Approach I: The New Classicism
At the beginning of the 20th century, a new phase of classic collecting became significant. It was plating, and its leading practitioners were American. Plating developed out of the earlier French ‘scientific philately’ school. One of the earliest of the ‘platers’ was Charles Lathrop Pack (1857-1937) (figure 74), whose collections of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were bought by King George V in 1912.
Two years earlier, Pack was the first American to send exhibits to be shown before the Royal Society of England: his New Zealand and Uruguay. His plating of Brazil’s 100-reis issue of 1894-97 was presented in 1912 as a challenge to show that a collection costing less than a penny a stamp could garner a gold medal, which it did.
It represented a realization of the anti-ostentation trend and the new focus on the common.
Pack owned many rarities including the famed ‘Pack strip’ of the interpanneau 30 and 60 Brazilian “bull’s eye” stamps as well as the tête-bêche pair of the Uruguay ‘suns.’ His Victoria ‘Half-Lengths’ plating work of 1923 won the English Crawford award, the German Lindenberg medal and the New York Collectors Club medal. It was the foundation upon which J. R. Purvis (born 1903) later built his plating of the same subject published in 1953. Purvis’s work also won the same awards.
Although an easier project, it was not until 1922 that Charles Nissen published a plating of England’s ‘penny black’ while H. Osborne’s plating of the two-pence blue was not completed until 1946. The die 1 ‘penny stamps’ (204 plates plus six reserves) were not completed until Brown and Fisher’s 1984 publication of their Volume V on this issue.
Following the 1926 international exposition, a small group of Indian students, including Desai and N. D. Cooper, got together in 1927 to undertake the project of p1ating the 1854 issue of India.
Another American pioneer in plating was Dr. Carroll Chase (1878-1960) who began work on another common item, the U.S. 3-cent 1851 stamp in 1907, although he had been a collector since 1885. His preliminary work was published in 1909; by 1919 he had completed the plating of the 3-cent imperforate plate I. Simultaneously he had developed a major interest in the U.S. 1847 issue and authored the most serious early work about it in nine issues of the 1916-1917 Philatelic Gazette.
Prior to the U.S. entry into World War I, Chase enlisted in the French army in 1917 as a surgeon, and after the war he had to sell his holdings of the 1847 issue to finance his reentry into medical practice. He had also concluded it was nearly impossible to plate the issue. Between 1922 and 1926 Chase published a series of studies on the plating of the 3-cent 1851; and in 1929, having rewritten and revised these, he brought out his seminal 3-cent 1851 book. The plating studies of the 3-cent 1851 led in 1948 to the creation of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society.
In 1926 Elliott Perry (1884-1972) published a plating of the 10-cent 1847 issue in The Collectors Club Philatelist. He worked with Senator Ackerman’s holding of 1847s, part of which was from the Chase dispersal. It was one of the major feats of U.S. plating.
It was John J. Klemann’s Philatelic Gazette that also published the Confederate plating work of Bertram Poole (1880-1957), which was partially based upon earlier studies by Major Evans and Charles B. Corwin (a pioneer collector who died in 1897). Corwin was the first collector to pay more than $1,000 for a single stamp, which he did when he purchased the F. DeCoppett 2-cent British Guiana ‘cotton reel,’ ex-Caillebotte, for $1,010 in 1893. DeCoppett had paid £70 for it in 1888, and it went to F. W. Hunter at Corwin’s death.
The Confederate plating studies continued under Klemann (1879-1955), a major New York dealer, and Edward Knapp (1878-1940), a railroad lawyer whose cover collection dispersal in 1941 was the first major cover auction since the Seybold sale. In addition to work on the general issues, Knapp plated the 5-cent New Orleans Postmaster Provisional. More recently work was done on plating the 10-cent Confederate frameline by Robert Wiseman, the 5-cent blue by Leonard Hartmann, and the 2-cent and 20-cent greens by myself.
