Pioneer FDC Servicer, dealer, and Exhibitor
This biography is the result of unanswered questions I had many years ago about FDCs serviced by Henry Hammelman.
My personnel FDC interests have always been narrow. I specialize in FDCs of the first two new issues of the Harding Postal Administration; the 10-cent Special Delivery and 11-cent Hayes issues of 1922. My specialization lead to a desire to conduct censuses of known FDCs for both issues. This was triggered by a fascination I have for the servicers and recipients of these early covers. My censuses accounted for several covers serviced by noted dealers and collectors of the time. But something was missing. I could not account for any Hammelman covers for my issues, even though I knew that he was servicing covers in 1922 and I could recognize his handwriting. I advertised for information on Hammelman covers for the two issues, but to no avail. I then looked at the photocopies of the FDCs in my censuses whose servicers were unknown to me. Could some of these actually be Hammelman covers? Looking for clues, I did a search of philatelic literature regarding Hammelman. What literature I did find only increased my frustration and curiosity. Another way to get some answers might be to do a survey of all known Hammelman FDCs. There might be some correlation between them and the unidentified covers in my censuses.
Articles by two previous Hammelman authors have significantly contributed to my research and this bibliography. The first is Frank X. Mittermeier, the owner of the Mitty Stamp Company and a close friend of Hammelman in Henry’s later years. The second is Clark Heims, a former AFDCS member who had prepared a Hammelman article for FIRST DAYS, but it was not published and the manuscript has resided in the AFDCS archives since 1981. Their articles were an excellent starting point for my Hammelman bibliography, though my subsequent research revealed that some of their facts were incorrect. I have also referenced other FIRST DAYS articles by Herman Herst and Sandy Zuckerman. Since Henry was a civilian employee of the United States Government, I acquired copies of his personnel records from the National Archives and Records Administration. City Directories and U.S. Censuses were used to gain information about Henry and his clientage. Google has also been useful for locating new references.
This article is presented in three major parts: The life of Henry Hammelman, a discussion on the handwriting and typing styles found on Hammelman serviced covers, and the results and analysis of the survey census. Significant covers and exhibits, introduced throughout the bibliography, can be accessed and viewed by clicking on “blue” titles.
|Part A: Henry Hammelman||Starts below|
|Part B: Handwriting and Typing Styles||Go to Part B|
|Part C: Survey Results and Analysis||Go to Part C|
|Part D: My Closing Remarks||Go to Part D|
PART A: HENRY HAMMELMAN
His Early Years
Henry Hammelman was born on July 30, 1875 in Buffalo, New York. Even though he was christened Henry Charles Emil Hammelman, he was to rarely use his middle names. Henry, the oldest of the four Hammelman children, grew up in the German community in Buffalo. After graduating from Trinity School, he attended Bryant’s Business College where he likely learned a Spencerian handwriting style that was to become his unofficial trademark in his FDC servicing. Script He went to work in 1890 as a clerk and cashier in the German American Steam Laundry. Possibly influenced by his brother Paul, a clerk in the railroad mail service, Henry obtained a job in 1900 as a clerk in the Buffalo Post Office. His initial annual salary was $500. This wage was to increase at a rate of $100 per year for the next five years. A third brother, Arthur, was to also work at the Buffalo Post Office.
The Pan American Exposition was held in Buffalo in 1901. According to Mittermeier, it was during the Exposition that Henry became interested in philately. It is not known if this initial interest lead to his preparation of FDCs or any other covers with the Pan-American Exposition stamps which went on sale in Buffalo from May 1 through October 31.
Some early information about Henry’s collecting interests comes from published comments about exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis. It reads:
Twelve hundred pennies are on exhibit in the Palace of Liberal Arts at the World’s Fair. They are very neatly arranged in the form of a cent with the Indian’s head outlined in the coins, but the most interesting thing about the coins is that 900 of them bear the same date, 1877. Pennies of this date are very rare and the collection is the largest known collection of rare coins of one date in America. The exhibit is the property of Henry Hammelman of Buffalo.
According to the American Numismatic Association, Henry specialized in coins and paper money. He did not present any other exhibits at the Fair.
