Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs (WFSC)
Across the Fence Post Newsletter
1998 Selected Articles



          This page includes selected articles from the 1998 issues of Across the Fence Post.


 


January issue


February issue

THE CANADIAN CABOOSE

By Russell White, IV, Walworth County Stamp Club

A philatelist for many, years, Russ White is a member of numerous philatelic societies including the American Philatelic Society, Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, British North American Philatelic Society, Eire Philatelic Association, American Revenue Association, Wisconsin Postal History Society, New Hampshire Postal History Society, and the Walworth County Stamp Club.

Although his United Stares collection is long moribund, he still actively collects postage and revenue stamps of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the British Isles, Ireland, plus Nov Hampshire postal History. He is also editor of Granite Posts, the New Hampshire Postal History Society quarterly journal.

Russ is a prolific writer and a number of his articles have appeared in various philatelic publications. He additionally writes in the horticultural, computer, and general commercial fields.

Canada has long been known for well-designed postage stamps. Since confederation, many issues have sported excellent engraving and intriguing designs. Most issues since 1868 are not exceedingly scarce, but hefty price tags are associated with some of these beautiful stamps. Collecting on a modest budget, I turned to the "other" area of Canadian stamps, the back-of-the-book.

Revenue stamps typically were printed to meet specific fiscal needs and not created for philatelic purposes. Nonetheless, many Canadian revenue stamps rival their postal counterparts for design and beauty. Stamps from many unrelated areas comprise the far back-of-the-book, including:

Postal note/scrip stamps

Hunting stamps

General revenue stamps

Tax-paid stamps

Social security and unemployment tax stamps

Postal note/scrip stamps

Postal note (and later postal scrip) stamps were authorized to allow non-currency postal transactions. They also were added to money orders to bring the total up to some specific value. Issued in three series from 1932 to 1968, values range from 1c to 90c. Stamp size and format were the same as then current postage due stamps. Used solely for postal money-order type transactions, they surely belong in postage stamp catalogs. In a few cases they are listed there, but not in Scott's Vol. 1.

Hunting stamps

Hunting stamps (duck stamps being a familiar United States example) have been issued by a number of provincial authorities. They are often affixed to a hunting license or similar document. With values ranging over $100 for some licenses, collectors rarely see the stamps. Alberta has issued stamps for hunting caribou, elk, cougar, bear, and other wild game. Because they vary in value based upon residency status and species, at times, over 20 stamps are issued in a given year. Collecting all of them, when possible, is both challenging and occasionally rather costly.

General revenue and tax-paid stamps

Two remaining categories relate to raising revenue. Like many previously British countries, Canada adopted a number of taxes or fees with required stamped proof of payment. From provincial days through the 1970s, this usually required the use of adhesive revenue stamps. If the stamp has a currency denomination, it is considered a revenue stamp. If the denomination is in terms of the product weight or contents, then it is a tax-paid stamp. Examples of tax-paids include stamps for tobacco and liquor duties. Catalogs exist for both areas, although Lee Brandom's book for tax-paid stamps, published in 1978, is long out of print. I know of no recent comparable work.

For the general revenue collector, the news is brighter. In 1969, Canadian revenue stamp dealer Erling Van Dam published his first catalog. Derived from his retail lists, the Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalogue is virtually the bible for Canadian revenue collectors. The most recent edition is the same size (approximately 5 inches by 9 inches) as the Unitrade (formerly Scott) Specialized Canadian Stamp Catalogue, distributed by Unitrade and widely available. Profusely illustrated in color, the very brief descriptions provide some additional help to the novice. Law-stamps The federal government and many provinces issued revenue stamps, and several provinces still use revenue stamps. Law stamps were used from 1876 to 1968 in the Federal Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Stamps showed payment of fees for searches, decision results and other proceedings. The stamps are large with spectacular engraving. The federal government began phasing out stamps, replacing law stamps in the federal courts with meter strips starting in 1966.

Bill stamps - The other federal legal stamp was used only during the 19th century for bills and other legal documents. Stamps were required to show payment and were issued in three series: 1864, 1865 and 1868. The third set shows Queen Victoria in "Widow Weeds" format, and shares similarities with much higher priced postage stamps of the 1880s. Values range from 1c to $3. Lower values vary in color with the denomination. The dollar values are bicolor. A small quantity was overprinted in 1869 for use in Nova Scotia. The overprinting was to alleviate discrepancies arising from the difference in value between Nova Scotian currency and Canadian currency. When federal stamp requirements changed, the bill stamps disappeared.

