Slogan dies

By Claire McHugh, Cataloguer (Collections)

At present I am waist deep sorting through and cataloguing slogan dies ready to go onto the online catalogue in a couple of months.

Postal slogans were first applied (by hand) to mail some 300 years ago. However, the majority of collectors think of slogans as the special dies which replace the normal wavy-line obliterators in stamp cancelling machines.

The accepted thought is that the British Post Office was late in adopting the use of slogan dies and it wasn’t until 1917 it agreed reluctantly to assist the War Savings Campaign by authorising the ‘Buy National War Bonds Now’ slogan. This established a precedent for using slogans as an alternative to the wavy-line stamp cancellation marks.

Though strictly not a slogan die, it should be noted that the BPMA does hold a Victoria Jubilee obliterator dating from 1896. The obliterator was sent by the Imperial Marking Machine Company (the Canadian subsidiary of The American Postal Machine Company established by Martin Van Buren Ethridge) and offered to the Post Office along with their Imperial Cancelling Machine for trials in July 1896, although it wasn’t until 1897 that the Post Office would trial the machine. It is believed no mail was processed during the trial, so contemporary examples of this postmark are rare, if non existent (though it is thought that this die was used in Canada for a time).

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin [1964] No. 126)

Postmark of Victoria Jubilee Obliterator, (Postal History Society Bulletin {1964} No. 126)

Not all slogans and obliterators have been patriotic; some have unintentionally done the opposite. In 1960, Dame Laura Knight designed a slogan cancellation for the World Refugee Campaign. The die’s design showed a hand raised in supplication. Unfortunately the thumb tended to point to the Queen’s nose if stamps were fixed in a certain way. The slogan was withdrawn on the account of causing offense, but prior to this the postmaster of Halifax had the hand filed from the slogan die used at his office. Examples of the defaced Halifax slogans are now scarce.

Slogans I have so far catalogued range from the eye opening ’12th World Naturist Congress Orpington (North Kent) 10-14 August’ to proud local claims such as ‘See Bath In Bloom/ Britain’s Top Floral City’. To the attention-grabbing slogan of ‘Recycle Yourself Be A Kidney Donor’ to the more familiar everyday brands such as ‘Quality Street/ Magic Moments’ and ‘W H Smith 200 Years’. The various slogans also consist of names that have not always stood the test of time (anyone remember ‘Leave Him To Heaven/ New Rock Musical…’?) to names that are now recognised as classics ‘A Steven Spielberg Film/ E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial is coming home on video on Oct 28th’. These are just a taster of the some 2000 varieties of slogan dies I have catalogued so far.

One response to “Slogan dies

  1. Pingback: New items on our online catalogue « The British Postal Museum & Archive

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