Henry attended the Association’s 1908 Convention and was a part of the Association’s group photo. Photo
Possibly driven by his interest in stamps and a desire to be close to the hub of postal activity in this country, Henry obtained a transfer to the Washington, DC Post Office in 1905. His salary was increased to $1,100 per year. Finally, in 1907, he obtained an appointment, as a clerk, Class D, in the office of the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General in the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) in Washington. His posting was in the Division of Dead Letters, a common entry point. However, the posting was obtained at the expense of a $200 per year reduction in wages. This probably led to the start of an anxiety about income that would plague Henry in the years to come. But he had achieved his goal.
Henry became acquainted with H. F. Colman, the prominent Washington stamp dealer. FDC He would spend free time working in Colman’s office. It was through this relationship that Henry became friends with H. A. Robinette, C. E. Nickles, and T. R. Hungerford, all who would become FDC servicers. Mittermeier gives Henry credit for getting them started in the business.
The earliest mention of Henry’s philatelic activities can be traced to the American Philatelic Society’s (APS) Twenty-fifth Anniversary Stamp Exposition held in Chicago in 1911. Among the exhibits mentioned in the conference proceedings is one attributed to Henry Hammelman of Washington, DC that won a silver award. A brief exhibit description reads “50 rare or interesting covers of the U.S. and colonies.” To what extent the exhibit contained FDCs is not known. A Hammelman item found in a 1946 H. R. Harmer sale might have been in the exhibit. It was a large 1911 registered wrapper with 87 coil stamps. The wrapper was not a FDC or EDU for any of the stamps since they all have 1909 or 1910 dates of release. One of the pieces on the cover was a strip of eleven 10-cent perf 12 vertical coil stamps (Scott 356). According to a 2009 Sprink Shreves Galleries catalogue, this piece was eventually removed from the cover and broken into smaller collectible pieces. Only 10,000 copies of this coil were printed. The Sprink Shreves catalogue had a lined coil pair from the strip. Scott 356 now lists at $10,000 for a single on cover and $29,000 for a used line pair. I do not know if the wrapper still exists, but what a shame to have altered it. Henry appears to have been very knowledgeable about Washington-Franklin stamp varieties and rarities and a number of his postal history covers with such items appear in auctions. Wrapper
A 1912 Cover
The next earliest known Hammelman cover is a registered cover addressed to Mrs. W. O. Siebold at 213 Florida Avenue in Washington, DC. It has Henry’s return address at the Dead Letter Office. During the years to come, he would rarely use his own name in a return address. This one may be unique since it is the only known time where his work address and not his home address is used.
The 12 cents of required postage is met by a full booklet pane, without selvage, of Sc. 405a (6 cents) and a booklet pane pair of Sc. 374a (2 cents) on a 4 cents long envelope. Sc. 405 is the first use of George Washington on a green 1-cent ordinary stamp. It replaced the Benjamin Franklin green 1-cent ordinary stamp which had been in use since December, 1908.
The cover is dated February 12, 1912. This early use of the 1-cent Washington booklet stamp might represent a true FDC since the Scott Specialized Catalogue mentions a January 16, 1912 earliest documented use, even though it lists February, 1912 without a day as the date of issue for Sc. 405. I wonder about that January date. Henry was in a position to be aware of new action at the USPOD. Cover
The earliest recorded Hammelman serviced FDC occurred with the release on January 1, 1913 of a series of parcel post stamps for use only on fourth class mail. This cover is an approximately eight inch by seven-inch wrapper with six 1-cent, one 2-cent, and one 10-cent parcel post stamps. The 1-cent stamps are a lower right plate number strip. The wrapper is addressed to William O. Siebold at the 213 Florida Avenue address. This first Hammelman FDC was reported by Henry Gobie in the February, 1983 issue of FIRST DAYS and is highlighted on its front cover. The Panama-Pacific Issue was also released on January 1, 1913, but no FDCs for it have been linked to Henry. FDC
A Siebold Coincidence?
While looking for Hammelman FDCs in exhibits at a major stamp show, I came across a Washington, DC postal history cover addressed to Mrs. W. O. Siebold in Buffalo, NY. Was there a relationship between this coincidence and my study of Henry Hammelman? Cover The handwriting on the cover was not familiar. I knew from Washington City Directories that Siebold was married. A record from the 1920 U.S. Census also indicated that Siebold and his wife Lillian had been both born in New York State. Could this be the same Mrs. Siebold? This faint trail eventually led to the following relationship between Hammelman and Siebold.
