The rarest stamp of the world!

There were at least two unsuccessful attempts by the English on the conquest of the land, which will later be called British Guiana. Efforts were made in the 17th century when the Dutch had already colonized the region in two points: the Essequibo, which in commanding by the Dutch West India Company and Demerara, which was under the command of West India Company (fig.1).

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Fig. 1: Map of British Guiana dated 1690

In 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the English managed command and control, since then the Dutch were under the domination of French and English with the French were at war. An English expeditionary force, initiated from its own colony of Barbados for the conquest of territories that they were under the French domination, the so-called Batavian Republic. The settlers retreated without resistance and English, to meet the existing situation and policy have not changed the long existing laws in the colony. In 1802 the colony was returned to the Batavian Republic under the terms of the Treaty of Amiens, but the UK sized the colonies again less than one year later upon the resumption of hostilities with France in Napoleonic Wars in 1803. The colonies officially ceded to the United Kingdom, with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. The British continued to have a separate administration in the colonies, when finally in 1831 were combined together and became a united colony known as British Guiana, with its capital Georgetown (Demerara). Guyana went on to become independent of the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966.

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Nobody thought then that this British colony will issue the rarest stamp in the world today: the black on magenta 1 cent of British Guiana.

In 1856, the Postmaster of the British colony of Guyana, E T E Dalton, literally got frustrated when he heard that a cargo which included the British colonial stamps, failed to arrive in Georgetown! Because he believed that he could not leave the people of the colony without this much-needed and still relatively new, service facility, via a local printer, who edited and the local newspaper, the Royal Gazette, ordered the immediate production of stamps. The print was in black ink in various colors of paper depending on the denomination. These prints, which are quite rare, are known as “ cotton-reels”, because of the printing press used. Once the three types of stamps printed (a 4 cents in blue paper, a 4 cents in magenta paper and 1 cent in magenta for posting local newspapers) (fig.2), Dalton found that the printer did not fulfill the simple requirements that he had suggested and tried to put on print creative contribution, putting a ship emblem. Dalton did not like the design and ultimately used it as an urgent and necessary need. The stamps were without perforation with the colonial motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” (We give and expect in return). He also ordered at all the post office clerks to sign the stamp to avoid phenomena of counterfeiting or other fraud. He would be astonished to hear that today his name is still mentioned as a result of these provisional stamps.

Fig. 5: The two provisional stamps of 4 cents, one in magenta and one in blue, printed at the same time with the rare one-cent stamp

Fig. 2: The two provisional stamps of 4 cents, one in magenta and one in blue, printed at the same time with the rare one-cent stamp

Vaughan Vernon, a Scottish student, discovered a stamp of 1 cent in magenta paper (fig.3), cut into an octagon shape, in one of his uncle’s letters in Georgetown (Demerara), the capital of British Guiana in 1873. The stamp bears a heavy postmark of the local post office and the initials of the postal clerk E D Wright, who implemented the policy of Dalton. This was the beginning of the great tour that was made by the rarest stamp in the world.

Fig. 6: The famous stamp of 1-cent in magenta of British Guiana

Fig. 3: The famous stamp of 1-cent in magenta of British Guiana

Vernon sold it a few weeks later, a few shillings, about $1.50 in today’s match, at a local collector, N R McKinnon, as his stamp catalog had not a reference for it. Despite the dismal situation, the stamp is the only unique piece existed. The price begins to climb, passing through the hands of small and large collectors and dealers. But as a huge and rare philatelic item, attracted the large solitary collector of that time, Philippe Ferrary! Around 1880, Ferrary buys it for $750. During the 14 auctions of the sale of Ferrary’s collection from the French Government in 1922, Arthur Hind buys the stamps for more than $36,000 and after his death his widow disposed it for $40,000 to an engineer from Florida, USA. In 1970, a syndicate of investors from Pennsylvania, headed by Irwin Weinberg, bought the stamp for $280,000 and spent much of the decade, presenting it in a world tour. The athlete, philatelist and ornithologist John E. du Pont bought it for $935,000 in 1980. In 1997, John E. du Pont, convicted for the murder of his friend, Olympic wrestler David Schulz (fig.4). The court, after du Pont had no rational motive to kill his friend, decided that he suffers from schizophrenia. Today, as the owner is serving a sentence of 30 years, the stamp is guarded in a bank deposit. Experts estimate that the stamp is worth more than $7,000,000. For now it is hidden from the world.

