Silent Ambassadors

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Speaking of nuclear power, today is Kiwi scientist Ernest Rutherford's 143rd birthday!  Known as the Father of Nuclear Physics, he's thought to have been the greatest experimentalist since Michael Faraday—in addition to winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, having an element named after him (rutherfordium, #104), being knighted and later raised to the peerage (the 1st [and last] Baron Rutherford of Nelson) in honor of his scientific work, and, you know, doing that whole “splitting the atom” thingummy.  Physics is phun!

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: November 17, 1999
From: Wellington, New Zealand
SG #2306

Top right:
Issued on: March 24, 1971
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #534

Second row:
Issued on: February 25, 2010
From: London, England
SG #3033

Third row:
Issued on: December 1, 1971
From: Wellington, New Zealand
SG #970, 971

Bottom left:
Issued on: August 6, 2008
From: Wellington, New Zealand
SG #3077

Bottom right:
Issued on: August 24 1971
From: Moscow, USSR
MC #3921

(Source: nzhistory.net.nz)

Today is International Day against Nuclear Tests, commemorating the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan (the primary nuclear testing ground for the Soviet Union) on this date in 1991.  Not very much is known about the long-term effects of nuclear testing on a site (or its population, near and far), but what is known is bad news.  [Think of the lingering effects of the world’s only nuclear bombing, for instance, or the many nuclear meltdowns and their consequences.]  [New Zealand, methinks you have the right idea.  As usual.]  And sending our contaminating testing to places where either the inhabitants are animals and unable to protest, or the inhabitants are without political clout or voice?…..that’s not *such* a convincing argument that nuclear testing is a good idea.

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: February 10, 2010
From: Algiers, Algeria
YC #1558

Top right:
Issued on: April 4, 2007
From: Tehran, Iran
MC #3045

Second row:
Issued on: April 22, 1995
From: Brussels, Belgium
MC #2650

Third row left:
Issued on: December 15, 1950
From: Berlin, East Germany
MC #278

Third row right:
Issued on: July 15, 1982
From: Sofia, Bulgaria
MC #3108

Fourth row left:
Issued on: July 28, 1955
From: Washington, DC
SC #1070

Fourth row right:
Issued on: November 12, 1998
From: Moscow, Russia
MC #694

Fifth row:
Issued on: July 1, 2006
From: Majuro, Marshall Islands
SC #884

Bottom left:
Issued on: May 28, 1999
From: Islamabad, Pakistan
SG #1069

Bottom right:
Issued on: February 14, 1972
From: United Nations Office, New York
SC #227

(Source: colnect.com)

On August 28, 1859, a geomagnetic storm [codenamed “Superstorm”] raged in the skies, causing the aurora borealis to shine so brightly they were seen shimmering over Europe, North America, and even all the way across the Pacific in Japan.  This stamp enthusiast has had the great good fortune of seeing the northern lights twice while visiting our neighbors to the north, both times in white.  This stamp enthusiast is also [it does so happen] madly in love with the above Norwegian stamps.

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: May 31, 1958
From: Chicago, Il
SC #1107

Second row:
Issued on: January 24, 2007
From: Helsinki, Finland
MC #BL42

Third row:
Issued on: November 5, 1963
From: Olso, Norway
MC #505, 506

Fourth row:
Issued on: February 8, 1967
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #454

Fifth row left:
Issued on: July 29, 1958
From: Moscow, USSR
MC #2105

Fifth row right:
Issued on: March 12, 1963
From: Nuuk, Greenland
MC #48

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: June 5, 1970
From: Stockholm, Sweden
MC #680

(Source: arago.si.edu)

On August 27, 1927, five Canadian women asked the Supreme Court of Canada, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?”  These five women [known variously as the Famous Five or the Valiant Five: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Edwards, and Irene Parlby (Irene needs a stamp, Canada Post!)] rocked the Canadian judicial system and ultimately led to Privy Council answering a reluctant “yes.”  Les femmes sont des personnes!  Whee!