War tax stamps - Later requirements for war tax revenue would see stamps on checks during World War I. These stamps were similar to those <r used for the postal war tax (1c+1c, 2c +1c. Some duties requiring higher values were handled by overprinting the "Admiral" definitives. A few of these are mildly scarce.

Excise tax stamp - Excise taxes are frequently used to raise revenue. They range from duties on tobacco liquor, jewelry, perfume, playing cards, gasoline, and other services. Prior to general sales or value-added taxes, excise taxes on specific items often raised considerable money. Some taxes took the form of tax-paid stamps, but others were currency-valued stamps. There were several series of federal excise stamps beginning with the World War I taxes and continuing from 1915 until the 1950s with the two- and three-leaf excise issues.

Some provinces had other specific duty stamps, including stock transfers, business licenses, probate and prohibition.

Savings Stamps and war saving stamps - These stamps also were printed as a way to temporarily raise additional funds.

Utility inspection Stamps - A major are, of revenue stamps dealt with utilities. Electric and gas meter regulations required inspections and payment of a tax using stamps on specially prepared forms. Several series of the stamps were issued between 1876 and 1930. Stamps were also used in conjunction with weighing devices. Scales had to be inspected, and stamps indicated the fee paid. With few exceptions, the stamps are not expensive and are more attractive than many postage stamps.

Social security and unemployment tax stamps

Stamps were also issued for social services, including those used for vacation pay taxes of the 1950s and unemployment insurance stamps from the 1950s and 1960s. Unemployment insurance stamps were used to show that employment income taxes had been paid for unemployment. Special stamps were overprinted in some years for "professional" fisherman in the Atlantic Provinces.

For all of these issues, used stamps were usually destroyed on documents, although some do exist, usually from remaindered archives. Several sets also exist in specimen form.

Collecting Canadian revenues provides a look at the life of Canadians from documents, stamps and their usages. The stamps themselves are equal or better than their postage counterparts. The challenge of finding these revenues is perhaps greater than for postage stamps, and knowledge gained is extraordinary.


March issue No column this issue


April issue No column this issue


May/June issue

EARLY MAIL ROUTES IN WISCONSIN

By Jim Hale, Wisconsin Postal History Society

It's befitting that Jim Hale, one of Wisconsin's foremost postal historians, returns as our feature writer for this statehood sesquicentennial issue. If y you missed Jim's credentials, refer to the April 1997 ATFP, which includes his article "The U.S. Mail in Early Wisconsin, " a forerunner to Wisconsin's statehood days. Since that 1997 article, Jim's book "Going for the Mail, A History of Door County Post Offices " garnered a silver-bronze award in the STAMPSHOW 97 literature competition.

In 1840, nearly all the settlers in Wisconsin territory lived south of a line from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay, although the population was growing rapidly and spreading northward. With growth came a demand for more and better mail service.

The territory in 1832 had only four post routes carrying mail once a month. By 1838, there were 32 routes serving 80 post offices, with deliveries ranging from monthly to triweekly. When the territory became a state in 1848, there were 286 post offices and 59 mail routes in operation. Post offices continued to grow in number for the next 50 years until the advent of Rural Free Delivery, which replaced many of the country and small village offices.

Nearly all mail in those early years was carried between post offices by private contractors. Routes were periodically put out for bids by the U.S. Post Office Department and were advertised in both local and national newspapers. As a result, it was not uncommon for one individual to acquire routes in several states and then subcontract them to local residents.

Successful bidders had to provide their own travel expenses and transportation. The Post Office Department paid only a flat fee to carriers. Routes could be run on foot or by horseback, boat, or horse-drawn wagon. The POD didn't seem to care how the mail traveled as long as the prescribed timetable was met. It was a difficult job to carry mail through sparsely settled country over poor roads and trails. Railroads did not start up in Wisconsin until the early 1850s.

In the June 10; 1847, Daily National intelligencer, a Washington DC newspaper, Postmaster General Cave Johnson published his annual advertisement for mail contractors in several states "from the 1st of September 1847 to the 30th of June, 1850. " Forty-one routes in Wisconsin were included.

