Canada's Mounties Make Nice Topical Study

Michael O. Nowlan - April 12, 1999
 

Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was established 125 years ago in response to trouble stemming from the Red River Rebellion in 1869-70 and the illicit activities with whiskey peddlers. Known as the North West Mounted Police, it was authorized by Dominion Parliament statue on May 23, 1873. By 1904, King Edward VII allowed the force to prefix its title with "Royal", and in 1920 the Dominion Police Force and the RNWMP merged to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In earlier years, the Mounties, as the RCMP are often called, had a role in mail delivery (One Mountie was a postmaster.), and today there are eight Canadian stamp tributes to the RCMP as well as stamps that are considered 'Mountie' topicals.

The first RCMP stamp was the 10-cent carmine rose (Scott 223) issued June 1, 1935. A beautifully engraved stamp, it depicts a constable on horseback against a prairie background.

A three-stamp set in 1973 celebrated 100 years of the RCMP. One stamp depicts first Commissioner George Arthur French (Scott 612), and a second (Scott 613) has a spectrograph, a device used to compute the visual spectrum of a substance as a method of identification while the third centennial stamp (Scott 614) describes "the charge", a memorable scene from the Mounties' famous Musical Ride.

The 1935 "Constable on Horseback" was one of five 'stamps on stamps' for the International Philatelic Youth Exhibition in Toronto May 20-24, 1982. It was issued as a 35-cent (Scott 911) single stamp March 11, 1982, and it appeared with the Three-penny Beaver, Champlain, Mount Hurd, and the Bluenose on an exhibition souvenir sheet (Scott 913a) May 20.

The two-stamp 'Men of Peace', issued on September 5, 1986, featured Crowfoot (Scott 1108), a chief of the Blackfoot nation, and James F. Macleod (Scott 1109) of the NWMP who was assistant commissioner in 1874. As commissioner in 1877, Macleod was a key figure in Treaty Seven with the Stonies, Sarcee and Blackfoot nations.

A stamp in Canada's four-stamp Ice Vessels set November 15, 1978 spoke for the Mounties' marine division. The St. Roch (Scott 777) was built at North Vancouver for the force's Arctic Patrol service in 1928.

On June 13, 1996 at CAPEX '96, Canada Post released five stamps to mark the centenary of the Yukon Gold Rush. One of them paid tribute to the efforts of the legendary Sgt. Sam Steele who had a dominant role in law and order in the Yukon.

On July 3, 1998, a two-stamp issue fittingly traced 125 years of Mountie history. One stamp presents an officer in the NWMP uniform against a background scene of an NWMP meeting Stoney natives. A tab between the stamps has a striking frontal image of the Musical Ride, which extends onto both stamps; a background maple leaf on the tab is framed by graduated red panels on each stamp, forming a Canadian flag.

The second stamp features a portrait of a contemporary officer in working uniform against a photographic collage showing a fingerprint technician in a crime lab and an RCMP helicopter in motion against a city skyline.

Several Canadian stamps have a direct connection to the RCMP, including the July 3, 1975 Calgary centennial (Scott 667) which honored a city that started as a NWMP outpost. The "Forts across Canada" booklet issued June 28, 1985 has Fort Whoop-up in Alberta (Scott 1054) which was the center for the illegal whiskey traders and Fort Walsh (Scott 1056), a NWMP outpost in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan.

Regina's 100th anniversary was marked with a commemorative (Scott 967) August 3, 1982. Like the Calgary stamp, it is not a 'Mountie' stamp, but Regina, Saskatchewan was longtime headquarters for the force and the home of Depot Division where all recruits are trained today. The cachet of a First Day Cover for the Regina event depicts an NWMP member (in pillbox hat) and a modern-day Mountie.

One of the most colorful and distinguished scouts employed by the NWMP in 1874 was Jerry Potts (Scott 1432) who was on one of the four-stamp Canadian Folklore set in September 1992.

The scarlet force has left its mark on Canadian history, and, collectively, these stamps enhance the rich and diverse life of a world-class police force. Those who pursue Mountie topicals will discover imperf pairs and imperf blocks, especially among the 1973 centennial set, and there are numerous cover cachets with Mountie portrayals. This is a nice little topical study, which is destined to grow. And it is quite inexpensive.

Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.


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