Epaulettes (stamp)

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Epaulettes
Epaulette 10c.jpg
Brown ten centimes version
Country of production Belgium
Location of production Northern Brussels
Date of production 1849
Designer Charles Baugniet
Engraver John Henry Robinson
Dimensions 19 mm × 22 mm (0.75 in × 0.87 in)
Perforation None
Depicts King Leopold I
Notability First Belgian postage stamp
Face value 10 and 20 centimes
Estimated value €7,100 (mint)

Epaulettes (French: Épaulettes, Dutch: Epauletten) is the colloquial name of the first type of postage stamp issued by Belgium. The stamp, which depicted King Leopold I and his prominent epaulettes from which the type's name derives, became legally usable on 1 July 1849. Two denominations with the same design were issued simultaneously: a brown 10 centimes and a blue 20 centimes.

Background[edit]

Heavily influenced by the example of the British postal system, which issued its first stamp, the Penny Black, in 1840, the Belgian government supported the inauguration of a Belgian equivalent. The idea of postage stamps was officially sanctioned by Leopold I on the Loi apportant des modifications au régime des postes ("Law bringing modifications to the postal system") on 24 December 1847 while the radical liberal and future Prime Minister, Walthère Frère-Orban, served as Minister of Public Works.[1]

A second act, the Loi sur la réforme postale ("Law on postal reform"), was signed on 22 April 1849.[2] The second law set out more detailed terms for the launch of the postal system and on 17 June 1849, Leopold I officially requested the new Minister of Public Works, Hippolyte Rolin, to act on the new laws.[3]

Stamps[edit]

Blue twenty centimes version

On 1 July 1849, the first postage stamps were launched, produced in two denominations with the same design.[4][5] The first, a brown 10 centimes stamp, could be used to send a letter up to a distance of 30 kilometres (19 mi); the blue 20 centimes could be used on all other ordinary national mail.[6] The successful design was just one of a variety of options produced by Jacob Wiener.[7]

The stamps were officially described by an Avis ministériel ("Ministerial notice") of 1849 as each being a "small engraving representing the portrait of the King, with indication as to their value...they will be printed on a paper of which the reverse is coated in a thin layer of glue."[8]

The Epaulettes stamps depicted Leopold I wearing military uniform, with highly visible epaulettes. They were inscribed "POSTES" ("post") at the top, along with the stamp's value in numbers.[5] At the bottom was the stamps face value in French language text. No Dutch language version was produced.[4][a] Like the first British stamps, it did not carry the name of its country of origin since it was intended for use in Belgium only. It was watermarked with the royal double-L monogram. The stamp was designed by Charles Baugniet, based on the King's official portrait painted by the artist Liévin De Winne.[4] It composition was by Jacob Wiener and the engraver John Henry Robinson.[10] It was not perforated.

The stamp carried the two crossed "L"s monogram of Leopold I as a watermark.[5] To attach it to an envelope, the stamp, which already contained gum, had to be moistened before application.[11]

Around 5,250,000 examples of each denomination of stamp were produced.[4]

Operation[edit]

An 1868 portrait of Leopold I by Liévin De Winne

The stamps were sold from post-offices across the country but some were also issued to postmen for sale.[12] Sales started on 25 June 1849, however they only became legal on 1 July.[12] Because of the lack of an infrastructure of post boxes, particularly in rural areas, letters could be given directly to the postman in person rather than delivered to post offices to be sent.[11]

Effects and legacy[edit]

The introduction of the postage stamp, along with daily delivery, allowed a large increase in the volume of mail carried. In 1839, 7 million letters were sent in Belgium, rising to 9 million by 1851 and 17.5 million in 1860. The success of the two initial stamps led to the introduction of three new varieties, with different designs and denominations, in October 1849.[4] These new types replaced the epaulettes design with the so-called "Medallion" type, featuring Leopold I's portrait within a circular medallion window.[4] In the same issue, a (red) forty centime stamp was produced for overseas mail.[4] The Epaulettes were officially superseded in 1859, but remained legally valid until 1 July 1866 when, following Leopold I's death, all stamps bearing his effigy were demonetized.[10]

A nearly identical re-impression was made in 1866 on laid paper which are distinguished by slightly different dimensions.[10] The Epaulettes have also subsequently been the subject of various commemorative stamps. The Epaulettes featured as part of the design of stamps issued by Belgium in 1925 and 1972. For their 100th and 150th anniversary, in 1949 and 1999, the Belgian Postal service published sets commemorating the design.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ French was traditionally the language of the Belgian government and wealty classes. Dutch did not receive official status alongside French as an official language until the Coremans-De Vriendt law of 1898.[9]
Citations
  1. ^ Moens 1880, pp. 27-9.
  2. ^ Moens 1880, pp. 31-2.
  3. ^ Moens 1880, pp. 32-3.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Legrand 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Moens 1880, p. 36.
  6. ^ Moens 1880, p. 30.
  7. ^ Moens 1880, pp. 37-8.
  8. ^ Moens 1880, p. 33.
  9. ^ McRae 1986, pp. 25-6.
  10. ^ a b c Moens 1880, p. 37.
  11. ^ a b Moens 1880, p. 34.
  12. ^ a b Moens 1880, p. 35.
Bibliography