Black History Month Stamp Celebrates Hogan’s Alley

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Nora Hendrix and Fielding William Spotts

Black History month kicks off today and I’m really impressed by Canada Post’s choice of stamps. There are two, one of which depicts Hogan’s Alley, Nora Hendrix and Fielding William Spotts.

The photo of Spotts was taken in 1935, and the 75-year-old is standing outside his home at 217 ½ Prior, which four decades later would be bulldozed out of its existence for the Georgia Viaduct.

In the stamp, Spotts stands next to a young looking Nora Hendrix, who would live to be 100, spend much of her life in Strathcona, and become famous for her grandson rocker Jimi Hendrix. I couldn’t find out much about Spotts, or why he was chosen to represent Vancouver and Black History month, except that he lived in Hogan’s Alley, and according to the city directory of 1930, ran a shoe shine business at 724 Main Street. I expect he was chosen because his was one of the few images of black Canadians available.

Canada Post chose Africville to represent Black History monthThis is the sixth year that Canada Post has produced a stamp for Black History Month—Rosemary Brown was first up in 2009, and it’s the first time the stamp has focussed on a place instead of a person.

I was curious how Canada Post selected these images so I called Eugene Knapik, media relations manager in Toronto. Turns out it’s quite the process.

A committee of 12 select the subject matter. Our one representative is Ken Lum, a well established artist, who according to Wikipedia, now lives and teaches in Philadelphia. Still he grew up in Strathcona, so has more connection than the others who are mostly designers, Philatelists (stamp collectors), curators, and curiously, Toronto economist David Foot who wrote Boom Bust & Echo.

I also wondered who buys stamps these days. Turns out while not many of us mail letters, there’s still a big global-wide demand for stamps. Canada Post churns out about 60 different stamps every year.

Knapik says anyone is welcome to suggest a stamp—it takes about two years from inception to find its way to an envelope.

Stamps for 2014 include Lunar New Year (year of the Horse), Canadian Comedians, Komagatu Maru’s 100th anniversary, and my favourite theme–haunted Canada. Apparently flowers are a best seller—expect to see roses.

Still, sounds like a deal at 63 cents.

Black History Month 2014

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