Jos Wolff Presentation
on June 5, 1997
Jos Wolff, FSPL President
Ladies and gentlemen, dear Luxembourg collectors,
Let me begin by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today, in my capacity as President of the "Fédération des Sociétés Philatéliques du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg" (F.S.P.L.), about Luxembourg and its philatelic life. I will begin with a short description of the country.
This open-mindedness doesn't prevent the population from being very attached to their native country.
From the economic and political points of view, Luxembourg is the most experienced country in the area of economic and customs unions, beginning with the personal union of the sovereign with the Netherlands (1815-1839), through the German Customs Union (1842-1919), the Belgian Economic Union (since 1919) and the Benelux (1944) up to the European Economic Community and the European Union now.
This situation strongly affected the postal life of the country and is reflected in its philately, too.
Although the postal organisation in Luxembourg goes back to the beginnings of the official post under Franz of Taxis in 1516, I shall limit myself to the period just preceding our present postal administration.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna raised Luxembourg to a Grand Duchy and gave it as an independent state to the King of the Netherlands, William I, in personal union. But, against the decisions of the Congress, the country didn't get its own administration. On the postal level it was connected with the Belgian provinces of Liège and Limburg to form the 5th Dutch district of postal inspection.
On April 25, 1830, the Belgian provinces separated from the Netherlands, taking the Grand Duchy with them, except the City of Luxembourg where the Prussian garrison of the fortress protected the Dutch administration.
The country was divided politically and postally for nine years. After the Treaty of London of April 19, 1839, the Walloon part came definitely to Belgium and the statute of independent state was confirmed for the rest of the Grand Duchy. On June 18, 1839, the post became again part of the Dutch organisation.
On January 1st, 1846, the first Luxembourg postal rates came into effect, but the official monetary unit was still the Dutch florin with 100 cents.
On January 1st, 1849, the franc was introduced as monetary unit and at the same time, the territory being smaller, the rates of 1846 were reduced by 25% for inland.
The 10th of September 1852 is the official issuing date of the first Luxembourg stamps. I stress "official", as it seems that some of these stamps had been used before that date. These two stamps show William III, King of the Netherlands and Grand-Duke of Luxembourg, in profile, who is also to be seen on the first Dutch stamps.
From 1923 to 1934 most of the Luxembourg collectors were members of the U.T.L. which was attached to the Royal Federation of Philatelic Associations of Belgium.
Thanks to a very active teacher, Jean-Pierre Heischbourg, after four years of hard negotiations, from 1931 to 1934, a federation was finally founded which has stayed almost the same up to now.
When the four presidents of Luxembourg philatelic associations, Henri Schwinnen of Philatelia Differdange, Emile Adam of Phila Dudelange, Eugène Lemmer of the association of Esch-sur-Alzette and Bernard Wolff of the U.T.L., signed on February 22, 1934, the statutes making the "Fédération des Sociétés Philatéliques du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg" a non-profit-making company, according to the law of 1928, they stipulated in the first article of these statutes that the federation had been founded "de facto" on Sunday, July 16, 1933, in Diekirch.
From the end of 1934 to 1939, just before the first national "Day of the Stamp", these five associations were the pillars of the F.S.P.L., a.s.b.l.
It was not without reason that in February 1934 the fathers of the F.S.P.L. themselves gave the 16th of July 1933 as birthdate of the federation. The founding of the F.S.P.L. was not a spontaneous action, as often happens for philatelic associations, but an event that had been well prepared; all had begun at the exhibition in Echternach in August 1932, where the presidents of the associations had been approached about the principle of the foundation of a federation and the organisation of the exhibition in Diekirch.
The F.S.P.L., as a "de facto" company of six associations, was in place before the exhibition in Diekirch; before that date, it had a secretary general, Jean-Pierre Heischbourg, it had organised the first federal exhibition in Diekirch from July 16 to 18, 1933, and had granted its patronage to the exhibition in Esch from August 12 to 22, 1933.
