George Stewart, Stamp Literature Pioneer

Michael O. Nowlan - June 11, 1999
 

Most stamp literature pioneers are mere memories whose names mean little to readers. One of the very early philatelic literature giants, however, has been given a rebirth. The official show cover for ROYAL*1999*ROYALE, the annual exhibition of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada held in Fredericton, New Brunswick May 28-30, honored George Stewart. Stewart was Canada's most productive philatelic writer in the 19th century. He was a collector, dealer, and editor whose pioneering work is mostly forgotten.

Born in New York in 1848, George Stewart, Jr. came to Canada with his parents in 1851 and moved to the New Brunswick city of Saint John, where he grew up, soon after. Stewart was only 17 years old when the first issue of The Stamp Collector's Monthly Gazette was published

Stewart's Gazette made its appearance June 1, 1865 in Saint John and went for 24 consecutive issues without interruption. The only Canadian stamp journal to precede it was The Stamp Collector's Record, the first stamp journal in North America. Advertisements from dealers throughout North America and Europe attest to wide circulation of the Gazette. Although Stewart was a dealer and used his publication to promote his entreprise, the Gazette was not just a voice for business. It flourished with news on new stamp issues "by correspondents around the world." He wrote features on specific stamps, exposed forgers and dishonest dealers, and wrote "Chit-Chat", an editorial column.

Stewart boasted in the March 1866 issue: "owing to the almost unparalleled popularity and the very extensive circulation of the Gazette, we are able to offer it at terms that are unsurpassed by any other postal publication in existence."

As Stewart brought down the curtain on the Gazette in May 1867, he wrote "with the exception of The Stamp Collector's Magazine and The Philatelist, both published in England, it has for a long time past been the largest (journal) in the world." The last issue of the Gazette was followed by a two-page supplement in June 1867 concluding a lengthy list of philatelic literature which had commenced in the May 1867 issue. It is an impressive list that is still useful to researchers today.

In his farewell with Volume 2 Number 24 of the Gazette, Stewart wrote "new enterprises require all our spare time, and to continue the Gazette would be unjust to ourselves and to our patrons." He had already advertised his new enterprise as Stewart's Literary Quarterly Magazine which was to become one of the influential literary journals of its time, getting praise from New York, Boston, London and Edinburgh. It lasted until 1972 when Stewart went to Toronto to edit Rose-Belford's Canadian Monthly. In 1879, Stewart became editor of the Quebec Daily Chronicle, a position he held until 1896. He died in 1906.

In choosing to honor George Stewart, the Fredericton District Stamp Club, host for ROYAL*1999*ROYALE, revived the work and the memory of a much-deserving philatelic pioneer.

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.


PSE Library