Janesville, in Rock County, was tile starting point for five routes and were advertised as follows:

"4453. From Janesville by Exeter and Yellow Stone to Mineral Point, 70 miles and back, once a week. Leave Janesville every Monday at 8 am, arrive at Mineral Point next day by 6 p.m. Leave Mineral Pt. Wed. 8 am, arrive Janesville next day by 6 p.m. "

Other weekly routes originating from Janesville and back again were to:

Christiana (Dane County) by Catfish, Whitewater (Walworth County) by Lima, Madison (Dane County) by Indianford, and Rutland (Dane County) by Cooksville and Fulton.

The prescribed travel times for carriers seemed to be at two or three miles per hour. In his 1847-50 ad, the postmaster general promised that more Wisconsin routes would be advertised in future intelligencer issues.

Among the 41 routes open for bids in 1847, only four were what could be called northern Wisconsin. They included:

Falls of St. Croix (St. Croix County) to La Pointe on Madeline Island in Lake Superior every two weeks;

Green Bay to Menomonie City weekly. Green Bay to Plover Portage weekly; and Plover Portage to Big Bull Falls (now Wausau), also weekly.

An interesting history of mail service in Langlade County by E.S. Holman was published in 1969 in the Antigo Daily Journal. He wrote in part:

"Mail was being carried into and through Langlade County before the government survey of 1860, for the field notes show that there was a mail station. at the point where the Lake Superior Trail crossed the Wolf River from the west to the east bank, [This] became known as Strauss Crossing or Wolf River Crossing.

"The Lake Superior Trail was established as a mail route in 1850 out of the Menasha post office. The first carrier was Francis Fairbanks and his route led through Shiocton, Bear Creek, Clintonville and Embarrass to Shawano. From there it traversed tile wild country lying between Keshena and Ontonogan [Michigan].

"In 1853 the Trail was blazed to make it easier to follow. By 1860 it was wide enough for a team of horses. Mail stations on the Trail were about a day's travel apart. They were placed where the carriers could be fed and lodged for the night. The Lake Superior Trail crossed the Wolf River at Keshena Falls and extended northward to the Gardner Station on White Lake and then to Strauss Crossing. From there on it remained on the east side of the river.

"After completion of the Military Road, carriers traveled over this rather than over those parts of the trail west of the river. East of the river the Trail and Military Road did not diverge much.

"According to Finn Lawler, writing about the Military Road, the first stopping place north of Shawano, a distance of 19 miles, was that of John Corn, a Menominee Indian. Teams used to leave Shawano about 4:30 to 5 a.m., having dinner at Corn's and reach Gardner's Station by night. Gardner's was 20 miles further north. The next station was commonly known as Rice Lake Station. Beyond was the Virgin Lake Station operated by Hiram Polar, and then that of Amasa Smith at Lac Vieux Desert . . ."

As new railroads fanned out over Wisconsin during the second 50 years of the 19th century, trains became primary carriers of mail and the hardy carriers on foot and horseback slowly disappeared. Their jobs were not easy, and they contributed much to the communication needs of our territory and state

Author's note: All the information in this article is taken from other writings published in past issues of Badger Postal History, the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Postal History Society.

SAMPLING OF OTHER COVERS THAT TRAVERSED THE EARLY MAIL ROUTES

(Computer enhanced for illustration purposes)


July/August issue No column this issue


September issue

SEMI CRAZY - Part 1

By Rev. Robert T. Voss. Badger Stamp Club

Bob Voss is a pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church, Madison, WI. In addition to semipostals, his major collecting interests are Scandannvia and Europa; He also has several topical collections and holds membership in numerous national philatelic societies. Bob was featured in the "Who's Who in the WFSC" column that appeared in the December 1997 issue of ATFP.

I started collecting stamps 42 years ago. I collect, accumulate and exhibit stamps. Over the years I have found it advantageous to let certain people know I am a stamp collector. I have added many used stamps to my worldwide collections by using stamp illustrations in my sermons. But it has been only recently that I have come out of the closet and announced publicly and proudly at my local stamp club, "I collect semipostal stamps, and I love it!" The truth is now out, and I am semi-crazy.

