Friday, April 18, 2008

Belgium's Dominical Labels

Belgium, 1912 (Scott #102)
King Albert I w/ dominical label
If you've ever studied the postage stamps of Belgium, you will notice that some of their early stamps have an additional label on the bottom of the stamp. Stamp albums usually have space for both the stamp and label, and most stamp catalogs value the stamp with the label intact. In today's entry I will give you a brief rundown on these labels.

These labels are called dominical labels. The purpose of the label is used to identify to the postal system whether delivery of letters should take place on Sunday.

First, a bit of semantics ... often you will hear people mention that the labels are attached to the stamp. They are not physically attached to the stamp with glue or some other physical method. In reality, of course, the labels are part of the same piece of paper as the stamp, but are perforated so that they can be detached from the stamp. Those that haven't been detached, would be considered attached to the stamp.

From the earliest days of the Belgium post office, mail was delivered 7 days a week. Unionized postal workers and Christians felt that a day of rest, preferably Sunday, should be allowed. Following the 1884 election when the Belgian Catholic party came to power, Mr. J. H. P. Vandenpeereboom was appointed to oversee the post office.

Hoping to ward off labor unrest, Mr. Vandenpeereboom decided to let postal consumers dictate whether postal delivery should occur on Sunday. Beginning in 1893, his solution was to sell stamps with dominical labels on them. The labels stated "Not to be delivered on Sunday."

If Sunday delivery was not wanted, the label was left intact on the stamp and the combined stamp and label was applied to the envelope. If the sender wanted the letter to be delivered on Sunday, or if they didn't care one way or the other, they would remove the dominical label when they stuck the stamp to the envelope.

Vandenpeereboom's goal was to keep strict records on the use of the labels to determine the wishes of the consumer. A full 90 percent of the letters mailed did not have the label, and therefore wanted Sunday delivery.

The labeled stamps were issued from 1893 to 1913. There is anecdotal evidence that when German bombs destroyed Belgium's printing works at the start of World War I, the replacement printer could not make the labeled stamps, thus bringing an end to the use of the dominical label. Following World War I, the Belgian postal labor unions had gained strength and were able to abolish regular Sunday delivery.

The Belgian issues that have dominical labels are listed below:

Date of Issue
Number of Stamps Issued
Coat of Arms / King Leopold II
Arms of Antwerp
Arms of Brussels
King Leopold II
Coat of Arms
St. Martin (semi-postal)
St. Martin w/ "1911" Overprint (semi-postal)
St. Martin w/ "Charleroi-1911" Overprint (semi-postal)
Lion of Belgium / King Albert I
King Albert I (larger head)



Anonymous said...

What a useful and concise entry.
Always Assuming it's correct, and what i know of dominical labels agrees with it.

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