William O. Siebold
William Otto Siebold was born in Buffalo in 1871. After graduating from high school, he attended Cornell College and earned a four-year B.S. Chemistry degree and a two-year law degree. He served six months active military duty in 1898 as a sergeant with the 65th Regiment of New York Volunteers in the Spanish-American War. Returning home, he went to work in August, 1899 in the Buffalo Post Office. Henry would join the Buffalo Post Office in July of the following year. At this time they were each living with their German born parents in homes that were about three-quarters of a mile apart. It is not known if they knew each other before this time, I have a feeling they probably did, but it is apparent that they were good friends while working at the Post Office. Henry was a tiny, short of stature man who could easily get lost in a crowd and I believe that Siebold, who had been a shot-putter on the Cornell track team, felt protective of his friend. Siebold moved to Washington in 1903 and went to work as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office. Two years later, when Henry obtained his transfer to the Washington Post Office, he moved into Siebold’s Washington residence. Within the year, apparently once Henry got settled in his new job, he moved out. Siebold was to marry and have a baby daughter, Marie. In 1912, he and his family moved into the 213 Florida address found on the previously mentioned wrapper FDC. Shortly afterwards, Henry moved into that residence and stayed there for six years. The Siebolds would become frequent recipients of Hammelman FDCs. Siebold would also become a FDC servicer, servicing covers primarily for his family and coworkers at the Patent Office. He was still servicing covers for himself as late as 1950.
Hammelman’s Earliest Known Mailing
This postal card Card was mailed by Henry to William Siebold on September 28, 1904. It preceeds all known Hammelman covers and cards by seven years. Henry was still living in Buffalo and William had been in Washington for about one year. Miss Staderman was a Buffalo resident who apparently Hammelman and Siebold knew well. Why her name is on the card is not known. I am not aware of what what may have been written on the reverse side of the card.
The card was produced during the private mailing card period of 1898 – 1901. Congress had passed an act on May 19, 1898 allowing private printing companies to produce post cards. Such cards cost the same amount of money to mail as government produced cards. The words “Private Mailing Card” distinguished these cards from government cards. The phase “postal Card – Carte Postale” indicated that the card was allowed to enter the international mail system.
July 1, 1913
The next known Hammelman FDCs occurred on July 1 when the USPOD officially changed its policy on parcel post stamps and allowed them to be used for other than fourth class usage only. Using Civil War patriotic covers, Henry addressed 2-cent, 3-cent, and 4-cent parcel post FDCs to himself. FDCs Mrs. Siebold and Marie (now four years old) each received a 1-cent parcel post FDC from Henry. FDCs He also sent a registered combination FDC franked with 1-cent and 5-cent parcel post stamps (and a 1-cent registry stamp) to a fellow employee at the Dead Letter Office. FDC This was the first of many Hammelman FDCs to be addressed to Post office Department employees at their business or home addresses over the next twenty years. Henry used his friends and the Siebolds to help him build up an inventory of FDCs that would eventually be the foundation of a formal FDC business that he would start-up in New York City in 1935. The latter cover was also the first of a very small number of FDCs where Henry printed rather than handwrote or typed the address, although there is a handwritten Hammelman return address on the reverse of the cover. Henry’s use of his own return address is known in only a very few instances, with one major exception, on later covers. Occasionally. he would use the name of a cohort at the USPOD in his return address. Example
Henry was an active member of the prestigious Washington Philatelic Society (WPS). He was their librarian for a few years and when the WPS hosted the 38th Convention of the APS, he was the treasurer for the event. A most interesting WPS event was their January 15, 1913 annual reunion dinner which was held at the Ebbit House in Washington, DC. One of the novel features of the evening was a mail delivery by a genuine postman with a bag full of mail which was stamped, canceled, and addressed to the club members at table. It was a parcel post delivery. Each delivery bore a parcel post stamp and a one-cent parcel delivery due stamp. Included within the deliveries were menu cards and other souvenirs of the occasion. WPS Cover
Among the 24 present at the dinner were H. M. Southgate, Judge E. P. Seeds, Cyrus Field Adams, Howard C. Beck, O. L. Ballard, C. W. Burnham, W. Hayden Collins, Burton G. Cowles, A. M. Candell, H. F. Colman, John D. Cremer, H. F. Dunkhorst, J. H. Houston, Henry Hammelman, T. Russell Hungerford, William Allen Johnson, Charles R. Morris, Harry B. Mason, Dr. A. S. Mitchell, C. D. McCutchen, Alexander Scott, William Sahn, Francis B. Wheaton, and Prof. Milton Whitney. A very distinguished assembly.