How did all this happen? About 10 years ago I came to the realization that I would need to narrow my worldwide collecting interests. I was coming close to filling two old library catalog cabinets with my stamps in No. 4 glassines. I needed a new focus, but I still wanted it to be global in nature. I was first drawn to the world of semipostals through an excellent article, "A Philanthropic Perspective on Semipostals." which appeared in the December I992 issue of the American Philatelic Society's American Philatelist. (I find it rather ironic that an article in an APS magazine aroused my initial interest in semipostals. The APS vigorously opposes the new United States Breast Cancer Research semipostal. I will have more to say about this in Part 2.)

At about the same time I read the article, I began negotiating the purchase of a dealer remainder stock. The stock had several strengths I needed for my worldwide collection. My plan was to remove what I needed and quickly move the remainder to recoup some of my costs. Since I collected mostly worldwide used, I had a nice selection of mint to sell. As I was working these up for sale, I came across numerous sections of nice semipostals. I remember being awed by the steel engraving of early French semipostals (Figure 1) and brilliant colors of the Austrian semis, and fascinated by the definitive-sized Swiss semis (Figure 2). I was hooked. I sold all the remaining stock except for the semipostals. I put my worldwide used on cumulating status, and I began what has turned out to be a wonderful adventure into the world of semipostals.

I have found several definitions of semipostal stamps in the literature. My favorite is a "postage stamp that also serves as a receipt for the prepayment of an additional fee - usually to benefit a charity." I have noted that in Europe, semipostals are called charity stamps. However, in the United States the term "charity stamp" is reserved for stickers that promote and raise money for a charity but have no postal value. Examples are Christmas and Easter seals. They raise money for charity but are not semipostals.

The first semipostal was issued by New South Wales in June 1897. The extra funds aided a home for consumptives. In 1905, Russia issued its first semipostals to assist orphans of the Russo-Japanese War. Nether-lands followed with a semipostal issue in 1906 for the prevention of TB. In 1907, Barbados issued a surcharge to aid Jamaican earthquake victims (Figure 3). Belgium (Figure 4), Hungary, Switzerland, Austria and France soon followed with their own semipostals. Today, 17 countries issue semipostals annually. Over 100 different countries have issued semipostals making this collecting area truly global in nature.

Why have I become enchanted with semipostals?

COMPLETENESS: Collecting semipostals provides the opportunity to complete a collection. For instance, I now have the semipostal issues for Greenland complete (Figure 5). I am only one stamp away from having all the Danish semis.

VARIETY: Semipostals come in all shapes and sizes. One can find inverts, errors (Figure 6), booklets, miniature sheets, se-tenents, and much more.

CHASE: Since I started collecting semis, stamp shows and bourses provide endless opportunities for new acquisitions. Almost every dealer who carries foreign stamps has something to offer.

VALUE: Though I whole-heartedly believe that stamp collecting is a hobby and not an investment, I have been very pleased to see the value of my collection rise consider-ably each year. Semis are often mentioned in Linn's Stamp News "Stamp Market Tips."

ALTRUISM: In some small way, consumers and collectors who purchase and use semipostals exhibit an unselfish regard for the welfare of others. I respect and admire this trait in the human character (Figure 7).

In Part 2, I will share the great variety of charities supported by semipostals, examine the success and failures of semipostals, and address some of the concerns about the recent United States semipostal issue.


October issue

SEMI CRAZY Part 2

Part 1 of this feature appeared in the September issue of Across the Fence Post.

By Rev. Robert T. Voss, Badger Stamp Club

In Part 1 of this article I shared flow I got started collecting semipostals and why I enjoy collecting them. Now, I will discuss the great variety of charities supported by semipostals, examine the success and failures of semipostals, and address some of the concerns of the recent United States Breast Cancer Research semipostal issue (Figure I).

As I began looking at and collecting semis, I started to realize the wide variety of charities that these stamps support. I noticed that many semipostals that have been overprinted were used as a quick response to raise funds for natural disasters. Stamps can be found supporting the victims of volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes (Figure 2).

Semipostals have also been issued to raise funds for the victims of man-made disasters. The first two great world wars resulted in stamps for refugees and services for the wounded (Figure 3). Many semipostals have been issued to support the Red Cross and its relief efforts.

Semipostals have been issued to raise awareness and funds for particular health issues. I have stamps in my collection that have raised funds for cancer (Figure 4), polio, multiple sclerosis and AIDS (Figure 5).

