The 1932 Health stamp shows the symbolic figure of Hygieia, the Greek
goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation. While her father, Asclepius,
was more directly associated with healing, Hygieia was associated with the
prevention of sickness and the continuation of good health (the word
'hygiene' is derived from her name).
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Hygieia is often
depicted as a young woman feeding a large snake that is wrapped around her
body from a jar that she carries. On the stamp, Hygieia is reclining on a
pedestal holding a goblet high against the rays of either the rising or
setting sun and the serpent is going hungry.
Unfortunately, all this
classical mythology was lost on a writer in the Australian Stamp Monthly
who suggested that the stamp depicted a scantily dressed young woman
greeting the morning sun with an upraised goblet having been engaged in an
all-night hedonistic drinking orgy - so potent that given there are no
snakes in New Zealand, she had started to hallucinate about them. The
stamp, he noted, is appropriately coloured a rich wine red!
health stamp was the first to attribute the surcharge to 'health'
rather than 'charity' - a more accurate term given that the funds
were being used to establish and maintain summer camps for children
suffering from malnutrition and low stamina.
The first two sheets
printed were presented to the then Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe, on an
official visit to the Otaki Health Camp.
This page was last updated on 20 Aug 2019
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