|A STUDY ON HONG KONG SLOGAN CANCELS
By Alex Ko, The China Philatelic Association
Postal cancellations are impressed on letters which are then delivered to thousands of receivers in different parts of the world. Therefore postal cancellations are widely used by many postal authorities in conveying educational messages to general public, or being used as charged commercial advertisement or propaganda medium.
The scope of this article is a search on slogan cancels which had been used by Hong Kong Post Office, which are characterised by the capacity of canceling stamps and bear postal validity. It is to say, those postage franker machine cancels used by private, public or commercial institutions, and those propaganda chops stuck on covers but without postal validity, are not classified as postal slogan cancels, and are thus not in covered by the scope of this article, although they bear propaganda function. To give an example to illustrate this view: In November 1971 the Medical and Health Department held the Sanitary Education Promotion Week in the Northern New Territories District. A wooden hand-chop was engraved for promoting this event [Fig. 1] and it was placed in Shek Wu Hui Post Office for applying to letters sent to Sheung Shui area. Although this chop was applied by the Post Office, it was only used on an entrusted basis and it did not bear postal validity and could not cancel stamps. This chop is therefore out of the scope of this article.
Early example of slogan handstamps is the “Buy War Bonds” handstamp appeared in 1918 during the First World War [Fig. 2]. The stamp was applied on foreign and domestic letters and it is believed to be the forerunner of slogan cancels. Shortly before the Second World War, the postal censorship system was introduced to Hong Kong during 1939 to 1941. Various war related slogan handstamps were applied to letters in the censorship process. These handstamps include “Remember the British War Organisation Fund”, “Buy Bombers” [Fig. 3], “Are You Supporting the British War Organisation Fund” [Fig. 4], and the letter “V” (stands for Victory”) which was used to boost morale. These slogan handstamps were applied on the white space of covers. They did not carry any postal capacity to cancel stamps, nor having postal validity. It was possibly that the handstamps were not made by the Postal Authority but rather they were designed and prepared by the British Community in Hong Kong which was concerned by the war status in Europe, and these stamps were approved by Hong Kong Post Office to be applied on covers. Therefore these handstamps are not classified as slogan cancels as defined earlier in this article. Commenting the effectiveness of these handstamps, as they were all worded in English, its propaganda effectiveness was doubtful as the majority of the population in Hong Kong on those days were Chinese who did not understand English.
The volume of mail increased substantially after the Second World War. In order to facilitate the mail processing, the Hong Kong Post Office introduced 3 sets of Universal Brand electric powered cancellation machines in 1950. The test run was satisfactory and the mail handling volume increased to 2 million letters per month. Machine cancellation was therefore widely applied. It did not only speed up the mail processing, but also made the slogan cancels applicable in the machinery process, which gave rise to the development and blooming of the slogan cancels in the following forty some years. Slogan cancel now becomes one of the key topics in the study of postal cancellations of Hong Kong.
In October 1951, Hong Kong Post Office introduced the first type of machine slogan cancel “The Ninth Hong Kong Product Exhibition” [Fig.5]. The format became the basic format for the sequence of slogan cancels used afterward. The standard format is composed of two parts: a circular datestamp with diameter 20mm on the left, and a horizontal slogan plate of 46mm in length and 23mm in height on the right. The combination of these two parts can be fitted into different cancellation machines, the date and the time slugs are changeable. Before the cancellation process, letters are sorted in order and then conveyed to the inked cancelling roller, then the cancellation can be impressed to the top right hand corner of the cover.
Notwithstanding the standardisation of the format, the contents of slogan cancels applied in Hong Kong have a wide variety. Up to the time of writing there were 85 different types of slogan cancels used in the past [the count would be over 90 if minor varieties are viewed as different types]. The contents are related to promoting commercial and industrial activities, cultural achievements, drawing people’s attention to hygiene and knowledge of daily lives, promoting civil education, promoting local and international events in trade and culture, and promoting no smoking and free from narcotic drugs. The characteristics of Hong Kong slogan cancels are summarised as follows:
1. Topic of the slogans are carefully chosen: Hong Kong Post Office has adopted a very careful and strict approach in choosing and selecting topics for slogan cancels. Therefore the chosen topics for slogans are those really related to public interest or local or international events with high degree of significance. Moreover, Hong Kong Post Office has never used slogan cancels for commercial advertisement.
2. Slogan cancels are the pioneer of English-Chinese bi-lingual postal cancellations ever used in Hong Kong: English was the only official language used in Hong Kong in the early days. Accordingly the first few sets of slogan cancels introduced were all in English, until the slogan “Please Become a Blood Donor” [Fig. 6] introduced in February 1953. The breakthrough allowed the message to be successfully brought to the Chinese community. The bi-lingual practice was continuously adopted in slogan cancels forty-some years before applied in the ordinary date-stamps.
3. Words used in slogan cancels are clear, precise and lively: Due to the limited size of the slogan cancels, the message shown in the slogan cancel has to be sharp and precise in order to draw people’s attention within a short moment and easy to be memorised. In this respect, there are many successful examples in Hong Kong slogan cancels, such as “Correct Addressing Saves Delay” [Fig. 7] slogan used widely during 1950s to 1970s, from which the message has been deeply impressed in people’s mind even up to recent years. Another lively examples are “Drug Addiction = Chronic Suicide” [Fig. 8], “Say No to Drugs” [Fig. 9], and “For everyone’s Convenience Display Building Numbers” [Fig. 10], are those slogans which are easy to memorise and recite.