Some semis have been issued to support cultural events. The Olympics have been a benefactor of semipostals. Even international stamp exhibitions have been funded with the help of semipostals (Figure 6). Famous buildings and landmarks have been restored. Germany and Switzerland support national youth programs with annual issues.

There are some semipostal issues with spurious or less than desirable charities. Hitler and Nazi Germany produced numerous semipostals to support their propaganda and government. But for the most part, semipostals have supported charities with a wide general appeal.

Are semipostals successful'? This is a good question. Information is not readily available for many issues. I am looking forward to doing research in this area in the future. We can observe, however, that semipostals are widely accepted and used by postal patrons in Switzerland, West Germany. Netherlands and France. On the other hand, there was little public support in Canada in 1974 to help fund the Olympics (Figure 7). And in 1975 in Great Britain, only 434,000 were sold to support the disabled (Figure 8). It will be interesting to see the United States' response to its first semipostal.

There has been much concern in the philatelic press regarding the first United States semipostal. Michael Laurence of Linn's Stamp News, Wayne Youngblood of Stamp Collector. Peter Martin of Scott Stamp Monthly and Randy Neil of the American Philatelic Society have all vigorously opposed the United States venturing into the world of semipostals. I respect their opinions and legitimate concerns. But I am cautiously optimistic that semipostals can become a healthy part of the United States stamp program.

One concern raised is that semipostals are an unfair tax on stamp collectors. The U.S. Postal Service is in the business of moving mail, not supporting charities. The fact of the matter is that every corporation I am aware of spends part of its revenue investing back into its community Oscar Mayer (Kraft) is a prime example in Madison, where I live. It is in the American character to give something back to the community that supports you. Semipostals serve this need.

A second concern is that issuing the first semipostal will set a precedent. Excuse me! Have you seen a United States album that does not contain spaces for duck stamps that raise money for waterfowl protection? The 8c surcharge on the recent United States semi pales in comparison to the cost of the most recent duck stamp.

A third concern is that semipostals may be financially disastrous. It is pointed out that the legislation that produced our first semipostal allows the U.S. Postal Service to keep up to 70 percent of money raised for administrative costs. This is a legitimate concern. It is lousy legislation and needs to be changed.

The administrative cost for every other stamp is included in the 32c fee. Why should it be different for a semipostal? The only cost to the Postal Service is the 10 minutes of simple arithmetic and writing a check when the stamp goes off sale.

A fourth concern raised is that a first semipostal will open a floodgate for more and more charities. Where will it end? This too is a very legitimate concern. Instead of opposing semipostals, I would like to see the APS and our philatelic media work hard to promote legislation that will limit the number per year and the scope of charities.

I do not think most stamp collectors would oppose one semipostal issue a year supporting a national United States concern that has a wide general appeal. I would much rather buy one semipostal with an 8c surcharge that goes to charity than a sheet of 50 different stamps. We need to be careful not to let the semipostal be the whipping post for the avalanche of United States issues.

In closing. I would like to share my vision for a United States semipostal policy. I would like to have one semipostal issue per year. I would like to have it be the same size of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder stamp. This size gives room for a beautiful design, important information about the charity and would bring attention to the issue.

I would also like to see the semipostal support four national programs: health research, environmental research, the space program, and the arts. The money raised would rotate every four years.


November issue

A Definitive Collection

By Kirk Becker, Green Bay Philatelic Society

Kirk Becker has been collecting stamps for approximately 35 years. He especially enjoys United Nations and British Commonwealth material. Kirk is past-president of the Green Bay Philatelic Society and former editor of Across the Fence.

After years of living as a stamp dragon, hoarding heaps of odd and wonderful philatelic treasures, the time has come to face the boxes of glassines, the shelves of albums, the assorted folios, folders, envelopes, and piles of covers. The time has come to simplify, to organize, to cherish, and to choose. And that will be hard.

Looking back over the last 35 years of collecting, there are some things that need to be kept because of their sentimental value. Some special sets purchased from special dealers or special shows. Some items brought in as the result of trades with fellow club members, some still living, some not. The box of oddments, some mangled, some mint, some common, some not, given by friends who know I collect stamps. The occasional gift that doesn't really fit but which was given with care. Yes, these things will be kept as photographs and letters of a sort, things that bring a smile to the most coldhearted day of winter. And then there are the collections: collections by country, by area, by topic, by period. The "One From Everywhere" book. The "Demo" collection. Some will stay. Some will have to move on to a new home. But one is likely to remain until the end - The Definitive Collection.

