By Ashok Kumar Bayanwala

Calcutta exhibition P.O. cancellation is the first ever exhibition cancellation of India and it also has the distinction of being the second Special Cancellation of India after H.R.H. Prince of Wales P.O. of 1875. Simplex cancellation of the above post office have not been recorded in 'India Post' the Journal of India Study Circle for Philately, U. K. since its Duplex cancellation piece was recorded in a 1981 issue.

The full name of the exhibition was the ?CALCUTTA INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION?. It was held in the premises of the Indian Museum and part of the 'Maidan' west of it. It was devoted to the Arts, Crafts and Industries of India and was the first of its kind to be held in India. In 1882, the then Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, Sir. Rivers Thompson, formed the idea of having an exhibition in Calcutta of the products of the Indian Empire when Mr. Jules Joubert, who had successfully organised an exhibition in Australia, arrived in India in October. After receiving the consent of the Government of India and support of Local Governments, Sir. Rivers gave his sanction to the project and formed a General Committee to supervise it. The Bengal Government provided a sum of Rs. 50,000/- for the collection of the samples of the products and manufacturers of India, which was distributed among the different Local Governments, and a sum of Rs. 10,000/- was
given to the Executive Committee to collect exhibits from Bengal. Many exhibits were lent by Natives and Europeans of India. Official representations were sent to the Exhibition by the colonies of Ceylon, Straits when as France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Japan and U.S.A. were represented by exhibitors, of which there were more than 2500 in all. The exhibits exceeded 1,00,000 in number.

The exhibition was formally opened by H.E. The viceroy of India, Lord Ripon, on Tuesday the 4th of December 1883 at about 11a.m., in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, Queen Victoria distributed the Medals. The gross expenditure amounted to 5,80,000/- and receipts to 5,03,000/- only. A report was published giving an exhaustive account of the circumstances under which the Exhibition was held and describing with much details the exhibits which were brought together. An interesting feature of the occasion was that a very large number of ladies visited the Exhibition. 

Two Simplex and one Duplex cancellation are found of this Exhibition. The Simplex cancellations are in a single circle reading ? EXHIBITION P.O. CALCUTTA? inside the rim and the date across the middle. The main difference in the two simplex cancellations is that one has the year in the date, and the other has no year in the date. It appears to me that this happened because the year slug was not changeable. It was rather late when the postal department realised that they should have made the year slug changeable and so they removed the year from the date and used the cancellation until they got a new one with the year in it.

My 1883 example is dated 83 Dec 16 (with year) and my 1884 example is dated Jan. 9 (without year). The other cancellations thus prepared was a Duplex cancellation. This includes a single circle cancellation with C in 8 bars, as usual. It has the year included in it. My example is dated 2 Feb. 84. All these cancellations are very scarce. The exhibition was officially closed by the then Viceroy on the 10th March 1884.

After the Exhibition was over, the Government of Bengal was permitted to select and keep articles from the collections from various Provinces to the value of its advances. These selections and other articles purchased by the Executive Committee became the nucleus of the Art section of the Economic & Art Museum, established in the building adjoining the Imperial Museum, which was extended and enlarge as funds became available. Memories of the Calcutta Exhibition of 1883-84 can still be seen at the Calcutta Museum.

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