WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18: In commemoration of both the Bermuda Post Office’s upcoming 200th Anniversary and the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda’s 25th Anniversary, a Royal Stamp Exhibit will be held from April 23-30.
The special exhibition will take place in Masterworks’ Rick Faries Gallery, and include rare stamps and specimens from both local and international private collections, including stamps on loan from Her Majesty the Queen’s private collection. There will also be a display of priceless Bermuda stamp artwork on loan from the Bermuda Philatelic Bureau.
It presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for collectors and the public to view these exceptional works.
Michael Sefi, keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection, owned personally by HM the Queen will be available to provide special commentary on the Queen’s collection and the other specimens on display to school groups and organisations.
For details, email email@example.com or tel. 294-4460 by the end of today.
Here, former Premier and stamp collector Dr David Saul explains the significance of some of the most important stamps in the exhibition.
The first Perot Stamp
To fully appreciate the stamps that bear his name, it is important to know something about the man.
William Bennet Perot (WB), lived at “Par-la-Ville” (where the National Library is now) in the early 1800s and, along with his long career as the Post Master in the city of Hamilton from 1818 to 1862, was an accomplished gardener.
Following the passage of an Act of the Colonial Parliament in 1846 which formally set the cost of inland postage at 1d (the money collected by him was to augment his annual salary of 70 pounds sterling) he found himself “inventing” the Perot Stamp.
Anyone wishing to mail a letter from Hamilton simply paid Perot in cash (that is, a penny coin) and he ensured delivery anywhere on the island. As he was a keen gardener, and did not stay in his office all the time, he designed a wooden box which he hung outside his door. Should the Post Master not be in his office, all that was necessary was for the customer to drop his letter in the box, along with the penny coin.
Simple and straightforward? Nay, not so: far too often Perot went to the box and found more letters than coins — in short, he lost money!
However, he had a neighbour and close friend, J.B. Heyl, of Heyl’s Corner fame, who came to Perot’s aid.
Heyl suggested that the Post Master follow a practice started in 1840 in England, Brazil in 1843, and in the US in 1845 — affix 12 “stamps” on a sheet of paper, and gum the back of the paper and sell a sheet of paper, or a portion, for 12 pennies. In this way WB would get the money “up front” and indeed, made a profit if the stamp(s) were not used or lost.
The idea was that the customer simply cut out the stamp from the sheet, wet the gummed surface and stuck it on the letter and dropped it in the box.
Perot used a common date/cancelation stamp, used daily by him to cancel all sorts of documents in his position as Post Master. He simply removed the plugs for the “date” and the “month” and he wrote, in his fine copper-plate hand, the words one penny in the top space, and in the lower space he signed his name, W.B. PEROT.
That simple move led to the birth of the Perot Stamp. Although countless “stamps” must have been used over the coming years, it is hard to believe that only eleven are in existence today. These 11 cover the years 1848-1856 — regular postage stamps as we know them did not come into existence in Bermuda until 1865.
Strangely, the Perot Stamp remained unknown to philatelists (those who are interested in stamps) until 1897, when a Bermudian, Louis Mowbray of St. Georges, found three in his grandfather’s personal effects]. However, initially, stamp dealers in England did not accept them “as a proper stamps” and he had difficulty finding a buyer.
Finally, the most unusual of the three (dated 1854), which was impressed in red and, uniquely, on a complete cover addressed by the banker, N.T. Butterfield (who was also the Mayor of Hamilton), was sold by Mowbray for the sum of 20 pounds sterling, which he promptly used to pay his father’s funeral expenses!
It is interesting to note that at the beginning Perot used black ink (1848-49) for his “stamps”, and later switched to red ink (1853-56). Today, of the eleven known Perot Stamps, the majority, six are red, and five are black.
The second Perot appeared in England, in 1898, in the possession of a B.W. Warhurst, who had worked in Bermuda and found it in a drawer. Later, in 1918, five more were found in Bermuda in the family papers of a Miss Frances Trott. Four were taken to England and sold for 50 pounds sterling each. Two of these, in black, are now in the Royal Collection and both are on display at the Masterworks Exhibition of 2012.
At the Paris show in 1922, what was believed to be the remaining two of Mowbray’s stamps, sold for 287 and 556 pounds respectively — quite a sum in those days.
Of far greater interest for this Masterworks Exhibit of 2012 is the PAIR, reportedly purchased from W.B. Perot himself in 1853, by the then Chief Justice of Bermuda, John Harvey Darrell. This famous “pair” was found by his grandson among Darrell’s papers in 1934.
H.R. Harmer, the famous Auction House, separated the two and they were sold at auction in 1934 in the correct assumption that two individual Perots were more valuable than the intact pair.
The right-hand stamp was purchased by a Major T. Carlton Henry, and this one was later purchased by the first “Premier” of Bermuda, Sir Henry Tucker, a world famous philatilist.
That famous red Perot, cut in a circle, is now, ironically, owned by another former Premier of Bermuda — myself! My collection of Bermuda stamps, which includes one of the black Perots (dated 1848), will also be on display at the Masterworks Exhibition next week.
The matching stamp from that famous red pair, the left hand one, is in the Royal Collection and is also on display at the Masterworks Exhibition.
Therefore, it is noteworthy to be aware of the fact that the coming Masterworks Exhibition of 2012 will mark the first time in 74 years since these two stamps were last “joined together”!
Perot’s second stamp
Few people are aware of the fact that there is indeed a second Perot Stamp, not as well-known as its famous, signed Perot, but even more rare — there are only six known to exist.
Perot’s first stamps appear to have been used primarily for delivery of letters to St. George’s. However, there was also a heavy demand for mail to the west end, to the western parishes, especially Somerset… it must be remembered that Ireland Island was the home of the Royal Navy, and mail to and from that fortress must have been considerable.
Perot therefore designed a different “stamp” for this delivery. He used the ubiquitous crowned circle hand stamp this time.
The “Crown and Circle” hand stamp was used throughout the British Commonwealth to cover the costs of overseas mail moved by ships around the globe: the hand stamp depicted a “crown within a circle” with the name of each port under the crown, for example, “Hamilton, Bermuda”, “St. George’s, Bermuda”, “Halifax, Canada”, “Perth, Australia” and so on. (It must be stressed that these ‘stamps’ were not intended to be used for “local/inland” mail.)
In this case Perot used the “Hamilton, Bermuda” crown and circle: but, instead of going to the bother to sign his name, he simply cancelled these stamps with an “X”.
These “second Perot” stamps, in use around as early as 1861, went unnoticed/undiscovered until 1945 when one was found , a red Hamilton crowned circle stamp, cancelled with an “X”, in ink, addressed to Somerset and dated March 9th 1861 — five years after the last dated “first Perot”. Today, these ‘second Perots” number less than half the “first Perots” — a mere six in total, and are very rare indeed, hardly ever coming up at auction.
One of these six is in the collection of Dr. the Hon. David J. Saul, former Premier and Minister of Finance of Bermuda, and will be on display at the Masterworks Exhibition next week.
*As an aside, the Post Master at St. George’s, James H. Thies, and his brother, Thomas, also used the St. George’s crowned circle in the same manner — for mail to Hamilton. The first one was discovered as early as 1898 (long before the discovery of the second Perot) and in 1929 a second copy was found.
Up to this date, only five of these St. George’s stamps have been found, making them a great rarity also.