Bluenose is Still Considered Canada's Finest Stamp
by John Burnett (ESC2)
Originally published in Linns Stamp News
In a recent survey at the Museum of Civilization in Hull Quebec visitors were asked to pick their favorite Canadian stamp and the winner was the new $8 Grizzly Bear definitive stamp. It is truly a beautiful stamp but like many longtime collectors I still consider Canada's Bluenose, Scott and Canada Specialized 158 to be the finest stamp ever created by Canada.
This 50¢ dark blue stamp was part of the King George V "Scroll Issue" (numbers 149 - 159, and includes C1, the air mail stamp).
Figure 1 shows this handsome engraved stamp, a product of the Canadian Bank Note Company. The Bluenose was considered a classic even when it was current, and many of these stamps were ferreted away by collectors.
Figure 1 - Canada's 50¢ Bluenose definitive of 1929.
Today a mint, never hinged copy of the Bluenose in sound collectible condition can command many hundreds of dollars, testament to the high esteem in which this stamp is held by collectors worldwide.
The Bluenose herself (the ship not the stamp) was not a yacht, but a fishing schooner. For all its lean lines, great speed, and the rakish look of its sails, Bluenose spent much of its life as a working ship.
Bluenose was one of hundreds of working schooners that each year ventured out into the Grand banks northeast of Newfoundland, fishing for Cod from March until October. At one time more than 500 such ships plied those rich and relatively shallow waters off the Atlantic coast.
Fishing schooners left harbor and did not return until their holds were full or the season ended. Bluenose was the most famous of them all.
Bluenose, built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, was launched April 26, 1921. Its title was taken from the unflattering nickname given to those who fish the Grand Banks.
On one excursion, Bluenose brought back more than 300,000 pounds of Cod, the largest catch ever recorded by a single ship at Lunenburg in that maritime city's three centuries as a fishing port.
In Canada there is an International Fishing Trophy, coveted by all who sail the Grand Banks. Bluenose, which reached speeds up to 17 knots, under 10,000 square feet of sail in a strong wind, won this trophy in 1921, 1922, and 1923 and then again in 1931 and, for the last time in 1938.
It was in recognition of this great feat, never again duplicated, that the schooner was depicted on a Canadian stamp.
Canada issued 1,045,000 50¢ Bluenose stamps. Most standard references give January 6, 1929 as the date of issue, although a strong argument can be made that the stamp actually was not released until January 8.
It is a little known fact that the schooner is actually shown twice on the stamp, which was designed from a number of photographs of the ship racing off Halifax Harbor taken by W.R. MacAskill in 1922 or 1923.
The engraver in showing the ship in the race took full advantage of artistic license. He used two different photographs of Bluenose at sea - one a side view and the other a view from the ships starboard bow - in a compromise design to represent the schooner winning one of its great races.
In 1942, an aging Bluenose was sold as a freighter to work the waters of the Caribbean. In 1946, the ship foundered on a reef and sank off the coast of Haiti.
Figure 2 shows a much more recent, related, but less well known Canadian stamp depicting, Bluenose, issued to honor the ships captain, Angus J. Walters. The figure is a cropped view of the stamp taken from a first day cover and shows the Canada Post first day cancellation.
Figure 2 - A lithographed 1988 commemorative shows the Bluenose and it's captain, Angus J. Walters.
The lithographed 37¢ commemorative was printed by Aston-Potter Ltd. In 1988 (Scott and Canada Specialized 1228).
Walters was born in Lunenburg in 1882 and served on his father's ship from an early age. He became Managing Owner of the Bluenose the year it was built, and captained the ship to many of its triumphs.
In 1933 Walters sailed the Bluenose to Chicago to represent Canada at the centenary of Progress exhibition. In 1935 he captained the schooner to England for the silver jubilee of King George V.
After the Bluenose left Lunenburg for the last time in 1942, Walters left the sea, becoming a successful dairy farmer. He died in 1968.
In 1963, a replica of the famous ship was built by the Lunenburg shipbuilders.
Today the Bluenose II can be seen at the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the tourist season or in her home port of Lunenburg during the winter months.