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The Connell Stamp

New Brunswick's Postal History . . . by Michael O. Nowlan

Sometime in the latter part of 1859, New Brunswick's Lieutenant-Governor J.H.T. Manners-Sutton asked his Postmaster-General Charles Connell to procure new stamps for the colony which was moving from the British system of pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. The Order in Council Minute covered new stamps in values of 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, and 12 1/2 cent to be ready for postal use on May 1, 1860.  Mr. Connell added a 17 cent value which he knew would be used for overseas mail sent via the United States.   Subsequently, Charles Connell travelled to New York before Christmas 1859 where he met with officials of the American Bank Note Company with whom he contracted to print the stamps.  When the stamps arrived in New Brunswick a few days before the May 1 usage date, copies were sent by Connell to the Hon. Manners-Sutton.  To the Lieutenant-Governor's amazement, the 5 cent stamp, the stamp for domestic first class mail, had an image of Charles Connell.

The extensive official correspondence on the matter is compiled in the Journal of the House of Assembly of the Province of New Brunswick dated 12 February 1861 to 12 April 1861. The issuing of the new stamps was delayed because of the exposure of the Connell stamp, and by May 8, 1860 the Lieutenant-Governor's Advisory Council wrote:

We advise Your Excellency to approve of and order to be distributed the one cent, ten cent, and twelve and a half cent postage stamps, procured by the Postmaster General; and we further advise Your Excellency to order a five cent postage stamp to be struck, bearing the likeness of the Queen, instead of the five cent stamp already procured by the Postmaster General. It was signed by secretary S.L. Tilley and five others.  Mr. Tilley then advised Mr. Connell on May 12 to distribute the appropriate stamps "and to take the necessary steps to have struck off a five cent stamp bearing the likeness of the Queen, for future distribution."

By May 18, Mr. Connell resigned. The case was closed, a new postmaster general was named, James Steadman, and a new five cent stamp bearing Queen Victoria's image was in post offices by July 19, 1860  How Connell's image got on the stamp in the first place will always be a mystery.  When he resigned, he purchased all 500,000 copies of the Connell five cent stamp for the purchase price of 31 pounds, 15 shillings and Gord Ashbury says "one evening, he burned the stamps sheet by sheet in his garden" Connell did not burn all the stamps. (There is also a story that his son-in-law, Colonel Dibblee burned all the stamps.) How many were saved or given to friends as souvenirs is not known. He gave each of his daughters one sheet, Ella and Alice.  There is little doubt that both sisters burned their sheets as the stamp controversey caused their dear father so much mental anguish.  A friend of Connell who was visiting sometime after the stamp caper, and  asked Connell "to let me have a few".  How many the friend took is unknown.

How many Connells exist today?  Authorities, say there are 50-60.   Most catalogues list the Connell between $4,000 and $6,000.  "It cannot be established that a genuine used Connell has yet been found."  

And what happened to Charles Connell?  Disgraced as he was in 1860, he rebounded politically with Confederation in 1867.  He was elected by acclamation to serve Victoria-Carleton in Ottawa where he serve until his death 28 June 1873 at age 64.  He is buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Woodstock.

Official correspondence is available to researchers at the Provincial Archives in Fredericton NB. 
Much of it is also reprinted in Nicholas Argenti's The Postage Stamps of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 

Copyright  Michael O. Nowlan 1998 1999.
The above article is posted here courtesy of
Michael Nowlan. Please contact Michael if you have any additional information.

The Carleton County Court House has a reproduction of the Connell stamp owned by the Carleton County Historical Society on display.

Carleton County NBGenWeb Project