Monday, February 18th 2013 - 03:50 UTC

The postage stamp war for the Falkland Islands

Albert-Friedrich Gruene of the Falkland Island Philatelic Study Group offers a fascinating insight into Britain and Argentina’s use of the postage stamp over the past 77 years in an illustrated ‘battle’ for the Falklands. The article was published in Penguin News.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig, 3

Argentina has issued in recent years quite a number of commemorative stamps, special cancellations and vignettes showing the Falkland Islands as part of the territory of Argentina.

This ‘tradition’ began on January 1, 1936, when the Argentine Postal Authorities issued a one peso map stamp (Fig 1) clearly showing the Falkland Islands as part of Argentine territory. 

The British reaction came swift in February 1936 when Anthony Eden, the then Foreign Secretary, stated in the House of Commons: “The British Ambassador at Buenos Aires had been instructed to protest against the inclusion of the Falkland Islands in this map stamp of Argentine Territory, and to inform the Argentine Government that HM Government cannot admit the claim that the Islands are Argentine property.”

The origin of the Argentine one peso map stamp issue dates back to the January 2, 1933, when the legendary Centenary stamps of the Falkland Islands were issued (Fig 2) which were refused by the Argentine Republic and led to a kind of ‘postal war’.

Maude Carey the then postmaster of the Falkland Islands and the first lady Postmaster of the British Empire wrote to a collector in 1933: “There seems to be much disturbance going on in Argentina and I believe according to the paper ‘La Prensa’ intend surcharging any of our letters which bear the Centenary stamps. They’ve got the impertinence to claim the Islands. I’ve just written to someone there to see what will happen to my envelopes.”

Mail franked with stamps from the Centenary issue were charged postal dues as for un-stamped mail and in some cases the stamps were obliterated; much sought after collectors’ items nowadays!

When the Argentine authorities issued in 1936 their one peso map stamp they were obviously not aware that the British Empire had made a territorial claim on a map stamp already 38 years earlier in December 1898, when Canada issued a commemorative stamp that is known among collectors as the ‘Map Stamp’, but also as the world’s first ‘Christmas stamp’ (Fig 3).

The initiator of the new Canadian stamp for the Imperial Penny Postage rate (1d=two Canadian cents), Sir William Mulock, the Postmaster General of Canada, wished for a so called Mercator projection (a cylindrical map projection presented by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569), that showed the earth as if it were flat.

So Sir William consulted George R Parkin who had published in 1893 his famous ‘The British Empire Map of the World on Mercator’s Projection’. Parkin was then the most important protagonist of a united British Empire (at least on his maps). He attempted to demonstrate the reconstruction of the world by modern technology and tried to create the impression of an organic unity of the British Empire by the professional marking of naval bases, railways, telegraph lines and steamer routes on his maps.

Parkins proposal of ‘a miniature reproduction of his map of the British Empire with Canada in the centre’ was soon accepted.

Two main varieties of this stamp exist; half of the total printing of 20 million was printed with blue oceans and the other half with green oceans. The countries that belonged to the British Empire were printed in red. At that time Britain held the largest empire on earth and that explains the slogan at the bottom of the stamp, “WE HOLD A VASTER EMPIRE THAN HAS BEEN” (borrowed from an 1887 poem of Sir Lew Morris).

Parts of German South West Africa, German East Africa, the Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, Portuguese East Africa and the island of Borneo plus some more countries (or at least parts of them) were also by accident included in the British Empire with the result that the empire became a bit VASTER than in reality.

If you look on the red colour (darker shading for print as opposed to online readers) in the Falklands vicinity, the map indeed looks already very modern.
One could think that the Total Exclusion Zone an area that was declared by the United Kingdom on April 30, 1982 covering a circle of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the centre of the Falkland Islands was already anticipated 115 years ago!

