Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Phila-Trivia: When Faith is More Than Skin Deep - The Sudan Watermark Incident

In 1898, Lord Kitchener, then British proconsul in Egypt and the Sudan, was concluding the suppression of the Mahdist Revolt, a bloody conflict which had lasted 17 years. A new set of stamps picturing a camel post rider was issued (Scott #9-16), replacing the former stamps of 1897 (Scott #1-8), which were simply Egyptian stamps overprinted "Soudan." It was hoped that the new set would be more popular, in that it would be distinctively Sudanese.

Unfortunately, a seemingly minor detail was overlooked. The stamps were printed on a paper which was the same as used for the stamps of some other British possessions, and bore a Rosette watermark, also referred to as a Maltese Cross. Not long after the issue was put in use, there was a noticeable murmur among the Sudanese, especially within religious circles, who were indignant at the prospect of having to kiss a Christian Cross when licking the back of the stamp to affix it to a letter. Kitchener ordered the stamps reprinted on new paper, and in 1902 a new set was issued, on paper bearing a star and crescent watermark (Scott #17-27).

This was probably the first and only time that an element of a stamp's design was changed in order to avert a religious conflict.


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I create paintings as documentations of context, based on systems of rules.
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