Philatelic Literature Review, Daniel Vooys, & the APRL

The Philatelic Literature Review (PLR) is the official publication of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), but it predates APRL by many years.  In 1942 Daniel W. Vooys organized the Philatelic Library Association, and PLR was the official publication of that organization. Vooys edited PLR from 1942 to 1956 and again from 1963 to 1970. The early issues of PLR are divided into two series, one running from 1942 to 1949 and another from 1950 to 1970. In 1970 the Philatelic Literature Association merged with APRL, and it was at that point that PLR became a publication of the APRL. Charles Peterson was the first editor of PLR under the auspices of APRL. Vooys was instrumental in the founding of APRL and donated most of his personal collection to the library.  In memory of Vooys, the APRL has established the Daniel W. Vooys Fund, and those who contribute $5,000 to the fund become Daniel W. Vooys Fellows.  The 1955 cover above with the Philatelic Literature Association corner card is one of several in my collection. It contained a promotional piece and membership application for the Association.  It read in part: “Membership in the Philatelic Library Association and subscription for the Philatelic Literature Review costs only $1.00 a year.  There are no elaborate rules, no initiation fees, or other obligations of any kind.  Everyone interested in stamp collecting in any way is sure to find the Association helpful in their activities.  There is no better time than NOW to become a member.”  A subscription to the current PLR is $18, but you are still sure to find it helpful in your philatelic activities.

Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library

A special event envelope for one of several philatelic symposiums sponsored by WPRL

The Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library (WPRL) in Richardson, Texas is unusual in that it is an integral part of McDermott Library at the University of Texas at Dallas. I’m not aware of any other philatelic library that is affiliated with an academic institution. WPRL was founded in 1976 (35 years ago) by the late Harold Wineburgh, and it is supported by an endowment created by Wineburgh. As part of the Special Collections Department of McDermott Library it has some advantages not enjoyed by our volunteer run philatelic libraries. A primary beneficiary of this arrangement is the Texas philatelic community. It’s collection, including thousands of volumes, over 100 philatelic periodical subscriptions, and a large collection of auction catalogs, is readily accessible to philatelists and researchers. The collection is especially strong in Confederate postal history. The library houses and maintains the records of The Texas Philatelic Association, Inc.. The collection of WPRL can be accessed online through the McDermott Library automated catalog. WPRL is a founding sponsor of TEXPEX which will take place on April 15-16 this year in Dallas. In the past WPRL has been a sponsor of several philatelic symposiums.

The Library and Philatelic Connections of H. E. Deats

I recently acquired a March 20, 1900 thank you note from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh sent to H. E. Deats. Mr. Deats had donated the London Philatelist  Vols. 1-7 “from the American Philatelic Association”. I have previously written about the Pittsburgh library’s custody of the American Philatelic Association’s (now the American Philatelic Society) library. When I acquired the thank you note, I didn’t know anything about H. E. Deats. Through the wonder of the Internet and Google, I now know much. Hiram Edmund Deats (1870-1963) is a member of the APS Hall of Fame. According to his Hall of Fame entry he was “one of the foremost collectors of the 19th century” and he “formed an enormous philatelic library, a close second to that formed by John K. Tiffany.”  I found a detailed description of the Deats philatelic library on the Earl P. F. Apfelbaum, Inc. website which has a number of historic documents in its online “Philatelic Library“. That description was written by Alvah Davison in 1888. A large part of the Deats philatelic library went to the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1952. The rest was sold to private collectors through auction over a period of years. One of the major philatelic interests of Deats was revenue stamps. I found information about his interest in this area from a post at the “Philately of Today” blog.   Continue reading “The Library and Philatelic Connections of H. E. Deats”

Philatelic Collections in Libraries

Don Schilling did a recent post on his blog The Stamp Collecting Round-Up about the philatelic collections in the John Hay Library at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. His post was based on an article in The Herald News. That got me to thinking about other collections of philatelic objects other than books in libraries.  The most extensive philatelic collections in a library are those at the British Library. The website for the Philatelic Collections department of the British Library has extensive information about its collections. In additions to collections of postage stamps and other philatelic items, the British Library has one of the world’s largest philatelic literature collections. The New York Public Library is home to the Benjamin K. Miller Collection which has been written about in the book Rarity Revealed: The Benjamin K. Miller Collection by Scott R. Trepel with Ken Lawrence. That collection is considered to be one of the most outstanding collections of U.S. stamps in the world.  The Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame University include several philatelic collections in its Rare Books & Special Collections Department. One of those collection is “The Wolf Collection of Irish Postage Stamps” for which there is an online exhibit. The Navy Department Library has a collection of philatelic items related to the Navy and maintains information about this philatelic specialty on its website. I’m sure that there are other libraries that have significant non-book philatelic collections. If you are aware of any, make a comment below.

First Library of the APS

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

The American Philatelic Association (APA), now the American Philatelic Society (APS), was founded in 1886.  The APS is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and a brief history of APS is located on its website.  In the beginning the “Library Department” for the APA was housed in the home of the APA member who was designated as the librarian. The first librarian, E. D. Kline of Toledo, Ohio, posted a notice in the first issue of The American Philatelist soliciting donations to the library. In 1895 the City of Pittsburgh, PA opened a magnificent new library courtesy of Andrew Carnegie which was named appropriately the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  In 1897 the APA board voted to place the Association’s library in the new library building in Pittsburgh where it was administered by the Pittsburgh library. A good idea in the beginning gradually diminished in effectiveness and in 1928 the board of APS voted to relinquish any claim to the philatelic library in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  It would be another forty years before APS would have a library of its own.  In 1901 the publication Books on Philately in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was published.   It is my understanding that much of this early philatelic library collection still exists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Railway Mail Service Library

