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Comment on “Rarities of Natal Pre-Stamp Postal History”

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“Rarities of Natal Pre-Stamp Postal History”. (Keith Klugman.)

This is a wonderful feast for all lovers of South African postal history, not just Banana Boys and Girls!

Thanks Steve - looking forward to the official posting - as a teaser here is a cover not included in that display as I didnt own it last May -  it was  in the John Dickson collection sold late last year by Spink - it is in my view one of the most important Natal Prestamp Postal History rarities - in the 1830's when the only literate people in the interior of Natal were three American Wesleyan missionaries and their spouses; the only mail was missionary mail and no examples have been recorded to date of internal mail between these missionary groups before this letter. The letter is addressed to Dr. Newton Adams at Umlazi, but then is endorsed and forwarded by him to Dr Alexander Wilson at Dingaan’s Kraal. This is just before the massacre of Retief in early 1838 at which point all the missionaries fled the country. Not only is the local forwarding of this letter by far the earliest forwarded letter in Natal, but as mentioned above also the only recorded example of local Missionary mail which was carried by local carriers.


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As a boy, I loved history and had a precocious understanding of it as a teenager - or so I thought. It was the subject that I did best in at school, usually coming top of my class and near last in everything else but English. Tragically, I was not allowed to study history in high school, my father believing that maths and science would set me up for life. I have long ceased blaming my Dad for this. I could have made more of my UNISA correspondence course had I been properly self-motivated and wanted it more. Today I try to learn about South Africa's past through postal history.

I rediscovered my love of history through reconnecting with stamps in London in 1990. As I tired of stamps and began collecting postmarks, I was soon collecting postal history that covered the span of South Africa from 1652 to the present.  Keith's cover above - a remarkable item from the interior of Natal before the massacre of Piet Retief and his men - has helped my understanding of this period. I did not know that there were missionaries in Natal before the Boers arrived. As I have never studied the history of Natal, I was unaware that letters were being written in the interior of Natal by missionaries at this time. My knowledge of the period was set by my Christian National education - Bad British, Bad Missionaries, Bad Xhosa, Good Boers, Great Trek to Natal, Retief Murdered, Bad Zulus, Battle of Blood River, Good God (On Our Side!) This is an example of postal history redressing my understanding of our past. 

I am hoping to learn much more from Keith's display, arguably the finest in the world on the subject of Victorian Natal postal history.  This Natal cover, rooted as it is in the pre-colonial missionary experience, does not get any better than this. It has the early history of Natal and South Africa written all over it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

yannisl has reacted to this post.

I am very impressed with the display, especially covering such a difficult subject. The John Dickson collection had many gems, but I agree that the cover mentioned above, is perhaps one of the best that was on offer. Personally I picked a few items from the collection, but from the Cape of Good Hope section which is of interest to me. Hoping to make some posts for these as soon as time and health permit.

I really appreciate Prof. Keith Klugman making the collection available on this site, so collectors like myself, who do not have access to normal exhibitions can view them.

victorianatal has reacted to this post.

Viewing Keith Klugman's two displays was a real treat. This is a quite remarkable collection and congratulations to Keith for putting it together and to him and the SAPC for making it accessible in this way 

victorianatal has reacted to this post.

Hi Keith


I have this wax seal, and it looks very similar to the black one you showed, is mine perhaps also from Natal?

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Can’t say for sure what the seal is on my early forwarded cover - its from Carl Eneroth and may be his initials - these seals were personal - on magnification quite different unfortunately to the illustration you show