Part 7- The Jazz Era

On the professional side, figure 85 shows a baker’s dozen of dealers who contributed significantly to the 1926 International. Heading the list was John Luff (1861-1938) who first entered philately in the 1 890s but quickly became the dean of the hobby when he returned to New York in 1893 to join the Scott firm, becoming its president in October 1903, although he left Scott soon after

Figure 85. A baker’s dozen of the professionals of the jazz era.

to join the Stanley Gibbons firm and did not rejoin Scott until about 1927.  Luff’s formidable reputation as the dean of American philately rested upon his extensive reference collection of stamps and his classic work, Postage Stamps of the United States, published in book form in 1902.  The reference collection is deposited today at the Philatelic Foundation and still used there.  Luff helped found the Collectors Club of New York in 1896 and served two terms as president; he was also president of the American Philatelic Society 1907-9.  That society’s Luff award honoring him was established in 1940.

Also on the 1926 executive committee was Julius C. Morgenthau (1858-1929).  Originally from Mannheim, Germany, Morgenthau’s family came to America in 1872.  He earned a Heidelberg Ph.D. in archeology but failed to find suitable employment as a teacher and became a haberdasher in Chicago.  He met Eustace B. Power at the Chicago World’s Fair with whom he formed the Chicago Stamp and Coin Company.  He had been a stamp collector sometime earlier, buying from P.M. Wolsieffer, a veteran Chicago dealer of the period.  Around 1898 he came to New York and bought the wholesale-retail business of the late Henry Gremmel and ran it until 1905 when he became an auctioneer exclusively.  Like Luff, Morgenthau was a founder of the Collectors Club and became close to the club secretary, J.M. Andreini, whose collections he sold beginning in 1905.  He also got the early sales of the William Thorne collection and became the leading U.S. auctioneer until his death.  In 1917 Lichtenstein gave him the George Worthington portions to sell that Lichtenstein did not wish to retain.  The Morgenthau firm was acquired by Scott in the 1930s and Morgenthau sales sputtered on but the fizz was gone.

A third key dealer member of the executive committee was Charles I. Phillips (1863-1940).  He became head of Stanley Gibbons, Ltd. in 1884 during Gibbons’ lifetime and acquired the firm in 1906.  Phillips remained a managing director of Gibbons into the 1920s, although he sold off the American operation in 1911 to Eustace B. Power (1872-1939) and moved to the U.S. about this time and become an independent New York dealer.  Power had come to the U.S. in the 1890s and worked for Morgenthau before joining Gibbons.  He is best known for his Philatelic Horse Sense pamphlets put out in the 1920s and 1930s which is a classic analysis of early U.S. issues.

Phillips helped form the Avery and Duveen collections among others.  He was also an early supplier of stamps to King George V and Ferrari and served as auction agent for the German Reichsmuseum.  He was selected to handle the Hind dispersal in the 1930s although that did not come off. He also authored, somewhat self-servingly, a number of articles about important collectors.  For the 1926 show he exhibited 15 volumes of US departmental stamps as well as frames of classic Denmark, Serbia and the first issue of Ecuador.

A fourth key dealer, J. Murray Bartels (1872-1944) served on the directing committee.  A direct descendant of Washington’s grandfather, Laurence Washington, Bartels became a stamp dealer in Alexandria, VA in 1892, moved to Washington in 1897 when he purchased the C.F. Rothfuchs firm and moved again to Boston in 1901 before settling in New York in 1911.  There he founded the Philatelic Gazette as his ‘house organ’ but promptly sold it to the Nassau Stamp Company although he remained a contributor.  One of his philatelic coups was obtaining the Bissell correspondence, which was dispersed into major collections such as Gibson, Needham, Ackerman and Matthies.  In 1916 he acquired the famous 1869 1¢ ‘running chicken’ cover for one dollar and it sat under his glass counter for years with a $10 price tag before Ackerman purchased it.

At the 1926 International, Bartels exhibited Nesbitt entires as well as collections of D.W.1. and Venezuela. He was considered an expert on envelopes and his catalog, modified by Thorpe, is still basic today. Bartels is also famous, or infamous, for having his name on the Troughton vs Bartels case. This case is the precedent for the view that an offer of 10% or less of value is fraudulent when a knowing buyer deals with an ignorant seller. It is the reason many stamp professionals decline to make a first offer but insist you should state what price you want first.

The revered J. Walter Scott firm was represented on the 1926 International show committee by Hugh M. Clark (1886-1956).  This former Chicagoan had joined the Scott firm in 1912 at a time it was under the control of the same parties as owned the Boston based New England Stamp Company.  In 1914, when Charles Hatfield took over the New England company he installed Clark as its manager.  Clark eventually found his way back to New York to work with John Luff and ended up purchasing the Scott firm in 1935. He operated it until 1946, at which time ill health forced his retirement.

As Scott catalog editor, Clark was responsible for the new catalog number system introduced in the 1940 edition.  He also added a number of new albums to the Scott line.  In 1937, Clark published Luff’s Postmaster Provisionals and reissued and re-edited Luff’s 1902 masterwork.  Both had emendations and corrections, not all of which came from Luff’s notes.  Two sidelights of interest in Clark’s career: in 1916 he was the first dealer to sell stamps to Colonel Green, while in 1933, at the depth of the Depression, he purchased the ex-Klein C3a airmail invert block for $12,000, a remarkable price for the time.

