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Marco Polo Stamp
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First Day Ceremonies
Article published in Canada's Stamp Details (Vol. 8 No 2; March/April, 1999)

   It was once hailed as "the fastest ship in the world" - the Saint John, New Brunswick-built Marco Polo.
    During the 1800s, the area that was to become Canada's Maritimes produced many famous ships. In 1875 alone, about 500 were built in Canadian shipyards. By 1878, Canada had a merchant fleet of over 7,000 vessels, and was ranked 4th in the world among ship-owning nations.
    Time was a valuable commodity for trans-Atlantic traders: ship speed was critical. Launched on April 17, 1851, the Marco Polo was created by James Smith to have the body of a cargo ship above the water line and the configuration of a much-faster clipper ship below. Smith was one of the first builders to meld the two designs. On May 31, 1851, the Marco Polo left Saint John for Liverpool, and set a record for the passage at 15 days.
    In addition to its hybrid design, the Marco Polo was unique for a New Brunswick-built ship in that she was fully rigged with three masts and square sails, and sported three complete decks. The ship's name was taken from its full-length figurehead - a representation of the famous traveller, Marco Polo.
    Soon after, the Marco Polo was purchased by James Baines to ferry emigrants from Liverpool to Australia. As part of Baines' celebrated Black Ball Line, she was refitted from a cargo ship to a passenger ship, with cabins, a dining salon and plenty of lavish ornamentation. On July 4, 1852, she set out for Australia, and the world was astonished when she returned to Liverpool only five months and 21 days later, setting a new speed record for circumnavigating the globe.

    The Marco Polo continued her Liverpool-Australia run until about 1867, then reverted to a cargo ship. On July 25, 1883, she encountered a furious storm off Prince Edward Island. In an effort to save the crew and cargo, the skipper ran the heavily-waterlogged ship aground near Cavendish, where the old ship was reduced to a shell when her beams were later cut to remove the cargo.
    However, the legend of the world-famous Marco Polo lives on. She has been the subject of several paintings, and one, by marine artist J. Franklin Wright, commissioned by Canada Post, is featured on this Canadian stamp. It shows the Marco Polo under sail, leaving Saint John.

MARCO POLO
Date of Issue 19 March 1999
Last Day of Sale 18 March 2000
Denomination 1 x 46¢
Layout 
A: Pane of 16 stamps
B: Souvenir Sheet of 2 stamps
($7.36)
($1.25)
Product Nos.  A: 403390107
B: 403390145
Design  A: A. Lee Sackett
B: Julien LeBlanc
Illustration  A: J. Franklin Wright
B: Bonnie Ross
Printer Ashton Potter
Quantity  A: 16,000,000
B: 500,000
Dimensions 32 mm x 40 mm (vertical)
Perforation A: 13+
Gum Type P.V.A.
Paper Manufacturer Tullis Russell Coatings
Printing Process Lithography (six colours)
Tagging General, four sides
Official First Day Cover
(OFDC) Cancellation
Product No.
SAINT JOHN NB

 403390121 (single)

© Canada Post Corporation
Errors and omissions excepted.

   Below are a few pictures taken from the First Day Ceremonies in Saint John, New Brunswick and Melbourne, Australia. Just click on the images to view a larger version.

Canadian Cermonies
From the left:The Honourable Claudette Bradshaw Minister of Labour, The Vice-President of marketing for Canada Post Corporation, , Mr. Lee Sackett stamp designer and Mr. Barry Ogden Organizer for the Marco Polo Project
Australian Cermonies
From the left: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Representative, Mr. Ken Shewan and Vice-President for Canada Post Corporation.

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