2018 Thomas F. Allen Award Recognizes Thomas Pratuch for Best PLR Article of 2018

2018 Thomas F. Allen Award Recognizes Thomas Pratuch for Best PLR Article of 2018

On Saturday, June 8th, 2019, APS Executive Director Scott English will present the Thomas F. Allen Award for the Best Article Published in the Philatelic Literature Review during the APS Town Hall Meeting at NAPEX. The meeting will be held in the Statler Room at 11 a.m. This year's Allen Award honors the literary contributions of Thomas Pratuch for his article "Tools of the Trade: Research for Philatelists Often Draws on Tools from Other Fields."

The Thomas F. Allen Award was established in 2013 and is bestowed yearly by the American Philatelic Research Library. The award recognizes a philatelic writer who has significantly contributed to philatelic literature in the past year, and is named after Thomas Allen, whose research on Ohio postal history remains a valuable philatelic resource for collectors. 

Thomas F. Allen Award of 2018: Thomas Pratuch

Tom Pratuch is a retired science teacher who joined the APS as recently as 2014. His collecting interest is 19th century Papal States postal history. He has written six articles on the topic and collected three awards, and won four Gold-level awards for two exhibits. Tom moved quickly from APS membership, to winning exhibits, to authorship.

He credits the APRL for assisting him in his beginning philatelic steps, saying in 2018 that “Many people start by collecting stamps and develop their research much later in the process. After looking at some interesting stamps and covers, my immediate thought was, 'I better do some research to learn what I should know to buy useful and worthwhile material' . . . Whenever I hit a stumbling block, the APRL staff were always able to suggest another approach or drag out some remote article on an unrelated subject that spoke directly to my problem."

In the past several years, Tom's fast-developing philatelic writing prowess has led to publication of his work in Vatican NotesThe American Philatelist, and Philatelic Literature Review. His article, "Tools of the Trade: Research for Philatelists Often Draws on Tools from Other Fields," published in the PLR 2018 Third Quarter, speaks to his close relationship with the APRL staff as they worked together to find research materials, and offers engaging advice for beginner and advanced philatelic researchers. 

APRL director Scott Tiffney, who frequently assists Tom with his research, calls him "friendly, open," and highly deserving of the Thomas F. Allen Award.

"Tools of the Trade: Research for Philatelists Often Draws on Tools from Other Fields"

Papal States military mail did exist, although, as it turned out, barely more than enough to make a quality one-frame exhibit. Nor did I ever find any articles in any language on the subject. The research clearly needed to go beyond philatelic writings. I had to find good histories of Papal States military operations. Pratuch PLR 2018 Third Q

A simple request to a fellow VPS member instantly pointed me to three texts on the papal military. I admit that my own service in combat arms units, along with good general historical knowledge, served me well for understanding the implications of military operations on postal operations. Reliance on telegraphs, the military’s traditional use of dispatch riders, and the impact of static territorial armies explained the low numbers of Papal States military covers.

The Pope’s Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican, by David Alvarez (2011), further explained how the Italian army had seized and destroyed Papal States military correspondence during the period of Italian unification.

Trying to solve the challenge of finding military covers, issues of reading 19th century Italian handwriting, and understanding social practices (for example, the forms of address for officials) required the use of an unexpected field: genealogy. Investigating the social interactions of one’s ancestors and decoding handwritten papers from different eras and languages are routine procedures in that field.

The APS and APRL offer our sincere congratulations to Tom Pratuch for his achievement, and welcome NAPEX attendees to join us at the award presentation during the APS Town Hall Meeting. 

Past Winners of the Thomas F. Allen Award

2017: Peter Martin

“A History of the E.S.J. van Dam Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalogs”

Martin offers a thorough history of the popular Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalog from its inception to present day.

Fig2 Canadian revenue 1982Since the 1984 second edition, van Dam has included several descriptive features about the catalog on the back cover. Included has been that “All currently known Canadian revenue stamps are listed and priced.” That is not completely accurate. While the catalogs cover the majority of revenue categories, no effort has been made to include revenue proofs or the huge fields of liquor and tobacco. The inclusion of these topics would likely double the size of the catalog. There are two separate liquor and tobacco specialized catalogs, edited by Chris Ryan, that do cover these subjects in depth.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2017 Third Quarter

2016: Stanley Bierman

“Philatelic Literature, Its Lore and Heritage: Collectors, Dealers, and Great Libraries”

Bierman describes the great early libraries of philatelic literature and traces the histories of the best strongholds of philatelic knowledge.

In the U.S., John Seybold (1858–1909), of Syracuse, New York, came to be known as “The Father of Postal History” as the first collector to recognize the allure of collecting postage stamps on original cover. He bequeathed his library to the Boston Philatelic Society in 1909, just a few months before inexplicably killed himself with a bullet to the head. The Boston library retained the collection until 1971 when it was transferred to its current home at the American Philatelic Research Library then in State College, Pennsylvania.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2016 First Quarter

2015: Brian J. Birch

“Who Really Founded the American Philatelic Society, Theodore F. Cuno or Schuyler B. Bradt?”

