Winnie and Lieutenant Colebourn, White River, 1914
Date of Issue
October 1, 1996
Winnie the Pooh
Series Time Span
Perforation or Dimension
12.5 x 13
Ashton-Potter Canada Limited.
Designed by Wai Poon Art direction by Anthony Van Bruggen Computer design by Marcelo Caetano
Philatelists of all ages may remember this song- "Deep in the 100 Acre Wood where Christopher Robin plays, you'll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher's childhood days...". And who was to be found in that enchanted neighborhood? Why Winnie the Pooh of course, that wisest and most foolish of bears! When International Stamp Month is celebrated in October 1996, Winnie's familiar face will be featured as a part of a commemorative booklet and souvenir sheet on a set of domestic-rate stamps. In this release, Pooh is looking sharp in his most contemporary form designed by the animation wizards at Disney Studios. Some will remember his earlier guises drawn by Ernest Howard Shepard for A.A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh." But did you know that the real Winnie was a Canadian? That's right, Winnie-the-bear was born somewhere near a log cabin just outside White River, Ontario. As a young black-bear cub, Winnie had no indication of the fame and fortune that awaited her - that's correct, her. She played, ate berries, and did other regular bear things until her mother was killed and a hunter found the cub, fed her, and brought her to White River. Shortly thereafter, a train passed trough town on its way to Military Camp Valcartier, Quebec. Lt. Harry Colebourn stepped off that train for a breath of fresh air and met the guardian hunter. A young veterinary officer serving with Winnipeg's Fort Garry Horse, Colebourn purchased the cub and stepped back on the train. Born in England, Lt. Colebourn had earned his degree from the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, and had worked for the Department of Agriculture in Winnipeg. His diary for August 24, 1914, reads "On train all day. Bought cub bear at White River, Amt. paid $20.00." He had just left his home and position in Winnipeg to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe, and in honour of the Manitoba city, named the cub Winnie. The two became good friends on the journey overseas and arrived safely at Salisbury Plain where the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade was encamped. Winnie stayed in Colebourn's tent, slept under his bed, and became a favorite pet to many of the Canadian soldiers. She played games with the men and followed them around camp like a puppy. But when the unit was ordered to the battlefields of France, Winnie had to be placed with the London Zoo for safekeeping. Mascots and pets were not uncommon among the Canadian soldiers, and the London Zoo records that no fewer than five black bears were presented to them by Canadian units during the first year of the Great War. But Winnie was everyone's favorite. A newspaper story quote a keeper who exclaimed "Never trust a bear!" but went on to exclude Winnie who, he said, "is quite the tamest and best behaved bear we have ever had at the Zoo." Lt. Harry Colebourn never forgot his bear. When on leave from the front, he visited Winnie and had planned to take her back to Canada after the war. When he saw how much she meant to the kids visiting the zoo, however, he changed his mind. Winnie lived to the ripe old age of twenty at the London Zoo. The four stamps making up the Winnie the Pooh set were designed in animation-style in collaboration with Walt Disney Company (Canada) Limited. They will be the subject of very special unveilings. The artwork for the first image (Lt. Colebourn-Winnie) will be released in Toronto at the CN tower on September 16, 1996.
Canada Post Corporation. Canada's Stamp Details, Vol. 5, No. 5, 1996, p. 11-13, 16.
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