Fig. 7: John E. du Pont while he was arrested

Fig. 4: John E. du Pont while he was arrested

The line between fantasy and reality is often confused around this rare stamp. Sometimes there were allegations that the rare stamp of 1 cent was a four-cent counterfeit stamp in magenta paper, since they are very similar to each other. These claims were denied. Around 1920, a reputation was developed about a second copy that was discovered. The owner of the “unique” stamp known, Arthur Hind, bought it quietly and completely destroy it, making his first stamp unique again! Neither this reputation is established.
In 1999, a copy was discovered in Bremen, Germany. The stamp was found by Peter Winter, who is widely known for his production of many counterfeit copies on classic philatelic items, that he printed them on modern paper. Two European experts, Rolf Roeder and David Feldman, said that the stamp is genuine. The Royal Philatelic Society of London, having considered the stamp twice, concluded that this copy is a counterfeit 4-cent stamp!

The 1 cent magenta of British Guyana is so famous, that they brought it into play in cinema!
“The Saint in Palm Springs” is the name of a thriller movie screened in early 1941 (fig.5). It’s the film that inspired the well-known series “The Saint” with Simon Templar. The stamp was used as a plot device in the project and its value in the film was $65,000.

Fig. 8: Poster from the movie “The Saint in Palm Springs”

Fig. 5: Poster from the movie “The Saint in Palm Springs”

The stamp appeared along with the long known hero of Walt Disney, Donald Duck. In the comics of Carl Barks “the gilded man”, Donald, a philatelist, says in its story that the stamp “worth more than fifty thousand dollars!” (fig.6)
Certainly, all philatelists, but also all the collectors-investors, which they financially withstand to buy such a rare object, waiting anxiously the day when a famous auction house will announce the sale of the 1-cent in magenta paper of British Guiana.

Fig. 9: A page from Carl Barks comic

Fig. 6: A page from Carl Barks comic

I wish them good luck!

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Bibliography – Websites:

1. Carlton, R. Scott (1997). The International Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Philatelics. Iola, WI: Krause. p. 36. ISBN 0873414489.
2. Rachlin, Harvey (1996). Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain: The Remarkable Stories Behind the Great Artifacts of History, From Antiquity to the Modern Era. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6406-0.
3. W.A. Townsend and F.G. Howe, Postage Stamps and Postal History of British Guiana, London, Royal Philatelic Society (August 1970) ISBN 0900631015
4. Proud, Ted. The Postal History of British Guiana. Proud-Bailey Co. Ltd., 2000. ISBN 1872465269
5. Sheryll Oswald, “Peter Winter and the modern German forgeries on eBay” (28 July, 2001)
6. “British Guiana 1c, 1856: Weltrarität oder Fälschung?” Bund Deutscher Philatelisten (BDPh) e.V. (in German)
7. “Is the British Guiana 1c unique?” Stamp Online
8. “The Saint in Palm Springs”, IMDb
9. “Donald Duck: The Gilded Man” COA
10. Website of Wikipedia

British Colonies Postage Stamps.

During the last decades of the 19th century, and well into the first five decades of the 20th century, the British Empire was not only the ruler of the seas but also the sovereign power of approximately sixty other countries of various size and distance. The sun never set within the boundaries of the Empire. Bearing in mind Australia, India and Canada, one may have more than just an idea of the vast revenue generated by both Britain and the British companies which monopolized the products and resources of the countries under their rule.

All that came to an end after World War II, when the British economic disaster brought the USA into the ruling foreground. On behalf of all their colonies, the British issued postage stamps some of which are nowadays considered to be classic items for their superb printing method.

