Often during the course of philatelic research researchers will come across a "resource within a resource," one that they didn’t expect to find. Such is the case with a resource that was highlighted in a previous "Resource of the Month" column concerning the U.S. Stamp files.
Housed in the private space on the second floor of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL), the U.S. Stamps files archive is a collection of file folders, arranged and labeled by U.S. Scott number, composed of research materials related to a particular U.S. stamp. Among the materials found in the folders are articles, press releases, stamp announcements, photos, serviced covers, photo essays, and news clippings. For library staff and researchers the folders have proven to be an invaluable resource in providing background material and supplemental information for U.S. issues. Not all of the aforementioned research materials can be found in each of the files, but in addition one of the items that many of the files contain are first day ceremony programs.
First Day Ceremony Program for 1999 Ayn Rand issue: cover (l) and inset (r)
For those that regularly attend first day ceremonies, one of the highlights included as part of the event is the issuance of a first day ceremony program. Many attendees have their programs signed by the event's dignitaries (i.e. USPS personnel, celebrities, stamp designers, etc.) as a commemoration of the ceremony. Over time these programs, particularly if autographed, can become collectible in their own right. The programs, while prized by collectors, are also a source of useful information for the researcher.
Ceremony Program Inset for 2000 Library of Congress issue
With the first official ceremony programs appearing with the Booker T. Washington issue on April 7, 1940, these one-of-a-kind philatelic publications can be very simple or quite elaborate. As the programs eventually became a staple of these ceremonies, the information they provide began to become more detailed as well, often including the proceedings of the ceremony, attending dignitaries and speakers, issuance history and production data, subject matter information and background, and with more recent programs often including a serviced first day cover or example of the first day cancellation.
Ceremony Program Cover for 1998 Alfred Hitcock issue
Ceremony Program Inset for 1998 Alfred Hitchcock issue
The research benefit of these programs is surprisingly plentiful. Many collectors and researchers of particular U.S. stamp issues welcome the information provided about the event (i.e. attendees, dignitaries, proceedings, place and time of event, issuance/design history, etc.). The programs often provide some of the finer details leading to a more complete record of the stamp’s issuance and history. Inevitably these programs became so popular as collectibles that in 1989 Mellone’s produced a catalogue for them titled Mellone’s Specialized Catalogue of First Day Ceremony Programs & Events by Dr. Scott Pelcyger (APRL Location: [G3701 .F527 P381m 1989]). Unfortunately updated editions of the catalogue were never published.
Cover (l) of the Mellone's Catalog and Sample Page (r) listing 1973 Ceremony Programs
If you are interested in researching a particular U.S. stamp or specifically its first day ceremony, these programs are an excellent starting point for your research. Contact the APRL at firstname.lastname@example.org to see what ceremony programs may be available in the U.S Stamp files for the stamps you collect and research.