Feb. 22nd, 2017

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Some years ago—I believe this may have been during the ATA Conference held in New York City back in... 2009?—I made a point of stopping by what was certainly one of the last stamp shops in Manhattan. Among my purchases was the following "first day cover" (a stamped envelope carrying the postmark of the first day the stamp(s) were officially offered for sale) from 1939:


I bought the cover because of its attractive price and while I did wonder, for a few moments as I made my way back to the conference, how Claude Debussy or Honoré de Balzac fell into the category of chômeurs intellectuals (which, in my mind, I understood to be either "intellectuals who sought to be unemployed" or "unemployed intellectuals," and betting on the latter), at least I was not introduced to what appears to me to be a culturally French concept by the following stamp, issued in 1935:


My Yvert & Tellier catalog describes this stamp merely as "au profit des Chômeurs intellectuels," and the Scott catalog volume I borrowed from the library only makes reference to the "Unemployed Intellectuals Relief Fund."

All of these stamps are "semi-postal," meaning that part of the cost of buying the stamp is directed toward a goal other than providing postal service. In the case of the 1935 stamp, 50 centimes of its cost covered the cost of the postal service, and 10 additional centimes ended up in the Fund.

There's not a lot out there on the English web about the "Unemployed Intellectuals Relief Fund." Pretty much all of the references I found related to the series of 22 stamps issued in France between 1935 and 1940.

The French web was more informative.

The additional monies collected were, indeed, intended to help artists and workers with diplomas, either to find work or to provide relief, and the whole initiative was instigated by the Confédération des Travailleurs Intellectuels (CTI), which had been founded in 1920 by scientists. The purpose of the organization was to support intellectual workers (defined as persons who makes a living with the mind, as opposed to physical labor) who had been "left by the side of the road." Through its contacts in the legislature (with Marius Roustan), the CTI prevailed upon Georges Mandel, the Minister of Posts, to green-light the issuance of the stamps, which sold well.

As opposed to referring to specific persons, as in the case of the 1939 stamps shown above, the 1935 stamp shows merely a woman who appears to be giving aid to a fellow sitting at a desk. However, a closer look reveals the woman to be wearing a Phrygian Cap (aka, a "freedom cap"), which identifies the woman as "Marianne," the national symbol of the French Republic and an allegory of liberty and reason.

Who the guy is, I don't know. He looks like he could use a shave.

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