Back when I first started collecting stamps, it was the British definitives of the '50s and '60s that filled the packets and mixes of the day. The little pictures of faraway places, peoples, and times captured and drove my imagination. Still, today, they bring pleasure akin to that of visiting an old friend, and yet, sentimental value aside, definitives also have their own strengths as a collecting interest.

First, definitives form the backbone of the mails. They are designed to be the workhorses of the postal system. They can be used to make up payment for any rate needed. They tend to come in convenient sizes and shapes. And they tend to advertise the virtues or history of their places of origin. From a philatelic perspective, though often the most commonly available and commonly used stamps, definitives form the foundation of any collection of a country's stamp issues. Indeed, they are perhaps the only stamps truly issued to meet a postal need.

Second, definitives run the gamut of stamp production techniques. Virtually every type of printing process has been used to create definitives and because they tend to remain in use for a number of years, definitives are subject to many different printings with their attendant, unplanned changes in paper, watermark, perforation, and/or glue. Sometimes, definitives have even been used to test different ways of improving mail service: witness the British Post Office's experiments with the use of graphite bars on the backs of their stamps (1958-59) and with phosphor tagging (1960-67). This is all perfect "stuff" for the collector who goes for the details.

Now, if the idea is to reduce the size of a collection, trying to collect all the definitives ever issued is probably not going to help. And restricting the collection to a specific country may not be very satisfying, especially if that country has a large number of expensive and rare issues. My choice was to collect definitive issues of Great Britain and the Commonwealth from the first 25 years or so of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 11. i.e., 1953-78. It's an achievable collection, having a reasonable number of sets from a broad area of the globe depicting many interesting subjects and covering many important changes.

This period covers many of the great independence movements in the British colonies. Tracing the changes in political boundaries is not hard when you can see the stamps of Kenya, Uganda. Tanganyika, Tanzania. Zanzibar, and their various unions and dissolutions. The transformations in 1966 of Bechuanaland Protectorate to Botswana and Basutoland to Lesotho are admirably recorded by overprinted definitive sets (Figures I and 2).

Likewise, the breakup of St. Kitts-Nevis in 1980 is documented by overprinted definitives, completing a process begun in 1967 with the independent stamp service of Anguilla (Figure 3).

In addition, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a change in the structure of world commerce with the movement to decimal currency in the former British Empire. Amid much debate and some consternation, the 1,000-year tradition of shillings and crowns was replaced by a simplified structure of pence and pounds. In 1969, Jamaica did an excellent job of using stamps to ease the change. While the designs stayed the same between old and new definitive sets, the intermediate set sometimes showed values in both old and new currencies, providing a readily usable conversion table between the old and new systems (Figure 4).

Finally, when it comes to topical interest, it is difficult to form any topical collection that does not include at least one stamp from a British Commonwealth definitive set.

There are trains and ships and planes, flowers and fruits and trees, creatures of the land and sea and air. Statesmen, artists, explorers, and warriors also adorn definitives. And, of course, there is the queen, a topic unto herself.

On the whole, there is much to he said for the variety and beauty of British Commonwealth definitive sets. I plan to enjoy them for many years to come and urge other collectors to give these sets a chance to bring pleasure and knowledge into their lives


December issue

The World's Most Popular Post Office - 47579

By Roland Essig, Kettle Moraine Coin and Stamp Club

Roland Essig has been exhibiting hi c collections for more than IS years. His primary exhibit titled "Man Beneath The Sea" has won many national-level awards.

Roland is a member of his local WFSC member club in West Bend, WI. He also holds membership in several national philatelic organizations: American Philatelic Society, American Topical Association, American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors, Collectors of Religion on Stamps, and Meter Stamp Society.

No matter what we collect, there are times when we come across something interesting and are off into a new collecting area. This happened to me a few years ago while attending the APS STAMPSHOW in St. Louis. I was looking for advertising covers related to printing when a particular unrelated item jumped out at me. There was Santa Claus staring me in the face from the left side of the cover. Yes, I know a true philatelist wouldn't bother to look at the left side of a cover. But what made this cover more interesting was that it was franked with a Santa Claus, IN, precancel stamp. The cover is an item that can be used in an exhibit. How about that!

