Postal History: Alive and Well in West Chester, PA

Chester County Historical Society building in downtown West Chester, PA

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend an informative lecture about the postal history between Canada and the United States during the Civil War. The talk was titled “Canada – British North America (B.N.A.) Union and Confederate Postal Cross Border Correspondence during the U.S. Civil War” and was given by prominent B.N.A. philatelist and award winning exhibitor Ron Majors. The talk marked one in a series of postal history lectures organized by APS member and noted postal historian Bill Schultz in conjunction with an extraordinary exhibit concerning postal history titled “You’ve Got Mail!” currently on display at the Chester County Historical Society Museum ( in downtown West Chester, PA from November 24, 2017 through April 28, 2018.

Bill Schultz introducing speaker Ron Majors

The primary source for the exhibit includes an exceptional collection of West Chester and Chester County postal history material amassed by world renowned collector Robert Brinton. Along with unique selections from the Brinton Collection several items from private award-winning exhibits and collections are also on display. The exhibit was put together by guest curator Bill Schultz along with the display expertise of the Chester County Historical Society museum staff. One of the absolute highlights of the exhibit for this collector was the most complete and impressive collection of Westtown local issues (Scott 145L) ever on display, with the rare local boarding school stamps shown both on and off cover. Another notable item in the exhibit, for this baseball fan at least, includes a cover addressed to Hall of Fame major league pitcher Walter “Big Train” Johnson. Along with these aforementioned objects the exhibit also includes original 19th century post office signs from Chester County, mail sorting cabinets and desks, an assortment of mail bags, a fascinating collection of mourning covers, and a children’s activity area for sorting mail.

Ron Majors begins his lecture on B.N.A. Civil War Covers

During his talk about B.N.A. – U.S. cross border mail during the Civil War Ron Majors used many of the covers from his own collection along with covers from fellow collectors to illustrate the extent and nature of cross border communication before, during and after the Civil War between the two burgeoning nations. As mentioned during the lecture many do not realize that over 50,000 Canadians fought in the U.S. Civil War, mostly for the Union, as mercenary soldiers. Sending and receiving letters from Canada was quite commonplace but as Ron Majors noted throughout the lecture it’s often very difficult to find examples of these covers at auction for a reasonable price. Ron also provided details of the postal rates and routes between the two countries at the time of the Civil War and indicated these rates and routes on a variety of the covers he showed throughout the lecture.

If you get a chance to attend one of the remaining lectures or just want to stop by the Chester County Historical Society for a visit and see  the postal history exhibit you can find more information about both the lectures and the exhibit at If you do go, be sure to have Bill Schultz  take you on a personal tour and if you get a chance ask him, among many other interesting things in the exhibit, about the lesser known but no less important “Eastern” Pony Express, you won’t be disappointed and a little surprised.

Resource of the Month – Barefoot Revenue Catalogs

One of the more diverse collecting interests within philately in recent years, whose popularity initially waned after the first World War, are stamps not normally listed in some of the more recognized stamp catalogs such as Stanley Gibbons and Michel. Revenue stamps, also known as fiscal or tax stamps, are stamps used to collect taxes and fees for a variety of goods and services by governments, either national or local, or by other official bodies. Continue reading “Resource of the Month – Barefoot Revenue Catalogs”

New Books at the APRL, February 2018

APRL acquisitions, February 2018. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

Ali , Mohammed Nazir. Stamp Collector (Lahore, Pakistan) (Lahore, Pakistan: Mohammed Nazir Ali, [1957]). [JOURNAL Stamp Collector (Lahore, Pakistan)]

Beleck, Marvin A. Noted Jewish people of the world on stamps: a collection of stamps issued by over 95 countries in the world (Fort Worth, Texas: Marvin A. Beleck, 2017). [IP67409]

Corinphila Auktionen AG. Classic India & Scinde 1600-1858: Die Jochen Heddergott Sammlung = The Jochen Heddergott collection (Zurich, Switzerland: Corinphila Auktionen AG, 2010). [IP67406]

Continue reading “New Books at the APRL, February 2018”

Resource of the Month – Stamp Albums

Just this past month a frequent visitor to the library came by to conduct some research and was stuck by and pleasantly surprised to find a resource at the American Philatelic Library (APRL) that hadn’t occurred to him that we would collect or include as part of our collection. There on the first floor of the public space of the APRL tucked between a row of U.S. and international government documents and our collection of domestic show programs is a single bay of 24 shelves housing a small but growing collection of U.S. and international stamp albums. At first glance this collection of stamp albums, usually considered philatelic material meant possibly for resale in the gift shop, may seem to be an odd choice for inclusion in what is ostensibly a research-oriented philatelic literature collection that includes primarily books, journals and auction catalogs as well as the aforementioned government documents and show programs. After all, what research value could old stamp albums have for the serious philatelist? The answer to that question isn’t as complicated as their discovery at the APRL may seem. Continue reading “Resource of the Month – Stamp Albums”

New Books at the APRL, January 2018

APRL acquisitions, January 2018. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

Andrews, Edwin J. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the events and times that molded the man: a grand award winning display exhibit  ([Columbia, SC]: Exhibitors Press, 2017). [In process 000067315]

Andrews, Edwin J. Hitler youth, the generations of lost innocence: a grand award winning display exhibit  ([Columbia, SC]: Exhibitors Press, 2017). [In process 000067316] Continue reading “New Books at the APRL, January 2018”

Volunteering at the APRL in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Penn State MLK volunteers opening boxes of philatelic literature donations.

