Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

The Marco Polo (or the MARCOPOLO) sails again,
thanks to Canada Post and a dedicated lobbying effort

Times Globe staff writer

   It's Marco Polo, right? It's not Marcopolo, or even MARCOPOLO.

    Well, that depends, says Canada Post.

    When this newspaper received illustrations yesterday of the corporation's new 46 cent stamp and a special miniature stamp sheet it is issuing, an editor asked: "It's two words, not one word, isn't it?"

    Sure enough, the miniature stamp sheet has the famed Saint John-built ship's nameplate as a logo across the bottom which says "Marcopolo." Or, if you prefer,' "MARCOPOLO "

    It looked like the post office had made a mistake.

    "I never heard that before," said Barry Ogden, president of the Marco Polo Project that has long nurtured a dream of building a replica of the world's fastest sailing ship. "The ship was named after Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer. "

    But Elia Anoia, a spokeswoman at Canada Post Corporation's head office in Ottawa, said it is no error.

    "It is one word on the stamp sheet intentionally," she said. "The designer looked at the ship's name board, and that was the way it was - one word - and he has reproduced that original nameplate on the stamp sheet."

    The nameplate was saved from the wreckage of the Marco Polo after it ran aground off Cape Cavendish, PEI, in 1883, said Lee Sackett of St. Andrews, the freelance designer who designed the stamp and the stamp sheet for Canada Post. He worked from a photograph to replicate the nameplate and believed the original is still hanging above a bar near the campground in Cavendish.

    Neither Mr. Sackett nor Ms. Anoia could offer an explanation as to' why the ship's nameplate would have had the name as one word.

    Mr. Sackett has incorporated two other artifacts from the Marco Polo into the design of the stamp sheet. At each end of the nameplate are reclining figures that were on the stern of the ship. One of these was destroyed when a museum in PEI burned down. The other figure, which is about three feet long, can be seen in the New Brunswick Museum at Market Square in Saint John.

    The possibility of a mistake would have been exciting news to stamp collectors. Such errors are rare using modern-day printing techniques. To recall a stamp sheet. and change it would make the incorrect original version very valuable if any copies managed to reach the market.

    The stamp itself depicts a painting by Nova Scotia marine artist J. Franklin Wright that shows the ship, under sail, leaving Saint John.

    The stamp will come in two formats, in a sheet of 16 stamps as well as the miniature souvenir sheet. The miniature sheet, which features the new Canadian 46-cent Marco Polo stamp and an Australian 85-cent Marco Polo stamp, will be a joint issue with Australia.

    The Australian stamp shows a different painting of the ship side on. This stamp was first issued Down Under in January of 1998, upsetting many here because Canada, the country where the world-famous vessel was built, had been beaten to the punch.

   The souvenir sheet shows the two stamps against the background of a map of the world on which the Marco Polo's route is marked. The clipper, which was launched in 1851 in Saint John, cut a week off the previous record for a run from England to Australia, completing the round trip in less than six months and earning it the title "Fastest Ship in the World."

   A special stamp launching ceremony is planned for Saint John on March,19. The Port City will be the official first day cover cancellation site for the new stamp.

Taken from the Saint John Times Globe Newspaper March 10/99