I have a one-frame Santa exhibit that consists of only postal stationary. Now I am about to be lead down the garden path to a new exhibit. Naturally, I had to have this cover, and that was just the beginning of a postal history collection of different postmarks and markings applied by the Santa Claus, IN. Post Office. I was born and raised in Indiana, so I guess that sort of makes me a Hoosier living in the land of Badgers.

Santa Claus, IN, is located about IS miles from the Ohio River in south central Indiana in Spencer County, near Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home. Thomas Smith, a surveyor who called it Santa Fe, founded the town in 1846. In 1852, however, when the residents applied for a post office, they were informed there already was a town named Santa Fe and their request for a post office was denied.

For a time the townspeople could not agree on a new name. Then at the annual Christmas Eve church program, followed by the last town meeting of the year, the naming of the town was again brought up. After many suggestions failed to gain approval and were discarded, it looked as though the search for a name would be carried over to the New Year. As was usual, the children were in attendance awaiting the arrival of St. Nick and their Christmas presents. When Santa arrived at the door, and in the spirit and enthusiasm of the occasion, it was suggested the town be named "Santa Claus."

It wasn't until four years later that the town again applied for a post office with the new name. A post office was promptly granted and in 1856 John Specht was appointed the first postmaster of Santa Claus, IN.

The spelling of the town name was changed from Santa Claus to Santaclaus (one word) on June 25, 1895. It remained one word until Postmaster James F. Martin was responsible for having the name changed back to Santa Claus (two words) on February 13, 1927.

During the 1930s, an attempt was made by Milton Harris (originally from Chicago) to promote Santa Claus, IN. He constructed a building resembling a castle and tried to encourage companies to use it as a production site for items related to Santa Claus. He managed to recruit the Curtis Candy Co. and a manufacturer of ornamental-type sleighs. With the onset of the Great Depression, this Santa Claus, IN, business venture folded.

There are advertising covers produced by Santa Claus Industries, of Santa Claus, IN. What they manufactured I have yet to find out. I have three of these covers, each with a different value Santa Claus, IN, precancel stamp affixed. Although I have not been able to find out exactly what was mailed in these covers, they probably contained product samples sent either third class or fourth class, as stipulated on the cover. The weight of the piece mailed determined whether it went third class or fourth class.

The Santa Claus Post Office now applies an annual pictorial cancel during the Christmas season. The cancels first appeared in 1983 and have been used every year since, with the exception of 1986 when the design was not approved.

The post office also applies a rubber-stamp cachet. Although the cachet is not a cancel, it is applied by post office employees and, therefore, qualifies as a postal marking (my opinion). The cachet design currently being used is applied to collector mail and/or as hand backs at anytime of the year. The annual pictorial cancel is available only from December 1 to December 24.

Although there have been only three different cachet designs used throughout the years, varieties developed as new rubber stamps were made. Color varieties also exist. Some cachets are purple and others red. The older cachets are frequently in black and are more distinct, being made from the original artwork.

The U.S. Postal Service at one point tried to stop the operation of the Santa Claus Post

Office, but by that time it had become a worldwide institution that could not be shut down. Demands from collectors and mailers in the United States as well as foreign countries for postmarks from this now, famous town were just too great.

There have been two Christmas stamp first-days from this post office. The first was the National Christmas Tree and White House issue of 1963. The second was the 1983 Santa Claus stamp.

In the 1960s, the "Pray for Peace" slogan cancel was used. At present, I know of no other slogan cancels that have been used. My collection of this post office, however, is still in its infancy and there may be others.

The Santa Claus, IN, centennial was celebrated with a pictorial machine cancel during the month of December in 1952 and, of course, it has Santa in the design.

Besides the machine, pictorial and slogan cancels, there have been a variety of different killer-bar cancels used throughout the years. They are known in different colors of ink (red, green, and black).

Because the town was quite small for a long time, covers from the 1800s and early 1900s are difficult to find. Now the community is growing very rapidly and is a tourist attraction of great magnitude.



Latest update: June 12, 2005

URL:   http://www.WFSCstamps.org/wfsc_atfp_articles_1998.shtml