Researchers. Authors. Founders, presidents, innovators. These words and more describe the 2018 inductees to the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame, which honors the lifetime contributions of outstanding deceased philatelists. This year, the American Philatelic Society commends the achievements of Thomas J. Alexander, Jerome Husak, and Michael Mellone.
Thomas J. Alexander (1926-2018)
Alexander was the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society president, consultant to The Philatelic Foundation and a member of the American Philatelic Society. He served for many years as the Chairman of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum Council of Philatelists in Washington, D.C. He was the author of the Simpson’s U.S Postal Markings, 1851-1861 and wrote numerous articles and books of the subject of philately and postal history, including the U.S Stampless Cover Catalog. He had a long-standing partnership with the Smithsonian and wrote the United States 1847 Cover Census, and The Travers Papers: United States Postal History and Postage Stamps: Official Records.
His many philatelic awards and honors include the 1986 John N. Luff Life Achievement Award of the American Philatelic Society, the 2004 Smithsonian Institution Philatelic Achievement Award and the 2007 Alfred F. Lichtenstein Medal of the Collectors Club of New York.
Alexander's papers, notes, and books are available at the American Philatelic Research Library for researchers who are interested in his work.
Jerome Husak (1932-2018)
Husak was the visionary founder of the American Topical Association (ATA), the second largest philatelic organization in the US. He was a teenager in Milwaukee in 1949 when he envisioned a society for topical collectors. He later wrote, “There must be others like myself. Why don’t we get together and share our information through a united body of topical collectors?” Thus, the ATA was born. “Who knows,” Jerry thought, “perhaps as many as 200 topical collectors might come together.” Within five months of its founding, the ATA had 408 members. In its 68 years, it has had close to 60,000 members from more than 100 countries. In his history of the ATA, Jerry wrote “The early days were not easy. Many people had to be convinced that topicals deserve a place in philately.”
When the ATA affiliated with the American Philatelic Society in 1987, it became its largest affiliate. The Thematic Award at APS StampShow is named for Jerry. Jerry was ATA member #1 and the first recipient of the ATA’s Distinguished Topical Philatelist award. He worked full time for the ATA, as editor of its journal, Topical Time, until 1977, and as executive secretary until 1984. When Jerry retired from the association’s Board of Directors in 2008, he was awarded the honorary title of director emeritus.
In 2012 the ATA Board designated May 25 as an “annual National Topical Stamp Collecting Day, promoting topical stamp collecting as a vital dimension of the future of philately and honoring topical philately visionary and ATA founder Jerry Husak on his birthday.”
Michael Mellone (1945-2018)
If you collect first day covers (FDCs) in the U.S., you owe Michael A. Mellone a debt of gratitude. Maybe two debts of gratitude: He helped establish independent shows for first day cover collecting, and wrote and published the catalogues that made it possible to identify and systematically collect cachets.
For nearly two decades, Mike guided the annual shows and conventions of the American First Day Cover Society (AFDCS). He and his promoter partner Steve Ritzer produced two of the society’s first standalone conventions in the “modern” era, in 1986 in Morristown, N.J., and in 1988 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. Until these shows the American First Day Cover Society was a guest at someone else’s party. Space for first day cover exhibits and dealer booths was limited. The hosts even controlled the events the AFDCS could hold. Along the way, Mellone and friends invented the cachetmakers bourse, where the people who design first day covers could sell their products at a reduced-price for tables.
Earl Planty, a business professor, was the first to catalogue different cachets for early first day covers, identifying them, assigning a catalogue number, and even assigning a value. Mellone, however, as they say in football, “took the ball and ran with it.” First, he added photographs of the different cachets to make identification easier. Instead of parsing a written description, collectors could compare what they had to the pictures. He also expanded Planty’s listings, adding dozens of cachets for those issues. Then Mellone went a step further: He added issues, first for the 1930s and eventually for nearly every issue through the 1960s. The first Mellone Photo-Encyclopedia appeared in 1976.
Also helping increase the interest in FDCs was his pocket catalogue. It was first titled Discovering the Fun in First Day Covers, with a license from Scott Publishing Co. to use its catalogue numbers. After a few years, Discovering became the Scott Catalogue of U.S. First Day Covers, with introductory material on collecting, identifying and valuing FDCs that Mellone had written. Mellone’s F.D.C. Publishing Company also produced books and catalogues on other FDC-related subjects, encouraging research and scholarship in the specialty.
The 2018 Hall of Fame honorees will be announced at the 133rd annual American Philatelic Society convention, StampShow, in Omaha this August.
American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame
The APS Hall of Fame was established at the 1940 APS Convention following the suggestion that outstanding deceased philatelists be honored just as the then-newly created APS Luff Award honors outstanding living philatelists. The first fifteen Hall of Fame members were elected at the 1941 Convention from a list of forty-four nominees drawn up by a Hall of Fame Committee. During 1942-1988, three members could be elected annually. In 1989, new rules allowed election of one more long-deceased outstanding philatelist. To be elected, APS Hall of Fame nominees must have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of national or international philately.
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