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Philatelic Libraries and Philatelic Exhibiting

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Exhibits at stamp shows are a major attraction for those attending the shows. I’ve been attending state and national level stamp shows for almost twenty years and exhibiting at those shows for almost a dozen years. As both an attendee and an exhibitor I am always in awe of how much philatelic knowledge is represented by the exhibits, and how much knowledge is required by the judges to evaluate the exhibits. While personal philatelic libraries play a large role in obtaining that knowledge, organizational philatelic libraries also play a significant role. Most exhibitors prepare a synopsis of their exhibits which often includes reference sources to help judges evaluate their exhibit. If an exhibit judge is fortunate he/she may have easy access to a philatelic library which includes the reference sources cited by exhibitors. If not, exhibit judges can make remote use of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), and they often do. Any member of the American Philatelic Society can borrow books by mail from the APRL. The APRL will also send digital copies of periodical articles for a small fee, and even do customized research, also for a reasonable fee. Some of the nation’s other organizational philatelic libraries such as the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library will also loan books by mail if you are a member of the library. In addition to exhibitors and judges of exhibits, anyone who enjoys viewing philatelic exhibits is a beneficiary of organizational philatelic libraries. Thus the value of philatelic libraries extends beyond those who make direct use of the library. That’s one of the reasons I’m a supporter of the APRL and other philatelic libraries.

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1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago

catalog-1893-columbian-exhibit-72-reducedIn 1893 the American Philatelic Association (now the American Philatelic Society) created an exhibit of postage stamps and other postal artifacts for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Putting the exhibit together was similar in some respects to what is happening now with World Stamp Show-NY 2016. An Executive Committee was established that “had entire charge of securing the stamps, arranging them on sheets, raising the necessary money, issuing the official Catalogues, securing the cases, etc.”. The exhibit was in cooperation with the United States Post Office Department and was located in the Government Building at the Exposition. In working on an exhibit about world renowned philatelist and APS Hall of Fame member Hiram E. Deats, I managed to acquire a copy of the catalog for the exhibit (see cover above). The official title of the catalog is Catalogue of the American Philatelic Association’s loan exhibit of postage stamps to the United States Post Office Department: at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. A digital copy of the catalog is available on the Hathi Trust website. The Hathi Trust is a consortium of research libraries that has created a digital library of their contributions to Google Books and digitized publications from their own efforts. In searching the APRL’s Union Catalog I also discovered that the APRL has a digitized copy of the Official Circular (pdf file), a preliminary announcement about the exhibit and a solicitation for funding and for stamps to include in the exhibit. In looking through the catalog I found that Hiram E. Deats not only played a prominent role in organizing the exhibit, but also contributed a substantial amount of the philatelic material that was exhibited. That material was phenomenal even by today’s standards. The March, 1986 issue of the American Philatelist includes an article by Robert L.D. Davidson (pdf file) about the participation of the APA/APS in the World’s Columbian Exposition.

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John Coulthard and Leather Postcards















I knew nothing about John Coulthard (1903-1966) and very little about leather postcards, but with the help of Fred Baumann at the American Philatelic Research Library I learned a lot more. My search for information about Coulthard and postcards began with my purchase of a leather library postcard depicting the library building in Sandusky, Ohio (shown above). I collect picture postcards of libraries.  This one stood out not because of the library on the picture side of the postcard, but because of the message on the address side. It was addressed to John Coulthard % of the Western Stamp Collector in Albany, Oregon. The postcard was mailed by Bertha Seiche of Sandusky, OH in December 1937 and the message read: “Dear Sir: Saw your article on ‘Bright Ideas in Post Cards’ in W.S.C. and I bought this one only last week in a local book shop. Will pass it on to you. I can get more at the same place.” I was intrigued by the message and wanted to find out about Mr. Coulthard’s “Bright Ideas in Postcards”. In a search of APRL’s online Philatelic Union Catalog, I determined that the APRL has a complete run of the Western Stamp Collector on microfilm, and I contacted APRL to get a copy of the article mentioned on the leather postcard. Unfortunately, I could only indicate that the Western Stamp Collector article probably appeared in a 1937 issue of the magazine. Fred Baumann at the APRL was able to find the article after a tedious search of the Western Stamp Collector on microfilm and provided me with a scan of the article. His task would have been a lot easier if the Western Stamp Collector had been indexed. There is a great need to get philatelic periodicals indexed. The APRL is working on this with the help of volunteers but more is needed. Fred also helped me locate information about John Coulthard. I plan to do a larger article about Coulthard and leather postcards for the Philatelic Literature Review. Thanks Fred.

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David Straight

Well known postal historian David Straight passed away on Saturday, October 13, after suffering a massive stroke earlier in the week. David was an advocate for establishing this blog and was a regular contributor. He introduced himself on the blog shortly after it was established.   David and I were both librarians before our retirement, and I first met him as a result of his interest in my philatelic exhibit on library history. From 2003 to 2011 David wrote an immensely informative column for the Philatelic Literature Review on forthcoming and in-progress publications and research which he called “Colophon”. When he decided to spin off the philatelic library news component of the “Colophon” column, he recruited me to write the new column on library news. His encouragement was the main reason that I became a trustee on the board of the American Philatelic Research Library. David was a huge proponent of cooperation among philatelic libraries and worked actively to accomplish this. I’m sure that you will read much more about David’s many contributions to the philatelic world in the days to come. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

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Postal History Foundation Completes Another Digital Project


Postcard showing Carnegie Library Tucson

The Postal History Foundation and its Slusser Library in Tucson, AZ have recently completed a project to digitize a collection of Territorial and early Statehood period Arizona postcards. Both the fronts and backs of the cards were scanned so that postmarks, addresses and messages can be viewed and searched. This online collection is part of the Arizona Memory Project which is a statewide initiative to make Arizona’s archives available to the public. This is the fourth digital collection the Postal History Foundation and the Slusser Library have added to the Arizona Memory Project. In addition they have collaborated with other organization in three other projects. There are links to all of the projects on the Postal History Foundation’s contributor page for the Arizona Memory Project.