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: April 17, 1985
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #1048

Middle stamp:
Issued on: August 29, 1973
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #622

Stamps on bottom:
Issued on: March 4, 1981
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #880, 882

(Source: famouscanadianwomen.com)

The Battle of Crécy, between the English and French during the Hundred Years’ War, occurred on this date in 1346.  It was one of the first major battles that pitted the longbowmen of the English against the Genoese crossbowmen—with the longbowmen emerging the decisive victor (even against staggeringly superior numbers).  So next time you’re preparing for battle against, you know, Genoa….well, you know what to do.  [And let’s take a moment to regard that highly peculiar Dutch stamp.  Ok, it was issued in 1959, but….honestly?]

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: September 8, 1980
From: Vaduz, Liechtenstein
MC #751

Top right:
Issued on: October 10, 1962
From: Thimpu, Bhutan
MC #6

Second row left:
Issued on: February 18, 2006
From: Brussels, Belgium
MC #3544

Second row right:
Issued on: April 4, 1975
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #577a

Third row:
Issued on: July 26, 1957
From: Cairo, Egypt
SC #400

Bottom left:
Issued on: April 30, 1984
From: Helsinki, Finland
MC #942

Bottom right:
Issued on: November 16, 1959
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
SC #B337

(Source: stampcommunity.org)

King Ludwig II of Bavaria, der Märchenkönig, was born on this date in 1845—and what a stroke of luck for Disney a hundred years down the line…imagine the Disney Corporation without the Cinderella Castle, modeled so closely on Ludwig’s Schloss Neuschwanstein.  What a cruel blow that would have been for Disney’s stock portfolio, but a dear happiness for the rest of us (particularly all the impressionable young ladies in our lives, clamoring to develop in this post-GI-Jane-let’s-market-Barbie-toward-three-year-olds-bizarre-and-barbaric-princess-craze-we’re-regressing-people-LET-IT-GO epoch).  At any rate, Ludwig managed to bankrupt himself with his grand palatial plans and died mysteriously on the banks of Lake Starnberg at the tender age of 40.  The allegations of his madness (manufactured by his disgruntled ministers and ostensibly substantiated by his refusal to economize) (ha! ha!) have since been refuted and it is generally believed he was assassinated while attempting to escape after being deposed in favor of his uncle Luitpold (who also played at regent during Ludwig’s younger brother Otto’s reign) (of course, by then the Kingdom of Bavaria had been subsumed by Prussia, and subsequently the German Empire, and the monarchy was largely nominal).  The King is dead, the King is dead, long live the King.

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: May 5, 1986
From: Bonn, West Germany
MC #1281

Middle stamp:
Issued on: May 17, 1977
From: Bonn, West Germany
MC #916

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: July 14, 1994
From: Berlin, Germany
MC #1742

(Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

Mount Vesuvius erupted on this date in 79, destroying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Pompeii, of course, was rather gruesomely preserved in all its fearful death throes, but Herculaneum was buried in pyroclastic flows (as opposed to Pompeii’s accumulated four meters of ash and pumice), meaning that the level of preservation was much more delicate than in Pompeii and that now fewer tourists visit it (no dead bodies, what?).  Vesuvius has erupted many times since 79, is the only volcano on mainland Europe to have erupted in the last century, dominates the most densely populated volcanic region in the world, and is probably due for another major eruption any day now.  Caveat emptor, Napoletani!  [Listen to some Bastille today, or, as you like, watch the Twelfth Doctor back when he was just plain Caecilius.]

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: June 1, 1985
From: Rome, Italy
MC #1923

Top right:
Issued on: June 10, 1989
From: Rome, Italy
MC #2086

Second row left:
Issued on: April 14, 2000
From: Rome, Italy
MC #2694

Second row right:
Issued on: August 30, 2002
From: United Nations Office, Vienna
WNS #321.02

Third row:
Issued on: June 30, 2010
From: Maputo, Mozambique
SW #3976

Fourth row left:
Issued on: January 30, 2010
From: Maputo, Mozambique
SW #3681

Fourth row right:
Issued on: March 17, 1998
From: Moscow, Russia
MC #651

Fifth row:
Issued on: October 26, 1998
From: Paris, France
MC #U49

Bottom left:
Issued on: October 8, 1958
From: San Marino, San Marino
MC #604

Bottom right:
Issued on: March 27, 1980
From: San Marino, San Marino
MC #1209

(Source: colnect.com)

