This page includes The Topic-Corner columns from the 1995 issues of Across the Fence Post.
January issue No column this issue
Introducing the One-Page "Challenge" Contest
By MaryAnn Bowman, Waukesha County Philatelic Society
Does your club hold clothesline exhibits in which members display one or more pages from their collecting specialties? If so, you have probably noticed a wide variety of topicals from A to Z. I have always enjoyed seeing what others are collecting and how they arrange their philatelic material on the page(s).
To start this column for the 1995 year, I thought it might be interesting to conduct a topical exhibit contest. This contest, however, is a contest with a difference. The rules are very simple. There is only one requirement: Your exhibit must contain a copy of U.S. Scott #1280, the 2¢ Frank Lloyd Wright stamp that was a part of the Prominent American series.
Here is your chance to show the world how creative you can be. For example, the stamp might be part of an exhibit titled "Men Born in Wisconsin." Perhaps you could show architects and their works. One person might choose to show only 2¢ stamps, while another might focus on the color of the stamp. I "challenge" you to be creative and come up with an interesting one-page exhibit using the Frank Lloyd Wright stamp.
This contest is open to everyone - young and old, male and female. Select a title for your exhibit. Locate philatelic material that will help to tell the story. Be sure that one of the items is a copy of the 2¢ Frank Lloyd Wright stamp. If the connection between your exhibit items and the title are not easily evidenced, an introductory paragraph or captions beneath the items may be used. Mount your philatelic material on a sheet of standard 8'h" x 11" paper. Make a photocopy of the exhibit page and send it to me at the address shown above. Deadline for entering is March 31, 1995. Philatelic prizes will be awarded. Winning entries might be included in a future issue of Across the Fence Post.
Free space topical checklist
Do you or someone you know collect space? I have several American Topical Association space stamps checklists that I will send to anyone willing to pay the postage. The books were published in 1985 and, although outdated, will give the beginner a starting point. The books have 86 pages and are available from me at the above address for $1.25 postage.
March issue No column this issue
Whocoo Would Have Thought This Would Have Happened?
By Fred Ziemann, Wisconsin Valley Philatelic Society
Fred Ziemann is widely known for his international award-winning topical exhibit titled "The World of Owls."
It all began before I even thought of thematic exhibiting. Until retirement, my job required extensive traveling in the United States and Canada and my wife, being an "owl person," was delighted to have me return home with pictures, figurines, curios, etc., virtually anything owl-related - up to a point, that is.
Anyway, everything came to a head when the U.S. Postal Service issued the block of four owl stamps in 1978. The decision was made to collect all of the world's owl issues. After all, how many could there be? Little did I realize what I was getting into.
Anyone who collects or exhibits can appreciate the satisfaction and thrill of finding that elusive philatelic item that fits exactly into that exhibit page or fills the blank space in the album. The search can lead down many paths and, I believe, the topical-thematic collector, in particular, has an advantage over other fields of interest in that there's no telling where the quest will lead. See if this story illustrates this diversity.
A thematic exhibit requires more than just stamps. Covers are a must and I discovered that there were at least 24 "Owl Post Offices" operating in the United States at one time or another. There were three in Missouri: two were named Owl Creek and the other, Owls Bend. I have covers from all three, but it is Owls Bend, which operated from 1923 to 1955 in Shannon County, that provided an unusual find.
Let's back up a bit and get on one of those diverse paths that are open to thematic collectors if they are fortunate enough to hit on the right topic - owls, of course. When exhibiting my "World of Owls," whenever possible, I have taken to the countryside to see if I could find the location of these extinct post offices. Midaphil, in Kansas City, MO, provided the opportunity.
The usual procedure is to visit the county clerk, check the local historical society, and invariably, some old-timer will produce the background information needed to begin the search. In this case, I met several conservation department rangers in the field who pointed out the- general Owls Bend Post Office site. In all of my hunts, I have never failed to meet really down-home folks who sincerely tried to help.
But the icing on the cake carne when the Owls Bend postal card dated May 31, 1950, turned up. It exactly pinpointed the post office's location and provided the reason for the post office being named Owls Bend. The card is shown below.
