went through two editions. Hardcover and paperback copies of this sumptuous volume are available online, not cheap. Today his estate is represented by Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York, which suggests that Donald Evans originals may be pricey. My sources list dozens, maybe 100 or more Artistamp creators these days. There are references to two Artistamp museums, one in Berkeley, Calif., the other in Jupiter, Fla. In 2008, an exhibition in Bremen, Germany was titled “Lick Me (Leck Mich): Artist’s stamps since the 1960s.” The business of adding those little stamp perforations to Artistamps seemed to become a cottage industry, with practitioners employing such tools as a sewing machine, leather punches, veterinary needles and customized scissors. And there’s this, from Wikipedia: “In 2004, the International Brotherhood of Perforator Workers (IBPW), an organization based in Washington, D.C., was established to represent the interests of artists owning and/or operating perforators in the creation of stamp art.”

Enough about Artistamps? Not quite. Before we leave the subject, I must tell you about … my own Artistamps. When and where else would I get the chance to share pictures of the “stamps” I designed myself? I drew them in the 1960s — by golly, about the same time Donald Evans was creating his limitless world of tiny stamp images, AND the same time Jock Kinneir (FSIA) was drafting his own Cinderella set of British definitives! There I was, in my early teens, oblivious,  busily drawing away at my definitive set for … Ghana. Why Ghana? Why not? I also dreamed up stamps from Germany and a few other British colonies …

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Here is my imaginary set  from Ghana — a complete definitive series, from 1/2d through 1 pound. (I never tried perforating my stamps — they are all imperforate.) fullsizeoutput_a93You may detect some similarities with early Ghana stamps, which had already captured my imagination; in fact, a few are almost copies. Nevertheless, they all are original in their way. The unifying elements, I should note, include the frame, the typeface for the name Ghana, as well as the denomination style for each stamp. In addition, there is a version of the Ghanaian flag integrated into each design (as on the “real” definitives). The stamps  increase in size, by steps, as the denominations rise. The coat of arms on the 1 pound stamp is accurate. The viking ship on the 1 1/2d is a logo used on other Ghana stamps. It refers back to the Black Star Line, the ill-fated pan-African/American
fullsizeoutput_a94shipping enterprise of black nationalist Marcus Garvey between 1919 and 1922. The portrait and statue of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s founding prime minister, is also on-mark in 1962. Nkrumah would not lose power until the military coup of 1966, though by 1962, his regime’s democratic veneer already was wearing thin … The castle depicted on the 5 shilling is not a notorious slave portal like Cape Coast or Elmina. It is Christiansborg Castle in Accra, named by Dutch colonists who date back to the 1600s. The castle remained the seat of government after independence. All in all, I would hardly  claim similar consideration for this series from Ghana’s postal authorities

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Notice the similarities between these actual stamps from Ghana and my Cinderella version, above. Do you suppose plagiarizing is allowed in Cinderella land? Or is that called forgery?

as Jock Kinneir’s  proposed definitive series deserved from British authorities at around the same time …

 

 

 

 

 

