The Essaysand Proof Famiy Tree, Part 2

The Essay and Proof Famiy Tree, Part 2
By James E. Lee

There are two remaining major sources that were responsible for the release of essays and proofs into the philatelic marketplace. The fi rst source was the archives of the American Bank Note Company. The second source was the proof emissions and archives of our Post Offi ce Department and Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

By 1879, all of the bank note companies that had produced stamps for the P.O.D. had merged into the American Bank Note Company. These mergers resulted in ABNC acquiring all dies and archives of their predecessors. By 1880, Henry G. Mandel was the offi cial counterfeit and color expert for American and was in a position to have access to all of the company’s dies, artistic fi les, and records. He not only pulled prints of the early stamp essay dies on various papers, he also formed a collection of other experimental work from the archives. This body of material found its way into the collections of The Earl of Crawford in England and that of Boston attorney, Edward H. Mason. In the early 20th century both of these collections were dispersed into the philatelic main stream. This was an enormous amount of material and probably accounts for 60% of the material available to collectors today.

As a side note there have been subsequent sales of the archives of American in the past 25 years. There were two auctions held by Christie’s in 1990 and two sales by H.R. Harmer, Inc. in the past 12 months.

A secondary bank note company source was the dies and archives of the one of the last independent company’s, the Philadelphia Bank Note Company. When this company failed a portion of the assets were acquired by Ernest Schernikow, secretary of the Hamilton Bank Note Company. Shernikow is said to have paid $10,000 for these assets. He offered but did not sell the master dies and stamp essays dies to Hamilton. In 1903 he had reprints made of the 1861progressive essays dies that had been engraved by Toppan, Carpenter and Company, the 1876 essays of the Philadelphia Bank Note Company and the Great Central Fair stamps produced by Butler and Carpenter Company. It is said that the reprints were made to be sold to recover his investment. These reprints continued to be fl ogged to dealers on Nassau Street in New York City by an unknown man from a  large suit case as late as the 1940’s.

The final source has been the direct emissions from the Post Offi ce Department and other proof material that has come from their files.

On five separate occasions between 1879 and 1895 the Post Offi ce Department directed the American Bank Note Company to provide 500 sets of card board plate proofs of each of the postage stamps that had been produced since 1847. These sets were given away by the department. In 1903 the department had the Bureau of Printing and Engraving produce 85 albums containing die proofs of all of the stamps that had been produced since 1847.

These albums came to be called Roosevelt proof albums since they were produced during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. The albums were given to public offi cials and a few went to prominent Americans. The release of the albums caused such a stir by the populous that the government ceased releasing proofs. However, over the years there were many other instances that resulted in proof material reaching the market place.

In 1915, the Bureau produced three to five sets of die proofs on a yellowish wove for the Post Office Department exhibit at the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. These proofs eventually reached the market.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, a prominent Washington, D.C. collector, Hugh M. Southgate had a significant relationship with the Post Office Department. In exchange for material that he provided to the national stamp collection and other favors he received specially prepared die proofs of most of the 20th century commemorative stamps. These proofs were not mounted on card blotters and they contained the blue Bureau control number below the design on the face of the proof. These proofs reached the market place via a Robinette auction in 1942.

At the end of Coolidge administration, postmaster general, Harry S. New had 10 sets of die proofs produced, which contained examples of every stamp issued during the administration. Two sets were given to President Coolidge with the balance going to offi cials of the administration. Most of these set now rest in the collections of collectors. Not to be out done our stamp collecting president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was given die proofs of most of the stamps issues during the early part of his administration by postmaster general, James Farley. FDR also received die proof examples of the Washington-Franklins and the commemoratives produced prior to his administration. These treasures were sold as part of the sales of the Roosevelt collections by H.R. Harmer, Inc. in a packed auction room in New York City in 1946.

Finally, Max Johl had unfettered access to the Bureau’s records when he was writing his four-volume opus, United Stated Postage Stamps of the 20th Century. He wound up with hundreds of Bureau photo essays of rejected designs. May of these entered the market via a Roger Koerber auction in the 1970s that took place in a suburg of Detroit.

While there are other minor instances of essay and proof material reaching the philatelic market place, I have endeavored to cover the major contributions. Through both legitimate and shady routes we have a marvelous pool of material from which to draw and form outstanding collections of essays and proofs.