I think it is clear by now why the stamp is called among collectors the ‘Map Stamp’; actually I think it is also the world’s first ‘Map Stamp’ showing for the first time a map of the whole world on a postage stamp. One important question is still open: Why is it also called by many collectors the First Christmas Stamp?

The best explanation I found comes from Michael T Nowlan: Stamp designs for the colonial countries had to be approved by the ruling monarch (in 1898 by Queen Victoria.) When a post office official was presenting the new Canadian stamp for the Imperial Penny Postage rate, he suggested to Her Majesty that the new stamp could serve as a tribute to the prince. The official was referring to the then Prince of Wales (three years later King Edward VII) whose birthday occurred on November 9, the date originally selected for the release of the issue.

Queen Victoria is said to have replied, “Which prince?” in a tone that made clear she would not be pleased with a royal connection other than herself. The official replied swiftly “the Prince of Peace” referring to the Christ child. As a result, the stamp when it was officially released on December 7, 1898, bore also the words ‘XMAS 1898’.
Apart from the discussed interesting peculiarities of the issue, one thing is clear; it is not only the first Map Stamp, the first Christmas Stamp, but it is also the first postage stamp that claims the Falkland Islands for the British Empire.
When Les Hardy a Falklands resident privately produced a postcard in 1933 showing a map of Falklands he knew which flag he had to use on the top of his card - the British flag.


34 comments Feed

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1 UncleTed (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 07:33 am Report abuse
'They’ve got the impertinence to claim the Islands'
Nothing changes, but this was all finally SORTED out in 1982 and Argentinas impertinence well and truly STAMPED on.
2 Justthefacts (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 09:56 am Report abuse
My favourite photo from my Falklands visit some years ago is self and partner on the steps of the Stanley Post Office, with the post office sign with its prominent crown over our heads, and red pillar box and phone booths just on one side. It beautifully captures the flavour of the place. No doubt most tourists to the Falklands have precisely the same photo.
3 lsolde (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 10:01 am Report abuse
They just thought that they could get away with it.
They would claim anything if they thought no one would miss it!
l'm surprised that they haven't claimed the Philippines.
The Philippines were Spanish 350 years, maybe Argentina “inherited” them from Spain. lol
4 Escoses Doido (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 11:41 am Report abuse
You should check out the back of an argentine passport.

5 UncleTed (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 11:51 am Report abuse
@2 Some places have been left more British than Britain. I am just back from Malta, which although a Republic now, still cherish their red pillar boxes (all freshly painted) and the classic phone boxes, which sadly are fast disappearing in Britain. Hopefully the FIG, like Malta, will hang on to theirs.
6 Foxtrot Indigo (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 01:03 pm Report abuse
I never knew stamps could be so interesting. The historian in me finds the idea of a stamp war quite remarkable.
7 UncleTed (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 02:09 pm Report abuse
@4 I did just that.
Good Lord, they have the temerity to show British Antarctic Territory on their passports.
I suppose if they get away with that long enough, they will claim it to be true.
If we did that, Argentina would be straight to the UN.
8 Nostrolldamus the 10th (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 02:53 pm Report abuse
@7 There is no British Antarctic Territory, and there never will be.

I can guarantee you the UK will never EVER hold an ounce of official land in Argentine Antarctica. Self-determination, demographics, geography, length of presence, all in our favor. 21st century and your country, the most immoral force that has ever existed in human history, is still trying to grab land and playing colonialism.

You are a pathetic culture.
9 Escoses Doido (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 02:57 pm Report abuse

Nah mate, You are the pathetic ones with Lies even printed on the back of your passports.

That is truly 'pathetic'.
10 Nostrolldamus the 10th (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:15 pm Report abuse
There is no lie, you Brits simply cannot see reality without losing it. But, on the matter of Antarctica there is nothing you can do. We hold the self-determination card, we hold the longest continuous presence card (everyone else including you LEFT the continent), we hold the population card, we hold the geographic card, and we even hold the claim card, because we were the first to incorporate Antarctica as integral part of our federal extension, not just a mere “territory”. So we outwitted you even there.