One of the more rewarding experiences at the APRL are when we are fortunate enough to have volunteers come to the library to help us with various tasks. One such occasion happened this past Monday when a group of students from the nearby Pennsylvania State University gave of their time to come for a visit and to volunteer in the library as part of a Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Upon arriving at the American Philatelic Center in the late morning the students were given a brief tour of the building and then shown some tasks in the library keeping busy until the late afternoon. Continue reading “Volunteering at the APRL in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Resource of the Month – Edward Proud’s Series of Postal History Publications

One of the most frequently asked questions heard from visitors when on a tour for the first time of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), especially when it involves non-collectors, is something like “and all of this is just about stamps?” To clarify often the tour guide will respond to the interested visitors “not just stamps, but also postal history.” Those not familiar with the terminology will often then ask “what is postal history?” The answer to that question is not often an easy one that can be summed up in the brief moments of a library tour, but this month’s Resource of the Month is one of the most recognized and comprehensive sources for postal history information at the APRL particularly for the histories of British colonies, the Edward Wilfred Baxby “Ted” Proud series of postal history publications. Starting in 1961 as a stamp dealer, Edward Proud established the Proud Bailey Company in Heathfield, East Sussex, England which sought to produce a series of books about the postal histories of various British colonies. Proud enlisted the expertise of prominent postal historians as well as postal history specialty societies in order to produce what has become one of the most highly regarded series of postal history publications.

Continue reading “Resource of the Month – Edward Proud’s Series of Postal History Publications”

New Books at the APRL, December 2017

APRL acquisitions, December 2017. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

Abensur, Robert. La voie Franco-Sarde dans les relations internatinales: conventions, réglementations, tarifs 1818-1851 = The Franco-Sardinian route in international relations : conventions, regulations, tariff 1818-1851 ([Paris]: Académie de philatélie, 2017). [In process 000066424]

Birken, Andreas. Die Freimarken von Bhopal 1872-1908 = The postage stamps of Bhopal 1872-1908 (Hamburg: Andreas Birken, 2017). [In process]

Continue reading “New Books at the APRL, December 2017”

New books at the APRL, November 2017

APRL acquisitions, November 2017. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

 book coverAddendum M, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada perforators ([n.l.]: [n.p.], [n.d.]). [In process 000066403; In process 000066404]

Andersen, D.W. Perfins of Tasmania ([n.l.]: D.W. Andersen, 1985). [G9061 .P438 A54p 1985]

Arato, Steven. AZ 1874-81-es elso tipusu 3 krajcaros v. oszlopanak metszetjavitasai = Reengraving repairs on the fifth column of the 1874-81 3 krajcar type I stamp ([n.l.]: Society for Hungarian Philately, c1994). [G6501 .P718 A66a 1994]

Australian States perfin catalog: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia + updates. ([n.l.]: South Pacific perfins bulletin, [ca. 1987-1990]). [G8961 .P438 S73s]

Bard, Leslie A. Airmail rates from Palestine to the Americas: from 3 August 1933 to 30 April 1948 (Carmel, CA: Leslie A. Bard, 2007). [In process 000066356] Continue reading “New books at the APRL, November 2017”

Resource of the Month: The Crawford Catalogue

The Crawford Catalogue is simultaneously one of the oldest and one of the newest resources in the library, and it is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in early philatelic literature.

The original 1911 edition (left) and the 1991 facsimile (right).

The original catalog, the Catalogue of the Philatelic Library of the Earl of Crawford, K.T., was compiled by Sir Edward Denny Bacon and published in London by the Philatelic Literature Society in 1911. It is an annotated list of the Earl of Crawford’s library, which included the famous library of John K. Tiffany, who served as the first president of the American Philatelic Association (now the American Philatelic Society). It is considered the most complete collection of philatelic literature up to 1911, and, because the Earl of Crawford acquired Tiffany’s library, contains a very comprehensive collection of American literature. In addition to the Earl of Crawford’s holdings, Bacon included all known works, and his list was also published by Aberdeen University Press as A Bibliography of the Writings General, Special and Periodical Forming the Literature of Philately.

Following the Earl’s death in 1913, he bequeathed his library to the British Museum. The Museum’s library holdings were transferred to the British Library when it was founded in 1973, where they remain today.

In 1991, the Printer’s Stone Limited, in association with the British Library, published a revised edition of the catalog, the Catalogue of the Crawford Library of Philatelic Literature at the British Library. This edition includes shelfmarks (call numbers) for the British Library’s holdings, allowing it to serve as a reference for those requesting material from the British Library.

In 2016, the British Library and the Global Philatelic Library unveiled yet another edition of the catalog, this time available online. The online edition includes a digital, searchable version of the original 1911 catalog, plus the 1926 supplement and 1938 addenda.

Even more tantalizing for anyone interested in early philatelic literature, though, is the searchable index to the Crawford Library, which includes downloadable PDFs for most items in the library. Nearly everything from the obvious (like The American Philatelist) to the obscure (like Collector, a periodical which published one small issue in 1905 in Pittsburgh, Pa.) is available.

A more complete description of the Crawford catalog’s history was published as a supplement to The London Philatelist in March 2016, and is available online.