Congratulations to the the Library Committee of the Scandinavian Collectors Club (SCC) on the receipt of the prestigious CARL E. PELANDER AWARD in 2012 for outstanding work in furthering the aims of the SCC. The Library Committee includes Paul Albright, Howard Benson, Roger Cichorz, Greg Frantz, Jim Kilbane, and Jeff Modesitt. This is the first time the award has gone to a group instead of a single individual. The Scandinavian Collectors Club Library is housed in two rooms in the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL) complex in Denver, CO. I was able to visit the RMPL complex and the SCC Library while in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show last week. Thanks to the work of Library Committee member Greg Frantz who is a cabinet maker, the library makes maximum use of its space. Basically, books, articles, exhibits and auction catalogs, and AV presentations are in one room with periodicals and show catalogs in the second room. Although the Library has its own online catalog, it is exploring the possibility of joining the Philatelic Union Catalog project of the American Philatelic Research Library. I was fortunate to be able to meet and talk to Library Committee member Paul Albright on my visit.
On May 1 the world’s newest philatelic library became operational in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Northern Philatelic Library was created primarily to serve philatelists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas. Volunteers have been hard at work in recent months preparing its new home at 1116 Sims Avenue. Although it is being established as a separate legal entity, it has a close partnership with the Northern Philatelic Society with which it has a joint board (see above). Members of the Northern Philatelic Society are automatically members of the Library and are eligible to borrow materials. David Buchard is the Librarian. The library expects to have an online catalog of its holding operational shortly. A grand opening for the library is scheduled for July in conjunction with the Minnesota Stamp Expo. Congratulations to all of those involved in making the Northern Philatelic Library a reality.
I’m in the process of revising my exhibit on America’s public libraries and their forerunners for the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show in Denver later this month. I have a cover in the exhibit with two labels on the back depicting the Carnegie Library in Columbus, OH. It was the Carnegie Library aspect of the labels that led to my purchase of the cover, but the labels also have a significant connection to the history of the American Philatelic Society (APS) and its predecessor the American Philatelic Association (APA). The labels indicate that the library is the “Home of the Columbus Collector’s Club”. They also indicate that the American Philatelic Association will hold its 1908 National Convention at the library. The cover was mailed on July 7, 1907 from Cincinnati to Alliance, OH. Seeing the cover again prompted me to try to find out more about the 1908 APA Convention. Fortunately, I didn’t have far to look. In 1986 Robert L.D. Davidson wrote a whole series of articles in the American Philatelist titled “APS: The First Century”. The April 1986 article was titled “From Association To Society”. It turns out that it was at the 1908 convention that the APA changed its name to the American Philatelic Society. The vote to change the name (including proxies) was 527 to 171. Over the years I have come across a number of covers that connect libraries to philately, and this one is especially nice.
I’ve been collecting postal artifacts related to libraries for more than 17 years, and I’ve been exhibiting these artifacts at stamp shows since 2003. In 2005 I realized that I had accumulated enough items with a connection to the American Philatelic Research Library to put together a one frame exhibit of the items. I showed the exhibit for the first time on a non-competitive basis at StampShow 2005 in Grand Rapids, MI. More recently I’ve been including my APRL postal items in a three frame non-competitive exhibit titled “America’s Philatelic Libraries & Museums”. At the WISCOPEX stamp show on April15 in Madison, WI I went back to a one frame exhibit which is titled simply “The American Philatelic Research Library”. Part of my purpose in showing the exhibit was to help promote the current efforts to raise funding to relocate the APRL in an expanded space in the American Philatelic Center. I will also be showing the exhibit at the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show in Denver in May. I hope to make the exhibit available to other stamp shows that allow non-competitive exhibits in the future.
I write the “Philatelic Library News” column for the Philatelic Literature Review, and one of the major sources of information for that column is the online newsletters of the philatelic libraries. Three of the newsletters are especially noteworthy. They are: Scribblings, the bi-monthly newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver, Colorado; Book Reports, the bi-monthly newsletter of the Northwest Philatelic Library in Portland, Oregon; and Stamp Tracks, the quarterly newsletter of the Postal History Foundation and the Slusser Memorial Library in Tucson, Arizona. Access to current and archived issues of the newsletters are available freely to anyone over the Internet. These newsletters are quite good and contain substantive articles about a variety of philatelic topics in addition to news about the libraries.