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Pic 1

Up to 1930, those stamps are not characterized by any particular variety of image as they strictly adhered to the royal portrait, which was of utmost importance for the projection of the British power. From 1901, in particular, we almost have no other postage stamps than those depicting Queen Victoria in a variety of colors and wonderful printings lacking, however, in thematic imagination (Picture 1).

Those postage stamps are much sought after. From 1902 to 1910, once more, we have only one theme and that is the head of Edward VII (Picture 2). From 1911 until 1936 we have George V: a king who is known as one the finest collectors in the world. He had also made “The Stamp Day” an institution during which absolute silence was observed. He would not even receive his ministers so as not to be distracted during his work with his stamp collection (Picture 3).

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Pic 2                                                       Pic 3

From 1930 onward  there has been a significant turn in British Colonial stamps. We have images depicting wonderful landscape, animals, fish, birds, historical buildings as well as any other theme which featured a particular colony and for which those exquisite London printings were produced (Pictures 4). You may have a look at the balancing stones (Picture 5) of the nowadays Zimbabwe (the then Rhodesia): a recurrent theme which is still present on their banknotes today. The printing is made through the use of the engraving method and it is of high standard on quality paper having the royal crown as a watermark. On the upper corner we notice the royal head of Edward V, just… in case.

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Pic 4

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Pic 5

Within the 1937-1952 period, which was the era of the next king, George VI, there is a continuation of those wonderful issues, and, above all, those of great definitive issues that are really very impressive with their minute detailed engravings (Pictures 6).

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Pic 6

One cannot possibly ignore the fine workmanship done by the engraver in the depictions of all the above-mentioned issues. The circulation of those fine issues lasted until the enthronement of Queen Elizabeth II in 1965 (Pictures 7). After 1965, their method of printing is gradually changing as there are new methods which are faster and more cost-effective.

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It is most evident that such postage stamps (with features of landscape, animals and with the royal head in the upper corner) were considered as Colonial type by the British! They had never issued similar stamps for their own country! In this way they “bequeathed” those masterpieces to their ex-colonies. Today, among others, English-speaking collectors are obsessed with English Colonial postage stamps.

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What is characteristic is the fact that the definitive issues almost always “ended up” in postage stamps of high nominal value such as 10 shillings or one pound. Naturally, therefore, those values could not be used to post single letters but only parcels. Used postage stamps of those values are very rare indeed and they do attract the collector’s interest.

The topic of the British Colonial postage stamps is a vast one and it surely cannot be fully covered within the bounds of this article as it concerns about sixty countries. However, new collectors may well have an idea of those, gone for ever, golden ages of this particular philatelic field.

And a very RARE colonial example!

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“Britannia” combination franking with “De La Rue” issues 1859 (9d) dull magenta together with 1859-61 blue and two De La Rue 1d plus 2d singles, all tied by mute cancels on 1860 small size envelope to Scotland, showing London registration cds on face, MAURITIUS AU7 60 GPO dispatch cds on reverse, together with Scottish arrivals. A very rare combination cover!

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The Stamp Collection of Philipp von Ferrary

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Pic. 1: Philipp von Ferrary

Philip Ferrari de La Renotière (Picture 1), who was a pioneer in philatelic and numismatic collections, managed, during his lifetime, to acquire a legendary mixture of postage stamps, including the most significant philatelic items of the world. This must have been the most complete collection to have ever been or will be built up in the future. 

Ferrary was born on 11th January 1850 in the luxurious Matignon hotel in Rue de Varenne, in Paris, where he stayed until 1917. Louis XVIII exchanged this recreational place of meeting for the Elysee Palace, at the beginning of the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. Nowadays this is the official residence of the prime minister of France.

