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Dutch Treat!

Click for a Larger View Canada in May issued four domestic-rate (48¢) stamps celebrating the 50th anniversary of the world's largest tulip festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa.

The stamps feature four varieties of tulips: "City of Vancouver," "Monte Carlo," "Ottawa" and "The Bishop." (Click picture for a larger view)

Strong bonds of friendship were forged between Canada and the Netherlands during the Second World War (1939-1945). Occupied early in the war, the Netherlands endured the Nazis for five years. Their royal family found refuge in Canada. During their stay, Princess Margriet was born at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The liberation of the Netherlands took a heavy toll on Canada's troops, and more than 5,700 Canadian soldiers remain there, buried in Dutch soil.

In the fall of 1945, the people of the Netherlands sent a gift of thanks to Ottawa, consisting of 100,000 tulip bulbs. The following year, Princess Juliana, Princess Margriet's mother, sent an additional 20,000 bulbs to show her gratitude for the hospitality she received there. Each year, Ottawa receives 10,000 bulbs from the Dutch Queen's household plus another 10,000 from the International Flower Bulb Centre of Holland, bringing the number of annual blooms to over one million in the National Capital Commission tulip beds.

In 1953, the first Canadian Tulip Festival was held in Ottawa. Today, the festival is the largest in the world, earning the National Capital region the title of "tulip capital of North America."

The 50th Anniversary Festival is being held through May 20th, and is dedicated to Malak Karsh, the festival's founder and the man who made Ottawa synonymous with tulips through his incredible photography. Karsh's work appeared within the May 2001 Tourist Attractions stamps, as well as last year's Christmas Lights stamps. As well, the photo of the National War Memorial, which serves as the background for the 'Ottawa' tulip stamp, is by him. Karsh, the brother of fellow famed photographer Yousuf Karsh, passed away last year. You can read more about Malak here.

The "City of Vancouver" is a late-flowering, long-stemmed, single flower, primrose yellow tulip. On the stamp, it is shown against a background of the Vancouver skyline. Sulphur-yellow in colour, and slightly feathered with red, the "Monte Carlo" is an early-flowering, short-stemmed and double-flowered tulip. The background of the "Monte Carlo" stamp features tulip beds located at Ottawa's Dows Lake. "Ottawa" is a cardinal red tulip with canary yellow margins. This tulip blooms mid-season and reaches a height of 50 cm. The National War Memorial is shown in the background of the "Ottawa" stamp. Among the varieties of tulips forming the original gift from the Dutch royal family, "The Bishop" is violet purple in colour and characterized by large flowers on long stems. The background of "The Bishop" stamp is the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, birthplace of Princess Margriet.

The stamps were designed by Monique Dufour and Sophie Lafortune of Québec City. This talented duo's other stamp design credits include the Circus (1998), the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (1998), Shriners and the traditional trades definitive stamps (2001). Two million booklets containing 8 self-adhesive stamps (16,000,000 stamps in total) were available for sale May 3rd, 2002.

Lowe Martin printed the stamps on Tullis Russell paper, using 5-colour lithography. These are the first stamps printed by Lowe Martin, which has done non-security printing for Canada Post for years, including some commemorative envelopes. The company just this year developed a new security printing process, and this is the first of three stamp jobs this year.

Measuring 30.5 mm x 48 mm (vertical), the stamps have general tagging on four sides, with straight diecut edges. The cancellation of the Official First Day cover was Ottawa, Ontario.

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