The pages of The American Philatelist are intended to educate our readers about the stamps that they collect and those that they might decide to collect. We also seek to enable readers to learn more about the hobby of philately itself. By our nature, we collectors are researchers, always striving to gain greater understanding of the world around us through the lens of philately.
To that end, two months ago we instituted the For Further Reading sidebar containing recommendations from the staff of the APRL. This has proven to be a popular feature. It demonstrates just how research-oriented we are. So this month, we are turning the tables and will be examining philately through the lens of research. And, as I shall elaborate upon momentarily, this is a special Joint Research Issue along with the upcoming First Quarter issue of the Philatelic Literature Review.
I had initially contemplated publishing a series of tutorials on various facets of philatelic research. But that rapidly became a pedantic undertaking, and we went in a different direction. (I did sneak in one tutorial, but there is nothing pedantic about it.) Instead, we asked some expert philatelic researchers to share with us their approaches to digging deep and wide while writing their articles. You will see some familiar faces and some new ones, too.
I first met Peter Congreve about a year ago on Twitter. He has a wonderful postal history talent to completely deconstruct a cover in six or eight linked tweets. In 280 characters he analyses each aspect of an old envelope and takes us on a journey through family histories, world travels, and business involvements.
In “The Philatelist as Social Researcher,” Peter shares many of his research techniques and preferred sources. This particular trick is typical of his creative approaches:
“Another common practice in newspapers of using initials instead of an individual’s given name(s) can also prove frustrating to research but can occasionally be overcome by substituting the common names of the period in your searches. Popular baby names in the U.S., broken down by decade, can be found at the website for the Social Security Administration.”
After you have read his article, you might wish to hop over to Twitter and check out his frequent postal history tweets (@Stampden). Peter demonstrates how postal artifacts can be used as the springboard for exploring the history of an individual or family or even an event.
Trish Kaufmann, a frequent visitor to these pages, is a master of this type of postal history. But Trish frequently takes postal history the other way around, using postal artifacts to contribute to the extant body of historical knowledge. Therein lies an approach to postal history that is valuable to historians and other academicians in the social sciences. This is a message that all philatelists should promote. In this issue, Trish directly confronts the challenges of researching controversial topics.
In “Researching Confederate States Stamps and Postal History” Trish reminds us: “The study of our past is crucial. The expectation is that we learn from mistakes of the past or, as conventional wisdom asserts, we are destined to repeat them.”
Next, our own Scott Tiffney, the APRL’s director of information services, takes us on a tour of the many unique research tools available from the world’s largest philatelic public library. What is really exciting are the soon-to-be-released enhancements that Scott will share with us. His “Tools of Research: The APRL, Philatelic Union Catalog and APRL Digital” is a must read.
In keeping with our research theme, Wayne Youngblood’s “Coast to Coast” explores the history of his collecting and researching the Acker’s “local” stamps that found their way into his eclectic collection. Some of the Acker’s artifacts might well be considered the century-old equivalent of today’s junk mail - which perhaps could give pause to modern postal historians. You will learn a few research tips from the master.
One of the more interesting philatelic approaches that has come across my desk recently is Charles DiComo’s article. It combines a traditional approach to advertising covers with a discovery view of an unusual private precancel. “A Noteworthy Precancel on Lancaster Watch Company’s Advertising Covers” will satisfy stamp collectors, precancel specialists, and cover collectors alike. This is Charles’ first article for the AP. While he is relatively new to philatelic writing, he has already managed to bring home a large gold for a 2018 article that appeared in The Chronicle.
Also new to the pages of the AP is widely published author Otto Kjærgaard. When there is not much literature extant, a collector must do his own basic research. Part one of Otto’s exciting discoveries on the subject of Ocean Letters will inform you about this little known aspect of technological innovation and the Seaposts. It will also illustrate how you can initiate your own journey of discovery into new philatelic topics.
Finally, we offer a review of a non-philatelic book. What does 19th Century American Genre Paintings have to do with philately or philatelic research? Well, if authors Diane DeBlois and Robert Dalton Harris write something – anything at all – I am sure to read it. Researchers will discover the relevance of this monograph about art to philately.
I mentioned earlier that this was a joint issue with the PLR. In the upcoming issue of that quarterly journal, we will be offering several articles on additional topics of philatelic research.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Philatelic Literature Review, it is the quarterly publication of the American Philatelic Research Library. It regularly covers announcements of new books issued and books received for the APRL collection, as well as helpful book reviews. There are interviews with philatelists and book sellers and news from many of the APRL’s sister philatelic libraries. Every philatelist is, in one way or another, in the process of building their own philatelic library. The PLR is an essential tool to help you build your library.
If you want to learn more about becoming a member of the APRL and subscribing to the PLR, check out the inside back cover of this issue. I urge you to consider joining.
On a slightly different topic, the writers who appear in our pages frequently seek assistance with their research. To that end, in this issue we are introducing an Author’s Inquiry feature. If you are an author seeking additional research sources or other scholarly assistance, please send us a brief note. Inquiries of under 100 words will be published on a space-available basis and at the discretion of this journal. Send your inquiries to LetterToTheEditor@stamps.org and be sure to include the words “Author’s Inquiry” in the subject line of your email. Your inquiries may also be published in the PLR.
Finally, we appreciate the many readers who have written and commented about the more attractive graphic look of The American Philatelist. We have been working hard to ensure that the visual appearance of each issue serves to enhance the textual material that appears on our pages. I want to give a big shout out to our Graphics Specialist, Chad Cowder, who has really helped us up our game. Thank you, Chad!
Please keep your feedback coming and share your views. Remember: if you wish to see a perpetually-improving American Philatelist, you – our readers and APS members – must become a part of this exciting journey. Reach out to me with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Contact us to write for the AP. More importantly, volunteer to participate. This is your American Philatelist. My email is Gary@stamps.org.
The Editing Philately Column is reprinted from the February 2021 Issue of The American Philatelist, The Research Issue. If you are interested in joining the American Philatelic Society to gain access to members only benefits such as this highly acclaimed monthly magazine, visit Together We Grow today!