Digital Philately and Parisian Bridges

Thomas Broadhead, Knoxville Philatelic Society News

Philately is a visual hobby, but it is also a tactile one. Not only is it fascinating to see the many varieties of stamps and covers, but it is also amazing to hold pieces of paper that individually have interesting histories. Seeing pictures of stamps in catalogs, which are increasingly printed in full color, is almost as good as seeing ‘the real thing’ in an exhibit or in our own collections.

The advent of the electronic age has given us access to beautiful images of stamps that we will never see in person, and our own KPS newsletter is full of digital images – some scanned from the actual stamps and covers and others borrowed from the world wide web. A year ago, philatelic exhibiting in the U.S. took an electronic direction with the first competition for ‘Digital Philatelic Studies‘ (DPS) held at last October’s Fall Mega Event – a huge stamp show sponsored by the American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA) in New York City. In addition to traditional exhibiting, the ASDA again this year invited the submission of electronic exhibits, and I decided to try my hand at this new format. One great help was the information provided on the ASDA web site, which includes four complete DPS exhibits from last year’s competition.

The Alexander III Bridge Issue.

The Alexander III Bridge Issue.

Several digital formats are possible, and I decided to develop a Power Point presentation for my study of ‘The Most Beautiful Bridge in Paris.’ I wrote an article about this a few years ago for the KPS newsletter, with the focus on the Alexander III bridge, built 1897-1900 in honor of the Russian Czar Alexander III. This marvel of architecture (4 architects) and art (more than 13 artists were involved in its decoration) is featured on a 100 franc airmail stamp issued in 1949.

Most of my DPS features this stamp, its production proofs, varieties, and postal history. However, my exhibit begins with examples of all French stamps and postal stationery that have ever shown Parisian bridges. Although there are 37 bridges (‘ponts’ in French) including pedestrian bridges (‘passerelles’) that cross the Seine River in Paris, they have not received the philatelic attention that I think they deserve!

The Bridges Shown on the Stamp.

The Bridges Shown on the Stamp.

The most spectacular depiction of bridges in Paris appears on the 1000 franc definitive airmail stamp issued in 1950. The image below is one from my DPS and shows this stamp with the identified bridges. The details of the design and the engraver’s art allow each bridge to be recognized from the number of arches and the relative locations of other buildings and monuments. The Alexander III bridge is distinctive in having a single span, more than 100 meters long, and it is easily recognized as the bridge farthest in the distance on this stamp. Note, however, that there is an unidentified bridge near the top and a missing bridge in the design. End of article marker.

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