Scott's Monthly Journal, June 1938
ETHIOPIAN RED CROSS STAMPS
By JOHN H. SHAW
NOTE: Many collectors have been in doubt as to the authenticity of the 1936 issue of Ethiopian Red Cross Stamps. Fortunately, we have been able to determine the facts and so can clear up all misunderstanding about them.
When these stamps were issued in February, 1936, doubt arose as to their origin, chiefly because of the procedure adopted by the Ethiopian Government - that of selling the stamps through their Diplomatic Representative. Unfamiliarity with this method was largely responsible for the false conclusions which branded the stamps as fakes. Recollections of the unauthorized Ethiopian Charity stamps printed in this country added to the conviction that the Ethiopian Red Cross Stamps were likewise the handiwork of an unauthorized person.
In this state of confusion, the facts in connection with the issue were impossible to obtain, and we therefore placed the stamps under "Tentative Listings" until such time as complete information as to their authenticity, or tack of it, was available.
Recently, two years after the event, we were at last able to go over the entire matter with the Ethiopian Consul General, Mr. John H. Shaw. He showed us all the official documents pertaining to the issuance of the 1936 Ethiopian Red Cross Stamps. We no longer have the slightest doubt as to their authenticity and are therefore removing these stamps from "Tentative Listings" to their rightful place in the Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.
Mr. Shaw has been good enough to give us, for publication, the following brief history of the series.
In July, 1935, the Ethiopian Government at Addis Ababa referred to me, as their diplomatic representative in New York, an offer of assistance which they had received from an organization in the United States, with instructions to make an investigation.
I found that an organization had been incorporated in legal form, with a charter granted by the Judicial Court. The charter stated that membership would be withheld from any person or persons having been convicted of a felony, or any person whose general conduct and deportment might be questionable.
The corporation was designated as a humanitarian undertaking to solicit contributions for the purpose of supplying ambulance units, hospital units, medical supplies and food, and other material not connected with armaments. As a further means of raising funds, the corporation had engaged the services of a European philatelic expert who was willing to lend his talents to the cause.
Anxious to serve the Empire I represent, I lost no time in communicating with the philatelic expert, and invited him to the Consulate to discuss his proposed scheme of raising funds for the Ethiopian cause through the sale of postage stamps. Since the expert came so well recommended, I reported the details of the proposed plan to my Government, and thus the seed of the Ethiopian Red Cross Stamp first took root.
Although I knew nothing about stamps, it seemed to me that the agreement as submitted, was more a case of Ethiopia helping the corporation and the expert, than they helping Ethiopia. This aroused suspicions which were later confirmed by the swiftness with which the expert produced, without authority, an artist's copy of designs to be used on the stamps.
I informed the expert that he had no authority to engage an artist or to submit drawings of Ethiopian stamps, and that in the event the Ethiopian Government decided to issue any new stamps, they would select the designs and attend to the printing. Whereupon the expert announced that he would carry out his plans to print Ethiopian postage stamps if he had to do it alone. The expert made good his threat. He did print, or had printed, a so-called Ethiopian Charity stamp, some copies of which were sold. With the assistance of the United States Government, he was soon apprehended and the plates and stamps destroyed. The expert turned out to be an impostor of no mean ability. He had entered this country on a false passport, and was wanted in Europe for various crimes. Although he was arrested and eventually deported, the effects of his conspiracy did irreparable damage to the real Ethiopian stamps which had been placed on sale about that time."
The facts concerning the authentic Ethiopian postage stamps are as follows:
On the 27th day of November, 1935, the Ethiopian Government authorized
the Society of Finance of France, to print 500,000 sets of Ethiopian postage
stamps, surprinted with a Red Cross in the upper left corner. The sets
were to consist of five stamps, in five denominations, 1-2-4-8 guerche,
thaler. The stamps were to be sold in sets only, and at double their face value of approximately $1.50. Half of the proceeds had been assigned .by the Government for the support and maintenance of the newly former Ethiopian Red Cross. Since I knew nothing of philately, I sought guidance from recognized stamp authorities in New York, and on the strength of their advice, notified the Ethiopian Government of five recommendations which the Government accepted and confirmed on January 8, 1936. They were as follows:
"1-The stamps will be available for postage in Ethiopia.
2-They will be sold in Addis Ababa during an indefinite period but certainly longer than a month.
3-They will be sold at double their face value-half of the proceeds to go to the Ethiopian Red Cross.
4-The addressed envelopes, with the necessary money for purchasing the stamps will be dispatched to the National Society of the Ethiopian Red Cross in Addis Ababa, who will attend to same and return them to their destinations.
5-This series will be sold only in complete series."
The stamps arrived in New York and were placed on sale on March 1, 1936, after having been held up ten days, pending the arrival in Addis Ababa of the Ethiopian allotment, so that the stamps would be offered for sale in Addis Ababa Post Offices the same day they were offered in New York. The sale of this issue was never withdrawn nor demonetized by the Ethiopian Government, but the sale ceased with Italian occupation of Addis Ababa on May 1, 1936, when the Post Office was demolished by fire. Covers were accepted for transmission to the Ethiopian Red Cross in Addis Ababa. Necessary postage was affixed and they were dispatched to their destinations.
The head of the Sudan Interior Mission, an American Society, Dr. T. A. Lambie, who had been appointed Director of the Ethiopian Red Cross in Addis Ababa by the Ethiopian Government, personally attended to these covers.
A translation from the French of a letter from the Bureau international de l’union postale universaelle, Berne, addressed to a collector seeking official information concerning the issue, follows:
"No. 675 Berne, January 38, 1937
Referring to your letter of the 21st, January, I beg to inform you that the five Ethiopian Red Cross Stamps accompanying your letter were issued in 1936, and not in 1931, as you state.
The stamps of this emission reached us by letter from the Postmaster General's Service of the Imperial Ethiopian Empire dated the 24th, February, 1936. They were distributed between the Offices of the union the 28th, March, 1936, by our Office, in application of Article 189, Paragraph No. I, of the Statutes of the Cairo Universal Postal Agreement.
The Postmaster General's letter accompanying these stamps added "They will be sold at twice their nominal value to the profit of the newly formed Ethiopian Red Cross."
I return herewith the specimen stamps sent for our perusal.
Bureau international de l’union postale universaelle, Berne"
Last update: September 6, 2000