Canada's early history is essentially the history of the fur trade. Motivated by a quest for beaver pelts, European fur traders pressed westward from New France and Hudson Bay; opening the northwest of present- day Canada. Our first postage stamp honoured this coveted creature, and on April 6, 2001, the Three Pence Beaver appears as a stamp-on-stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of the transfer of postal authority from Britain to Canada.
Busy as a...
At lengths of up to 1.3 m and weights of up to 32 kg, the beaver is the largest rodent in North America. A remarkable builder, it constructs dams to increase underwater habitats in winter; canals to transport food; and lodges to keep predators away. In light of its role in Canadian history, the beaver became the symbol of Canada's sovereignty in 1975.
Canada's Early Post
During the French regime in Canada, no organized postal service existed for the general population. Government couriers carried private letters, but recipients were required to pay upon delivery. In 1755, Deputy Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin opened Canada's first official post office in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By the 1780s, mail service difficulties arose and a deputy postmaster general was appointed for Canada, but the post office remained under Imperial management. Representatives from the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick met to discuss the postal system in 1847, reaching an agreement that was approved by the Imperial Parliament in 1849. Post office control passed to the Province of Canada by proclamation on April 5, 1851, with Canadian administration commencing on April 6th.
Our First Postage Stamp
The original Three Pence Beaver was based on a sketch by Sir Sandford Fleming. While featuring a beaver on Canada's first postage stamp seems natural and apt, it was a significant departure from contemporary designs which featured the reigning monarch, a statesman, geometric design, or coat-of-arms. As postal historian Thomas A. Hillman notes, the Three Pence Beaver is one of the world's earliest examples of a pictorial stamp, and until 1939, the only one featuring a rodent.
About the Stamp
Designed by Tom Yakobina of Montréal, the 2001 Three Pence Beaver stamp-on-stamp presents our earliest stamp in a modern setting. A complete dye proof of the original stamp, photographed with kind permission from the Ron Brigham Collection, was superimposed over a background of drop shadows and computer-rendered dot patterns. Yakobina''s use of modern and classical type faces further emphasizes the duality of past and present.