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History of the “Ferrer Block” Crown Jewel of Uruguay's Philately Uruguay

1.- 1) Origin of the first Stagecoach (Diligencia) stamp.

On October 1st. 1856, the first postage stamps were issued by Mr. Atanasio Lapido, who at the time was Uruguay's Postmaster General. This issue was made of three values; 60 cents, blue used for simple letter postage; 80 cents, green for double letter rate and 1 real, red for letters of triple weight.
The design consisted of a Sun on its center with the value below and the word Diligencia above. There were created only for mail delivered by stagecoaches running on 5 national routes, which were also administered by Mr. Lapido. These routes connected the capital city (Montevideo) with several cities and towns in the countryside.
The mail that did not went on Mr. Lapido's stagecoaches, was sent through the National Post Office. This service did not use postage stamps at the time and began employing them in 1859.

They were printed by Mege & Willems in Montevideo using litographic means, on unperforated sheets of 35 stamps distributed on 7 rows of 5 stamps each.
Therefore 35 distinctive types for each value were created which are perfectly identifiable on the sheet.s.

2.- 2) The “Ferrer Block” and its philatelic importance.

The largest multiple of 15 unused stamps of the 80 cents green value is called the “Ferrer Block”, and is the largest known of all three values.
It corresponds to the NE portion of the sheet and contains positions  3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25 and 30 as well as the top and right margins.
The other multiples known are two blocks of 4 from the same sheet as the “Ferrer Block”. One contains positions 1, 2, 6 and 7 and the other positions 16, 17, 21 and 22.
Of the 60 cents value, a horizontal pair exists with plate positions 9 and 10 belonging to the Tapling collection property of the British Library in London, courtesy cancelled.  

The philatelic importance of the Ferrer Block resides on the fact that identifying the plate position of the 35 types of this issue was made possible in great part by carefully analyzing this maximum block.

3.- Dr. Esteban Wonner

In 1887 writes the first book on Uruguayan Philately: Les Timbres de la Republique Orientale de L’Uruguay”. As far as the Diligencias issue is concern he wrote: “Je possede une planche entiere du 80 centavos”. He did not mention when or where he obtained the entire sheet, but some years later after his dead, his family sold his collection. The entire sheet was offered in Europe without success and later sold to a stamp merchant in Montevideo.

4.- 4) Pedro de Soto and Hilario Beramendi. Birth of the 15 stamp block.

Pedro de Soto

Mr. Soto was born in Cadiz (Spain) in 1852. He began his first collection around 1865, specializing mainly on stamps from Spain and Uruguay, becoming an expert philatelist. On the 1890's he bought from a merchant the entire sheet and showed it to his friend Mr. Hilario Beramendi with whom he had an agreement to share all philatelic findings. Therefore they divided the sheet in two blocks; one of 18 stamps for Mr. Beramendi and the remaining with 17 stamps for Mr. Soto.

Hilario Beramendi

Mr. Soto cuts his share in two pieces of 4 and the rest in singles which he used to exchange with his friends.
The top left corner block containing plate positions 1, 2, 6 and 7 remained in his collection and later sold to Mr. Thomas Hall, President of the Royal Philatelic Society in London. The famous American collector Mr. Charles Lathrop Pack later bought it from Mr. Hall. It is now known as the “Pack Block”.

He sell the second block containing plate positions 16, 17, 21 and 22 to the Italian collector Mr. Remigio Sciarra who specialized in Uruguay stamps and is now known as the “Sciarra Block”.
In the meantime, Mr Beramendi cuts his block in three singles and a 15 stamps block, which is sold in 1900 to Mr. Vicente Ferrer.

5.- 5) Vicente Ferrer (Argentina). First owner.

Mr. Ferrer was a merchant living outside Buenos Aires and was an especialized collector of Uruguay stamps and according to Mr. Charles Phillips who visited in 1909 he “probably had the largest collection of this country ever assembled”. His best piece was the 15 stamp block of the 80 cents green Diligencias issue, which now is named after him. Soon after he dies and his daughter Mrs. Susana Ferrer presents his father's collection at the 1910 Centennial Exhibit where is seen for the first time.
On the same year, Stanley Gibbons Ltd. Of London, bought the collection from Mrs. Ferrer.