The laying of the cornerstone of the F.S.P.L. on occasion of the exhibition in Diekirch - a symbolic action - was thought, according to the importance of this philatelic event, to be a solemn, public and democratic occasion - a meeting, a banquet, an exhibition and a spectacular philatelic souvenir for which the postal administration had issued the day before two supplemental air mail stamps.
In the twenties everywhere in the country associations had been founded and their wish to unite to try to solve their problems in common resulted in the foundation of the F.S.P.L.
Moreover, Luxembourg wanted to follow the example of neighbouring countries where the national unity of the collectors had already taken shape. And it was certainly of advantage to be represented by a national federation in the F.I.P. which had been founded in 1926.
In six decades the F.S.P.L. has succeeded in becoming the accepted spokesperson of Luxembourg collectors, on the national as well as the international level, and it was able to solve the problems that came up, even if it wasn't always easy, as one can see in the crises of the years 1933 - 1934, and later on, in 1946 - 1947 and around 1960.
In 1934 the F.S.P.L. had 5 member associations representing about 500 collectors; 1946 they were 14 clubs with 2500 philatelists; and these last years, the F.S.P.L. counts 38 societies of about 3.300 senior collectors and 300 juniors which represent about 1% of the Grand Duchy's population. A percentage which fully justifies the sentence : "This Grand Duchy, small in surface, but great in philately".
Furthermore the federation includes 6 commissions :
Since the "exhibitors' passports" were introduced, about 500 collections have been registered, especially exhibits of modern philately.
Luxembourg organised its first "Day of the Stamp" on April 23, 1939, and we can read about it in the "Luxembourg Philatélique", no 9, of February 23, 1940:
On the occasion of the 11th F.I.P. Congress which was held in Luxembourg at the end of August 1936, the delegates of the member federations decided to organise every year in their respective countries a "Day of the Stamp".
The Luxembourg Federation didn't succeed succeed in executing the 1936 resolution in 1937 or 1938, for reasons beyond their control. But in the year of the jubilee (in 1939 the centenary of the independence of the Grand-Duchy was celebrated) they couldn't allow this abstention. The leaders of the Luxembourg philately got down to work and, in spite of some difficulties, they succeeded in determining the date of the first Luxembourg "Day of the Stamp" on April 23, 1939, on the date of the official commemoration of the Centenary of the Renewal of our Independence. The Postal Administration had granted a special cancellation with the text "Luxembourg 23-4-1939, Journée du Timbre".
Since 1939, the "Day of the Stamp" has been organised every year in Luxembourg, except in the war years 1942-44, combined with an exhibition, by the F.S.P.L., until 1972. Every time the capital was the meeting point of the collectors, except 1946 in Dudelange and 1947 in Differdange.
Since 1973 the "Day of the Stamp" has been organised every year by a different association of the F.S.P.L., alternately one year for youth philately and one year for traditional philately.
In 1989 the working group "Day of the Stamp" was founded to explain and compile the documentation on this subject and to help the exhibitors to build up exhibits on it.
In 1978 it organised the fifth F.I.P. Exhibition for Youth, JUPHILUX '78, which comprised 1557 frames, with 455 exhibitors, and 7 exhibits in Literature.
The ninth World Exhibition for Young Philatelists, JUVALUX '88, took place in 1988 in Luxembourg and had with 2006 the highest number of frames ever shown in an F.I.P. Exhibition for Youth, filled by the exhibits of 465 exhibitors. The average in all these Exhibitions is about 1400 frames. 22 exhibits in Literature completed this exhibition.
At present the F.S.P.L. prepares the 13th Exhibition of this kind, with 1000+ frames for Youth philately and 1000+ frames for Postal History. JUVALUX '98 will be held from June 18 to 22, 1998.
Although philately in Luxembourg knows the same problems as all over the world, especially in getting new young members to prepare for the future, it is nevertheless very active and its leaders try to find solutions on the national as well as the international level.