Interactive map of U.S. post office expansion

PostedAn interactive map created by Derek Watkins allows us to see the expansion of the U.S. postal system. Watkins (who is not, by the way, a postal historian) took data from the USPS Postmaster Finder to create his map. Click “play” to see new post offices pop up on the map.

Watkins admits the data is not perfect – the Postmaster Finder is incomplete, and he did not incorporate closing dates, but it is nonetheless a way to see the growth of the country. We explored similar themes here at the APRL during a Summer Seminar course on geography and postal history that I had the opportunity to teach together with Robert Dalton Harris, Diane DeBlois, and my fellow blogger David Straight.

Thanks to Marcy Bidney, head of the Donald W. Hamer Map Library at Penn State, for pointing this map out to me.

S.P.A. 1916 convention program

S.P.A. 1916 convention programAnother find from the donation we received last week was a program from the first convention of the S.P.A., then the Southern Philatelic Association and later the Society of Philatelic Americans.

The Washington (D.C.) Philatelic Society became a branch of the S.P.A. for one year in order to host the convention, according to a history of the WPS written by Dr. Herbert Trenchard.

The APRL has a collection of stamp show programs, including U.S., foreign, and international shows.  Some of these (like COMPEX) are useful to researchers for the articles they contain. Others, like this program, are more useful for the insight they provide into the history of organized philately. These programs are not included in our online catalog, but our staff are happy to check our holdings for you.

We carry on as usual

G.P.D. Vessey auction catalogAmong the auction catalogs we recently received as a donation was one with a small sheet attached to the cover.


WE CARRY ON AS USUAL. The despatch of this catalogue has been delayed owing to our Printers being bombed out during the course of printing. Sale dates have however been put back to:

JANUARY 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1941. So send us your bids as usual.

The date, during World War II, tells us why this auction in Surrey, England was delayed. Philatelists and auctioneers carry on!

APRL receives large literature donation

Sorting donated booksLast week the APRL received about 60 boxes of philatelic literature donated by Dr. Edward Martin. We rely on donations to build our collection, and small donations come in almost daily, but receiving a large amount of quality literature is an event for library staff.

Sorted journalsThis donation included many journals and auction catalogs, and library staff unpacked the boxes and sorted material on tables.  The APRL brought all hands on deck – four staff members and one volunteer – to unpack and sort these boxes.

Continue reading “APRL receives large literature donation”

New arrivals at the APRL, November 2011

APRL acquisitions, October 16-November 15, 2011. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

James Parker: A Printer on the Eve of RevolutionAuktionshaus Felzmann. Zeppelinpost Spezial: November 10, 2011 (Dusseldorf, Germany: Auktionshaus Felzmann, 2011): 259 p.: col. ill.; 30 cm. [NS Zeppelinpost]

Austin, Roland. Single and multiple uses of the 1954 Liberty series 2c Thomas Jefferson [exhibit] [electronic resource] ([n.l.]: [n.p.], [2011]): 1 computer optical disk: col. ill.; 4 3/4 in.

Banchik, Mark. Vera Cruz occupation (1914) revenues [exhibit] [electronic resource] ([n.l.]: Mark E. Banchik, c2011): 1 computer optical disk: col. ill.; 4 3/4 in.

Berry, Peter. The Foynes and Botwood logs ([n.p.]: [Peter Berry], [2005]): 81 p.: ill.; 28 cm.

Bond, Gordon. James Parker: a printer on the eve of Revolution (Union, N.J.: Garden States Legacy, 2010): 613 p.: ill.; 23 cm.

Continue reading “New arrivals at the APRL, November 2011”

Philatelic glossaries

All About StampsPhilatelic terminology can be baffling to new stamp collectors. When I first started working at the APRL, terms like cover, cut square, and Cinderella sent me scurrying for the nearest philatelic glossary. Even experienced philatelists can be stumped by obscure or foreign terms and abbreviations.

We have many philatelic glossaries and dictionaries here in the library – like the United States Stamp Society’s Glossary of Terms for the Collector of United States Stamps or Wayne Youngblood’s All About Stamps: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Philatelic Terms – but you don’t need to be sitting in a library to have a glossary close at hand. There are several good glossaries available on the web.