6.- 6) Charles Lathrop Pack (USA). First studies of the block.

Mr. Charles Lathrop Pack was born in Michigan (USA) in 1857, but lived most of his life in New Jersey. He was a studious philatelist and had several collections from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Spain and of course, Uruguay.

He bought the Ferrer collection in 1911 which enable him to have the “Ferrer Block” as well as the “Pack Block”; with this pieces plus other ones he began the study of the Diligencias issue plate positions. His theory indicated that all three values were printed using a single stone and that the only changes made were the denominations.
In 1912, on the International Jubilee Exhibit in London, he presents his Uruguay collection which had as main pieces the “Ferrer Block”, the “Pack Block” and a 120 cents vertical “Tete Beche” pair of the double numeral issue.
In 1923 he participated on the London  Exhibit showing the same items.
In 1929, the Pack Uruguay collection is sold and the “Ferrer Block” travels to Europe for the first time.
Mr. Pack dies in New York in 1937 at age 80.

7.- 7) Emanuel J. Lee (England). First Grand Prix.

Mr. E.J. Lee was born in London, England. He was a banker and dedicated a good part of his life to create one of the largest stamp collection of Uruguay ever assembled. The amount of material was such, that he had seven assistants to help him clasify it.

In 1929, thru Mr. Phillips, he bought the Pack collection, thus obtaining the main two pieces of his exhibit: the “Ferrer Block” and the ”Pack Block”. The 120 cents “Tete Beche” has dissapeared from the Pack collection and Mr. Lee never was able to find it.
In 1930, on the Montevideo Centenary Exhibit, he obtained a “Grand Prix” for his Uruguay exhibit, which had the “Ferrer Block” as main attraction.
He continues the study made by Mr. Pack and in 1931 he published in London the most complete book of Uruguayan Philately: “The Postage Stamps of Uruguay”, having 388 pages.
In August 1931, he presents again his collection at the Hamburg Exhibit, obtaining again a “Grand Prix”.
In 1934, he publish on several specialized magazines a singular ad informing that his Uruguay collection had won the “Grand Prix” on international exhibits in Europe, Africa and America. Claiming it to be the best and greatest collection from one country ever assembled, he bets 1000 pounds to any philatelist who can prove to have a better collection from a single country or one equal in material, importance or value. He did not have any claims and in 1935 the firm Plumridge & Co. of London auctions his collection. No buyer reaches the starting price for the “Ferrer” and “Pack” blocks.
Mr. Lee dies in 1940. His family sends the material in 1942 to be auctioned.

8.- Alfred F. Lichtenstein (E.E.U.U). 

Mr. Lichtenstein was born on August 6th., 1876 in Brooklyn, New York. He was one of the greatest philatelists of all time, specializing in Canada, Switzerland, Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, Gambia, Mauritius, Argentina and Uruguay.
In 1942 at the H. R . Harmer firm in the US, several items from the Lee collection are auctioned. Both the “Ferrer” and “Pack” blocks are bought by Mr. Lichtenstein.
He dies on February 24th. 1947. His daughter Louise Boyd Dale, also a philatelist, continued with the collection

9.- Robert Hoffmann (Germany).

Mr. Hoffman was born on December 13th. 1902 in Kiel (Germany) and emigrated to Argentina in 1933.
A passionate and well studied philatelist, Mr. Hoffman managed to have one of the most complete Uruguay collection in history.

In 1949, after long negociations, he bought on a private deal the “Ferrer” and “Pack” blocks from Mrs. Dale.
In 1956, at the Fipex exhibit in New York, around 300,000 people bought their entrance and admired Mr. Hoffman's collection which won the “”Grand Prix” and had on the same sheet both the “Ferrer” and “Pack” blocks as main pieces.
Some years after his death in 1968, his son Rainer offers his collection to two Uruguayan collectors as well as to the National Post Office. Since these attempts were not successful, his family sends the collection for auction; which only takes place in October 1982 at the Swiss firm Corinphila.