When F.W. Hunter formed the Nassau Stamp Company in 1894, one employee hired as a secretary was a future major dealer, John A. Klemann (1897-1955).  In 1899, Klemann acquired the capital stock of the company and in 1900 brought his brother, Jacob J. Klemann Jr., into the firm.  John eventually became the leading American dealer in proofs and essays as well as a major student and dealer in Confederate philately.  J.J. Klemann was interested in airmails.  Once the Klemanns had purchased the Philatelic Gazette from Bartels, John served as managing editor while J. J. was editor.  At the 1926 International, J.J. exhibited first flight covers as well as the Rouen issue airmail stamps.  Apparently another of his interests was the pakua cancels of China.  It was J. J. Klemann who made the classic ‘low-ball’ bid for the Robey sheet of the C3a airmail inverts that Phillip Ward topped.

One of John A. Klemann’s coups was the acquisition of the “Lord corner’ of several thousand copies of the 1847 issue which he did in 1916. He was also critical in the exposure of the Grinnell Hawaiian missionary fakes when he had second thoughts about his acquisi­tion after selling them. John was the real philatelist of the two brothers and showed a number of exhibition studies over the years.  When the Philatelic Foundation was first organized he served on its expert committee, although he ha d retired as a dealer in 1939.  His remaining philatelic holds were sold in the early 1940s by Eugene Costales’ auction firm and that of Harmer, Rooke.

The Economist Stamp Company, owned by Edward Stern (1880-1953) was another important supply source for jazz age philatelists and its handstamp is found today on many items.  In 1921, Stern had been offered the famed revenue holdings of Clarence Eagle with the proviso it be sold as a bloc.  He was unable to do this, but later was able to sell the Eagle match and medicine holding to Colonel Green.  Another important jazz era deal took place in 1924 when Stern purchased the bulk of the Waterhouse collection New York provisionals which were then at auction.  These were placed into Henry Lapham’s collection and were exhibited there in 1926.  Stern also handled the famous 7R1e strip of the 1¢ 1851 issue that eventually ended up in Saul Newbury’s hands.

A Hungarian-born dealer, Eugene Klein (1878-1944)arrived in Philadelphia shortly before he began to hold stamp auctions there.  His first series of auctions (1911-1914) ended when he sold his business to Empire Auctions.  However, Klein soon got back into the auction business and held over 150 auctions by the mid-1940s.  Klein had seriously considered a musical career and was deterred by Henry Gibson, with whom he shared practice hall space.  Along with the other major Philadelphia dealer of the period, Philip Ward, Klein was heavily dependent upon the purchases of Henry Gibson and Wharton Sinkler.  In 1912, Klein was able to purchase privately the famed 10¢ block of six and place it with Gibson.  The block eventually found its way into the Ward holding and from there was acquired by the New Orleans firm owned by the Weills.  They placed it with Ryohei Ishikawa as one of the gems of his collection.  Klein sold at least one of the varied Gibson collections in 1923, while he sold the Joseph Steinmetz collection through six sales in 1920-1930.  In 1940 he sold the great Wharton Sinkler blocks of four holding, a large number of which went to Ward.  Klein was founder and president of the American Philatelic Congress.

Philadelphian Philip Ward (1890-1963) sat along with Klein on the 1926 show directing committee.  Scion of a wealthy Washington D.C. family, Ward started collecting at age six.  One of his most famous holdings began when he was thirteen and successfully solicited Grover Cleveland for a letter.  Ward’s presidential frank collection was exhibited at the 1926 International and it and his ‘aristocrats’ of philately were his two favorites.  A fairly extensive Ward biography can be found in the Linn’s published More of the World’s Great stamp Collectors authored by Dr. Stanley Bierman.

One of the dealer exhibitors at the 1926 show was a relatively new auctioneer, Herman Toaspern (1893-1936).  He only held his eleventh auction after the 1926 exhibit.  He had been Bartels’ bookkeeper and was one of those Bartels boasted of turning into stamp dealers (Robert Laurence who held the Wolcott sale was another).  At the show Toaspern exhibited patriotic covers and a number of covers today have the ‘Toasty’ handstamp showing they had passed through his hands.

The man whom John Boker termed the most important dealer in U.S. Classics, Warren H. Colson (1882-1963), exhibited a one frame exhibit of rarities but served on no committees.  He began dealing around 1900 and only served 25-30 collectors as he favored a very low-key approach.  However, his clients were such important ones as Worthington, Henry Lapham, Atherton, Coolidge and Hind.  He was more focused upon the rarity of an item than condition.  He also was reluctant to part with his gems; items a client rejected would go back and be buried in stock for decades.  Colson is also known for a special form of mounting that enabled one to transfer a cherished piece from page to page without remounting it.

Two significant dealers who did not participate in the 1926 exhibit were the Burger Brothers of New York.  Gustav (1867-1952) and Arthur (1868-1949) Burger were known for their prices, which were high or higher.  .It was considered a feat in New York to be able to purchase one of their items and turn around and sell it at auction for a profit.

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