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


                             The Emulator Class of the 1850s

In my series ‘The Incunabula of Philatelic Literature on Locals and Carriers’ in Collectors Club Philatelist (1993-4) a number of the early 1860s philatelic players are discussed and some portraits shown such as Edward de Laplante, Alexandre Baillieu, Charles Roussin and Berger-Levrault.

However, most of the famous collections we know today were formed by men who were youngsters in the 1850s and who were drawn into the hobby through emulation of the philatelic and social leaders of the era.  They were scions of the new middle class, formed by the Industrial Revolution.

Another early adult collector was a German, Frederick Jeppe, who became the first Postmaster General of the South African Republic (Transvaal).  He was responsible for its first adhesives, which he admitted were designed principally for sale to collectors so that he could raise funds for the Transvaal.  In this regard, used examples incur some suspicion of being early cancelled to order items.

The premier collector in Russia was the descendant of a gold-smithing family, Frederick Brietfuss (born 1851), (Figure 17) who was already an adult collector during his English visit in 1873-1875 when he became one of the first foreigners to join the future Royal.  His collection was supposed to end up in the Hermitage, but the Czar’s younger brother died before the transaction was completed; it ended up being sold to Stanley Gibbons in 1907.  The second best holding was that of banker Theodore Nottafft, who died in 1895.  The third best collection was that of L. Harald Kjellstedt (born 1855) who began collecting at age nine in 1864.  He was a Swede living in St. Petersburg and wrote a history of the St. Petersburg club, which was published in the Philatelic Gazette of 1918.  The real Russian adult pioneer, however, was von Wiessel (born 1826) who specialized in canceled stamps until the 1890s.

In Vienna, Austria’s Chief Judge Viktor Suppantschitsch (1838-1919), (Figure 18) was a leading bibliophile and collector in the 1860s; his literature holding, purchased by Theodore Steinway, forms the basis of the early periodical holdings of the Collectors Club of New York.

In Germany Dr. Alfred Moschkau was among the early collectors (1848-1912), (Figure 19) who was a leading philatelist by 1870; he had begun as a youth collector at age 11 in 1859 and as a young adult became an important philatelic editor and bibliophile. Another such was Carl Lindenberg (1850-1928), who began collecting at age seven in 1857, (Figure 20) Judge Lindenberg became a major collector in Germany

He headed the Berliner Philatelisten-Klub, and donated of the Lindenberg medal (1905).  He was instrumental in exposing Fouré’s forgeries of German postal stationary and in giving the Reichsmuseum a cover with the Moldavian Bulls. Another early German collector was a banker, Heinrich Fraenkel (1853-1907) who was already known as a leading literature collector by 1884.  The Earl of Crawford purchased his library for the Royal, as it was strong in European works.

The first major Latin American collector, Dr. Jose Marco del Ponte (1851-1917), (Figure 21) was an Argentinean collector specializing in South America.  He began collecting at age 15 in 1865 and his collection was sold privately many years later.

Biographies and photographs of a number of leading early collectors have been published in Dr. Stanley Bierman’s Great Stamp Collectors and More Great Stamp Collectors, both still available from Linn’s. Photographs include Ackerman, Avery, Bacon, Caspary, Chase, Crawford, Crocker, Louise Boyd Dale, Deats, Duveen, Eagle, Emerson, Ferrari, King George V, Gibson, Green, Heard, Hind, Knight, Lapham, Lichtenstein, Lilly, Luff, Mandel, Miller, Petrie, Seybold, Sinkler, Slater, Steinmetz, Sterling, Sweet, Tapling, Tiffany, Ward, Waterhouse and Worthington.

Varro E. Tyler (1927-2001) in his Philatelic Forgers (also published by Linn’s) covers a number of those dealers and collectors who turned to forgery in the early days of philately (showing pictures of a number) such as Ferdinand Elb who began faking in 1859; Georges Fouré (1848-1902), a collector since 1855 and a forger in the 1880s; François Fournier (1846-1917) one of the best-known forgers whose last price list in 1914 offered 3,671 different forgeries to his reputed 20,000 customers, Julius Goldner, a specialist in private reprints in the 1873-1896 era who died in 1898; George A. Hussey (1812-1877), owner of a local post and America’s first stamp dealer in the late 1850s. Hussey employed James Brennan, whose store was the first stamp store in America.  Others included Arthur Maury (1844-1907) who began dealing in 1860; James A. Petrie (1843-1913) who specialized in Confederate provisionals; Jean de Sperati (1884-1957), probably the most technically accomplished forger. His Philatelie sans Experts? describes his philosophical approach to deceiving experts, while his still unpublished 119 page La Technique complète de la ‘Philatelie d’Art’ consists of his ‘cook book’. Others include Philip Spiro of Hamburg, a major producer of lithographic forgeries between 1864 and 1880; and Samuel C. Upham, who was the earliest recorded forger of Confederate material, beginning in July 1862. In addition to the pioneer forgers, Tyler includes numerous others stretching to the present. Fournier and Sperati are just two of the best known.

