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
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,
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