It’s October now, which to philatelists in the United States and the Philippines means that it’s once again National Stamp Collecting Month. The month is also home to International Letter Writing Week and World Post Day as well as national Stamp Days for a number of stamp-issuing entities. The U.S. Postal Service has promoted Stamp Collecting Month with thematic issues and local events since 1981.
A Stamp A Day is participating in National Stamp Collecting Month several different ways (yes, I still celebrate several additional “American” holidays such as Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July despite living in Thailand for nearly 14 years). First of all, almost every day of October will feature a different philatelically-themed stamp including stamps-on-stamps, children or adults holding stamps or looking at their albums, postal workers or vehicles, and others. There will be nine or ten breaks from these topicals to mark anniversaries such as several American Revolutionary War battles, John Lennon’s birthday — which falls on World Post Day — and Halloween.
In conjunction with year’s celebration, A Stamp A Day has also (yesterday) launched a Facebook page which will help to promote the blog and will include other content as well. Please take a moment to visit the page and give it a “Like”.
Scott #1078 was released by France on December 14, 1963, to promote the International Philatelic and Postal Techniques Exhibition (PHILATEC) to be held in Paris June 5-21, 1964. The December 1963 issue was part of an omnibus release by seven different entities —the Comoro Islands, France, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Somali Coast, and the Wallis and Futuna Islands. Additionally, the island of Réunion surcharged copies of the French stamp with a denomination in Central African francs.
The design for all of the omnibus stamps portrays a stamp album with a hand holding a stamp using tongs and a view of the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées and the Horses of Marly on the Place de la Concorde. The French 25-centime stamp was printed in dark gray, slate green and dark carmine, perforated 13. I believe it was the first non-U.S. stamp collecting-themed stamp in my collection and it remains a personal favorite.
Other stamps marking the PHILATEC 1964 exhibition included France Scott #1085-1088 on May 9, 1964, and Scott #1100 on June 5. The latter stamp included admission to the stamp show. There were also rocket-themed stamps released by Andorra, Monaco and Niger.
The exhibition itself was held at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais, a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III. It has been listed since 2000 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
According to an article in the June 14, 1964, edition of The New York Times, “The lofty glass dome of the Palais allows the sun’s rays to pour in, and many collectors who have their displays directly underneath it have expressed fears at the possibility of the sunlight bleaching the colors of their stamps. Officials of PHILATEC, however, report that the glass has been treated to filter out color‐destroying rays.”
The structure was built in the style of Beaux-Arts architecture as taught by the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris. The building reflects the movement’s taste for ornate decoration through its stone facades, the formality of its floor planning and the use of techniques that were innovative at the time, such as its glass vault, its structure made of iron and light steel framing, and its use of reinforced concrete.
The main space, almost 240 meters long, was constructed with an iron, steel and glass barrel-vaulted roof, making it the last of the large transparent structures inspired by London’s Crystal Palace that were necessary for large gatherings of people before the age of electricity. The main space was originally connected to the other parts of the palace along an east-west axis by a grand staircase in a style combining Classical and Art Nouveau, but the interior layout has since been somewhat modified.
The Grand Palais had problems that started even before it was completed, mainly as a result of subsidence caused by a drop in the water table. The builders attempted to compensate for this subsidence, and for a tendency of the ground to shift, by sinking supporting posts down to firmer soil, since construction could not be delayed. These measures were only partially successful. Further damage occurred once the building was in use. Excessive force applied to structural members during the installation of certain exhibitions such as the Exposition Internationale de la Locomotion Aérienne caused damage, as did acid runoff from the horse shows. Additional problems due to the construction of the building itself revealed themselves over the course of time. Differential rates of expansion and contraction between cast iron and steel members, for example, allowed for water to enter, leading to corrosion and further weakening. When finally one of the glass ceiling panels fell in 1993, the main space had to be closed for restoration work, and was not fully reopened to the public until 2007.
The Palais served as a military hospital during World War I, employing local artists who had not been deployed to the front to decorate hospital rooms or to make molds for prosthetic limbs.
The Nazis put the Palais to use during the Occupation of France in World War II. First used as a truck depot, the Palais then housed two Nazi propaganda exhibitions.
The Parisian resistance used the Grand Palais as a headquarters during the Liberation of Paris. On August 23, 1944, an advancing German column was fired upon from a window on the Avenue de Sèlves, and the Germans responded with a tank attack upon the Palais. The attack ignited hay that was set up for a circus show, and over the next 48 hours, thick black smoke from the fire caused serious damage to the building. By August 26, American jeeps were parked in the nave, followed by tanks from the French 2nd Armored Division, completing the liberation of the building.
Today, the Grand Palais has a major police station in the basement whose officers help protect the exhibits on show in the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, particularly the picture exhibition “salons”: the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, Salon d’Automne, and Salon Comparaisons. The building’s west wing also contains a science museum, the Palais de la Découverte. It was used during the final stage of the Tour de France in 2017, as part of the promotion for Paris’ 2024 Summer Olympics bid. The riders rode through the Palais en route to the Champs Élysées. With Paris having been unanimously awarded the 2024 Games, the Palais will be used for the fencing and taekwondo events.
The Philatec 1964 omnibus stamps pictured the Grand Palais as well as the Marly Horses (Chevaux de Marly), two sculpted groups representing rearing horses and their grooms on the Champs-Elysées. In 1739, Louis XV commissioned the sculptor Guillaume Coustou to decorate the watering trough located at the entrance of Castle Marly. The models were chosen by the king in 1743 , and settled in Marly in 1745 , after only two years of work. In 1794, they were transferred to Place de la Concorde and restored 1840 by Louis-Denis Caillouette in 1840.
In 1984, particularly because the Bastille Day parades on July 14 weakened them, the Horses of Marly were replaced by reconstituted marble copies made by Michel Bourbon. The originals are kept in the Louvre Museum in an old courtyard of the Richelieu wing transformed into a patio and renamed the Marly Court.