See what I mean about picking the right topic? Doors just seem to open. Now my wife is into wolves and there are more "Wolf Post Offices" than there were owls. •
May/June issue No column this issue
July/August issue No column this issue
Fire Philately "Sparks" a Collecting Interest, o r… To Blazes with Philately
By MaryAnn Bowman, Waukesha County Philatelic Society
Collecting fire philately is rather unusual for one of the female sex. Many who collect fire-related material can attribute their interest to memories of chasing fire engines as a kid, or because they made fire fighting a career or became a volunteer firefighter. They were fire buffs, and their interest extended into one of their other hobbies - stamp collecting.
I'm not sure how I first became interested in fire philately, but my collecting interest today is done as a tribute to my grandfathers, both of whom served in volunteer capacities for their local fire departments. Wouldn't they be surprised to learn of the many technological advances and to see today's modern fire fighting equipment!
Research and reading about fire has helped me learn about my stamps, as well as to give me ideas about ways to collect thematically. I strongly believe that a sound foundation of literature related to a specific topical/thematic collecting area can only enhance one's knowledge of the field. In the event that one decides to organize the material into an exhibit, these books can serve as an excellent reference.
Fire philately can provide a collector with many areas to explore. Although I have a strong preference for stamps and covers that show the antique fire engines, collectors of fire philately can find philatelic material to illustrate firefighters at work, equipment and tools used by firefighters, as well as objects such as boats, buildings, and forests on fire.
A collection of the useful aspects of fire, such as for keeping warm and cooking food, could also be developed into a thematic collection. The greatest interest among fire topicalists, however, is for the stamps and covers about controlling fire to keep it from being destructive.
To show your philatelic knowledge, consider that stamps can be collected in many formats: plate blocks, coils, and booklets. Look for first-day covers, pictorial cancels, and meter slogans.
Advertising covers and post cards depicting fire-related themes are an-other collecting area for the specialist.
The cinderella collector will also find a fertile field of fire material as many fire prevention labels still can be easily found and many are quite inexpensive.
Some fire collectors try to specialize in one particular fire-related stamp, in essence making a mini-topical within a larger field. For example, the United States Smokey the Bear stamp issued in 1984, or the Fire Pumper stamps, could make interesting collections in themselves.
One classic (and expensive) item that fire philatelists eventually strive to obtain is the famous Waterbury (CT) fireman cancellation, preferably on cover or piece. There are, however, plenty of inexpensive fire-related stamps for the fire buff to track down.
Fire Prevention Week is celebrated in October - a good time to start your own fire-related collection.
October issue No column this issue
By MaryAnn Bowman, Waukesha County Philatelic Society
A windmill whispered my name from the pages of a stamp catalog. It was the summer of 1974 and I was paging through a Scott catalog making my own checklist for a bird topical I was hoping to pursue, as well as jotting down catalog numbers of other stamp items that struck my fancy. It was not too long before I realized that I had started to compile a listing of windmills.
As luck would have it, that very same summer I learned that a new American Topical Association study unit was being formed for the purpose of studying philatelic molinology. I am a charter member of the Windmill Study Unit. Over the years I have watched it grow and become a vital organization for the windmill specialist. It has developed into an international organization, and I am pleased to have had the privilege to meet some of its members.
The picturesque Dutch windmill is the type that most frequently comes to mind whenever the word "windmill" is mentioned. However, water mills, toy pinwheels, and wind generators are also collected by molinologists.
On February 7, 1980, the United States issued five booklet stamps depicting windmills. These stamps helped to draw attention to the windmill in America and its place in helping to shape the history of the West in the United States. The farm-type windmills appear in the background of other United States stamps.
At one time, there were more than 100 American firms making windmills. Cover collectors enjoy searching for advertising covers from these firms and are particularly delighted when they find a corner card that depicts the windmill.
Windmill cancels are not easy to find but add a special touch to the collection. European cancels tend to show the Dutch-type windmill while the American cancels favor the farm-type windmill.
One of the favorite items in my collection is a windmill perfin. I joined the Perfins Society just so I would be able to obtain a copy (through their auctions) for my collection.
Collecting windmill post cards is a sideline to my collection. I was surprised to find so many varieties produced for so many different occasions. This has become a collection in itself!
I have learned a lot about windmills, their history, the various types, the meanings in the positions of the sails, etc. I have gained an appreciation for the part windmills have played in technology as well as in the development of our country. Today, wind generators and turbines have continued to find supporters from environmentalists and philatelists.
If collecting windmills interests you, I would be glad to send you information about the Windmill Study Unit. Write to me at: P.O. Box 1451, Waukesha, WI 53187.
December issue No column this issue
Latest update: June 14, 2005