RMS Queen Mary maiden voyage covers
The umbrella of ephemera shelters collectors with a wide range of specialist interests. Although they may find a highly specialist corner such as philately or deltiology, they will invariably find a kindred spirit in the broader universe of ephemera collectors. This note is about one of those cross-disciplinary elements of collecting.
Members of The Ephemera Society will have read (with pleasure, I hope) my article in the Autumn, 2011 issue of The Ephemerist on the early years of RMS Queen Mary. One of the illustrations, a Maiden Voyage souvenir postal cover, struck a particularly personal chord of my memory as a former stamp collector in my early years some 50 years ago.
Such covers are not under the rubric of First Day Covers, but are the more difficult to define Commemorative Covers. Some see these as a 'poor cousin' to first day covers, and clearly the beauty is in the proverbial 'eye of the beholder'. This beholder views these RMS Queen Mary covers as beauty queens, and the rest of this article will be dedicated to covering the parade of these postal beauty queens, and my personal nomination of the winning contestant, as though they were in an old-fashioned and now politically incorrect 'beauty pageant'..
Let's begin with the cover above, illustrated in my article in The Ephemerist, and watch the beauties parade past us. Cancelled at Brighton & Hove, this cover has striking graphics in the Cunard colours of red and black. Original thinking. Its recipient in Buffalo would have been ecstatic to receive this gem. It would stand out in any postal crowd.
Above, is one of probably several sent by the Westminster Stamp Company as a commercial venture for subsequent sale to collectors. Nice graphics and a clean Southampton cancellation. Another strong 'beauty queen' contender.
A rather boring specimen, above, posted from London, addressed to a recipient in Pennsylvania, this sad little number typifies many of the attributes that don't win postal cover beauty contests! There is no supplementary information about the voyage, and the rectangular Art Deco block lacks any real charm.
This cover is a pleasant study in red and blue. The red picks up the colour in the one penny stamp cancelled at Southampton. Wait a minute. One penny? From the other covers it's clear that the rate to America was one and a half pence. Clearly the postal authorities were so taken by the charm of the cover that they forgot to check their postal rates! And there is no Postage Due reference anywhere on the envelope. This delightful cover is fully explanatory and is another commercially produced item.
Gliding seductively across the runway and the recipient of the greatest round of applause from this writer is the charmer above. A very clean Southampton cancellation balances out the elegant handwritten address and the black-and-white drawing of the Queen Mary on this stamped cover. An interesting note is that the writing for the addressee's surname is similar to the signature of the American icon John Hancock. Did the sender try to emulate John Hancock's writing to tease the recipient at a very subtle level, or was this his normal hand? Alas, we will never know.
As a final note and to bring the topic full circle a cover from RMS Queen Mary's final voyage, to her present home in Long Beach, California. With a Southampton cancellation, and a clear marking that this was from the Final Voyage, this much more recent cover brings the pageant to a close. (I have another cover like this one, without the 'Last Cruise' marking, but on the same design of envelope. As you might guess, it was purchased before I came across this much better example.)
It's wonderful when one's ephemera interest of ocean liners leads into complementary areas of collecting such as philately. And there must be other varieties of cover for the Maiden Voyage. If you've got one, let me know at
John Sayers is the North American representative on the council of The Ephemera Society
Copyright © John G Sayers 2011. All Rights Reserved.