Intertwining of Philatelic and Social History by Calvet M. Hahn – Part 2- The Beginning of Philately

Pioneer Collectors

Most of the early pioneer collectors were middle-class professional adults.  The first identifiable stamp collector was John E. Gray (1800-1875), (Figure 4) who bought the penny black in blocks of four in 1840.  He had entered the hobby in middle age as a result of his interest in postal reform.  A young lady collector, Miss Harrison of Yorkshire, England also entered the hobby in the same year at age ten.  She acquired the rare VR penny blacks from one of Victoria’s lady’s in waiting and followed up by obtaining essays and proofs from Sir Roland Hill.  She was still actively collecting at age 80 in 1910 when a brief write-up in Mekeelsreported her existence. James Grimwood-Taylor (Cavendish auctions) reports his great-great-grandmother Anne Whitear (1812-1888) whose collection, which still survives, had 184 all different design stamps in January 1865.  This was when she was 52; she had begun collecting during the 1850s or earlier and the collection had been expanded to 396 different stamps by February 1886.  He also reported her niece (1843-1929) Fanny Whitear (1843-1929) had a collection that was still intact and housed in the May 1864 Moens first English language album.

Other English pioneers were Dr. Rix of St. Neots, in Hunts as well as a Mr. Hughes-Hughes and a Mr. Haskell about whom nothing but their names seems to have survived.   An adult woman pioneer was Miss A.L. Fenton of Bristol, England, who was already well-known by 1863.  She was the first female collector to make a presentation before the future Royal of England and her library became an important part of that society’s library.  She died in 1897.

In France the reputed first collector was M. de Saulez of the Institute of France. Other important early French collectors of the 1860s included Baron Arthur Rothschild, Baron Aymar de Saint Laud, Philippe de Bosredou, Carreton and Durien as well as the French dealer Charles Roussin.  We have almost no data about the collectors of the first philatelic decade. For the most part only those who remained prominent in the 1860s are known. This is because there was no philatelic literature.  We have a bit more information about the collectors of the 1850s because many of them were still collecting in the 1860s and came to notice then.

Among those we do know who started collecting as adults are Oscar Berger-Levrault (1826-1903), of Strasbourg, (Figure 5), who was a collector well before he published the first stamp list or catalog in September 186l. He may have been a first decade collector; he did become a dealer in 1858. His 1890 reminiscences, or ‘observations’ were published in #64-65 of the Philatelic Journal of America.

Among the early English collectors was William A. S. Westoby (1815-1899), (Figure 6), who began as an adult and who appears to have been collecting in the 1840s.  He often went to Paris and used the pseudonym of ‘a Parisian collector’.  He met Judge Philbrick there in 1863 and was the first to own an example of the Spanish 2 reales color error, which he acquired in 1867.

Another pioneer collector was Rev. Robert E. Earée (1846-1928), (Figure 7), who authored one of the more important works on forgeries, Album Weeds in the 1870s. He was one of the first signers of the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1921.

  1. W. Viner (1812-1906), (Figure 8), was another early adult English collector although he didn’t begin collecting until 1860, at age 47.  A stamp enthusiast, Viner never formed a major holding.  Another pioneer adult collector was the Rev. Francis J. Stainforth, whose holdings were used in 1862 for the first and second editions of the Mount Brown catalogs.  Another early collector was Judge Frederick A. Philbrick (1835-1910), (Figure 9).

Philbrick was a barrister in 1860 when he began collecting; he formed what may well have been the first important pioneer collection of the 1860s and 1870s.  His sale of all but the British portion in 1882 to Ferrari made the latter’s collection

Another adult collector of the period was Sir Daniel Cooper, (born 1821)(Figure 10).  He began collecting in 1861 at age 40 although earlier involved (in 1850) as a legislator in arranging for New Zealand to issue stamps.

It is not clear at what age Mount Brown (1837-1919), (Figure 11) began collecting, but he was in his 20s when he developed his catalog.

Another prominent early English collector was Major Edward B. Evans (1846-1922), (Figure 12).  His Mulready holding can be seen today as part of the Royal Collection, while his Mauritius holding, acquired while serving in that country between 1876 and 1879, is now part of the Tapling holding in the British Museum.  Major Evans, who began collecting in 1860 as a teenager, was for many years the editor of the Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, having published his award winning Philatelic Handbook in 1885.  He is not to be confused with the Major Evans who helped negotiate the Confederate contract for printing stamps in England.

In France one of the first adult collectors was Dr. A. Jacques LeGrand (1820-1912), (Figure 13).  Lemaire bought his collection in 1897.  Another important early French figure was Pierre Mahé, (Figure 14)  who was already dealing in 1859 and who became Ferrari’s philatelic consultant in 1874 and held that post until his death in 1913.

An Alsatian collector like Berger-Levault, H. A. DeJoannis, (Figure 15) was an adult collector when captured by the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.  As a prisoner he sent back examples of the first Alsace occupation stamps seen in England.  After the war he moved to England and became a French teacher. He was the first to develop nationalistic philately in the 1880s.  Other French pioneer collectors included Mme. Borchard who is famed for the ‘Post Office’ Mauritius items she sold or traded in 1864, and Albert Couture who briefly collected in 1863-1864 but sold out to Moens in 1865; he had traded with Mme. Borchard.

In the 1860s Ferrari was already an adult collector, although he began earlier as a child collector.  Ferrari befriended the impressionist painter George Caillebotte (also born in 1848 like Ferrari and gave him duplicates; Caillebotte’s best holding was of early France and Uruguay, both of which were bought by Tapling in 1887.  French banker Paul Mirabaud (1848-1908) was another leading collector of the 1860s; Duveen bought his collection in 1909.  Another French pioneer was A. Brunet de l’Argentière, whose collection was purchased by Alfred Lichtenstein in 1917.

The two leading adult collector pioneers in Spain were Victorana de Ysai, who was living in England in the 1870s and was killed there in a rail accident in late 1881, and Mariano de Figueroa (1828-1926), known philatelically as ‘Dr. Thebussem’ a pseudonym under which he authored many comments in the early philatelic journals. Together with de Ysai, Figueroa authored the first monograph sponsored by the Royal..  Figueroa’s popularization of collecting in Spain won him the official title of ‘chief honorary postmaster of Madrid’ from the Spanish postal service, (Figure 16).

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