Regional Meeting in Chicago

In 1999, the Ephemera Society held a regional meeting in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and in 2000, we met at the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in Boston. Both meetings gave members from the DC and Boston areas an opportunity to meet with one another and to see some very special collections of ephemera at two wonderful sites.

On August 25, 2001, the Ephemera Society had a third regional meeting. This time we met near Chicago, in Rosemont, Illinois, near O'Hare Airport at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in conjunction with the American Philatelic Society's annual Stampshow.

The American Philatelic Society traces its beginnings back to 1886 and its incorporation to 1891. It began publishing The American Philatelist in 1887. The organization has grown in numbers over the years and now operates from its headquarters, a modern 20,000+ square foot building, on the outskirts of State College, Pennsylvania. The society's first annual convention was in 1977, and it sponsors seminars in philately, beginners courses in stamp collecting, online educational programs, and programs for youngsters. As well, the society has a library. Its web site address is http://www.americanphilatelic.org.

The Ephemera Society had a booth at Stampshow 2001 for membership services, book sales, and exhibits, as well as access to a conference room.

Ephemera and stamps make a natural combination. One form of ephemera, the poster stamp, is an offshoot of postage stamps. Poster stamps appeared late in the nineteenth century in Europe and a while later, during the early twentieth century, in the United States. Today they are sought after and highly prized by ephemerists and philatelists alike. Special poster stamp exhibitions have been held, and there are a growing number of dealers who specialize in them, in particular Ephemera Society member Art Groten, proprietor of Image Nostalgia in Fishkill, New York.

Ephemeral publications have served as sources for postage stamp design, and postage stamp design has influenced the look of currently produced ephemera. In 1995, the US Post Office printed over 3.3 billion copies of a set of six Christmas and holiday postage stamps based on items in the collection of Ephemera Society member John Grossman. John's business, The Gifted Line, submitted designs for the series based on his collection pieces and the post office took it from there. The Gifted Line then licensed the designs back and used them to create its own line of holiday goods, including tote bags, wrapping paper, stickers, gift cards, and greeting cards. Appropriately enough, the post office issued its stamps at North Pole, New York, and Christmas, Florida.

Printed ephemera and stamps appeal to collectors for different reasons. While an ephemerist would be interested in an illustrative vignette appearing as an envelope's return address, a stamp collector would be drawn to its stamp, and while a collector of ephemera might covet a cameo impression that is part of an envelope, a philatelist might find special importance in owning the envelope because of its rare three cent postage.

Ephemera Society member Robert Dalton Harris gave a presentation at Stampshow 2001. He based what he did on a full day's workshop that he and Diane De Blois gave together at State College, focusing on the way philately and ephemera come together around the "message" carried by the mail.

His program pointed out that "philatelists collect the evidence of communication. All elements of the communication are grist for the collector's mill. And the elements have an intrinsic order: from the words of the message to the stationery which both lends tone and secures a private space behind the seal, to other inscriptions and propitiations, to the design of the postage stamp and other applied etiquettes."

Rob singled out folding letters, considering the way regular stationery was folded to provide an address leaf, how the folds guaranteed privacy, and how and why this changed into envelopes. Regarding envelopes, he talked of wafer seals, strange patents for envelopes, and special greeting card envelopes. In addition, Rob discussed postcards, postage stamp iconography, topicals, stamp art, and philatelic souveniring.

As the months pass, the Ephemera Society hopes to plan other regional meetings across the country, building on the success of the ones in Washington, Boston, and Chicago.

E. Richard McKinstry
Past President

[This article originally appeared in the Northeast Journal of Antiques & Art.]

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America