So you see, there is nada you can do without looking like a colonial country... which would shoot down your Falkland's argument too!

Argentine Antarctica, you are always welcome to get your British passport stamped by Buenos Aires though!
11 Musky (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:18 pm Report abuse
@8 Nostrils
I can tell you are merely jesting for all the reverse is true from your wild list. Nostrils, you seem to think you spontaneousily sprouted from the ground, from a handful of magic beans. The truth is that you are and your neighbours are of spanish descent or at the very least, european descent. The spanish empire was the 5th largest of all time and it was a bloodthirsty empire, the conquistadors slaughtering natives every step of the way. So before you castigate the british empire, remember, you are tainted and unclean, you are no angel, you are the culmination of the sins of your fathers... just like every briton you meet. And don't go saying 'oh, you brits murdered 10,000 people.. we spanish only murdered 5000 people' (so arbitrary numbers)... because you'll only embarrass yourself... knobend.
12 Nostrolldamus the 10th (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:21 pm Report abuse

Argentines are not European.
13 yankeeboy (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:24 pm Report abuse
Except you can't get to Antarctica without help from another country.
I am sure if your “scientists” need anything they can contact our base there. I am sure they have heat and food.

I am kinda surprised CFK hasn't announce a fast ferry transport system to the continent.
I'm sure it must be on the to-do list somewhere
14 Joe Bloggs (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:24 pm Report abuse
12 Nostrol'

What is your ethnic background?
15 cornishair (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:27 pm Report abuse
“Argentines are not European.” lol funnest thing i've read today!. I do wonder where “Think” thinks the population of Argentina come from.

British Antarctic Territory claimed in 1908
Argentine Antarctica claimed 1942

Can't make this shit up! :)
16 Escoses Doido (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:29 pm Report abuse
I picked up an argentinians passport for him at an airport check-in a while back
see below.
17 agent999 (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 03:37 pm Report abuse
@12 Trollbias

Your rantings are getting more pathetic as the days go by.
The really sad fact is - you don't realise it.
18 Musky (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 04:15 pm Report abuse
Nostrils you sad deluded numpty.
Just because you've broken away from the mothership that absolves your forefathers of their sins? So that's your get out of jail card? Hilarious.
Not only are there spanish roots but plenty of Italians with fascist roots, those running from the allies (though I'm not too worried about our spaghetti friends this minute) in WW2. I'm afraid Nostrils you must face facts, Argentina was born through the shedding of blood, lots of native blood. Christ almighty your school history lessons must so full of falacies. Poor you.
19 CaptainSilver (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 05:22 pm Report abuse
Ha Ha, stamp war! Just about the right sort of war for the Rgs to try. They failed in the court, they failed to win a war where they had the element of surprise and they have failed to stop the self determination referendum. Surely they can win this one, after all these european colonists are great at printing worthless Pesos they might be able to print great stamps, as well as Dance the Tango and whinge and weep about the Falklands oil and Queen Elizabeth land!
20 Joe Bloggs (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 06:30 pm Report abuse
19 CaptainSilver

Nostrol' has already told you. They are not European. Why do you keep insisting they are? So what if they're white? So what if they speak Spanish? So what if some 86 percent of its 40 million population has European roots, mostly Italian and Spanish? So what if they promote themselves as the Europe of South America. So what?

21 golfcronie (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 06:56 pm Report abuse
Course you are , Explain how Argentina was formed then, EUROPEANS colonised it, DUMMY
22 slattzzz (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 07:39 pm Report abuse
@20 maybe they were grown out of soy beans? what an arsehole nostril is
23 lsolde (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 09:23 pm Report abuse
l think the Argentine Secret Service is finding & funding misfits like nostrils & sussie etc, winding them up, then letting them go, just to see what sort of damage they can do.
24 Joe Bloggs (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 09:59 pm Report abuse
23 Isolde

I think you're almost correct except that it's the British Secret Service.

