In the age of the Internet, online library catalogs and now social media very few of us can remember the days when libraries used card catalogs as the sole means of organizing and accessing information. The “digital library” has begun to replace the library of borrowing slips and index cards, but that doesn’t mean that those index cards and card catalogs still can’t have a place in today’s modern repositories. One such collection of invaluable index cards can be found at the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), the collection known as the Piper Philatelic Index (PPI) or the Piper File for short.
The namesake of the Piper File was APS member E. D. Piper of Cleveland, Ohio who served as club librarian for the Garfield-Perry Stamp Club from 1940-1969, among many other positions he held with the well known club over the years. In his time as the club’s librarian Piper painstakingly created a card index of the club’s library holdings. He then followed this same card index format and compiled a comprehensive index to all of the known literature and research found in many of the major U.S. and British English language philatelic periodicals published between the mid-1870s and the late 1960s.
Over 26 periodicals and 2 books were used for references by Piper. Among the notable philatelic journals he culled citations from were the American Journal of Philately (AJP), the American Philatelist (APJ), the American Philatelic Congress Book (APC), Collectors Club Philatelist (CCP), the Chronicle of U.S. Classic Issues (CHR), the Essay Proof Journal (EPJ), Gibbons Stamp Weekly (GSW), Linn’s Weekly Stamp News (LWS), the London Philatelist (LP), Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News (MEK), the Philatelic Magazine (PM), the Philatelic Journal of Great Britain (PGB), Scott’s Monthly Stamp Journal (SMS) and the Western Stamp Collector (WSC).
Much like the card catalogs of the day, Piper used 3” x 5” index cards for his index, but instead of using pre-made cards he created his own from multiple pieces of found paper. On these cards a series of references were either typewritten or handwritten listing article citations sorted and organized by either philatelic subject or by country and then philatelic subject. In all, it is estimated that the Piper File comprises over 90,000 individual index cards and roughly 425,000 individual philatelic references. The United States section alone comprises over 25,000 index cards.
Donated by the family of E.D. Piper in 1974, the PPI is an invaluable resource for APRL staff, philatelic researchers, and the general public. Even today, much like the card catalogs of libraries past, the Piper File provides access to an extraordinary wealth of philatelic citations and research.