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Collectors Club of Chicago Philatelic Exhibitor’s Award

It’s always good to receive a high medal award for a philatelic exhibit, but it is especially nice to receive one of the special awards. After a significant revision of my Display Division exhibit on public libraries and their forerunners, I entered it into the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show in Denver in May. To my delight it received the Collectors Club of Chicago (CCC) Philatelic Exhibitor’s Award. This is a new award created in 2012 by the CCC. Special awards come with a variety of artifacts to recognize the achievement – certificates, medals, ribbons, and sometimes an object that just might go into the next garage sale. In the case of the CCC award it is a collection of publications which have been published by the Club. What a great idea! The CCC estimates the total value of the publications to be from $150 to $200 which makes the award highly desirable. I received four publications which are shown above. There are some fairly broad parameters for the award with the judges of the show making the final decision on the recipient. More about the award can be found in this press release. It should also be noted that for a number of years the American Philatelic Congress has been giving a philatelic award that is accompanied by the latest issue of their annual Congress Book.

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First Days Digital Archive

While checking the website of the American First Day Cover Society (AFDCS), of which I am a member, I discovered an amazing digital product. It is the digitized archive of First Days, the journal of the AFDCS, from its inception in 1955 through 2011.  It includes 395 issues of the journal which constitutes almost 35,000 pages. The archive is available on a DVD ($79) or a USB drive ($89) postpaid. The archive is formatted in the searchable PDF format. What is really amazing about this product is that it is the result of the effort of a single individual, Todd Ronnei who is Chairman of the AFDCS Board of Directors. Todd tells of how he went about digitizing First Days in an online article on the website. For anyone contemplating a digitization project, this is an excellent primer. A key to the success of the project was Todd’s access to a sophisticated scanner at his place of work, the Canon ImageRunner Advance 6055. Todd used some real ingenuity to deal with some of the challenges of the project. For philatelic libraries and serious first day cover collectors, this is a wonderful resource. Mine is on order.

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RMPL’s Map Room


Steve Schweighofer in RMPL's Map Room

On my recent visit to the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL) I got a chance to see RMPL’s map room which includes maps from the U.S. and the world. The collection is maintained by Steve Schweighofer, a library volunteer who contributed many of the maps himself. The RMPL has been able to acquire map cases that are designed to store large maps flat. Maps can be a valuable resource for the postal historian. The RMPL map collection includes highway maps, topographical maps, railroad maps, and others. Steve continues to work to organize the maps in the most useful manner possible. Thanks for taking time to show me this great resource Steve.

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A Visit to the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library


Panoramic view of RMPL complex courtesy of Ron Mitchell
RMPL President Sergio Lugo left, Larry Nix right

While in the Denver area for the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show earlier this month I was able to make visit to the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL).  RMPL President Sergio Lugo was kind enough to giveme a thorough tour of the library complex which consists of two buildings and an outdoor garden. I visited the library a couple of years ago and I was amazed at how much progress they have made in achieving their vision for the future of the library. When I visited last they had just purchased a building adjacent to their original building. Although there is work still to be done, the newly purchased building has been substantially remodeled. A large meeting room is regularly in use by RMPL and area philatelic organizations. On my recent visit to the library the Scandinavian Collectors Club was there for a major seminar in conjunction with the Stamp Show. On the lower level of the new building several small alcoves have been created for specialty stamp organizations. The Henry Hahn Memorial Library of the Society for Czechoslovak Philately has already taken residence in one of these alcoves. One of the most unusual aspects of the RMPL complex is an outdoor garden that has been established on vacant land which came with the new building. It is quite impressive. Thanks to Sergio and all of the nice folks at RMPL who made my visit a great treat. I will be adding a few more posts about my RMPL visit in the future.

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Congratulations to the SCC Library Committee

Congratulations to the the Library Committee of the Scandinavian Collectors Club (SCC) on the receipt of the prestigious  CARL E. PELANDER AWARD in 2012 for outstanding work in furthering the aims of the SCC. The Library Committee includes Paul Albright, Howard Benson, Roger Cichorz, Greg Frantz, Jim Kilbane, and Jeff Modesitt. This is the first time the award has gone to a group instead of a single individual. The Scandinavian Collectors Club Library is housed in two rooms in the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL) complex in Denver, CO. I was able to visit the RMPL complex and the SCC Library while in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Stamp Show last week. Thanks to the work of Library Committee member Greg Frantz who is a cabinet maker, the library makes maximum use of its space. Basically, books, articles, exhibits and auction catalogs, and AV presentations are in one room with periodicals and show catalogs in the second room. Although the Library has its own online catalog, it is exploring the possibility of joining the Philatelic Union Catalog project of the American Philatelic Research Library. I was fortunate to be able to meet and talk to Library Committee member Paul Albright on my visit.

SCC Library Committee member Paul Albright


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