StampShow Seminars Promise Trains, Trans-Mississippis, and Holocaust Philately

StampShow Seminars Promise Trains, Trans-Mississippis, and Holocaust Philately

Explore Postal History with the APS at StampShow 2019

Did you know that you can use covers to reconstruct old train routes across a map? Have you ever looked at a letter sent by your great great-grandmother and worked out who she was writing to through genealogy? Did you know that there are letters from the Holocaust that give us tiny glimpses into the lives of Jewish victims?

We want to teach you about all of these things and more at the APS StampShow this August.

The APS Education department is presenting three On-the-Road Courses in Omaha on August 1-3, each taught by experts in philatelic research: “Postal History of the Holocaust,” “Post Office Historical Research Techniques Supporting Cover Documentation,” and “Applying Different Philatelic Lenses to the Trans-Mississippi Issue.”

The deadline to sign up for Omaha On-the-Road Courses is July 9, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. EST.


Postal History of the Holocaust

Instructor: Justin Gordon

In this course, longtime Holocaust postal historian Justin Gordon will lead you through many different facets of the Holocaust using covers and correspondence from the period. This history creates rich opportunities to collect compelling and meaningful postal history.

  • Walk through the origins of this period, the laws passed, the treatment of Jewish people, and the establishment of ghettos, using postal history materials including anti-Semitic cancels, postcards and labels, mail depicting anti-Jewish laws, and postal markings from ghetto post offices.
  • Learn about concentration camps and other camps of inmate labor and death using postal history items, such as outgoing and incoming mail from concentration camps, which includes cancels and return addresses from Auschwitz sub-camps and Judenlagers (Jewish camps).
  • Discuss the “model” ghetto Theresienstadt using outgoing and incoming mail from its post office, learn about the liberation of concentration camps through mail from displaced person camps, and explore the establishment of Israel through a philatelic lens.

Justin Gordon is the author of the book Holocaust Postal History, available here. Read an excerpt:  

“It is a great joy when we receive greetings from you. Your words are always loving, a ray of hope.” 

“My dear, good child! I haven’t had any news from you in a long time. Are you in good health?”

These lines, warm, kind, and hopeful, are seemingly ordinary—until you realize that they were written in the darkest days of the Holocaust under tyrannical censorship. In Holocaust Postal History, read more about these messages and others, many written just before a final, tragic journey. 

Holocaust philately, the study of postal means of communication during the Nazi era in Europe, does not provide answers to the major questions that still haunt us. It does, however, offer insight into the personal, unique journeys of victims of the Nazi onslaught. In many cases, an envelope or a postcard, as highlighted in this book, may be the only remnant of an individual’s life.

“Postal History of the Holocaust” will be offered on Thursday, August 1st, 2019,  from 10:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M., at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, NE during the APS StampShow. Registration for the course is separate from StampShow registration. The deadline to register is Wednesday, July 10th, at 11:59 p.m.



Post Office Historical Research Techniques Supporting Cover Documentation

Instructor: Dr. Frank Scheer

In this course, Dr. Frank Scheer, who curates the Railway Mail Service Library, will guide you through the history of the Railway Post Office (RPO) and offer a crash course on using primary philatelic materials to reconstruct train routes.

  • Learn why RPOs were considered to be the “Backbone of the Post Office Department” for more than eleven decades and discover how specific RPO functions (such as railway en route distribution activities) are illustrated on covers with postal markings.
  • Explore RPO markings, including route and clerks’ postmarks and auxiliary markings.
  • Learn how to research the Railway Post Office using different information resources, including primary and secondary materials and philatelic ephemera.
  • Use primary sources (first and last run covers, postal forms, and more) to reconstruct a train route from sender to recipient through the Railway Mail Service network.

Course participants will meet at the “grade crossing” of postal history and railroad heritage on Friday, August 2nd, from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, NE. The course comes on the heels of the 150 year anniversary of the 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, celebrated both by the Union Pacific at its Omaha headquarters and commemorated by the US Postal Service with the new Transcontinental Railroad stamps.

The seminar also coincides with the arrival of “Big Boy,” the newly restored Union Pacific train which has come out of decommission to tour the country – including a stop at Omaha on August 3rd, only a short walk from the APS StampShow. Participants can learn the significance of mail transportation in railroad operations and discover how the railway fulfilled the Post Office Department’s role of “binding the nation” – and then witness firsthand the power of UP 4014 as it pulls into Omaha. Register here before the deadline on Wednesday, July 10th, at 11:59 p.m. EST.



Applying Different Philatelic Lenses to the Trans-Mississippi Issue

Instructor: Casey Jo White

This course, taught by philatelic researcher Casey Jo White, encourages participants to look at their collections from a different angle and learn how philatelic specialities are interconnected – all through the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition issues!

  • Discover how a collection of Trans-Mississippi Exposition covers can be explored through seven different lenses: topical/thematic, art history, printing techniques and variations, American history, cancels and postmarks, postal history, and genealogy
  • Learn the history of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi issues - especially their connection to Omaha
  • Apply these lenses to your own collections, with advice and resources for how to research outside of your special interest - participants are encouraged to bring a cover or stamp from their own collection to study during the course

Casey Jo White is the author of a feature American Philatelist article from the July 2019 issue: “Omaha Offers a Fresh Focus: Different Lenses Give New Perspectives on $1 Trans-Mississippi.” Read an excerpt below:

Art History

The Trans-Mississippi issue was made on a short deadline, with no time to create entirely new art for the subjects from scratch. The Post Office Department put out calls for existing artwork on which to base its engravings. The Western Cattle in Storm design was based on an engraving used by western cattle companies in their advertising.

Unknown to the U.S. Post Office Department, however, that engraving was a copy of a painting by Scottish artist John A. MacWhirter. The original painting, titled The Vanguard, depicted cattle in a storm near a farmhouse outside of Callender, Scotland. The “Western Cattle in Storm” stamp is striking in the heavy contrasting black and white, but the original painting reveals that many cattle in the herd sport the red-orange coat that is a signature of the Highland cattle breed.

[…] The Robert A. Siegel Auction catalog [settles] the misappropriation of The Vanguard: “The U.S. Post Office Department was embarrassed when the painting was identified as the property of the Lord Blysworth, who was sent a formal apology and philatelic memento through the British Ambassador.”

APS members can read the full article on the APS website.

Join Casey Jo as she brings the Trans-Mississippi stamps back to Omaha, only 121 years after the Omaha Trans-Mississippi Exposition where they were first released. The Trans-Mississippi course will be offered at StampShow in the CHI Health Center, on August 3rd, 2019, from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. The registration deadline is Wednesday July 10th at 11:59 p.m.


Want to learn more about StampShow 2019 in Omaha? Check out our schedule, browse over the dealer list, and pre-register today!
Our Education department adds new On-the-Road Courses as they are scheduled: keep an eye out for future courses and learn more about the Education program here.
Interested in The American Philatelist? APS members can read the AP online and in print. Become an APS member today.


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Great American Stamp Show

Hartford, Connecticut | August 20-23, 2020