Stamps Around the Globe

British Guiana One-Cent Magenta

Press


Media Contact:
Marty Emery
(202) 633-5518
emerym@si.edu
Museum Director:
Allen Kane
(202) 633-5501
kanea@si.edu
Exhibit Curator:
Daniel Piazza
(202) 633-4737
piazzad@si.edu

Press Release

 
Press Images

OBVERSE1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta
1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. Loan from Stuart Weitzman. [Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]
Above: 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. Loan from Stuart Weitzman.
(Click for high-resolution image)
[Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]

OBVERSE – INFRARED FILTER1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter
1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter [Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]
Above: 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter
This photograph of the 1856 One-Cent Magenta was taken using an infrared filter. This suppresses the stamp’s red surface, making the black printing more visible. Significant markings:
  • Damus Petimus Que Vicissim: British Guiana’s motto, derived from the Roman poet Horace. It means, “We give and we ask in return.”
  • Initials E.D.W.: Because the stamp could be replicated by anyone with access to printer’s type and a press, postal clerk Edmond D. Wight’s handwritten initials deterred counterfeiters.
  • Vignette: Shows a barque, a three-masted sailing ship common in the nineteenth century. Not meant to represent any particular ship, this illustration would have been available in many print shops.
  • Surface-colored paper: Created by adding a thin layer of color on top of a sheet of white paper. This method of coloring paper was cheap, but also prone to smudging.
  • Postmark: Dated April 4, 1856, it reads Demerara, but that is a county name. The stamp was printed, sold, and used at Georgetown, the colonial capital.
  • Corners: No one knows why the one-cent stamp’s rectangular corners were clipped. The four-cent exists in both clipped and intact examples.
  • Inscriptions: The stamp’s text reads British|Guiana.|Postage|One Cent. The Guianese dollar, consisting of one hundred cents, became the currency in 1839. One-cent stamps were for mailing newspapers; four-cent stamps were for letters. This may explain the one-cent stamp’s rarity; letters were more likely to be saved than newspapers.
[Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]

REVERSE1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta (reverse)
1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta (reverse). Loan from Stuart Weitzman. [Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]
Above: 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta (reverse). Loan from Stuart Weitzman.
(Click for high-resolution image)
Multiple markings on the reverse of the stamp testify to its provenance, or ownership history. They are listed here in the order they were applied:
  • Circled trefoil (two strikes, one of them incomplete): Count Philipp von Ferrary
  • Four-leaf clover and AH: Arthur Hind
  • Seventeen-point star: Applied by Ann Hind to obscure her husband’s mark.
  • Comet: Frederick T. Small
  • Pencil initials FK: Finbar Kenny, manager of Macy’s stamp department, brokered the stamp’s sale to Frederick T. Small.
  • Pencil initials IW: Irwin Weinberg and Associates
  • Handwritten J.E.d.P.: John Eleuthère du Pont
[Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]

REVERSE – INFRARED FILTER DETAIL1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter
1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter [Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]
Above: 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta photograph using an infrared filter
Infrared photographs taken at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in 2014 revealed a four-leaf clover beneath the seventeen-point star.
[Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Postal Museum]

 

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