|Report of the Meeting, September 21, 2013
Hotel Posts of Egypt
PRESENT: 24 members and guests attended; there were apologies for absence from six members.
It was a delight to see such a good turn-out for our autumn Stampex meeting, with 24 members and guests present, five of them from overseas, and at least two of them attending their first meeting. As it happens, those present had made a wise choice: the display, on the Hotel Posts of Egypt, was outstanding.
The meeting was presented by Richard Wheatley (ESC 168), of Leeds, who prefaced his presentation with an explanation that he had prepared the sheets "in my way" - that is, intended not for formal competitive exhibition but to bring out the story behind the material, using postcards, scans of the reverses of covers, even newspaper cuttings ... all of these frowned on by international exhibition judges.
Richard also said that he took note of incoming as well as outgoing material, and to whom the covers were addressed - thus extending the interest of what proved to be a fascinating and wide-ranging display. And that is ignoring for the moment the standard of material on show, some of it unique or close to it, much of it scarce and difficult to find, with many elusive postmarks and frankings in display.
The tour started in Cairo and moved down the Nile - with one important excursion to Alexandria - covering all those hotels with post offices and some without. Among the delights: from Shepheards he showed an 1889 cover addressed to an American visitor before the first hotel postmarks were issued, an incoming Ceylon letter-card, a cover double-censored in Egypt and the US during the Second World War, and a 1951 air mail cover adorned with a BOAC Air Mail label - with the BOAC indication cut out. Remember, this was at the time of the height of anti-British feeling.
Richard regretted not having Registration cachets from the Semiramis Hotel - but who does? But he recalled a visit to the Mena House Hotel and showed a delightful piece of illustrated stationery with a coach and horses to the left of the Pyramids. A similar cover a few years later displayed no such method of transport - by then the hotel was served by the new tramway out from the suburb of Giza. And he used Baedeker of 1908 to shed some more light on the actual whereabouts of the Mena House Post Office.
Back in central Cairo, he developed the tangled history of the New Hotel on Ezbekieh, followed by the Continental, which became the Continental-Savoy after the First World War, when the British military left their temporary HQ in the Savoy in complete disarray and unsuitable any longer for an hotel. Among much colourful and important material, from the Continental he showed a quite remarkable and unrecorded Registered luggage label (above) addressed to Cork and dated 27 XI 20. It is franked with the 50,20,10 and 5-millièmes of the De La Rue pictorial issue cancelled by the Type HC8 Continental-Cairo / Cash CDS.
From the Savoy came a display of illustrated stationery, together with an astonishing seven-colour franked piece of postal stationery (left) uprated with no fewer than seven additional De La Rue stamps for registration to Germany and with a neat and clear strike of the Cairo: Savoy Hotel Registration cachet (fewer than a dozen known), the stamps cancelled with a Type HSA2 CDS of 26 II 09.
Showing his interest in the story behind the cover - in which the Google search has played quite a part - Richard was able to show a cover addressed to Frank Parkinson, a generous benefactor to his hometown University, Leeds; and even more personally, a cover printed for AC Cars, which he was able to illustrated with an advertisement found on the web for one of the company's vehicles from the mid-Thirties - his father's first car!
Returning to strict hotel themes, he made an excursion to Alexandria where he regretted that the old San Stefano no longer stood in seaside splendour, but again was able to show wartime use with a cover bearing the hotel's CDS addressed to Sydney. And a true delight despite its philatelic nature: the San Stefano Hotel Registration cachet, stamped on the face of another colourful cover, printed for the hotel and bearing no fewer than eight stamps of the De La Rue issues to Belgium. The postmark itself, Type HSS3, is difficult to find on cover; but the Registration cachet, as far as we know, is unique. If anyone has another example, please let the Secretary know!
At the end of a remarkable afternoon, the Chairman, Peter Andrews, praised the speaker's "very fine display", mentioning particularly how much the anecdotes and asides had embellished a quite wonderful collection of excellent material. Members were suitably generous with their applause.
Earlier, members - especially those from overseas - had been welcomed and the Secretary mentioned the hard work of Edmund Hall and Mike Murphy in preparing the recent QC and the present Auction 52, urging members to bid often and bid high. He urged members to visit TexPex in Dallas at the end of February 2014 (see QC) ; and sought help with the Meetings List for next year. All offers by speakers and general help with where and when meetings should be held will be gratefully received at email@example.com