This next selection of made-up Cinderella stamps consists of, clockwise from top left:  A black-and-white 1 pound stamp from Trengannu, an exotically named state in fullsizeoutput_a97Malaya, one of more than a half-dozen that issued stamps during the British colonial era. (Oops — it seems I misspelled the real territory, which is “Trengganu” or “Terengganu,” but not Trengannu. Sorry, folks.) This Cinderella  features a dapper King George Vi, some kind of formal declaration lying on a royal scepter, and under the portrait a time interval, presumably the length of British dominion: “1848-1948.” (This is nonsense, since the British did not take over from Thai rulers in Trengganu until 1909.) Notice how I drew the whole stamp with distinct lines — in an effort to make the stamp look “engraved.” OK, it’s not perfect, but let’s give the kid artist a little slack …  The next “stamp” over is another “engraving” from the George VI era, this one a bicolor “commemorative” from Malta, which borrows the image from another Malta stamp of a War Memorial on that small but strategic island colony in the Mediterranean. The reference is apt, since George VI was king throughout World War II, and survived another half-dozen years after. The memorial, too, is real. However, it  was not inaugurated until 1954 by Elizabeth II, two years after the death of her father, George VI.  …  Below and to the right is a rather nifty, imaginary Pitcairn Islands 5 shilling stamp with a portrait of Elizabeth II. The portrait is copied from one used on other colonial stamps of the time. There are what look like royal signatures in the upper corners, with a map and outline of the tiny south-Pacific island in the bullseye of its geographical coordinates. Kind of slick, doncha think? …  Last are what appear to be two values from an imaginary set from Kibris (Cyprus). The nation in the eastern Mediterranean had just gained its sovereignty in 1960.  In this set there is no longer an image of a monarch — though the currency is still an odd mixture of Cypriot mils and the pound sterling. Again, my technique means to suggest engraving, both in the woodsy landscape of the 15 mils and the curious 1 pound stamp, with its naive use of the royal coat of arms (complete with crown!) to represent an independent republic; there is another topographical elevation superimposed on a geographical representation. To me at least, the gold and magenta result a fairly gorgeous stamp — picture if you can the finely engraved version!  By the way, the year reference — 1962 — also suggests the approximate time all of these renderings were created …  fullsizeoutput_a98Now hold on a sec! If I drew those Cyprus stamps in 1962, then it was the same year Cyprus issued its first set of original definitive stamps after  independence. My catalogue says that set was released Sept. 17, 1962 — fairly late in the year. It certainly is possible that I drew “my” Cyprus stamps before then … Now take a look at my 15-mils stamp, compared with the 30-mils stamp from the “real” set fullsizeoutput_a96(pardon the heavy cancellation). Notice anything? For one thing, the color is an almost perfect match. Now notice how the Greek name , dropping down a vertical tablet on the left-hand side, is almost identical!  (OK, so my Greeks’ not perfect.) The actual stamp depicts ruins, not the forest in my stamp. But somehow, the open-air landscape, the cloudy sky, the general ambience — similar, no? If I had already seen the brand-new set from Cyprus (and it’s possible), then you could write off my “creative” design as imitative at best. If my design appeared without any foreknowledge of the imminent Cypriot definitive set, I would have to shake my head in some wonder …

fullsizeoutput_18fbHere is a rather harmonious grouping of German city-scenes, again in facsimilie engravings. Each historic structure is boxed in a frame that contains the city’s name. Interestingly, the country referred to on my stamps did not, at the time, officially exist. There was West Germany, the Bundesrepublik (federal republic), issuing stamps labeled “Deutsche Bundespost.” And there was East Germany — the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). The designation I chose — “Deutsche Post” — harkens back to the usage immediately after World War II.

fullsizeoutput_a59 Oddly, that name would pop up again in 1990, when the DDR was going out of business and hastily issued a series of stamps once again using the neutral name, “Deutsche Post.”

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Even more oddly, notice the similarities between one of the  “real” stamps issued in 1990 and my “Cinderella” from back in 1962. …

Now let me fill you in on my more recent foray into  Cinderella land — with Bike Delivery stamps. Local delivery stamps are among the categories of Cinderellas singled out by collectors. In my case, the delivery involved invitations to a seasonal party. I sent all but a dozen invitations by email and USPS, and determined to deliver the rest by bicycle, riding around the neighborhood. Because I am retired and don’t have to work for a living, because I love stamps, and because I felt I deserved a reward for my healthful and useful pursuit, I spent an hour or two designing my “Bike Delivery” stamps. (Note helmet.)

fullsizeoutput_18aaIMG_0748As you can see from this next image, I had lots of fun with the project — affixing a stamp in the appropriate spot on each invitation before dropping it off under or around the mailbox (it’s a federal offense  to use the mailbox itself, I understand). I “canceled” the cover with an inked seal from the carved jade name-stamp (“FISKE”) that my daughter Kate brought back from China. I even concocted a “first day of issue” cover — sure to be a collector’s item!  (Notice I still have a bunch of stamps left — ready for next time!)

You may be shaking your head over the preceding — as my neighbors might have done, if indeed they noticed the “stamp” and the “cancellation” on the “cover.” Really! A grown man, making “stamps” to stick on envelopes and deliver to his friends via bicycle. He really must have too much time on his hands. The whole thing is just ridiculous.

Well, scoff all you like at my Bike Delivery Cinderellas. Then take a look at this next image of a stamp from the U.S. Special Delivery series of 1902. Look familiar? (But where is his helmet?)

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Finally, indulge a grandfather and allow me to include this image — a creation of Frida, age 6 or so. The designs could be stamps, the numbers could be the denominations. These images might or might not count as Cinderella stamps — who’s to say? But isn’t it amazing, in any case, how the pairing of numbers and images in a series can please the eye, calm the spirit, nourish the soul. Inspired by Frida’s creativity, I believe the future of Cinderellas, or Artistamps, or whatever you want to call this polymath doppelganger of philately, seems bright.

 

END OF PART TWO