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History of Organized Philately in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Stamp Collectors Club is only the most recent chapter in the history of organized philately in the District of Columbia, which stretches back well over a century and a quarter. Formed on January 1, 2006 through the reunion of the Washington Philatelic Society and the Collectors Club of Washington, the WSCC combines the best features of both organizations and carries the philatelic torch forward into the new millennium.

 

The following illustrated timeline was adapted and illustrated for the web from Herbert Trenchard's 2005 centennial history of the Washington Philatelic Society. The thumbnail images on the right-hand side can be enlarged by clicking on them. Contributions of new illustrations and dates, especially those related to the history of the Collectors Club of Washington, are welcome and can be sent via E-mail. Dr. Trenchard's 33-page WPS history can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here.   

 

Illustrated Timeline

1875-1876: Two early, short-lived stamp journalsThe Trader
(3 issues) and The Stamp Dealers Own (4 issues)are published in Washington.
Image: Covers of the first issue of The Trader. Credit: NPML.

 

1888, March 21: The first recorded stamp club in Washington, D.C., the Capital City Philatelic Society, holds its first meeting at 473 C Street, N.W. It disbands after about a dozen meetings.

 

1891, February: E. Harvie Smith publishes the first and only number of The Stamp Critic, which self-describes as “the fifth attempt at Philatelic journalism in our national capital.” The Capitol Philatelic Society holds its first (and only recorded) meeting at 1640 21st Street, N.W.—also the address given as the publication office for The Stamp Critic.
Image: Cover of the only issue of The Stamp Critic. Credit: NPML.

 

1892, January: The Columbian Philatelic Society advertises a founding date of September 1, 1891; annual dues of 50 cents; weekly meetings on Fridays at 7:30; and a correspondence address of 1523 S Street, N.W.

 

1895: The Washington Stamp Club is founded.

 

1896, January 31: Famed philatelist John N. Luff of New York City exhibits to the Washington Stamp Club a collection of U.S. postmasters’ provisionals and foreign rarities. The Washington Post reports that the collection is worth $60,000probably a typo for $6,000.
Image: Washington Post, 1 February 1896.

 

1896, March 24: The Washington Stamp Club holds an auction at the Loan & Trust Building.
Image: Cover of the March 24, 1896 Washington Stamp Club auction catalogue. Credit: HATC. 

 

1897, October: The Philatelic Society of the District of Columbia is formed. It soon merges with the Washington Stamp Club to form the Washington Philatelic Society.
Image: Circuit book of The Philatelic Society of the District of Columbia. The book was probably used after the merger with the Washington Stamp Club. Credit: HATC.

 

1897: Another stamp club, the Washington Collectors Club, is formed with its headquarters at 702 14th Street.

 

1897, December 18: Washington, D.C. stamp dealer J. M. Bartels opines in the Weekly Philatelic Era that “there is not enough material in the city to make a success of two [stamp clubs].” He concludes that unless the WPS and the WCC combine, “the prospects of both will be much impaired.”
Image: from the Weekly Philatelic Era, December 18, 1897.

 

1898, January 25: The Washington Collectors Club merges into the Washington Philatelic Society. At some unknown point between 1898 and 1905, the original Washington Philatelic Society disbands.

 

1905, November 24: 25 collectors came together to draw up a constitution and by-laws for a new club. They choose to revive the name Washington Philatelic Society and Cyrus Field Adams, Assistant Register of the Treasury Department, is elected the first president.
Image: Cyrus Field Adams, published photo circa 1900.

 

1905, December 11: Forty stamp collectors convene the first meeting of the new Washington Philatelic Society.

 

1908: Lawyer and realtor William Allen Johnson is elected president of the WPS. He serves for 23 years, the longest presidency in the society’s history.
Image: William Allen Johnson. Credit: Weekly Philatelic Gossip, 25 May 1929.

 

1916: In order to host the August 15-17 convention of the Southern Philatelic Association, several members of the WPS briefly organize themselves into Branch No. 5 of the SPA. Almost as soon as the convention was over, the WPS dropped its membership in the SPA; the WPS was already a chapter of the American Philatelic Society and apparently did not want to divide their loyalties.
Image: Commemorative seals from the 1916 SPA convention. Credit: HATC.

 

1923, April 13-17: The WPS hosts the 38th convention of the American Philatelic Society.

 

1927: The WPS reorganizes Branch No. 5 of the SPA (which now stands for “Society of Philatelic Americans”) in order to host the SPA convention in Washington, D.C.

 

1928, August 13-15: The SPA convention is held at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington. This time, however, Branch No. 5 does not disband after the convention. Instead, its members split from the WPS and adopt the name Collectors Club of Washington.
Image: Brochure from the 1928 SPA convention. Credit: HATC.

