Tuberculosis (TB) has been known to mankind since ancient times. Earlier this disease has been called by numerous names including consumption (because of the severe weight loss and the way the infection appeared to “consume” the patient), phthisis pulmonaris and the white plague (because of the extreme pallor seen among those infected). In the 19th century, Tuberculosis became epidemic in Europe where annual mortality rates were around 1,000 per 100,000 per year ! In the end of the 19th century, it was believed that the mountain fresh air and over-feeding in an establishment more like a luxury hotel than a hospital would strengthen the patient. That’s why sanatoriums establishments appeared. Treatment in sanatoriums quickly spread throughout Europe and America. Until the advent of chemotherapy, sanatoriums were the best alternative to treatment, especially in the beginning stages of the disease.
TB Charity Seals are Charity Seals which were issued to support sanatoriums, or for anti-tuberculosis campaigns. The use of TB Charity Seals began in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries beginning in 1904. In the United States, the Red Cross issued seals to fund anti-tuberculosis campaigns and sanatoriums beginning in 1907. They were soon issued by various societies to support anti-TB campaigns in states, counties, and for public and private hospitals and sanatariums. These TB-seals where also called Christhmas seals because they where sold around Christmas time, a favorable period for generosity and compassion.
Fig 1 – 1904 Denmark first TB seal issued at christmas time / 1907 First US Christmas seal
The first public mention of tuberculosis in Lebanon was made in 1899 in the journal El Tabib by Dr. Iskandar Baroody. The first TB control association seen day in 1906 under the name of « Al- Jamyiat maja al al sohhi tadarouni». Two years later, in 1908, Ms. Pierson Eddé opened the first Lebanese sanatorium in Maameltein before being deplaced to Chbaniyé near Hammana in 1909 to be known as Hamlin Sanatorium.
According to Green’s catalog for christmas seals, the first lebanese anti-TB seal was issued in 1924 followed by a second emission in 1926.
1924 issue : The seal shows a woman (probably a nurse) with a torch in her right hand and holding a young boy by her left hand. The boy takes the appearance of a thin, pale melancholic patient without strength. We can guess the pallid facies of the boy.No wonder ! We are in 1924, only few years after WWI, when Lebanon suffered from the ottoman and allied blocus over the country. Starvation and famine reached its climax in 1918. People fought over garbage pails and many mountain houses came vacant, their occupants dead and their doors used to make coffins. By September 1918 already 300.000 people had died in the region of Beirut and Mount-Lebanon. The coming Winter of 1918-1919 was feared to be the worst winter regarding the Famine. On the back ground of the seal, we see a map of the Middle-East with some major cities (Hama is erronouesly written Hamas). If we look closer, the nurse is wearing on her left chest the double red cross, symbol of the anti-TB fight. The legend on the right and the left of the seal says in arabic and in english: the Syria anti-tuberculosis society (Syria in reference to actual Syria and Lebanon). On top and bottom of the seal we can read in french and arabic what could be the name of this allegory : Help and light. The seal was sold for half a lebanese piaster. It was printed in London by Bradbury Wilkinson and Cold graveurs. We can find a block of 20 from the complet sheet of 90 (9×10).
As for the 1926 issued seal, we find a brighter print of the same allegory. Nevertheless, the nurse looks more like an angel with wings. Notice the sword on her left side, probably to point out the cruisade against TB that is going on. The names of the cities disappeared of the map in favour of a more evident double red cross, reminding again the cruisade against TB. The name of publisher disappeared from the seal. Is it the work of a local printhouse ? The drawing seems more bright and precise. The legends remains the same. The seal was sold at one piastre. About who ordered these seals, nothing is really known ! We can only guess. English text on the seal exclude the authorities of the French mandat. Was it a privat initiative ? Was it the Near East Relief ? All we know is that Near East Relief made a tremendous program of relief in Turkey, Syria, and Palestine. Were they inspired by their american Xmas seals?
In 1954, a third issue was printed, pretty much like the first issue : Nurse holding a boy with same legend except this time reference is made to the Lebanese anti-tuberculosis society in french (no more english text). No more middle east map on background just an empty double red cross referring to the tuberculosis cruisade. Publisher’s name : RICHAT frère – The seal was printed in a carnet. Each page had a block of four seals. Face value 5 piastres.
Fig 6 – Block of four of 5 piastres value. Another face value of 2.5 piastres is reported but not seen on cover probably because of no gum on reverse
LEBANESE TB-SEALS ON LOCAL COVERS
These seals were used on covers but had no postage validity. They were tolerated by the postal administration and normally had to be used on the back of the cover. They are highly collectible items for TB topic collectors, specially if the seal is stroke by the postal cancel.
Fig 14 and 15 – Nice Gd-Liban cover heading to USA. Outgoing cancel 08/12/1924. Second TB issue on back. Untied? Seal torn in two in order to open the cover. But again to early usage of the seal. Misleading comment on the back left side of cover. Another fraud?
Fig 18 and 19 – Nice Grand Liban cover with outgoing cancel from bearly readible «ras el matn», transiting by Hamana and Beirut. Luckily the seal is tied by the Beirut cancel making it a «genuine» item.
Thank you to Doctor Khalid for the support -.
Fig 23 and 24 – Outgoing cover from Halep to Boston (10/01/1925) with untied second issue seal on back. If we refer to Green’s catalogue, this seal must have been added later on. The second issue TB seal with cancel is scarce. Such items are sold on auctions but with dates anterior to 1926, that makes me doubt about it’s authenticity.
Fig 30 and 31 – Nice censored cover from Bickfaya to Egyptian Gaza in 1956. The seal was pen cancelled as if it was an army tax stamp.
This period is less problematic for collecting. All seals are probably tied with postal cancels and prices are relatively fair regarding the first two issues of TB seals.
FOREIGN ANTI-TB SEALS ON LEBANESE COVERS
French anti TB seals
It is very understable to find french anti-TB seals on lebanese covers since Lebanon was under French Mandat and these seals were very popular in France. Its was part of the french culture. Many antiTB campaigns and sanatoriums were financed by this way. Soldiers or civil servants probably imported them in their lugage while their stay in Lebanon.
Fig 39 and 40 – Another soldier using Beirut local post for his mail to Praha. Notice TB seal cancelled with private seal as well as another cinderella stamp on back cover.
Other TB stamp seal
A lot of questions remain unanswered. Since Lebanon was under French Mandate during 25 years why don’t we find more TB seals on lebanese covers ? Why did I only found 1938 french TB seals on covers ? Others are to come ? Why is this long time collection having problem to take off ?
A couple of things are sure: Authorities didn’t use the post office as a vector to fight Tuberculosis as in other western countries. Lack of enthusiasm of Lebanese collectors or public toward these seals? Other countries issued every year a stamp with a propaganda message to fight Tuberculosis. I think its not wrong to state that, as much by its imagery, by its mode of diffusion, the TB seal is an indicator of cultural practices of a country. Must I remind you that in Lebanon, TB was considered a shameful disease and when one spoke about it, one said « haydek el marad ». We even found a word to isolate someone by treating him of « Mhannes » in reference to Bhannes Sanatorium.
Anyway this collection was fun sharing with you.