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Philatelic History

The Initial Members of The Philatelic Society of India

In the last few years of the 19th and the first couple of decades of the 20th century, The Philatelic Society of India (PSI) was the premier society in the British Empire outside of the UK or even London. It members consisted of the top most Anglo-Indian philatelists of the day many of whom were also members of The Philatelic Society, London (later The Royal Philatelic Society London). Efforts to form a pan-India society had been on for many months before and PSI commenced its activities in the beginning of 1897.

However the first General Meeting of the Society took place only on 6 March 1897. This date is usually taken to be the one when the Society formally came into existence. The minutes of the meeting were recorded in the April 1897 issue of The Philatelic Journal of India (PJI); the PJI having being published from Jan 1897 itself. It must be an unique occasion when the journal of a society started before the society itself was formally constituted!

Recording of the first meeting of the Society in Apr 1897 issue

This piece is to clarify on the issue of how many members of the Society existed in the beginning. Common lore has it at 50. This myth has been perpetuated in all later writings. The editors of the PJI, C. F. Larmour and F. N. Schiller, are to be blamed when they report in Vol. 1 No. 1 that the PSI, “…commences its existence from the beginning of this year with just fifty members”

Editorial of the Jan 1897 issue mentioning 50 members

I am not sure why this number is mentioned since on the reverse of the very page a list of all the (initial) members are given! And a simple count totals to 49. Perhaps 50 is a round number easier to roll off the tongue than 49? However as a historian I would rather be precise and set the record straight, 122 years later!

Initial 49 members of the Society

Further support comes from the Feb 1897 issue of the PJI which has the list of new members added. It clearly says that the current membership is now 60. A count of the new members works out to 11 and this is a further confirmation that the number of initial members were 49.

New 11 members elected immediately after the initial 49

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