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Newfoundland, 1583-1983, Sir Humphrey Gilbert


Newfoundland, 1583-1983, Sir Humphrey Gilbert



Date of Issue

August 3, 1983




Postal Administration


Perforation or Dimension



Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.


Designed by Roger Hill

About Stamp

On August 5, 1583, at St. John's, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I of England. He thus laid one of the foundations of the British Empire overseas. The Dominion of Newfoundland issued fourteen stamps in 1933 to commemorate the event. St. Brendan, a sixth-century Irish Monk, may have been the first European to see Newfoundland. Around 1000 A.D., the Vikings colonized it for a short period. After John Cabot had sailed there in 1497 and publicized the region's rich fisheries, a fishing industry quickly developed. It was not until after Jacques Cartier's voyage of 1535-36 that Newfoundland was proved to be an island. Sir Humphrey Gilbert was born about 1537. He served as a soldier, notably in Ireland where he gained a ruthless reputation. Gradually the idea of founding a colony in the New World took hold of him. Because he was well connected at Queen Elizabeth's court, he received a royal patent in 1578 to set up such a colony. He embarked for North America that same year, but the voyage failed. It was 1583 before he assembled the resource for another try. On June 11, 1583, Gilbert left Plymouth with five ships, four of which assembled off St. John's on August 3, 1583. Crews of the 36 fishing vessels already in the harbour prepared to resist Gilbert's entry but relented upon viewing his royal commission. On August 5, Gilbert claimed all the land within 200 leagues of St. John's for Queen Elizabeth. He left St. John's on August 20, hoping to found his colony farther south on the mainland. Diminishing supplies, however, soon forced him to turn back to England. Just before his ship, the Squirrel, sank with all hands in a storm, he shouted to another vessel, "We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land." An important part of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's promotion for his North American expedition was a polar projection map prepared in 1582 by the astronomer John Dee. The stamp designer, Roger Hill of Toronto, has combined a redrawn version of this map with a detail of Sir Humphrey Gilbert taken from a contemporary portrait to create a design that has all the atmosphere of the period. The portrait of Sir Humphrey Gilbert is reproduced with the kind permission of Mrs. Walter Raleigh Gilbert of Devon, England.
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Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1983.

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