Einar Holboell
1865-1927 
The Creator of the Danish Christmas Seal

Einar Holboell was born 20 December 1865 in Copenhagen, and at the age of 20 employed as apprentice clerk at the Danish Post Office in 1886.  Already at the age of 39 -- in 1905 -- he was granted the office of Postmaster at the Post Office in Gentofte, a northern suburb of Copenhagen.  

King Christian VIII (1843-1912) -- shown on the Danish Christmas Seal to the left together with Queen Louise -- did his best to promote him as Postmaster in Charlottenlund, very close to the then royal residence directly north of Copenhagen.  Einar Holboell passed away in his home on 23 February 1927.  

  • Hand-coloured postcard showing Charlottenlund Post Office, where Einar Holboell worked 1909-1927.  Behind the building was on 20 December 1948 placed a bronze bust of Holboell.

  • A contemporary drawing of Postmaster Holboell, first published in the Danish newspaper "Politiken", May 1909.

 

The seals were for sale at the post offices from the end of November to the end of December for a price of 0.02 kr. per piece, a huge sum for that time, considering that a 1-liter bottle of brandy would cost 0.05 kr. !!!

Since then many other countries have adapted the idea of Christmas Seals in various forms, either as labels sold specifically for their purpose, or as semi-postal stamps, from which (part of) the proceeds of the sale was donated to a particular cause. 

In 1954 France commemorated the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Danish Christmas Seal, honouring Einar Holboell with his portrait alongside with the Danish national flag (see also the charity seal at the top of the page).  The French text reads in part:

Dedicated to Einar HOLBOELL, Danish citizen working for the improvement of the world's general health.  

 

1904-1954.  Two dates marking the 50th anniversary of the anti-tuberculosis stamp, created in Denmark by Einar Holboell, who had the the original simple and generous idea.

Pushed by his enormous compassion for children hit by tuberculosis, Holboell launched in 1904 the Christmas Seal. 

He had hardly any idea that his initiative would be taken up by 53 nations world wide with the intention of aiding such children not only materially, but  also socially.  

An excerpt from "Timbres Anti-tuberculeux Français - 1925-1975", Louis Granger, Arc-en-Ciel, 1977, says (translated from French):

1954: 50th anniversary of Anti-Tuberculosis Stamps 1904-1954:

Young woman offering flowers on a medallion of Einar Holboll, the creator of the first anti-tuberculosis stamp.  Danish flag.  Top: "Fiftieth anniversary of the first anti-tuberculosis stamp 1904-1954.  Anti-tuberculosis cross at the lower left side.  Bottom: "National Committee for the Fight against Tuberculosis" and value "Ten Francs for Health".  In the upper margin, in blue "France and French Union".  Designed by Raoul Serres, print by Delrieu.  

Booklets with cover on light paper, reproducing the subject of the stamp, and with the years 1904-1954 and "24th Campaign" printed.  Printed in brown and red, with the name "Nestlé" on the reverse side in the same colours.  The stamps of the booklet exists in two versions, either with marginal publicity "Gibbs" printed in red, or without publicity.  The latter version is the rarest.  

Mr. Pierre Courtiade (France) tells:  These cinderellas were distributed to all the pupils in French schools (well before and some time after WW II).  The pupils had to try to sell them for a modest unit price; the money was then collected by the teachers and sent to a committee in charge of distributing the funds to help suffering from tuberculosis, who had not satisfactory economies to get a decent treatment. Those who had bought the cinderellas used them on their mail (in addition to the regular postage fee) to make some publicity to this cause.

I imagine that this habit ceased when all the French were given the benefit of Social Security, and also when Tuberculosis became rarer.  

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First published December 1999. Last revised  15 jun 2004 
Copyright © 1999 by Ann Mette Heindorff
All Rights Reserved

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