Ferrary was the son of the duke and duchess of Galliera. His father, Raffaele de Ferrari, was a rich entrepreneur who was appointed both as Duke of Galliera of Genoa by the Pope, Gregory XVI, and as a Prince of Lucedio by the King of Italy, Victor- Emmanuel II. Raffaele de Ferrari was the founder, along with the Pereire brothers, of the Credit Immobilier de France. They were entrepreneurial rivals of the Rothschilds and funded many of the construction projects in the latter half of the 19th century: the railways in Austria, Latin America, Portugal, northern Italy and France (Paris-Lyon-Marseilles line); the construction of the Frejus Rail Tunnel and the Suez Canal; as well as, the reconstruction of Paris which was designed by Earl Haussmann. The Ferrari mother, duchess of Galliera, born as Maria de Brignole-Sale, was the elder niece of the princess of Monaco and daughter of Marquis Antoine de Brignoly-Sale, ambassador of the king of Sardinia in Paris, during the Louis-Philippe reign.
When the father, Raffaele de Ferrari, died in 1871, Philip came into a legendary inheritance.
Ignoring everything and disposing of every title by introducing himself as Philip von Ferrari, the “kid” went on with his childish hobby: stamp collecting. At last it was there where his interest focused on and, by spending an enormous part of his fortune, he managed to assemble the greatest and most expensive collection of postage stamps of all times.
Philip von Ferrari purchased many great old collections including the one owned by the judge Frederick A. Philbrick (1835-1910), which he bought for 7,000 pounds, and which included a significant part of the historic collection of Sir Daniel Cooper, the first president of the Royal Philatelic Society London. Perhaps he was the greatest buyer of his time in all European capitals for many years. Apart from his great collections wholesale purchases, the files of Stanley Gibbons mention that his general purchases amounted to 3,000 – 4,000 pounds per annum, on average, only from that house: a huge sum by the standards of that period.
Philip von Ferrari became known throughout the world as the grand stamp-buyer and, thus, creating a kind of unique collection of exceptionally rare postage stamps in Paris where he lived. He rarely hesitated to buy something that aroused his interest and he frequently paid for its value in gold sovereigns on the spot. It was inevitable, therefore, to act as a provocation for the forgers and the conman of the time who managed to take him in by selling wonderful fakes to him, which, even today, bear the name of “Ferrarities”! Philip was interested in all rarities around the world which he would obtain at any cost.
However, his interest focused on single rare stamps and not on big blocks or blocks of four.

Pic. 2: The famous Bordeaux Cover with Mauritius stamps

Pic. 2: The famous Bordeaux Cover with Mauritius stamps

I do think that there are not any collectors who will not be impressed by Philip’s unprecedented collection. At least seven of the Mauritius “Post Office” (1847) stamps reached his hands (Picture 2). Those are the first British Commonwealth postage stamps which were released outside Britain and were immediately replaced by the common variety of “post paid”.

Pic. 3: The Two Cent Hawaii Missionary stamp of 185

Pic. 3: The Two Cent Hawaii Missionary stamp of 185

The only mint item, along with other cancelled ones, of the two-penny of the “missionary” Hawaii (Picture 3) became, sooner or later, part of the Ferrari collection. This belongs to the very few, first stamps, surviving and which were used on that Pacific island by the missionaries: a fact that goes to justify its very name.

The Penny Magenta of the British Guinea (Picture 4) also took its deserving place in the Ferrari

Fig. 4: The 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” stamp of British Guiana

Pic. 4: The 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” stamp of British Guiana

collection. This stamp was created as a temporary measure of correspondence dispatch in 1856, when a parcel failed to reach its destination within the colonies using ordinary postage stamps. The octagonal pink piece of paper was sold at an auction in 1980 for something less than one million dollars and it is the only one known today.

Fig. 5: The unique “Tre Skilling” Yellow stamp of Sweden, οφ 1855

Pic. 5: The unique “Tre Skilling” Yellow stamp of Sweden, οφ 1855

The three skilling stamp from Sweden – 1855 issue obtained in 1894 (Picture 5) – could not possibly be missing from the collection of that obsessed collector. This stamp is of yellow color instead of the usual turquoise. There has, apparently, been some confusion in the printing process of this eight Skilling stamp which regularly bears this color  Only one has been found today and is being considered the most valuable one in the world. In a most recent auction, in 1996, it fetched the astronomical amount of 2,300,000 dollars!