Twenty-five years ago today, roughly two million Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians joined hands and voices to create the Baltic Way (aka, the Baltic Chain or Chain of Freedom)—a peaceful protest against Soviet rule, comprising a 370-mile human chain across all three Baltic states.  August 23 was chosen in honor of Black Ribbon Day (more verbosely known as the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism/Totalitarian Regimes—so-called to commemorate the secretive signing, on August 23, 1939, of a non-aggression treaty, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, between Germany and the Soviet Union, basically dividing Europe into the states that Germany would take over and the states the Soviets would take over).  This protest, and others like it between the years 1987 and 1991, are now known as the Singing Revolution (watch the documentary of the same name about Estonia’s pivotal role in the loosening of Soviet power in the Baltics, or, if you’re lucky, read the book by Priit Vesilind).  In honor of the Baltic States’ courage and non-violent dissent, choose a national anthem from above and hum a little tune.  Better yet, choose all three.  Best of all, let’s sing while holding hands with our neighbors.

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: June 30, 1999
From: Tallinn, Estonia
MC #347

Middle stamp:
Issued on: May 14, 2005
From: Riga, Latvia
MC #637

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: February 16, 1998
From: Vilnius, Lithuania
MC #BL13

(Source: pood.post.ee)

The slaves of Saint Domingue revolted against French colonial power on this date in 1791, eventually gaining independence in 1804.  And while the Haitian Revolution was and continues to be held up as the most successful slave revolt in documented human history and a defining moment in both European and American history [recall, slavery wouldn’t be abolished in the British Empire until 1833 and in the United States of America until 1863—just imagine all those quaking boots on both ends of the Middle Passage when reports of thousands of white plantation owners being flayed alive came in], the inequalities of the colonial period continued into independence (in some new and alarming manifestations) and to today (still alarming).  Some reading about Haïti, should you be interested: the Haitian Revolution trilogy by Madison Smartt Bell; Isabel Allende’s Island beneath the Sea; or, this stamp enthusiast’s particular recommendation (having less to do with having dined in the early noughts at Hotel Oloffson, aka the Hotel Trianon of the book, than with YOU SHOULD READ EVERYTHING THIS MAN EVER WROTE), Graham Greene’s The Comedians, describing life in Haïti under Papa Doc.

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: October 28, 1968
From: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
MC #979

Middle left:
Issued on: July 19, 1946
From: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
MC #344

Middle:
Issued on: March 7, 1962
From: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
MC #D9

Middle right:
Issued on: January 1, 1904
From: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
MC #75

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: August 30, 1985
From: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
SW #1469

(Source: colnect.com)

La Giaconda was stolen from the Louvre on this date in 1911 by a disgruntled Italian employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, who evidently believed da Vinci’s masterpiece belonged in Italy (a common enough complaint, actually—King François I acquired her after da Vinci’s death and she hung around the French monarchs’ cottages [Versailles included] and now officially belongs to the French Republic, on permanent loan to the Louvre…..art ownership is strange).  Mona remained at large for two years (hanging in Peruggia’s flat, it would seem) before he tried selling her to a gallery in Florence in 1913 and was caught sepia-handed.  Attempts to damage Ms. Lisa through the years include throwing acid and rocks at her in 1956, spraying red paint on her in 1974 in Tokyo, and launching a Louvre gift shop mug at her [thankfully] bulletproof glass case in 2009 (by a Russian woman peeved at not being granted French citizenship—I reckon that helped your cause, eh, sweetie).  For such a small lady, she sure causes quite the stir, does our Joconde.  The Bhutanese stamp above is embossed in such a way as to evoke the brush strokes of the original Mona Lisa.

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: March 28, 1999
From: Paris, France
MC #3376

Top right:
Issued on: January 26, 2008
From: Paris, France
MC #4363

Bottom left:
Issued on: April 15, 1952
From: Bonn, West Germany
MC #148

Bottom right:
Issued on: January 29, 1972
From: Thimphu, Bhutan
SC #144b

(Source: colnect.com)