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.


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.


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.

On this day: the first successful transcontinental air mail flight

An historic event took place in postal history on this day in 1921 when the first successful U.S. transcontinental air mail flight arrived at New York’s Hazelhurst Field from San Francisco.

Air mail pilot William "Wild Bill" Hopson. Source: Daniel  Hines Air Mail Collection, American Philatelic Research Library.
Air mail pilot William “Wild Bill” Hopson. Source: Daniel Hines Air Mail Collection, American Philatelic Research Library.

Since September 8, 1920, airmail service had flown the mail back and forth from New York to San Francisco during the daytime only, transferring it to trains at night. As a result, the elapsed time for cross-country mail was 72 hours at best, or a mere 36-hour savings over the fastest all-railroad trip.

Congress, having supported the airmail service from its beginning in 1918 through its first three years, hesitated to appropriate additional funding to expand the service thinking that mail carried by airplanes would be too unreliable and unable to support the volume of mail necessary to make it viable.  Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger knew he needed a dramatic demonstration of airmail’s potential so he decided that a round-the-clock relay of mail from San Francisco to New York and New York to San Francisco in the worst possible weather would provide the best possible example of the potential of airmail as an alternative to as well as an addition to surface mail. The eventual experiment would entail night flying, strongly discouraged at the time, and seven pilots taking 33 hours 20 minutes in order to fly the 2,629-mile cross-country trip. Continue reading “On this day: the first successful transcontinental air mail flight”

New subject guide: Fakes, Forgeries, and Counterfeits

forgeriesWe’ve just added a new subject guide to literature on fakes, forgeries, and counterfeits to the APRL website. The guide lists some important references on this topic, as well as tips for searching the catalog for more information. We also have guides for Machins and state revenues, and will add more.

This guide was developed in collaboration with the APS Circuit Sales Division, drawing on the knowledge of Bill Dixon and Tom Horn.

We will rely on subject experts as we expand the subject guide collection. Do you know the literature on an aspect of philately? You can help build our next guide!

To contribute, all you need to do is send me a list of what you think are the key resources on a subject. This could include handbooks, catalogs, journals, journal articles, indexes, and websites. We may add resources and library tips and will format the guide. We are happy to give credit to any subject experts who contribute.

If you are interested in contributing, contact me.

Hakai Magazine features stamp stories

Flaked OutHakai Magazine, a publication about coastal science and societies, has a series of short articles based on postage stamps. For example, The Little Post Office That Could tells the story of Herm Island stamps, while Cod Currency explains how salted cod was used as currency in Newfoundland (and, of course, commemorated on a stamp).

If you want to read more about cod, check out Flaked Out: The Story of Cod and Newfoundland, a children’s book available for borrowing from the APRL and for sale from the APS.

Herm IslandThe APRL also recently acquired a catalog of the Herm Island stamps (A Specialised Handbook and Catalogue of the Nautical Chart ‘Map’ Stamps and Pigeon Post Stamps of Herm Island 1949-1959).