Many other rare stamps were bought by Ferrari in his course of being in search of rarities and topics including the postage stamps of early German states. He had a particular preference for the three-pfennig red ones of Saxony (Picture 6). The impressive collection included the Baden stamp of the wrong color (Picture 6). The first postage stamp of this state was issued in May 1851. The nine-kreuzer stamp was printed, by mistake, in greenish-grey color instead of pink. There are only three copies known and two of them are on heads.

Fig. 7 &8: A 3 pfennig        Saxony stamp & the Baden stamp of wrong color

Pic. 6: A 3 pfennig Saxony stamp & the Baden stamp of wrong color

This devoted collector could not keep his hands off from the Greek stamps. It is known that two blocks of nine of the forty lepta postage stamps with the renown distorted overprints (positions 116-118, 126-128, 136-138) are part of his collection (Picture 8). We could certainly admire all seven values from the impressive “essays of Barre”, as they came to be known, in multiples and in sheet corner with the inscription “TYPOGRAPHIE ERNEST MEYER, RUE DE VERNEUIL 22 A PARIS” (Picture 7). I should point out that these blocks are the only ones known in values of 2 and 40 lepta.

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Pic. 7: Block of 9 & the “Barre Proofs” of the Greek Hermes Heads

This endless collection was handed down to the Postal Museum of Berlin along with instructional chapters upon its maintenance by Ferrari himself. However, the collection failed to reach its final destination as the French government confiscated it shortly after his death in Lausanne, in Switzerland, in May 1917. Due to his Austrian origin, his collection was put to auction in the name of World War I damages fetching the sum of 30 million francs!

Pic. 8: The Liechtenstein’s stamp of 1968 that depicts Ferrary

Pic. 8: The Liechtenstein’s stamp of 1968 that depicts Ferrary

There are still many important postage stamps, in excellent collections, being referred to under the name of Ferrari. Every collector always felt proud of being the owner of at least one ex-Ferrari piece under their possession. It would surely mean a lot…
This great collector, whom we owe so much for having rescued so many rarities, was honored on a postage stamp issued by Lichtenstein in 1968 (Picture 8).

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Marlene Dietrich – an American Star from Germany

As in today on 27 December, in 1901 a blonde star was born: Marie Magdalene Dietrich 

She was born in Berlin, Germany and was the younger of two daughters (her sister Elisabeth being a year older). Dietrich’s mother was from a prosperous Berlin family who owned a clock making firm and her father was a police lieutenant.

Around the age of 11, she contracted her two first names to form her famous name “Marlene”.

Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the awareness to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany, but had turned them her back. Dietrich, a loyal anti-Nazi, became an American citizen in 1939.

Marlene

From the early 1950’s until the mid-1970’s, Dietrich worked almost completely as a highly paid cabaret artist, performing live in large theaters in major cities worldwide. Her show business career largely ended on 29 September 1975, when she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia.

Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically. In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as “Lola-Lola” in The Blue Angel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, brought her international fame and provided her a contract with Paramount Pictures in the US. Hollywood films such as Shanghai Express and Desire exploited on her glamour looks, making her one of the highest-paid actresses of the era.

In 1999, the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth-greatest female star of all time.

I let you enjoy the exotic view of Marlene through paper memorabilia…

Some paper ideas from the same date from the past!

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Ludwig van Beethoven

Today on December 16, in 1770 a German composer and pianist that became the most crucial figure in the history of music was born. This was Ludwig van Beethoven!

It’s really hard to describe the life and work of this enormous musician and composer in just a couple of paragraphs. So we just write a few very generic words about him.

Beethoven was the grandson of Lodewijk van Beethoven (1712–73), a musician who came from Mechelen in present-day Belgium who moved at the age of twenty to Bonn. So Ludwig was born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire. He displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father Johann van Beethoven and Christian Gottlob Neefe. During his first 22 years in Bonn, Beethoven intended to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and befriended Joseph Haydn. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Haydn, quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. He lived in Vienna until his death. During the late 18th century, his hearing began to deteriorate significantly, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform after becoming completely deaf.