I’m a big fan of Charles A. Fricke who is a regular contributor to philatelic publications and a member of the APS Writers Unit Hall of Fame. Fricke often takes a postal card or picture postcard and tells a broader story about the item than its postal history. I identify with that approach because my primary collecting interest is postal items that also tell a library history story. In the March issue of the American Philatelist Fricke has an article titled “Reflections of the NRA”. The NRA he refers to is the National Recovery Administration, a Depression era program that promoted fair competition practices for businesses. The stimulus for his article was a number of postal cards in his collection with a logo used by businesses that participated in the NRA program. It immediately brought to mind an advertising postcard in my collection which has a sticker of the NRA logo attached. The card (shown above) is an advertisement for Snow White products for libraries manufactured by the J. W. Johnston Company of Rochester, NY. It is addressed to the Bath Free Public Library in Bath, NH, and is franked with a Rochester NY precanceled one cent Franklin postage stamp. On the back of the card is an elaborate advertisement for “Johnston’s Library Outfit”. A little investigation found that J. W. Johnston was John White Johnston who turns out to be somewhat of a Renaissance man. In addition to inventing a white ink that could be used to mark books and photo albums, he was a historical researcher and publisher with an emphasis on Gettysburg in the Civil War, and a musician who founded a Scottish pipe band. Before reading Fricke’s article I had mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that the NRA was the National Rifle Association. Thanks to Charles for setting me straight.
One of the things I like best about collecting postal librariana is the connection it provides to the people who worked in libraries in the past. A few years ago I acquired a collection of postcards that had been mailed over a number of years in the early part of the twentieth century to a librarian named Alice M. Hughes. Miss Hughes’ library career, as documented by the postcards, included work in several libraries in multiple states. One of the libraries that she worked for was the library of Bellefonte Academy in Bellefonte, PA, the home of the APRL. The Bellefonte Academy no longer exists but there is a nice history of the Academy on the web. The two postcards mailed to Miss Hughes when she was in Bellefonte were mailed in July, 1909. The postcard shown above has a picture of the Algona (IA) Public Library on the front. The message on the postcard reads: “The Library is well supplied with up-to-date books, periodicals and Iowa history.” I have a more complete description of my Alice M. Hughes postcard collection on The Library History Buff Blog.
The Postal History Foundation in Tucson, AZ has just updated and redesigned its website at www.postalhistoryfoundation.org . The redesign was made possible by funding from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records Division, and with the help of Cero Wood Graphic Design Inc.. The new website contains up-to-date news on Foundation events, links to philatelic resources and an archive of the Foundation’s Stamp Tracks newsletter. It also has pages for the Foundation’s Museum, Education and Library departments as well as links to philatelic sales which benefit the Foundation. I was, of course, especially interested in the Slusser Library section of the website. That section has a link to the Library’s online catalog which is integrated with the catalog of the Pima County Public Library and is also part of the Philatelic Union Catalog of the American Philatelic Research Library. It also links to the digital collections which the library has developed in conjunction with the Arizona Memory Project. It’s a great website and well worth taking a look at. The Postal History Foundation would appreciate any comments about the site.
The Library History Round Table of the American Library Association, of which I am a member, recently posted a link on its Facebook page to an article on the Common Place blog about the Dead Letter Office of the U.S. Post Office Department. The article by Courtney Fullilove, an Assistant Professor of History at Wesleyan University, is titled “Dead Letters – By a Resurrectionist” with the subtitle “Liberty and Surveillance in the Tombs of the U.S. Post Office”. The article tells of Fullilove’s experiences researching the dead letter function of the Post Office at the National Archives for a book she is working on about discarded knowledge in 19th century America. The article is extremely interesting, and it’s always nice to see an article about postal history from the perspective of history scholar. It’s well worth a read. There’s also an older article about dead letters worth checking out on the National Postal Museum’s website. Finally, I have a post on my Library History Buff Blog about a cover in my collection related to a dead letter service of the Young Men’s Christian Association’ Free Library in San Francisco. That cover is shown above.
Although most philatelic libraries are primarily depositories for books, magazines, and archival collections. They often include some three dimensional postal-related artifacts in their collections. Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator of the Railway Mail Service Library in Boyce, VA recently let me know about a terrific artifact the library just acquired for its collection. It is a U.S. Mint Registered Mail crate for shipping gold to Ft. Knox during the 1930s. Frank indicated that he spent months trying to acquire the gold crate at a reasonable cost. According to him, gold bars would have been placed inside the crate and then secured with a Treasury Department registered mail lock. His estimate is that it may have weighed about 500 pounds when loaded, so four burly men would likely have been lifting 125 pounds each, using two steel rods that clipped under the corner hooks. They were laid along the floor of a storage mail car, with an armed Railway Mail Clerk or Postal Inspector acting as a guard in the car en route. Frank is uncertain about how many cars were in a chartered train to Ft. Knox, but it may have been about 20. In any case it is definitely an interesting piece of history. As Frank notes the crate is essentially a three dimensional philatelic cover. Thanks Frank for sharing information about your new library acquisition.