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Swiss Stamps

Commemoratives of 1932-1939

Commemorative Swiss stamps of 1932 to 1939 celebrated peacetime international events in Switzerland and the anniversary of a great engineering marvel.  This period also witnessed the appearance of the first Swiss souvenir sheets, celebrating important national philatelic exhibitions.

The six Swiss stamps shown above (Zu. #185-90, Mi. #250-55, Sc. #210-15) were issued on February 2, 1932 to publicize the International Disarmament Conference, held in Geneva.

The design of the Centime denomination Swiss stamps feature a dove of peace perched on a broken sword.  The design of the 1 Franc denomination features an allegorical representation of peace.

The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, also known as The World Disarmament Conference or The Geneva Disarmament Conference, first met in Geneva in February 1932, with additional meetings being held at intervals through 1937.  The conference was an effort by member states of the League of Nations to promote the policy of disarmament as a pathway to secure international borders and to World peace

The conference was hindered by a number of disagreements, with the principle ones being what constituted defensive and offensive weapons and the polarization of France and Germany.  With their history of military conflicts with Germany, France insisted on having superior military capability to that of Germany, and the German state, heavily restricted by the Treaty of Versailles, felt that they should be able to have the same level of armaments as those of their neighbors.  Unfortunately, the conferences ended in deadlock.  In 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected as the new Chancellor of Germany, and afterwards, Germany withdrew from both the League of Nations and the disarmament conference.

The three Swiss stamps shown above (Zu. #191-93, Mi. #259-61, Sc. #216-18) were issued on May 31, 1932 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Completion of the St. Gotthard Tunnel.

The three designs feature:

  • 10 C. - Louis Favre (1826-1879), the Swiss engineer remembered for the building of the St. Gotthard Railway Tunnel.
  • 20 C. - Alfred Escher (1819-1882), the Swiss politician, business leader, and railroad pioneer.
  • 30 C. - Emil Welti (1825-1899), the Swiss politician that served as the director of the Department of Posts and Railways from 1877 to 1891.  He was also the President of the Confederation of Switzerland six times between 1869 and 1891.

Painting of the Gotthard Pass during the Winter of 1790

By the middle of the 19th century, railroads had been constructed all over Europe, connecting cities and nations, and railroads were quickly becoming the principle method of economic trade.  Due to the impassible mountainous terrain of Southern Switzerland, many railroads were starting to circumnavigate the country.  Many Swiss political leaders feared that if something wasn't done to enable rail traffic to cross through Switzerland, the economic future of their nation would suffer greatly.  The solution was to "drive a hole through the Swiss Alps" that would enable rail traffic to cross through Switzerland!  Considering the technology of the time, this would be a daunting task!

The site chosen was the Gotthard Pass (Elevation 6,909 ft.).  There was a narrow road over the pass, but it was winding and treacherous, unsuitable for railway traffic.  In order to accommodate commercial railroad traffic between the business centers of Northern Switzerland and those in Italy, a railroad tunnel had to be driven through the pass, connecting the towns of Göschenen, in the Canton of Uri, on the North and Airolo, in the Canton of Ticino, on the South!

Construction on the 10 mile long St. Gotthard Railway Tunnel began in 1871 and was completed in 1881.  It was first used for passenger and commercial railroad traffic, beginning in 1882.  The new tunnel quickly became the shortest and quickest route for commercial railroad traveling between Germany and Italy, enabling Switzerland to eventually become the leading economic power of Europe. 

Once the tunnel was completed, the train trip from the North end of the tunnel to the South end of the tunnel took about eight minutes.

The souvenir sheet shown above (Zu. WIII #1, Mi. Block 1, Sc. #226) was issued on September 29, 1934 for the National Philatelic Exhibition, held in Zurich from September 29 through October 7, 1934.

The 5 C., 10 C., 15 C., and 20 C. denomination Swiss stamps in this souvenir sheet are identical to the same denomination sheet-format stamps of the Landscape Series of definitive postage stamps issued earlier in 1934.  The margins of the souvenir sheet are inscribed "NABA" 1934 ZURICH at the top, with National Philatelic Exhibition being inscribed on the three remaining sides in French, German, and Italian.

The souvenir sheets were sold only at the exhibition for 1.50 Francs.  Though 50,000 of them were originally printed, the surviving souvenir sheets, today, are scarce and expensive.

The four Swiss stamps shown above (Zu. #211-14, Mi. #321-24, Sc. #238-41) were issued on May 2, 1938 to celebrate the Opening of the Assembly Hall of the Palace of the League of Nations in Geneva.

The designs are as follows:

  • 20 C. - International Labor Bureau building.
  • 30 C. - Palace of the League of Nations.
  • 60 C. - Main building of the Palace of the League of Nations.
  • 01 F. - International Labor Bureau building and the Albert Thomas Monument.

Albert Thomas (1878-1932), a former French Socialist parliamentarian, was the first Director General of the International Labor Bureau from 1919 until 1932.

The souvenir sheet shown above (Zu. WIII #11, Mi. Block 4, Sc. #242) was issued on September 17, 1938 for the National Philatelic Exhibition, held in Aarau from September 17 through September 25, 1938, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Swiss Air Mail.

The souvenir sheets were sold at the exhibition for 1.50 Francs.  With over 200,000 of them having been originally printed, they are still fairly common and reasonably inexpensive.

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Swiss Stamps - Commemoratives of 1932-1939


The 10 C. denomination stamp shown above, at the top (Zu. #210, Mi. #311, Sc. #237), was issued on September 5, 1937 to publicize the Mobile Post Office.  These stamps were only sold on the Mobile Post Office vehicle.

The re-drawn version of the Mobile Post Office stamp shown above, at the bottom (Zu. #276, Mi. #311, Sc. #307), was issued on July 6, 1946.

The design of the re-drawn stamp measures 38 x 22 1/2 mm, whereas the design of the original stamp measures 37 1/2 x 21 mm.  The designer and printer names are also a bit larger on the re-drawn stamp.

The two Swiss stamps shown above (Zu. #240-41, Mi. #357-58, Sc. #268-69) were issued on August 22, 1939 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the International Red Cross Society.

The two designs feature a view of Geneva.