The United States Stamp Society’s glossary is available on their website., home of Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott Catalogue, has a good basic glossary including “nearly 300 terms frequently encountered by stamp collectors and cover collectors.”

The USPS has a somewhat smaller and naturally U.S.-centric glossary on its website. The main advantage of this glossary is the inclusion of U.S. Post Office Department and USPS names, like Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC).

Philatelic Terms IllustratedPerhaps the most comprehensive of online philatelic glossaries is the list of more than 30,000 terms on AskPhil, a website sponsored by the Collectors Club of Chicago. In addition to English philatelic terminology, this glossary includes many abbreviations and foreign terms, from Å (a one-letter Norwegian post office name) to $Z (Zimbabwean currency unit).

For a British glossary, try the British Postal Museum & Archive, partially based on Stanley Gibbons Philatelic Terms Illustrated by James Mackay. The list also includes many non-English terms.

What’s your favorite resource when you are stumped by a philatelic word?

M.C. Escher and Philately

MC Escher and PhilatelyThe Dutch journal Filatelie recently featured an article on M.C. Escher and philately (March 2011). It’s a great resource for any collector with an interest in Escher – but of course, it is written in Dutch.

Luckily for the English-language collector, Artists’ Market has published a translation of the article as a booklet. The translation was done by Bert Groeneveld, and Jeffrey Price of Artists’ Market worked with both Groeneveld and the original author, Jan Vogel, to produce the booklet.

The booklet is in color and includes additional illustrations that were not in the original article. It is available for $20 (post paid to anywhere in the U.S.; air mail oversees is an additional $15) and payment can be sent via PayPal to

The Artists’ Market gallery will hold an exhibition related to Escher and philately, with some of the original drawings and all of the Escher-related stamps on display, from Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2011.

Jeffrey would love to hear from any philatelists who have an interest in or information on Escher’s work with postage stamps and banknotes. Contact him through Artists’ Market or by email at

Philatelic Literature Review 3rd quarter 2011 features

Philatelic Literature ReviewThe online edition of the Philatelic Literature Review 3rd quarter 2011 issue is now available to subscribers. If you are a PLR subscriber and we have your email address, you should have received an email with instructions for accessing the online edition.

The 3rd quarter PLR features:

  • details received from readers of this blog about our “mystery albums
  • the early history of the American Philatelic Society from our archives
  • new finding guides for post office document collections from Aaronsburg and Milford, Iowa
  • call for papers for the 2012 Postal History Symposium
  • literature palmares from APS StampShow and NAPEX

And, of course, our regular features:

  • APRL President’s Message
  • From the Librarian’s Desk
  • Library News from Larry Nix
  • new acquisitions at the APRL
  • book reviews
  • buying and selling opportunities through the Philatelic Literature Clearinghouse

Mystery item – Fort Leavenworth essay

Fort Leavenworth essayOccasionally we come across something in the library archive that doesn’t quite fit neatly into a box (physically or metaphorically) and, unfortunately, was not labeled for posterity.

This “mystery” item appears to be a hand-painted essay in two shades of reddish brown. It is for a proposed but never issued stamp honoring Fort Leavenworth. It is in the typical style for 3¢ commemoratives of the mid-1950s. The “1953” date may be when it was drawn, as we can think of no major anniversary occurring that year. We are not sure of its origins or how it came to reside in the APRL archives.

The artist’s name at the lower right is C. L. Linck.

Perhaps one of our readers will be able to shed some light on this essay?

Guest post by Neil Coker, APRL Reference Assistant

Online index to the Congress Book, part 2

Congress Book IndexIn my previous post about the Congress Book index, I neglected to mention the index that is available on the American Philatelic Congress website.

The advantage of the indexing that the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library has done for the Philatelic Union Catalog is that it allows researchers to find Congress Book articles along with articles and books from other sources. So, the researcher does not need to know that his topic has been covered in a Congress Book in order to find it.

If you know that you are looking for a Congress Book article, however, the American Philatelic Congress index may be more efficient.

Congress Book record with link to index
Congress Book record with link to index

At the APRL, we add links to online indexes to our journal records. We hope to also work with journal editors to incorporate as many of these indexes as possible into the union catalog. This is especially helpful for researchers who don’t know which journals might cover their topic, and for finding articles in unexpected sources. It also enables the researcher to do a broad search from one location, instead of having to search multiple indexes.