Saturday, 8 April 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Wilhelm Gottfried Nuesch

Wilhelm Nuesch was born in Switzerland on 27 April 1863. Little is known about his early life and what is still known is thanks to the efforts of René Jacobson who managed to speak to various family members of Wilhelm in Argentina. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Biel, Bern, where his teacher was Hutenlocher. 

What happened after he left the academy is not clear but his trace can be picked up again in 1889, when he was hired by the Litografia e Imprenta La Unión firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a company part-owned by the Austrian Rudolf Laas. The company became famous for its high-quality output and grew steadily, changing its name to Sociedad Stiller & Laas and finally to Compañía Sudamericana de Billetes de Banco (CSBB). It soon picked up valuable government orders for security papers. Nuesch became known as Guillermo Godofredo.

Wilhelm engraved quite a few outstanding issues for the company: his first one was the 1892 Argentina issue to mark the centenary of the discovery of America by Columbus. They were the first commemorative stamps issued in South America. Four colour proofs were printed from each value and proofs of the die without value exist in two colours.

Strangely enough, the original essays were similar to the issued stamps but with a pattern of vertical lines all over the design. These essays were rejected and the eventual stamps did not have any lines at all. The actual vignettes do seem to be identical, though, so it may well have been that these striped essays were derived from an unstriped master die which was later used for the stamps.

That same year he engraved the portraits of Rivadavia, Belgrano and San Martin, for the new Argentina definitive series. The original designs were still by Ferdinand Schirnböck, Wilhelm's predecessor, but he left and Nuesch, now promoted to master engraver, subsequently modernised and simplified the designs and engraved the actual stamps. The original dies for the Rivadavia stamp showed a background of cross hatching, with the horizontal lines strong and the vertical ones barely visible. The eyes are clearly defined and the shoulders rounded and free from the frame. A 5c value of this die was proofed in twelve colours and a multi-value proof sheet exists as well. Another 5c was proofed which had no background at all surrounding the portrait.

The Belgrano proofs for single values were printed on card, but multi-value proofs exist as well and these were on thinner paper. Single proofs on thinner paper would stem from these.

The San Martin values were proofed without value or other lettering, with just the portrait as a stand-alone engraving. A different engraving of the San Martin portrait exists as well, more like that of the previous set, placed in two different frames.

The following definitive set, depicting an allegory of Liberty, was also engraved by Nuesch. Although no essays have survived it seems very likely that Nuesch was inspired by similar stamps issued in his home country, the Seated Helvetia stamps of 1862. The Argentine stamp landed the printers company a joint first prize at the Manchester (GB) international exhibition of stamps in 1899. Some sources state that this was the first set in which Nuesch hid his trademark N somewhere in the design. It is to be found in Liberty's dress, just above her foot. Proofs exist of a 45c with a blank sky. There were also proofs of this stamp as an official stamp but these were eventually never issued.

In 1902, Nuesch engraved the set to mark the completion of the Port Rosario Docks.

Another major set for Nuesch was the 1910 issue to mark the centenary of the deposition of the Spanish Viceroy. Again, we should be able to find Wilhelm’s N somewhere hidden in the engraving. The following have been recorded:
0.5c: right lower corner of the vignette, above the o of mayo
2c: in the circular motif of the cabinet
10c: above the R and U of Beruti
50c: above 25 
5p: top right of th window on the right.

Furthermore Nuesch engraved the 1901 Official stamps and the 1902 series of postal bonds. The first proofs of the 1901 official stamps show that the original background consisted of horizontal lines only. The eventual stamps would have horizontal and vertical lines as background.

Unattributed he also engraved banknotes, stocks and shares.

Nuesch also engraved national, provincial and local revenue stamps. Among those are the 1898 to 1901 inland revenue tobacco stamps, the 1900 to 1906 sanitary and medicinal products stamps, stamps for the Municipal Chemical Office in Buenos Aires of 1894-1898, Burial stamps of 1898-1900, 1898-1901 stamps for the Guides of the Directorate of Supply, etcetera.

Nuesch did not only engrave for Argentina. For Bolivia he engraved the portrait of General Sucre which was used for the 1899 definitives. It looks like there is a hidden N just below the man’s lapel.

For Paraguay Nuesch engraved a number of definitive sets. He started with the 1900/1901 sets for both postage and official mail. This was followed in 1905/1906 with the engravings of the Lion and National Palace definitives. A third and final large set engraved by Nuesch appeared in 1913, consisting of postage, official and postage due stamps. For Paraguay Nuesch also engraved the 1911 issue to mark the centenary of independence. This engraving, too, has a secret N, hidden in the folds of Liberty’s dress.

For Uruguay he engraved the 1909 Opening of Montevideo Port issue, the 1910 Argentine revolution set and the 1911 Postal Congress issue.

Outwith philately, he also engraved book and magazine illustrations.

He remained with the company until his retirement in 1916. The situation is again not clear but Nuesch did participate in a strike in that year so whether he simply retired or was fired is no longer known. After that he held a range of different jobs, such as propaganda chief of a brewery, and photographer for a company producing picture post cards.

Wilhelm Nuesch passed away on 11 March 1926 in Buenos Aires.

Wilhelm Gottfried Nuesch's database can be found HERE.

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