Most Americans know of John Tiffany (2/9/1843-1897) [1] , who used inherited real estate money to form one of the first major American holdings and who pioneered in collecting philatelic literature.  He became enamored of stamps in the late 1850s while a student in France, prior to his studies at Harvard Law.  The Earl of Crawford (1847-1914) purchased his library, and much is today available in the British Museum.  In England William Avery (1854 -1908) built one of the early major holdings using monies that came from his family’s scale business.  He got in and out of philately at age 17 but returned at age 24 to build one of the three or four finest holdings of his era.  He died in 1908 and his collection was sold for $120,000 the following year.

George Worthington (born 1850) is a clear example of the emulation motive, for he began to collect in 1884 as he put it to gain ‘class,’ having amassed his fortune in quarries, real estate and the American Chicle Company.  Exploiting the emulation concept was Henry Duveen (born 1854) who was part of the well-known firm of art dealers that sold ‘old masters’ to wealthy, status-seeking collectors such as Frick and Carnegie.

Benjamin Miller, Jr. (1849-1928) formed a collection that can still be seen.  His fortune came from his work as a real estate lawyer, and his collection, on deposit in the New York Public Library, has been instrumental in teaching several generations of collectors about American rarities.  He was also famed for his wild game trophy collection.

  1. B. Sterling (1851-1925), (Figure 22) right, began collecting ‘post office fresh’ stamps in 1861.  Orphaned at 13, he supported his hobby and himself as an accountant or financial worker until forced to sell his famed revenue holding to Hiram Edmund Deats to support his growing family.

A youthful Deats (1870-1963), (Figure 23) used the funds from his family plowshare business to form one of the great American collections of the 1890s.  He was the financial backer behind Sterling as Sterling became the best-known revenue dealer of the era.  Alfred Lichtenstein’s father was a teenage Wall Street runner when he bought a 15-cent 1869 invert at the post office in 1869.

We have some idea of what these early collections were like because at least five have been institutionalized.  These include the already named Miller holding of American material as well as the Webster Knight collection (1854-1933), which was given to Brown University.  It was formed from the profits of Knight’s family textile business, Fruit of the Loom.  A naval officer’s son, Clarence Eagle (1856-1922) made his fortune in printing.  He donated an important portion of his revenue and match and medicine holdings to the Smithsonian where they can now be found.  This holding includes large elements of the Deats/Sterling collections, which Eagle absorbed.

In addition to these three institutionalized American collections, in England Thomas Tapling (1855-1891) formed a major worldwide collection which today graces the British Museum.  Since it was not added to after Tapling’s death in 1889, it typifies the mid-19th century worldwide collecting pattern.  It was financed by funds from Tapling’s family carpet business.  Edward Denny Bacon (1860-1938) began collecting at age 7; he pioneered in postcard collecting.  His collection was bought by Tapling and is now found as part of the Tapling holding in the British Museum.  Bacon’s collection of Japan was acquired intact by Ferrari and was sold as one lot in the Ferrari sales.  Bacon was Duveen’s curator until 1913 when he was asked to take over as curator of the Royal collection.  He also arranged the Earl of Crawford’s philatelic library (also in the British Museum) and mounted the Tapling holding.  The British Empire portion of the Royal collection is still intact and portions are occasionally exhibited,; but as it has been greatly expanded over the years, it is probably no longer representative of typical Anglo-German era philatelic thinking.

It should be noted that several of the 1850s generation collectors started off in new collecting directions.  Sterling pioneered revenue collection, while Clarence Eagle took this a step further into a comprehensive match and medicine collection.  Bacon pioneered in postcard collecting while another early pioneer, Mariano de Figueroa, was a postmark pioneer.  John Seybold (1858-1909) made his fortune in department stores and was one of the pioneers in cover collecting, setting the stage along with Figueroa for mid-20th century postal history collecting.  John Tiffany was one of the first to take the collection of philatelic literature seriously; while as early as 1869, one of the Westoby collections was German envelopes.

The earliest dealer in Boston appears to have been E. A. Holton of Summer Street(Figure 24).  Mr. Holton began as a collector in 1859 and began dealing the next year, advertising in the Boston papers.  In 1862 he joined the 43rd Massachusetts Volunteers.  His principal business was always photography, but he kept a connected office for his stamp trade.

Perhaps the most important Boston dealer during the first half of the 20th century was Warren H. Colson, (Figure 25) (1882-1963).  He specialized in early classics, although he had a much broader stock, and concentrated on 15-30 top-drawer clients.  John R. Boker in the London Philatelist. presented the best biography of Mr. Colson as ‘personal reminiscences’.  One of the better-known early New England collectors was Edwin B. Todd of Calais, Me.  A member of the F. H. Todd and Sons lumber firm, Mr. Todd began collecting began collecting at age 15 in 1867, but abandoned collecting for many years taking it up again in the 1890s.

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