10.- Norman S. Hubbard (Canada)

Born on March 6th. 1935, Mr. Hubbard specialized in collecting the first issues of almost all countries in Central and South America, obtaining the largest awards in several exhibits.

In 1982, the “Ferrer Block” is bought by Mr. Hubbard, while the “Pack Block” is bought by Mr. Martin de Bustamante from Spain. Mr. Bustamante's collection wins the “Grand Prix” on the exhibit held in Spain in 1992 and had as main items the “Pack Block” as well as the 120 cents “Tete Beche”.
At the same time, Mr. Hubbard wins at the 1990 London exhibit a Large Gold medal presenting in his exhibit the “Ferrer Block”. On the “Grand Prix” book, Mr. Odenweller says that Mr. Hubbard's collections had an austere style. This was surely due to the lack of philatelic study presented on his exhibit, and probably the reason for which Mr. Hubbard is the only collector that did not win a “Grand Prix” on an exhibit having the “Ferrer Block”.
In 1992, Mr. Hubbard sells his entire “Diligencias” collection on a private deal

11.- Gene Scott (E.E.U.U.)

Mr. Gene Scott, was born on August 14th., 1929. He was a Protestant leader in Los Angeles. Since his youth he collected stamps, specializing in Denmark, Island and Uruguay.
In 1992 he bought the “Ferrer Block” thus forming an extraordinary collection of the first four issues of Uruguay.
In 1998, presents it at the Israel 98 exhibit in Tel Aviv, obtaining the International “Grand Prix”.

He dies in 2005 and his collection after some years is sold by his wife to a merchant whom auctions it in 2009 at the Swiss firm Investphila, alongside the “Pack Block”, the “Sciarra Block” and the single stamp belonging to position 35 of the same sheet once owned by Mr. Wonner and later cutted by Mr. de Soto and Mr. Beramendi

12.- Tito Giamporcaro  (Italy)

Mr. Tito Giamporcaro was born in Italy in 1928. Engineer by trade, as a philatelist manages to assemble great collections from several countries, among them United States, Switzerland and Uruguay.
In 2009, he bought the “Ferrer Block” and all other items belonging to the sheet owned by Mr. Wonner. Thus the “Ferrer Block” returns to Europe after 67 years.
During 2012, most of the items of his Uruguay collection are sold, without being shown on international exhibits

Conclusions
Eight collectors had the privilege of having this jewel of worldwide philately, six of them displayed it on international exhibits; the latest on 1998 obtaining the international “Grand Prix”.

None of them was born in Uruguay. The “Ferrer Block” has always been in foreign countries, an unusual fact for a philatelic piece of such importance.

Collector Nacionality Year of acquisition Exhibited on Years with the Block
Vicente Ferrer Argentina 1900 1910 11
Charles L. Pack E.E.U.U 1911 1912-1923 18
Emanuel J. Lee England 1929 1930-1931 13
Alfred Lichtenstein E.E.U.U 1942 No 7
Robert Hoffmann Germany-Argentina 1949 1956 33
Norman Hubbard Canada 1982 1990 10
Gene Scott E.E.U.U 1992 1998 17
Tito Giamporcaro Italy 2009 No 3

Bibliography.

  • Docteur Wonner, Les Timbres de la Republique Oriental  de L’Uruguay, 1887.
  • Hugo Griebert, A Study of the Stamps of Uruguay, 1910.
  • Emanuel J. Lee, The Postage  Stamps of Uruguay, 1931.
  • Uruguay Filatélico, Revista del Club Filatélico del Uruguay.
  • Sociedad Filatélica Argentina, Revista de la Sociedad Filatélica Argentina.
  • Collectors Club Philatelist, Revista de The Collectors Club.

Ing. Walter Britz Uruguay
Montevideo,
Marzo 2013

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