Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stamp Collecting in 1902!

Back in December, I posted about Christmas ads in the December 1902 issue of Connoisseur: A Magazine for Collectors. This was a British magazine aimed at collectors of a wide array of things. When looking through these old magazines I love to scan the articles, columns and advertisements to put things into historical perspective. Amongst the articles about antique furniture, columns about pottery and ads for antiquities, are quite a number of ads for collecting postage stamps! I would not have expected that, as the first official postage stamp, the British penny black, was issued only 62 years earlier. Not only were there advertisements, but there is a column dedicated to stamp collecting and an article about The Stamps of Lagos in the October 1903 issue.

Now I was a neophyte stamp collector as a kid, and still have my old collection which I add to on occasion, although I am not really an active collector at this time. It kind of puts a historical continuity to my collecting habit to add to a collection that started about 60 years ago.

Postal collecting, or philately, involves more than just stamps, as it includes postal history, postmarks, envelopes (covers) and just about anything related to the mail. The interest in collecting stamps was quite widespread by 1860! It would seem that having an official and easy way to communicate across the country and even worldwide was fascinating even then.
The first British stamps L to R: Penny Black, Two Penny Blue, 1850s penny stamp
The first official US postage stamps were issued in 1847 -- the 5c Benjamin Franklin and the 10c George Washington. A series of stamps featuring Franklin, Washington and Thomas Jefferson were issued in the 1850s to replace the first two stamps. Franklin was the first US Postmaster General.
Early postal mail used "stampless" envelopes and local or regional stamps
First Official US postage stamps 1847
The next series of US stamps from the 1850s
One fascinating (at least to me) era of US postal history was the Pony Express. The service lasted just one year (from 1860 to 1861), being made obsolete by the advent of the intercontinental telegraph system. But it created a lot of legends and folklore.
L: Actual Pony Express stamp • R: Commemorative issue 1867
Hawaiian stamps have been a special interest for me, having been born there a long time ago. The first Hawaiian issues are known as the missionary stamps and are extremely collectible -- wish I had one!
Hawaiian Missionary stamps 1851
Postage stamp errors are an added spice for collectors. Some seem almost laughable (like the FDR stamp where he has six fingers!), others are subtle, and many are actually artistic in their misprinted condition.
Postage stamp invert errors. Top left is known as the "Inverted Jenny"
Here is a timeline of events in US postal history:

1639: First American Post Office set up in Boston
1775: Benjamin Franklin appointed as first Postmaster General
1799: U.S. Congress passes law authorizing death penalty for mail robbery
1813: First mail carried by steamboat
1832: First official railroad mail service
1847: First U.S. postage stamps issued
1857: Perforated stamps introduced
1860: Pony Express started and lasted until 1861
1861: Mailing of post cards permitted
1873: Pre-stamped "postal cards" introduced
1879: Postage Due stamps introduced
1885: Special Delivery service introduced
1893: First commemorative event stamps: World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
1918: First airmail stamps used
1958: Well-known artists begin designing stamps
1963: ZIP Codes introduced
1989: Priority Mail introduced 
Source: Wikipedia
Header form the Stamp Column in the Connoisseur: A Magazine for Collectors

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