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Catalan Separatist Stamps

by Bonnie & Roger Riga

It wouldn't seem that the image of St. George slaying the Dragon could be deemed subversive, but that is just the attitude that the Spanish government had about the Catalan Separatist Movement's use of the image in their propaganda stamps issued in 1899.

Unio Catalanista, meaning Catalan Union, was an organization founded in 1891 devoted to the eventual autonomy of the Catalan region of Spain. It would be almost 80 years before this goal was realiized.

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fig. 1:  A Unio Catalanista, stamp of 1899

When the Unio Catalanista stamps were issued in 1899, the stamps were designed to be affixed alongside the regular stamp. The Spanish government quickly outlawed the use of the Catalan stamps on mail. Even the image of St. George was considered to be suspect, as St. George was the symbol of the Catalans and the Dragon was, of course, the centralization of the government, which the Catalans wished to slay.

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fig. 2 An 1899 cover from "La Esquella de la Ttorratxa', a satirical/political Catalan magazine reacting to the banning of the Unio Catalanista stamp on posted letters.

Many different designs were issued by the Catalans, mostly in the years between 1896 and 1906. The Spanish Philatelic Society issued a handbook by S. Nathan in 1976, which details the various issues of the Separatist movements in Spain. Nathan lists some 78 different Catalan designs with innumerable color variations in many of them - sometimes as many as 65 different varieties.

For the collector of Spain, this is an area of cinderellas that offers a great deal of joy in the hunt. Postal history enthusiasts will also enjoy the search for the elusive, but extant covers with the forbidden Catalan propaganda stamps. The joy of cinderella collecting is not only the history, but also the hunt. Have fun!

Images of three pages of Catalan Separatist Stamps from the Witt collection follow:

This column first appeared in Scott Stamp Monthly and has been edited for online presentation.
This page was last updated July 8, 2016.
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