Winnie-the-Pooh: A Canadian icon?


Winnie-the-Pooh Commemorative Stamps, Canada Post, 1996. 'Lt. Harry Colebourn, part of Canada's heritage.' This is the message that Canada Post seeks to convey by issuing a Winnie-the-Pooh stamp set featuring Colebourn on the first stamp. Unfortunately the typical response is likely to be, who is Harry Colebourn? I intend to explore why Canada Post considered him worthy of a commemorative stamp. As the Canadian pseudo- father of the original Winnie-the-Pooh, one would presume him to be well-known to children around the world, or at least in Canada. Too bad he's not part of our Canadian history curriculum. Colebourn became a figure of historical importance only through the combined efforts of A.A. Milne and the Disney Corporation. Further, his appearance on this commemorative issue is only a token gesture by Canada Post, undertaken to fulfill a mandate of specifically Canadian content; in reality, it is Disney and Disney's version of Winnie-the-Pooh that are being celebrated in this artifact, and not our Canadian Lieutenant. In the selection and design of this commemorative Winnie-the-Pooh stamp, Canada Post prioritizes the bear's Disney roots over Winnie's Canadian origins. As a manufacturer of heritage iconography, then, Canada Post not only discloses but also defines our cultural legacy -or lack thereof- to Winnie-the-Pooh.

I want to establish the 'politics of commemoration' as a field worthy of study. I will discuss in detail Canada Post's decision to issue this stamp and the role of Canada Post as a government heritage association. I will address the symbolic importance of Pooh in A.A. Milne's literature, the subsequent manipulation and appropriation of this bear by the Disney Corporation, and the representations of both versions in the artifact. Central to my investigation is the question,' is Pooh truly a Canadian bear?' Further, what will the answer to this question uncover about our representation of Canadian history?