100 Years of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain 1909-2009.
by Colin Searle
Published on the 21st January 2010
The book lists each of the Philatelic Congress events between 1909 and 2009, and also gives examples of the souvenirs produced, in addition to a listing of papers presented at Congress. With, in many cases photographs of the event.
The author, Colin Searle attended his first Congress quite recently and volunteered to become the Organising Secretary for the Stratford-upon-Avon 2008 Congress. According to the ABPS web-site, Colin was so struck with the idea of Congress that he challenged himself to write this 168 page, full colour book on the 100th Anniversary of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, for, and on behalf, of the ABPS.
Manchester 1909. The first British Philatelic Congress was held in Manchester in connection with a philatelic exhibition arranged by the Manchester Junior Philatelic Society in February 1909. This was a novelty in this country but already established in Germany, the United States of America and other countries. In Germany, the idea was thirty years old and even in Great Britain it had been mentioned many times. It seemed to be approaching reality in 1907 when various suggestions appeared in the philatelic press.
When in 1908 the Manchester branch of the Junior Philatelic Society decided to hold a stamp exhibition in February 1909. Mr I.J. Bernstein, the main mover behind the exhibition, suggested in a letter to the press that an exhibition drew in philatelists from all parts and so formed a good basis for a Congress; he was chosen as the first president.
In July 1908 it was decided to hold the first British Congress at the same time as the exhibition, with some fear and trepidation and in the hope that the exhibition would draw philatelists together and make a Congress possible. At a meeting of the Society’s exhibition committee on 16th July Mr. J.J. Darlow was appointed Congress secretary and Mr. W.D. Beckton it's chairman. The philatelic press welcomed the news and support was forthcoming from every quarter of the United Kingdom.
The Manchester branch of the Junior Philatelic Society (London) was formed in February 1906 after a lecture given by Fred J. Melville, and 41 people attended it's first meeting. The idea of an exhibition was first raised in January 1908 and in the April a sub-committee was set up to look into the idea of an Exhibition and Congress. By October a draft prospectus was agreed and it is said that this would be the first opportunity for philatelists in this country to confer with each other on many important matters connected with philately. The most important British societies had already expressed their willingness to take part and delegates had been appointed. Matters to be discussed would include: 1) The formation of a National Federation; 2) The holding of an annual Congress; 3) The suppression of unnecessary or speculative issues; and 4) The compilation of a collector’s catalogue and guide.
The first offer of a paper for the Congress was made in November 1908, but in December the Postmaster General refused permission for a special postmark but relented in January 1909. A Souvenir postcard was designed and accepted.
The arrangements made for the Congress were as follows:
Thursday18th February 1909 5pm-7pm Congress meets in the Congress Hall.
Friday 19th February 3pm-5pm Congress meets,
7.30pm-8pm and 8.30pm-9pm Lantern lecture entitled ‘Our Penny Stamps’.
Saturday 20th February 3pm-4.30pm Congress meets.
7pm-8.30pm Final sitting of Congress 62 delegates from 32 societies, including some from Scotland, Wales and
Ireland, are recorded as attending, but the meetings were ‘open to the public as far as space will permit’.
Only delegates were allowed to address the meeting unless previous permission was obtained. The items under discussion were:
1) The formation of a national society or federation. Some disquiet was expressed about possible interference with existing societies’ organisations and work, and the discussion ended without a vote being taken.
2) Collector’s catalogue. There was another inconclusive debate, but the general opinion was that it would be difficult to supersede existing dealers’ catalogues; it was hoped that dealers might be persuaded to agree on standard prices.
3) Unnecessary issues. This time a proposal was unanimously passed to present a petition to the Postal Union soliciting their help in ‘the prevention of future issues of commemorative and other stamps which are unnecessary for the public service’.
4) Annual Congresses. It was resolved that the 1910 Congress would be held in London at the invitation of the Hert's. Philatelic Society, and that the organisation of future Congresses should be left to the host society.
5) Deceased collectors’ stamps. It was concluded that it would be better that individuals and societies, rather than a national organisation, should attend to the disposal of deceased collectors’ stamps.
6) Proposed encyclopædia of Philatelic literature. It was agreed that such a proposal was too immense to be contemplated, and that even an index of philatelic works would be a very large subject. Most serious collectors and societies possess libraries so members should have little difficulty in being able to refer to most handbooks. The Congress ended with the presentation of a diploma to each delegate.