Committee -> Early History of Our Society

The Early History of Our Society

By Chris Bartlett.

The Society has been growing ever since 1938 with a current membership exceeding 200. One member in five lives outside of Great Britain in countries spread throughout the world.

The Society was inaugurated with 16 members as the TPO Society on 6th January 1938, in honour of the centenary of the first TPO. Now we doubt whether this anniversary date is the correct one, but no such doubts were apparent then. The annual subscription was 2/6d (12½p in real money), with an additional 2/6d for the circulating packet. The early membership roll included many names, such as Brumell, Ward and Hill, who made a considerable contribution to the awareness of postal history in general through their writings, and who are remembered to this day.

The first Society meeting for which we can find a record was held on 15th April 1939, and 1/- expenditure was recorded probably for the hire of tables. Before this, in December 1938, Exchange Packet No 1 went out on circulation. Many more packets, continuing throughout the war years and many years thereafter, followed this. Activities in wartime were understandably very limited, but donations were made to the Red Cross and St John Funds (Philatelic Section), so the Society played a small part in the war effort.

By 1946, 65 members had signed up. They were asked to contribute towards the purchase of a Gesteprint in order to produce a Society Journal. £24 was collected and the Gesteprint purchased in June 1947. Editor Norman Hill had however produced Vol 1 No 1 of our Journal 'TPO' in January/February from a hut in the school playground, which was a time of fearsome cold and snow. Norman produced 6 issues a year of 'TPO', which he described with typical modesty as 'a little periodical', at a time of paper and envelope shortages and all sorts of other difficulties. Norman also put together a Society Library, acted as librarian and lent books from his own collection. In addition there were reference files on Railway Post Offices, Seapost and Automobile Post Offices, and a 'Circulating Bulletin'.

Norman Hill was assiduous in entering 'TPO' in national exhibitions, and under his editorship our journal received many awards, including a gold at Berlin in 1957. Norman continued to act as Hon Secretary and Editor until an illness in 1957, which necessitated a stay in hospital. At the end of 1957 Cyril Kidd took over as Hon Secretary whilst continuing to act as Librarian, having taken over the post in 1953. Norman retired from teaching at the end of 1965, and from the editorship of his "little periodical" after a remarkable 28 years, at the end of 1974. Following the retirement of some of the older members a new committee was formed with Roger Hosking as chairperson in 1989, and continued to steer the Society with the support of some 180 members.

Many of these members have played a significant part in the organisation of the Society in more recent years, but it is unlikely that the contribution of the original members will ever be equalled or surpassed. Overtime the committe has changed and the society grown from strength to strength.

In January 2013 it celebrated its 75th Anniversary Year by publishing a “Celebrate 75 Years of Collecting” book containing contributions of covers and anecdotes from members. On July 28th Honorary Life President Roger Hosking welcomed more than 20 members to a 75th Anniversary Meeting at No. 41 Devonshire Place, London, where a wide variety of rail and maritime topics were displayed by the attendees.

Members from Holland and the USA as well as Great Britain attended and topics included a wide range of themes covering multiple continents and oceans. The earliest item displayed was mail carried by the pioneer transatlantic steamers of 1838 while the most recent was Dutch Railway Express letters. Other interesting items included Thomas Cook as Forwarding Agent and the 20th Century Ltd. TPOs from Mexico to India and from Denmark to the Sudan covered most points of the compass supported by maritime items from Australia and from South Africa.

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