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He died on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56 during a thunderstorm. His friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, said that there was a peal of thunder at the moment of death. An autopsy revealed significant liver damage, which may have been due to heavy alcohol consumption. But there is dispute about the cause of Beethoven’s death.

Everyone now probably sings inside him the scope from the fifth or the ninth symphony. Well… after almost 300 years his music power still exists!

Some paper ideas from the same date from the past!

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Gustave Eiffel, his Tower and the Statue of Liberty

On 15 December, in 1832 an extraordinary French civil engineer and architect was born: this was Alexandre Gustave Eiffel.

Eiffel was a graduate of the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures of Paris, and he made a name with various bridges for the French railway network, most famously the Garabit viaduct.

He is best known for the world-famous Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, France. The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, who had discussed ideas for a centerpiece for the Expo. And since May 1884 that Koechlin, working at his home on an outline drawing of their scheme until the beginning of 1886 very little happened. On 12 May of the same year a commission was set up to examine Eiffel’s system and its competitors and on 12 June it presented its decision, which was that only Eiffel’s proposal met their requirements. After some arguments about the exact site for the tower, a contract was signed on 8 January 1887.

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The tower had been a subject of some controversy, attracting criticism both from those who did not believe it is feasible and from those who objected on artistic grounds and looks.

But before that, in 1881 Eiffel was contacted by Auguste Bartholdi who ha a need of an engineer to help him to realize another huge order, this time from the other side of the Atlantic, the Statue of Liberty. Eiffel was nominated because of his already involvement with wind stresses. Eiffel invented a structure consisting of a four-legged pylon to support the copper sheets that they made up the body of the statue. The entire statue was created at the Eiffel works in Paris before being pull to pieces and shipped to the United States.

Eiffel is a star through his extraordinary engineering works he accomplished in his time. This tower finally became the symbol of Paris and a huge touristic attraction for the whole France! Let’s go to the top guys and gals!

Some paper ideas from the same date from the past!

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Spartacus, Vincent van Gogh, General George Patton or …Kirk Douglas?

One of the legendary Hollywood “Gold Era” actors was born today December 9, in 1916!

Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York. His mother Bryna “Bertha” (née Sanglel) and his father Herschel “Harry” Danielovitch, a businessman were Jewish immigrants from Gomel, Belarus.

His family was poor and as a boy Douglas sold snacks to mill workers to gain some money to buy milk and bread. Later, he delivered newspapers and worked at more than forty jobs before becoming an actor. During high school, he acted in school plays, and discovered “The one thing in my life that I always knew, that was always constant, was that I wanted to be an actor.”kirk douglas

Douglas grew up as Izzy Demsky (one of his father’s brother adopted this name when moved to the States before them) and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Douglas returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater, and commercials. Lauren Bacall helped him get his first screen role in the Hal B. Wallis film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946. Wallis was on his way to New York to look for new talent when Bacall suggested to go and see Douglas, who was rehearsing a play called The Wind Is Ninety. Douglas after the play’s run and, with no follow-up work in sight, headed to Hollywood. He was immediately cast in one of the leading roles in Wallis’ film and his immense Hollywood fate just started!

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Douglas married twice. The first marriage was with Diana Dill, in 1943. The couple had two sons, the known actor Michael Douglas and producer Joel Douglas. They divorced in 1951. Then he married German American producer Anne Buydens in 1954. They had two sons, producer Peter Douglas and actor Eric Douglas who died young.

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In February 1991, Douglas survived a helicopter crash in which two people died. This led Kirk, after much study, to embrace the Judaism in which he was raised. He documented this long spiritual journey in his book Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning (2001).

An impressive career from an impressive man! Keep walking Mr. Kirk Douglas! And happy birthday…

Some paper ideas from the same date from the past!

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