Since as early as the 15th Century, France has sent fishing boats to the banks of Newfoundland and Iceland in search of cod. Indeed, by the beginning of the 20th Century some 500 boats carrying more than 10,000 men, braved treacherous seas, frigid temperatures, and the promise of many long months away from home - if they managed to make it home. Injuries, both physical and emotional, were a hazard every fisherman had to contend with. So if the worst were to happen and a fisherman or his equipment - his very livelihood - were damaged in some way, what then would he do? The horrible truth was that before 1894 there was next to no help for these poor souls.
In December 1894 twenty men, led by Fr. Picard, Superior General, met to discuss how to help those seamen whom fate had dealt a cruel blow and were now struggling in one way or another.. From this gathering came the creation of The Society of the Works of the Sea. The organisation, founded in that very year by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Charcot, aimed to help the "material and moral" needs of seamen.
On 23 October 1941, France issued a semi-postal stamp to promote The Society of the Works of the Sea. This stamp had a 1f face value plus a 9f surcharge to be donated to the society. This stamp was designed by Paul-Pierre Lemagny and it was engraved by Pierre Gandon.
By 1941 Gandon had already contributed to several stamps for the colonies, but this beautiful stamp was his first France issue. There are many aspects of this design that I love. The fearless and determined look on the seaman's face. His stocky build which promotes safety and assurance. And his strong, sure hands. I also like the net casually draped over the seaman's shoulder, which indicates he is ready for action! Also the fishing vessel, perhaps bound for Newfoundland, in the background adds an extra touch of interest.
Until next time...