First Canadian Christmas stamp expanded the British Empire

February 1st, 2015 hurries to share interesting info with our readers. This article is devoted to the stamp that almost changed the history – even such a tiny piece of paper could lead to great changes.

In 1898 Canada issued what is claimed to be the first Christmas stamp. It also increased the boundaries of the British Empire as it was then known by several thousand square miles! Officially the stamp was issued to commemorate the Imperial Penny Postage, and showed what was intended to be a world map of the British Empire at that time coloured red.

However, the designer added in a few bits of Africa that didn't belong to the Empire! He painted red over the undoubtedly British territories of the Cape, Natal, the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. But then his red brush strayed over what was then the independent Orange Free State and South African Republic, and also over German South West Africa. The collectors have no record of any 'diplomatic incident' with Germany about the philatelic annexation of German South West Africa. But the designer did have the excuse that he was only trying to indicate Walvis Bay, which was most certainly British.

There was more justification for including the two Boer Republics, though not as part of the British Empire. The foreign affairs of both states were conducted by Great Britain as the Paramount Power acknowledged by convention. Both Republics were included in the South African Customs Union, and both enjoyed the benefits of Imperial Penny Postage.

So it was admissible to include them in a stamp commemorating Imperial Penny Postage - though having scrutinized the stamp carefully one will not find no mention of this - only a reference to the Empire and the implication that everything red on the map is British. The quotation 'We hold a vaster empire than has been' comes from a patriotic verse by Sir Lewis Morris.