Chuckle chuckle
25 golfcronie (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 11:22 pm Report abuse
I think it was the CIA, pesky Americans.oops sorry yankee
26 TroyTempest (#) Feb 18th, 2013 - 11:29 pm Report abuse
@23 Isolde
Oh sussie sussie //// sussie cute oh sussie cute
she is protected by the USA, Argentina and the Taliban
by the way, there is nothing mercopress can do to keep her quiet!
27 UncleTed (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 09:28 am Report abuse
Goodness thingshave moved along since I last looked.
Who is this idiot Nostraldamus ? Obviously not quite the full ticket. He states:
''Antarctica there is nothing you can do. We hold the self-determination card, we hold the longest continuous presence card (everyone else including you LEFT the continent), we hold the population card, we hold the geographic card, and we even hold the claim card, because we were the first to incorporate Antarctica as integral part of our federal extension, not just a mere “territory”. So we outwitted you even there. ''
Never heard such tripe. You hold no cardsat all. Only Argentina would have the arrogance to claim Antarctica is actually part of their Federal country. A place they have no say in or regard for. Do Brits have to ask Argentine permission to go there or show passports to RGs , certainly not. Can they defend the place or stop us doing whatever we wish there, certainly not. So how can it be Argentine ?
UK administers the area for the good of all countries keeping it safe and providing an Ice Patrol Vessel for humanitarian reasons. We take our duty in that regard seriously, and the International Community is happy with that arrangement for the time being. One thing is for sure no part of Antarctica will ever be 'a federal extension' of any country, certainly not Queen Elizabeth Land. Time to bring out another stamp, or have we done that ?
28 Pete Bog (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 03:58 pm Report abuse
What about a set of 4 stamps featuring an Astute sub, a T45 a Eurofighter and the thing that scares the Argentine military the most, Prince William in his unarmed yellow search and rescue helicopter?
29 reality check (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 09:54 pm Report abuse
The British are militarising the Malvinas, look here is the evidence!
30 redpoll (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 10:20 pm Report abuse
@27 Ted
Snotty is our resident court jester on these boards along with Sussie and Pirate HUnter aka Alex Vargas. On a slow news day its quite fun to bate them
31 malen (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 10:28 pm Report abuse
20 Poor Joe Bloggs talking nonsense all day, makes him patheticcccccccc
1800 after 300 years of colonization of Sapin in SAm, after having increased and multiplied our mixed population (they didnt and couldnt kill all the indegenous, still are many communites living here) and become millions over thousands of colonisators, we became a people that recovered its land.
In 1900, immigration introduced to a sovereign country more people that decided to be argentine.Now immigration is more between SAm countries.
We have 56 % of heritage from indegenous.
This continent its of southamericans, not of europeans, because nobody here chooses to be a colony of EUrope. Get it.
32 Anglotino (#) Feb 19th, 2013 - 11:53 pm Report abuse

“This continent its of southamericans, not of europeans, because nobody here chooses to be a colony of EUrope.”

Really? Well the people of French Guiana are still part of France. And in a couple of weeks the people of the Falkland Islands will choose to remain British.

I guess they can't be South Americans too. Poor Malen so discriminating. So racist.

No wonder the Falkland Islands choose not be part of Argentina.
33 redpoll (#) Feb 20th, 2013 - 12:58 am Report abuse
Malen And where did YOUR grandfather come from?
34 UncleTed (#) Feb 20th, 2013 - 09:08 am Report abuse
@30 That seems a bit cruel, they appear to be a very soft target.

@31 'This continent its of southamericans, not of europeans, because nobody here chooses to be a colony of EUrope. Get it.'
Hate to contradict you, but there are some Islands who I believe are about to choose not to be a colony of South America. get it.

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