Dr. Chase’s plating of the 1-cent 1851 plate I early was sold in 1925 to stockbroker Stanley B. Ashbrook (1882-1957), who had published a small pamphlet on the 1-cent. In 1938, financed by Saul Newbury, Ashbrook published his major two-volume opus on the 1-cent. Having bought a small 1-cent collection from Ashbrook in 1952, Mortimer Neinken (1896-1984) became fascinated with this stamp and authored a revised plating in 1972. In 1960 he had revised the Ashbrook/Perry work on plating of the 1855-59 10-cent stamp, and he also published a plating of the 12-cent value.
Another important pioneer in this field of new classicism was C. W. Bedford (1884-1932). His series on ‘Shift-Hunter Letters’ in the 1920s and 1930s was the direct predecessor of Loran C. “Cloudy” French’s 1979Encyclopedia of Plate Varieties on U.S. Bureau-Printed Postage Stamps, which was dedicated to Bedford.
Approach II: The Beginning of Topicals
A little noticed but significant event at the close of the 19th century was the November 1901 exhibition at London’s Royal Philatelic Society of “stamps of the countries affected by the Boer War.” It was the first serious philatelic recognition of a new collecting trend — topicals. An American who formed an important holding of this subject was Joseph S. Rich (1860-193 1); his Boer War collection passed to his son, Stephen G. Rich (1890-1958), and was dispersed in a Scott auction after the latter’s death (figure 75).
The Boer War was romanticized at the time it occurred. It was foreign and exotic with great stories about the founding of the Boy Scouts as well as the daring exploits of a young war correspondent, Winston Churchill. It was not until World War I that the true horrors of war would penetrate English con- sciousness to any depth. In a similar manner, the American ‘yellow press’ romanticized the Spanish-American War with its mysterious explosion of the Maine in Havana’s harbor, Roosevelt’s ‘rough riders,’ and Admiral Dewey’s quick win in Manila’s harbor. Even today relics of this romanticism linger in our drinking of ‘Cuba libres’ and daiquiris.
War cover collecting was not new with the Boer War, but earlier it was largely in the hands of manuscript collectors. For Americans the Mexican War could have been an early philatelic collection area; it wasn’t. The American Civil War was the first to generate large scale collecting interest, but this basically fell outside the stamp collecting society. In England the Crimean War and the Indian campaigns might have attracted stamp collectors but didn’t. The Germans and the French might have begun serious collecting of the Franco-Prussian War; again, it didn’t happen.
The social history aspects of Civil War patriotic cover collecting was well expressed in the April 1862 U. S. Mail and Post Office Assistant. It was a prescient observation:
“The rage for envelopes decorated with patriotic or other embellishments seems subsiding. Letters travel without the protection of a flag and portraits of distinguished personages cease to occupy the corner opposite to the physiognomy of Washington. Curious collectors have accumulated a great variety of specimens of those illustrated envelopes and the time will come when such collections will be examined with the utmost interest by antiquaries, desirous of getting a glimpse of feeling and humors of our times, as they were displayed during the great Civil War of the Western Continent. What a remarkable jumble of patriotism, sentiment, humor and animosity does such a collection present: Old letters are not only valued for the memories of their virtues but often for the biographical and historical matter they contain… The modern writers of history, with more comprehensive views than many of their predecessors, do not regard the life of a nation as consisting entirely in the intrigues of its rulers and their struggle for power, but consider the doings of the people in their various relations, domestic, commercial and the like, as of equal importance to the completeness of the record.”
More than 8,000 patriotic cover varieties were issued during the Civil War of which more than half seem never to have been found used. One early accumulator was Captain Morgan, secretary of the New York Post Office and the man for who New York’s Morgan Annex at 32nd Street was named. Many young ladies collected these envelopes in albums, which can still be found today. Some of the unused patriotics have even been made up into lampshades or decorative trays. Only a few stamp collectors, such as Major Edward Evans (1846-1922) and Hiram Deats (1870-1963), even gave the Civil War patriotics houseroom as part of their broad sweep of Civil War collecting. Most concentrated only on the stamps.