 

1929, May 25: A special number of the Weekly Philatelic Gossip is published with all articles written by WPS members.
Click on the thumbnail at right to open a PDF of the image in a new browser window (approximately 10 MB). Credit: NPML.

 

1934: Franklin D. Roosevelt is an honorary member of the WPS.
Image: FDR examines his stamp collection at the White House, circa 1943. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

 

1935: Catherine Lemmon Manning, philatelic curator at the Smithsonian Institution, is elected the first woman member of the WPS. Victor McCloskey, Jr., a designer at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, creates the WPS official seal.
Image: May 1938 photo of the officers of the WPS. Catherine Lemmon Manning, second vice president, is circled in red. Credit: HATC.

 

1936, January: The first number of the WPS Bulletin is published with Phillip Sims Warren as editor.
Image: The first issue of the WPS Bulletin consisted of a single page. Credit: NPML.

 

1936, May 18: The WPS hosts a gala dinner at the Hotel Carlton in honor of Frederick J. Melville's visit to Washington, D.C. Credit: CLME.

 

 
1938, February 16: The WPS meeting is attended by top officials of the Post Office Department and Bureau of Engraving and Printing to hear "The Art of Stamp Designing," a talk by Bureau artist Alvin R. Meissner.
Credit: CLME.

 

 
1938, March 3: The Collectors Club of Washington organizes an "All Washington Stamp Exhibition" at the U.S. National Museum (Smithsonian Institution).
Credit: CLME.

 

 
1940, May 2-6: The WPS hosts an exhibition and convention at the Mayflower Hotel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the world’s first postage stamp. The Pitney-Bowes Company installs a coin-operated postage-metering machine and mail collection box, called the Mailomat, in the hotel lobby.
Credit: CLME.

 

1941, June 12: The CCW is featured in a full-page profile by the Washington Daily News.
Click on the thumbnail at right to open a PDF of the article in a new browser window (approximately 540 KB). Credit: NPML. 
 
1943, August 3: The WPS board of directors accepts James Waldo Fawcett’s resignation from the society. During his presidencies (1937-38 and 1939-40), Fawcett made the WPS one of the nation’s leading stamp clubs and filled its non-resident membership rolls with outstanding world philatelists. However, he also created numerous controversies that almost destroyed its reputation among local collectors and led to mass resignations.

 

1950, September 6-9: The WPS holds the first NAPEX (NAtional Philatelic EXhibition) show at the Shoreham Hotel to celebrate the D.C. sesquicentennial.
Credit: CLME.

 

1955, October 19-23: The WPS, the Bureau Issues Association, the Essay-Proof Society, and the American Philatelic Congress jointly mount the Washington Jubilee Exhibition at the Shoreham Hotel. The ½¢ value in the Liberty Series, featuring Benjamin Franklin, is issued at the second day of the show.
Image: Exhibition organizers selected Artcraft's first day cover for the Franklin stamp as the official show cachet. 

 

1964, January: The WPS holds the first annual Joseph A. Herbert, Jr. contest for the best cover in each of ten categories.

 

1964, September 17-20: After fourteen years, a second NAPEX is held at the Shoreham. During the hiatus, the NAPEX committee has incorporated separately from the WPS to encourage participation by other clubs.
Credit: www.napex.org.

 

1966, May 21-30: The WPS is a major organizer of the SIPEX international exhibition at the Shoreham.
Image: WPS member and past president Svend Yort at right, presents the Champion of Champions award at SIPEX. Yort was the show's chairman. Credit: www.csalliance.org.

 

1969, May: The annual T. Russell Hungerford competition for the best album is held for the first time.

 

1975, May 14: WPS members vote down a proposed merger with the Collectors Club of Washington.

 

1979, August 14: George T. Turner dies and bequeaths his collection, notes and other material on D.C. postal history to the WPS.

 

1980, December 6: Ten living presidents of the WPS come together for a banquet at the Washington Sheraton Hotel to celebrate the Society’s 75th anniversary.

 

2005, September 15: The presidents of the WPS and the Collectors Club of Washington sign an agreement to merge under the name “Washington Stamp Collectors Club.” January 1, 2006 is set as an effective date for the merger to allow WPS to reach its centennial on December 11, 2005. Read the merger agreement in PDF format here.
Image: Bruce Kellogg (left) and Brock Covington, respectively the last presidents of the Collectors Club of Washington and the Washington Philatelic Society.

 

Image credit abbreviations: HATC=Herbert A. Trenchard collection; CLME=Catherine Lemmon Manning estate; NPML=National Postal Museum Library