Scott Tiffney: an expert in finding obscure philatelic facts

Scott Tiffney is the Reference Assistant for the American Philatelic Research Library. He researches and answers reference requests as they are received in the library.

Peter Kühlhorn of Wuppertal, Germany emailed a question regarding philatelic covers (i.e. mailed envelopes) he collected from Hawaii during the Second World War that were sealed with an obscure red censor tape with the initials “THMA,” followed by a censor number.  During the war when U.S. mail was routinely viewed by censors, the tape was applied to all mail from Hawaii to identify that it had been cleared for delivery. Mr. Kühlhorn’s question was a simple one: “What was the meaning of the initials THMA?”

After finding many examples of the censor tape in question but no explanation of the acronym’s meaning, I finally found the answer in a specialized catalog of civil censorship postal markings. The letters stood for “Territory of Hawaii Military Administration,” keeping in mind that this mail was dated when Hawaii was still a territory of the U.S., before becoming a state in 1959. The catalog also included a complete listing of the Hawaiian censor numbers.

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Resource of the Month: American Topical Association Handbooks

One of the more popular types of stamp collecting, by both the first time collector and the experienced philatelist, is known as topical or thematic collecting. Topical or thematic collections comprise the selective accumulation of stamps depicting a particular subject or concept such as people, animals, events, objects, even ideas. Collections can focus on a wide range of stamps depicting certain images such as presidents, birds, holidays, ships, religion, even stamps on stamps. Here in the United States back in November 1949, teenage topical collector Jerome “Jerry” Husak founded the American Topical Association in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the idea of bringing together collectors who collected stamps by subject matter, across the usual national boundaries of simply collecting issues within a particular country. This month’s Resource of the Month are the resourceful American Topical Association (ATA) handbooks which provide published checklists for topical collectors. Continue reading “Resource of the Month: American Topical Association Handbooks”

APRL Resource of the Month: The Tedesco Index

This month’s featured resource has a lengthy title: Index of literature in the English language that describes postal stamp forgeries, fakes, reprints, fraudulent postal markings and other obliterations, and, Bibliography. In the library, we refer to it familiarly as the “Tedesco Index” for its creator, Theodore “Ted” Tedesco.

The first installment of the “Tedesco Index” appeared in the 1st quarter 2015 Philatelic Literature Review. The cover to that issue featured the Rev. Robert Briscoe Earée, author of Album Weeds: How to Detect Forged Stamps.

The index was originally published serially in our quarterly journal, the Philatelic Literature Review, from 2005 to 2009. Ted gave us a complete digital copy, which we printed and put in 3-ring binders for reference in the library. Because it covers the entire world, organized by country, and gives references not only to standard resources like The Serrane Guide and Album Weeds, but also to the many un-indexed journals in our collection and online resources, it is one of our go-to resources for forgery questions. Continue reading “APRL Resource of the Month: The Tedesco Index”

Ex Libris: Bookplates and provenance

A recent article from art blog Hyperallergic explores the art of the bookplate. Bookplates have been used for centuries to indicate ownership of books, and, as the article notes, can be used to trace the provenance of books.

The APRL’s collection includes many bookplates from famous philatelists, including Stanley B. Ashbrook, Creighton C. Hart, and H.E. Deats. The next time you check out a book, you could be holding a book that was once read by a member of the APS Hall of Fame!

We also use bookplates to show that books have come to us as part of a society library, for example the State Revenue Society or the Polonus Philatelic Library, or in honor or memory of an individual.

Brian Birch has written a nearly 1,000-page book on philatelic bookplates, which you can read online via the FIP Literature Commission website.

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APRL Resource of the Month: The U.S. Stamp Files

Beginning this month, the APRL will feature a “resource of the month” on this blog and in the APS e-newsletter. To get things started, I’ll share a unique collection for anyone researching U.S. issues, especially from the 20th century: the U.S. Stamp Files.

The U.S. Stamp files (shown above in their secure location in the library’s closed stacks) include files various sources, but primarily from three individuals: Forrest Ellis, John Stark, and Belmont Faries. They are organized by Scott number and collectively make the APRL a leading source of information on 20th-century U.S. stamps. Continue reading “APRL Resource of the Month: The U.S. Stamp Files”

Postmaster General annual reports available online

The APRL has received word of two digitization projects of interest to anyone researching the U.S. Post Office Department or U.S. Postal Service.

For those interested in more modern information, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum Library has digitized the annual reports of the Postmaster General for the years 1999, 1996, 1994, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1978, 1977, and 1971-1972. The reports can be accessed via the Smithsonian Libraries Digital Collections, and a link has also been added to the APRL’s catalog record for the annual reports.

Going further back in history, as part of the Crawford Library digitization project, the files for United States reports and correspondence of the Postmaster General have been split into smaller, more manageable files for web access.

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Online maps from the Library of Congress

Railroad and post office map of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Smithsonian.com reports that the Library of Congress will be contributing three major map collections to the Digital Public Library of America.

Many of the maps to be included are already online at the LoC website, but the new partnership will make them accessible in the same place as other collections, for example from the Smithsonian Libraries and the Internet Archive.

Many kinds of maps are useful for postal history research, and postal maps can be found in libraries around the world. For example, a search of the LoC’s online maps for “postal” yielded 27 results, including, for example, an 1871 railroad and post office map of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Do you have a favorite source for maps? Leave a link in the comments!

Richard Graham Papers finding aid available

Graham Papers finding aid
Richard B. Graham Papers finding aid

Over the summer, we hosted an intern, Michael Wilson, working on archival projects. The major part of Michael’s work focused on processing the papers of noted postal historian Richard Graham. Michael’s finding aid to the more than 100 boxes of Graham’s papers, slides, and photographs is available online.

The papers were donated to the APRL by Graham’s son Tom, and the processing was made possible by the David T. Beals III Charitable Trust through the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society.

Graham wrote a column on postal history for Linn’s Stamp News for many years, and the papers include a complete inventory of the column as well as his research materials for them. Linn’s published an article on the papers in the Sept. 26 issue.

Researchers are invited to use the Graham Papers and other special collections on site at the APRL’s new library space in Bellefonte, PA.

Can you find this mystery report?

Encyclopedia of the Colors of United States Postage StampsIn volume 4 of R.H. White’s Encyclopedia of the Colors of United States Postage Stamps — still the most comprehensive work on the color of U.S. postage stamps to 1919 — there is a reference to a technical report published by Philatelic Research Ltd. We have not been able to find this report in any philatelic library, or even any other mention of it. If you know anything about this report (see the reference below, from volume 4, page 13 of White’s Encyclopedia), please let us know in the comments!

R.H. White, Tech. Report ENC-IV-9, 1980, Philatelic Research Ltd., Germantown, Maryland.

New Inverted Jenny website

Inverted Jenny websiteWith the recent recovery of an Inverted Jenny missing for 61 years and the upcoming auction featuring the finest-graded Inverted Jenny at World Stamp Show-NY2016, there has been a buzz about the rare upside-down airplane stamps, in the philatelic world and beyond.

Siegel Auction Galleries has just unveiled a new website, www.invertedjenny.com, chock full of information about the stamp, including its production, sale records, and biographies of the individuals associated with it.