Until after World War II, war cover collecting in general was almost exclusively part of the manuscript collecting field rather than stamp collecting. Even there the focus was on content, not the envelope. The social history aspect of Civil War patriotics that was recognized in April 1862 was unappreciated. It is still not considered a valid topic in an of itself for international philatelic exhibition today.
The first serious collector of Civil War patriotics was George Walcott (1871-1932), whose collection of used civil war patriotic envelopes became the key catalog for the field for decades when the collection was dispersed by Robert Laurence’s auction in 1934, figure 76. Walcott had begun as an adult general collector around 1894 and soon developed a strong interest in history. In 1913 he undertook to represent the southern textile trade as his vocation, and his philatelic and historic avocational interests then crystallized on Confederate and Civ8il war collecting. This gave him a special rapport with his Southern clients, most of who still felt strongly about their ‘lost cause.’
As a result of his interests, Walcott became part of the New Jersey dynasty of and Civil War collectors that included Dr. Petrie, Hiram Deats, C. B. Corwin, John Klemann and New Jersey Senator Ernest J. Ackerman. Beginning in 1916, Walcott was a close philatelic associate of Edward Knapp, a New Yorker who summered in New Jersey. They shared a major interest in Confederates and the plating of these stamps. A major expansion of Walcott’s holdings occurred in 1927 when Senator Ackerman (1863-1931) had to liquidate his Confederate and patriotic cover holdings. Walcott had first pick of these, which included 250 exhibit-quality patriotic covers among others. In this fashion he obtained gems Ackerman had garnered earlier from the Evans, Deats and Corwin collections.
Some 16 frames of Civil War patriotics were shown at the U.S. 192ô International Exhibition (put up by Ackerman, Harold Brooks, Dana Stafford, Herman Toaspern and William White). The White exhibit was the first to show his new acquisition of more than 90 Angell patriotic covers to foreign destinations. These subsequently passed from White to Judge Emerson and then to the very astute Katharine Matthies before finally being dispersed in May 1969 by Robert A. Siegel. Miss Matthies’ philatelic eye was legendary, as her 1847 collection, her patriotics, her Waterbury’s and her Western holdings testify.
Walcott had intended that his Confederate and patriotic collections should go on permanent display in the New York Public Library to supplement the Benjamin K. Miller holding which had been given in 1925. Almost immediately after acquiring the Ackerman holding in 1927, Walcott initiated talks to finance the display. He had also just liquidated his worldwide collection for $80,000. Unfortunately the cotton textile business in which Walcott earned his money hadn’t been particularly profitable since 1923. Prices dropped drastically in 1926 with heavy U.S. production as well as major new imports of raw cotton from India, Egypt and Kenya. The cotton textile trade was also being buffeted by new competition from rayon. Walcott found he didn’t have the funds to complete the library donation. The best he could do was arrange for a definitive catalog of his more than 3,250 different items after his death. This was the largest used patriotic cover holding then ever assembled. It was not until 1977 that Robert Grant’s Handbook of Civil War Patriotics recorded almost 600 more used examples.
Another of the exhibits at the 1926 international exhibition was Henry Hammelman’s World War I collection. A checklist of World War I APO’s had been published on page 335 of the June 1920 American Philatelist. However, it was not until 1940 that H. Sanford put out a 56-page monograph on ‘Mail of the AEF?’ and 1963 when the late Edith “Dee” Faulstich published her small pamphlet on the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia. In 1977 T. and V. Holt published a 192-page handbook on the picture postcards of World War I. The most complete work was not published until 1980 when Theo Van Dam’s first 242-page Postal History of the AEF 1917-1 923 was released.
The Spanish-American War is still neglected in philatelic literature. P. E. Baker put together a small monograph in 1963 on “Postal Markings of U.S. Military Stations 1898-1902,” while J. Leonard Diamond had begun a catalog of the patriotic covers of that war, which is still unpublished. On the 100th anniversary the New York Public Library put on a retrospective but completely omitted the patriotics.