What could be more fitting than a former railroad station serving as the home of the Railway Mail Service Library (RMSL). The RMSL is located in the historic Boyce, Virginia railroad station. According to the mission statement on its website the RMSL “is an archival collection of primary and secondary sources pertaining to en route distribution history. It also features many obsolete postal artifacts associated with this activity. These items are used to assist researchers interested in route agent, seapost, railway, and highway post office (RPO and HPO) operations, known as the Railway Mail Service/Postal Transportation Service (RMS/PTS).” The RMSL has every major book published about RMS/PTS. The library includes six types of original-source documentation in its collection: 1) photographs of HPO and RPO vehicles; 2) The Railway Post Office and Postal Transport Journal issues between 1905 and 1959; 3) oral recollections of former clerks on audio and video tapes, as well as movies about the RMS/PTS; 4) general orders describing weekly changes within several divisions; 5) general and standpoint schemes of mail distribution; and 6) schedules of mail trains/routes. These schemes and schedules are helpful in understanding how the network of mail transportation and distribution activities operated, as well as when routes began, ended, or underwent significant changes. The RMSL and its predecessors date back to the early 1950s, but it was incorporated in its current format in 2003. Frank R. Scheer is the Curator and driving force behind the RMSL. Scheer routinely makes presentations at meetings and events related to railway mail service around the country. Scheer can be contacted at . The railway station housing the RMSL appeared on a special postmark (shown above) for the centennial of the Town of Boyce in October 2010.

John A. McAllister Collection of Civil War Envelopes

My recent post about the Thomas Hales Collection of Civil War Patriotic Envelopes at the Postal History Foundation of Tucson, Arizona reminded me of a collection of Civil War envelopes at the Library Company of Philadelphia. That collection of Civil War envelopes is part of the John A. McAllister Collection of Civil War Era Printed Ephemera, Graphics, and Manuscripts. It consists of about 7,000 patriotic envelopes. As with the Thomas Hales Collection, most of the envelopes in the McAllister Collection are representative of the Union side of the Civil War. A  collection of around 300 of the envelopes are displayed as part of the Library Company’s online digital collection. The documentation of the McAllister Collection envelopes also makes use of William R. Weiss’ The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers (Bethleham, Pa.: William R. Weiss, 1995). The Library Company of Philadelphia is the library founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.

Collectors Club of New York Library

CCNY Main Reading Room

I don’t think any other philatelic library has a more elegant setting than that of the library of the Collectors Club of New York.  The Collectors Club was founded in 1896 and is housed in a five story brownstone on East 35th Street in New York City. The building was designed by noted architect Stanford White . The library is one of the most extensive philatelic libraries in the world and has approximately 150,000 volumes. The extensive nature of the library was the primary reason for undertaking a major renovation of the club’s facilities which was completed in 2000. The library is one of the participants in the online union catalog of the American Philatelic Research Library.  To search the holdings of the Collectors Club library, select “CCNY” from the “Location” drop-down selection list near the bottom of the on-line Catalog Search form. Only members can borrow materials from the library but visitors are welcome to conduct onsite research during regular library hours. The Collectors Club Philatelist, the journal of the club, is considered to be one of the most prestigious in philately. The table of contents for recent issues of the journal and selected articles are available on the club’s website. The Collectors Club has also published several significant books which are available for purchase.

Thomas Hale Collection of Civil War Patriotic Envelopes

Illustration from one of the patriotic envelopes

Paul Nelson of the Postal History Foundation of Tucson, Arizona has contacted me in regard to an extraordinary donation of patriotic envelopes to the Foundation. It has received the Thomas Hale Collection of Civil War Patriotic Envelopes which consists of approximately 2000 different historic and colorful pieces of stationery. According to Paul, all are unused envelopes and most are from the Union states, although there are a few with Confederate designs. He indicates that the  freshness and brightness of this group of patriotic envelopes is unusual. The collection has  been stored for years in a family trunk. Many of the covers are hand colored and all are essentially in mint condition. The covers have been organized in the Foundation’s library based on the categories that were published in The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers, by William R. Weiss (1995).

With 2011 being celebrated as the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, and with the recent release of a new book, Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers by Steven R. Boyd, the subject matter of the Thomas Hale Collection should be of interest to many historians and philatelists. The Thomas Hale Collection of Civil War Patriotic Envelopes is available for study by appointment. Contact the librarian, Charlotte Cushman, at the Peggy Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library, at the Postal History Foundation, 920 North First Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719. The phone, email addresses, and other information may be found on the Foundation’s website.

RMPL Reviews Past Year's Accomplishments


RMPL's two buildings with new garden in foreground

The  Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL) celebrated the one year anniversary of its purchase of an adjacent building for expansion on December 4. A press release issued by RMPL looks back over this past year and chronicles many of the library’s accomplishments.  Significant strides were made in the renovation of the newly acquired building almost all of which was accomplished by volunteers. Immediately after purchase the additional space was being utilized for a wide variety of philatelic meetings and events. The new space has enabled the library to make its collection of around 10,000 books and 1,100 periodical titles much more accessible. The acquisition of the new building included outside space which has been transformed into an attractive garden area by volunteer help. Besides the many hours worked by volunteers to remodel and update the new building, the RMPL also has initiated an adult education program in affiliation with Denver University titled World History Through Stamps.  This is an 8-week program presented by RMPL members, that began in September 2010, and is being repeated for the 2011 Winter and Spring semesters. I reported earlier on the library’s publication of Mexico’s Denver Printing of 1914 by Ron Mitchell.  The membership of the library has grown to over 500. The RMPL’s newly revamped website includes more information and photos about the library and its expansion.