William P. Brown

William P. Brown

Ernest A. Kehr, in his monumental how-to-collect-stamps book, The Romance of Stamp Collecting (1947), tells of his enthusiasm for stamps as a young boy in the Long Island, New York town of Richmond, a suburb of New York City. He relates the story of an elderly man who, being something of a recluse, resided in an old house near his own. The man, with whom Kehr became very acquainted, was William Brown, one of the very first stamp dealers in the United States. He was instrumental in getting Kehr started in philately.

William P. Brown was a pioneer stamp dealer who played an important role in the development of philately in the United States. He began his career in 1860, calling
himself the second earliest stamp dealer in New York City.

He was the New York editor of the London and New York Stamp Collectors Review (January 1864), the first philatelic journal written for the American collector.
Twice in the 1860s he helped finance and support J.W. Scott in becoming a stamp dealer. In 1870 he started The Curiosity Cabinet in which he published the first listing of U.S. locals (by C.H. Coster) and his own account of his discovery of the New Haven postmaster provisional.

Brown held the first specialized stamp auction, and all-U.S. stamps sale, in 1878, and charged his absentee bidders no commission for their participation. At that time, mail bidders typically paid a five percent commission. Other auction houses soon followed suit. In 1897, for his first mail bid sale, he charged the successful bidder one bid above the next highest bid price. This soon became the practice for other mail bid auctions.

During his last years as a stamp dealer, he wrote extensively on the early growth of philately.

Brown was born in India and spent his youth in Japan as the son of a Baptist missionary. In a period when rival stamp dealers ridiculed their competitors, he was
highly respected and known as an honest, helpful, and reliable stamp dealer.

We are indebted to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame Committee for much of the information contained in this historical writeup.