For World War II, George Linn put out a catalog of patriotic covers in 1943, which was updated by Paul Hollister as the Linn-Hollister Catalog in 1981. In the December 1981 American Philatelist, Dr. Lawrence Sherman wrote on Pearl Harbor patriotics, while in 1979 Norman Gruenzner published a 138-page monograph on Postal History of American POWs World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Today war covers, the first of the topicals, have an auction house devoted to them, as well as a War Cover Society. This concentration began with Delf Norona, Mervyn Hertzburg and others authoring almost monthly columns on war covers beginning in the 1932 issues of Postal Markings.
The Transportation Topics
Another major development in the American century was the rise of transportation themes as topics. The steamboat era was nearing its end when stamp collecting began; the big new developments were the rise of the railroads and the blue ribbon races by steamships across the Atlantic.
Interestingly enough, stamp collectors never really took up the trans-Atlantic steamship covers to a major extent, and even today their study is largely an adjunct to destination collecting. Organizations such as the Ship Cancel Society put most of their focus on the Great White Fleet and U. S. Naval cancels, while the Ships on Stamps unit serves strictly as a topical group, interested in illustrated ships.
By contrast railroading was part of the social zeitgeist and was taken up by collectors. Unlike the stamp collecting songs of the last century, which never attracted great popularity, railroad songs became quite popular. Chattanooga Choo-Choo and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe both became large popular hits, while Casey Jones did well during the folk song era of the 1950s and 1960s. There were plays and films about the 20th Century Limited. Publications catering to the rail ‘buffs’ have almost double the circulations of philatelic ones today. What is unusual is that only a few of the ‘buffs’ also became interested in railroad philately. Classic rail collecting has drawn only a few devotees, and the later railroad post office (RPO) collectors have the Mobile Post Office Society of moderate size. The link between railroad topical philately and the much larger circle of rail ‘buffs’ has not yet been made.
The transportation topical that did take off philatelically as well as socially was the airmail field. Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic in May 1927 caught the public imagination, and he became a hero of the late l920s and the 1930s, even having the ‘Lindy’ dance step named after him. The pioneer flights of 1911 both in America and Germany also drew comparatively large audiences and a host of souvenirs. Count Zeppelin’s experiments before World War I and the successful trans-Atlantic crossings after the war helped build excitement.
The pioneer Jenny flights with the 1918 issue of stamps to carry letters on them, combined with the excitement surrounding the discovery of the 24-cent airmail invert and the subsequent contract air mail (CAM) of 1919, built major philatelic interest. For years flight covers, airport dedication covers, and trans-Atlantic and Pan Am flights whetted philatelic appetites.
The first aerophilatelist collector and author was Dr. Robert Paganini (1866-1950), a German chemist who first wrote on the subject in 1911. He served on the Russian front during the war, being at the battle of Przemysl, a fortress that guarded the passes into Hungary. His major work was published in 1920. In 1919 and 1921, respectively, Fred Melville and Theodore Champion published airmail catalogs. However, the best-known catalog was that of a Venezuelan, Nicolas Sanabria (1890-1945) who worked in the United States.
The airmail topic drew an unusually large number of women collectors such as Mrs. Prentice Cromwell, Ethel Stewart McCoy, Mrs. Heathcote (a Rockefeller), and Mrs. McCleverty. Even today men and women of a certain age remember their first hunger for the Graf Zeppelin stamps or the first airmails, which they knew as children. Henry Goodkind (1904-1970), an editor of The Collectors Club Philatelist and the Aerophilatelist News, was a second-generation airmail collector, who also wrote for Sanabria.
A modern offshoot of aerophilately is space philately along with rocket mail collecting. Rocket mail came first, but space developments continue since the advent of Sputnik and the ‘moon walks’ with the more recent Mir space station and American orbital launches. While space philately has a band of devoted followers, it has not yet reached the extent of aerophilately, despite the fact that several collectors are among the astronauts.