Birch weighs in with more research on the question of who founded the APS, which remains a longstanding debate among APS scholars.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Cuno’s vision, as detailed in his address to the New York Society, was for a greater National Philatelical Society with branches everywhere — in other words, a society based on the Internationale Philatelisten-Verein model. Also, the rationale he gave for this was to enable him and other collectors to obtain stamps for their collections at the lowest possible cost. Bradt, on the other hand, called for a completely new national society, to be established purely in the best interests of the hobby in America — a markedly different view. On the basis of their published papers, there is no doubt in my mind that Bradt’s idea was the direct precursor of the American Philatelic Association and that, seeing his ideas being overtaken, Cuno simply fell in with Bradt to ensure that as many as possible of his ideas were included.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2015 First Quarter

2014: Christopher D. Cook

“Using Omeka to Publish a Stamp Collection Online”

Cook describes his experiences using Omeka, a platform designed to host library, museum, archives, and exhibitions, and encourages other collectors to consider using the platform.

 “Omeka” is the Swahili word meaning “to display” and this is a fitting name for software that emphasizes good design and exhibit building. Omeka organizes content (“items”) in collections and provides robust metadata (information about items in the collection such as description, country, date of issue, etc.) management . . . Justinestamps-1

Omeka arrived on the scene in the library and cultural heritage world at an auspicious time as institutions sought (and still seek) to move collections online on a budget. This software also should find a welcome place in the philatelic world as collectors seek inexpensive methods to organize their collections and share their research and knowledge with a wider community.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2014 First Quarter

2013: James Negus and Brian J. Birch

“Unpublished Tiffany Manuscripts”

Birch and Negus (1927-2008) track the path of Tiffany’s unpublished manuscripts as they moved from hand to hand, and theorize the existence of other lost Tiffany projects.

This work started out looking for three manuscripts written by John K. Tiffany but never published. Their existence had been brought to the attention of the philatelic public by William R. Ricketts by means of notes in 1915 and 1916 in a very specialized and small-circulation periodical, The Journal of the Philatelic Literature Society. During the search, three additional manuscripts have been identified and evidence was found that Tiffany may well have left a Card Index to posterity. Today, the whereabouts of no less than five of the six Tiffany manuscripts is known, although the final manuscript and the Card Index still elude us.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2013 First Quarter

2012: Brian J. Birch

“Schuyler B. Bradt and the First Philatelic Index”

Birch describes how Schuyler B. Bradt published the first index of current philatelic articles, “Articles in the Philatelical Journals” in The Stamp Collector in August 1886 - at least a year before most philatelists began to call for such a resource.

AllenAward2013The use of the word philatelical in the title is worthy of comment. The word philatelie had been proposed by the Frenchman Georges Herpin in 18643 and was generally adopted by most countries (except, of course, France where even today a journal is being publishing entitled Écho de la Timbrologie, based on the earliest French name for stamp collecting, Timbromanie). Although the term Philately had been generally adopted in English-speaking countries since [. . .] about 1865, in the mid-1880s Americans were debating the relative merits of the words philatelic and philatelical to describe things related to philately. Indeed, during the founding of the American Philatelic Association [the APS], some pressed that its name should include the term philatelical. But for the fact that the National Philatelical Society of New York had already taken that name and the founders’ desire to avoid confusion between the two organizations, you might now belong to the American Philatelical Society.
Philatelic Literature Review, 2012 Third Quarter

Thomas F. Allen 

Thomas Allen (1942-2007) ran a successful private law firm in Cleveland after graduating with a Yale Law School degree in 1968, but his first passion was always stamp collecting. His main collecting interest since he was a teenager revolved around his home state, Ohio, and he was well known for his extensive knowledge about the postal history of Cleveland. In fact, he won an award for his very first exhibit, shown in 1978 at a Garfield-Perry Stamp Club show, which featured covers and letters to and from Confederate soldiers held prisoner at Johnson’s Island, Ohio during the Civil War. Over the years, Allen became an expert on Ohio postal history, winning an international gold medal for his Cleveland postal markings exhibit. He also co-authored the book 19th Century Cleveland Ohio Postal Markings (1991), served as president of the United States Philatelic Classics Society, and served as president, secretary, and treasurer for many years with the Garfield-Perry Stamp Club.

The Thomas F. Allen Award was founded in 2013 to promote research and philatelic writing. It is awarded each year to the writer(s) of the best article to appear in the Philatelic Literature Review (an APS-APRL publication) during the previous year. Past winners have shared new research or knowledge, or offered new and relevant discussions to well-studied topics.



Read the full text of the Allen award-winning articles and learn more about the award here.
APS Members can access digital issues of the Philatelic Literature Review to read and download on the APRL's Digital Library. For detailed instructions on how to access this service, read this blog by APRL Library Director, Scott Tiffney.

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