Part 7- The Jazz Era

A number of jazz era professionals were best known for their philatelic writings.  Among these was British author Frederick J. Melville (1882-1940).  As a teenager, Melville promoted junior philately in English journals while learning enough to become an important expert.  He continued his dedication to popularizing stamps, particularly to young collectors, throughout his life.  The sale of the William Ricketts library in 1945 had over 35 monographs and pamphlets penned by Melville.  These ranged from such subjects as his 1906 philatelic play, The Lady Forger, to works popularizing the value of rare stamps such as his piece on the Mayfair find in 1925, and his Origins of the Penny Post in 1930.  Five monographs were devoted to U.S. philately while others highlighted Haiti, Siam, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Egypt, Niger, St. Helena, Sarawak and Tonga, as well as Great Britain.  In 1918 he wrote A Soldier and His Stamps; in 1924 he wrote Boys’ Own Guide to Stamp Collecting as well as on the ‘Reel Stamps’ of England.

Melville’s American counterpart was Kent Stiles (1887-1951) whose syndicated columns appeared in many newspapers and periodicals of general interest.  George E. Burghard (1874-1963), a specialist in Swiss and Hong Kong stamps, used the new medium of radio in the 1920s for pioneer talks on stamps.  Another American philatelic journalist of the jazz era was Harry L. Lindquist (1886-1978) who edited the Collectors Club Philatelist during some of its most important years.  He also ran Lindquist Publications which printed a series of philatelic handbooks in addition to publishing Stamps magazine. With the demise of the Philatelic Gazette, the most important popular stamp journals were A. V. Dworak’s (1879-1931) Philatelic Gossip which ran from 1915-1960, and the Charles H. Mekeel (1864-1921) publications.  Mekeel began publishing in 1881, producing the American Journal of Philately from 1883 to 1895 and launching Mekeel’s Weekly in 1891.  Charles Severn (1872-1929) took it over in 1897 and edited it until 1926.  in 1927 Willard Wylie (1862-1945) took over and edited the journal from 1927 to 1940.  Mekeel’s was a serious source of philatelic news in the teens and twenties.

Another important dealer/author was Elliott Perry (1884-1972).  Perry did not participate in running the 1926 show, but he did exhibit a match and medicine collection in addition to the finest Sanitary Fair holding.  This latter first reached public auction in May 1995, having been developed by Perry and his private treaty client for over 70 years.  Perry made a jazz era splash with his unexpected plating of the 10¢ 1847 stamps, which plating had been published in the 1925 Collectors Club Philatelist.  It was featured at the show in Henry Gibson’s gold medal exhibit.  Perry made a different sort of splash in the 1930s with his Pat Paragraphs house organ.  It was known for the excellence of its research as well as for the studies debunking Henry Needham’s work on locals and carriers, holding that collector up to ridicule as being both ignorant and a faker.  There were other future journalists in the period, such as Delf Norona and Harry Konwiser (1880-1961), who did not become prominent writers until the 1930s.  Herman Herst Jr. began collecting about the close of World War I but didn’t get into dealing until the Great Depression, and published his work on Depression era collecting, Nassau Street, in 1960.

The collectors and dealers at the 1926 International were basically celebrating, although they didn’t know it, the peak of some sixty years of profitable mutual exuberance about stamps.  This was about to change as the lively fizz of the jazz era was overshadowed by the Great Depression.  The world would look different after October 1929’s stock market crash.

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