4. Using of drawings as complement to the words: Besides using English and Chinese words, drawings are also used widely in the slogan cancels in order to strengthen the conveyance of messages. Arms and symbols are also engraved in slogan cancels promoting events or festivals. For example, the arm of Chinese Manufacturers’ Association were used in “Exhibition of Hong Kong Products” slogan cancels [Fig. 11], drawing of grains was used in “Agricultural Show” slogan cancel [Fig. 12], a motor vehicle bearing the stylish look of the days appeared in “Traffic Safety Campaign” slogan introduced in 1955 [Fig. 13], all these slogan cancels are in fact items to be selected for thematic collections loved by philatelists.
5. Reflecting the history of Hong Kong: Slogan cancels are reflecting current events. When we gather all slogan cancels used over the last 40 some years, it shows the social development and the history of Hong Kong. There are many interesting things shown in the slogan cancels, for example, the slogan “Is Your Radio Licensed” [Fig. 14] introduced in 1956 revealed that radio had to be licensed on those days, “Diphtheria Immunisation” [Fig. 15] introduced in 1966, shows that the disease, which is now basically being controlled all over the world, was very serious in Hong Kong at that period of time. “British Week in Hong Kong” marks the historical ceremony officiated by Princess Margaret in 1966, whilst the slogans “Festival of Hong Kong” and the debatable “Legislative Council Elections 1995” record the significant events in the history of Hong Kong [Fig. 16 to 18].
6. The lengths of time for application of each slogan cancel are different: When we compare the usage records of each slogan cancel, we find that the shortest usage is “Cross In Safety” [Fig. 19] introduced in November 1974, which lasted for 6 days only. Another example of short usage is “URBCO Voters Register Now” [Fig. 20] introduced in June 1972, which lasted for 10 days. In opposite, there are long usage records such as “Post Early for Christmas” [Fig. 21] which was first introduced in 1958 and had been used for subsequent Christmas mailing intervals until 1975, marks a record of 17 years. Another long usage example is “Correct Addressing Saves Delay” [Fig. 7] which had been used for nearly 17 years in the inter-jacent periods of using other slogan cancels or “wavy lines” cancels.
7. Period of suspension for slogan cancels: Slogan machine cancel had been existed for 24 years after its first introduction in Hong Kong in 1951. However, after the introduction of “Hong Kong Trade Development Council” [Fig. 22] in March 1975, there was no new slogan introduced, other than the re-use of “School Medical Service Scheme” [Fig. 23] in September and December 1975, and the re-use of “Post Early for Christmas” in December 1975. The then frequent used “Correct Addressing Saves Delay” slogan made its last appearance in July 1976. After that, the slogan cancel was faded out in Hong Kong for the following 11 years.
8. Regeneration of slogan cancels: In 1987, the Hong Kong Government published a Green Paper on the proposal of reform on the political infra-structure in Hong Kong during the transitional period before the return of Hong Kong to China. A specialised department called Public Opinion Survey Office was also set up to collect general public’s opinion on the Green Paper. In order to raise the attention of the general public, the government rehabilitated the effective means of propaganda ---- slogan cancel. In August 1987, “Forward Your View on the Green Paper to the Survey Office” slogan was introduced [Fig. 24], marking the regeneration of slogan cancels after the silence for 11 years, which enlightened philatelists and collectors favouring slogan cancels. However, after a months of application of this slogan, slogan cancel became quiet again and not heard until November 1990, when “REGCO ‘90” slogan [Fig. 25] appeared without advance notice and gave collectors a great surprise. Since then slogan cancels have been frequently applied, and gives a total of 32 types [up to the time of writing] since the regeneration in 1987, share 38% of total slogan cancels since their first appearance in Hong Kong in 1951.
9. Classification of Hong Kong slogan cancels: Up to the time of writing, there are 85 types of slogan cancels used in Hong Kong. The author has classified them according to their nature of content, and this classification exercise gives 14 topics which are: Exhibition Promotion, Medical and Hygiene, Road Safety, Clean Hong Kong Campaign, Maintenance of Building, Education and Training, Public Services, Commercial and Trade Events, International Events, Cultural Festivals, Postal Services, Public Affairs, Anti-Drugs Campaign and Anti-Smoking Campaign. The slogan cancels under each category and the usage time are listed in Table 1 attached.
“Hong Kong Slogan Cancels” is a very interesting and a growing topic. It is worthwhile for the collectors to search and develop.
[The article was written in September 1997 for the submission to the All China Stamp Exhibition, Chongqing held in November 1997]References:
1. "Hong Kong Slogan Cancels” written by Michael Chan, published jointly by The China Philatelic Association and Hong Kong Post Office.
2. "Slogan Cancels in Hong Kong” written by the late Y.P. Lo, published by The China Philatelic Association.
3. Hong Kong Post Office Annual Report.
|Table 1: Classification and Usage Information of Hong Kong Slogan Cancels|