Pioneer FDC Servicers
How early a FDC servicer was Henry? The following table compares his first FDC to those of other pioneer servicers that were active in 1922.
|Servicer||FDC Date||Sc. #||Issue||Addressee|
|J. Murray Bartels||06/17/98||285-292||Trans-Miss.||Hermann August Kah|
|Philip Ward, Jr.||02/12/09||367||Lincoln Comm.||Mekeel, Severn, & Wylie|
|Howard C. Beck||02/12/09||367||Lincoln Comm.||H.C. Beck|
|H.F. Colman||06/01/09||372||Alaska-Yukon||Frank Sherman|
|Henry Hammelman||01/01/13||Q1, Q2, Q6||Parcel Post||William O. Siebold|
|William O. Siebold||12/21/20||548, 550||Pilgrim Tercent.||Ehrhard Siebold|
|Edward C. Worden||06/12/22||E12||Special Delivery||Edward C. Worden|
Henry had become concerned about his business career. Even though he had received high-efficiency marks, his last raise was in 1909 when he was promoted from a Class D clerk ($900) to that of a Class E clerk ($1,000) in the Dead Letter Office. H. F. Colman, on Henry’s behalf, wrote the following comments, dated June 26, 1913, to First Assistant Postmaster General D. C. Roper.
Mr. Hammelman has been working in the Post Office Department for a number of years and is a man of splendid ability and an A1 clerk. He is only getting $1,000 per annum, a salary he has been drawing for a number of years. There is no question at all that he is worth a great deal more money than that, and I am writing this letter to see if you can have him promoted or transferred from the Dead Letter Office. I understand that salaries in this office, as a rule, are meager. I know it is the usual thing about the 1st of July to make changes and if you can promote or transfer Mr. Hammelman, I will consider it a great personal favor. I have intended to come down and see you in reference to this matter before this, but I have been so excessively busy that I have not had the opportunity, I will, however, come down and see you very shortly.
Roper did offer a transfer to Henry, but the transfer required a reduction in title and salary back to that of a Class D clerk. A letter dated July 21 and signed by Henry states “the reduction in my salary from $1,000 to the $900 grade is voluntarily requested and entirely acceptable to me.” He was to be promoted back to the Class E clerk level and salary on February of the following year. Henry’s personnel file indicates that occasional promotions and raises were to occur in the years to follow, but he would never work his way into the supervisory ranks.
The First International Philatelic Exhibition was held in New York City in October, 1913. Among the 331 exhibits was the following Hammelman exhibit found in the Twentieth Century Miscellaneous category:
Collection of U.S. and colonies, including U.S. stamps cancelled in Shanghai, Confederate States, Canal Zone, Cuba, Philippines, and Puerto Rico. The Canal Zone in numerous complete sheets, interesting blocks, and rare original covers, and Philippines Islands, 20th Century, complete in blocks of four, including the “O.B.” surcharge.
I assume that the first part of the description includes covers that he exhibited in 1911. It is likely that the exhibit also contained some of Henry’s parcel post FDCs that he had serviced earlier in the year.
Postal History Addendum
Henry sent the following note to the editor of Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News (Feb. 28, 1914, page 78.)
In your editorial of Feb. 7, 1914 you mentioned having a three-cent, 1853 United States envelope, overprinted “Confederate States of America-Agency Post Office Department, Trans-Miss” with the postmark of Marshall, Texas. In my collection I have similar envelopes of the Appointment, Contract, and Finance Bureaus.
Henry was responsible for some of the earliest known usages of the Washington-Franklin definitive issues of the next few years. These were made for his private collection or in very limited quantities. An outstanding May 1, 1914 EDU has Scott 407, 415, 419, and 420 all on one cover. EDU Most Scott 542 FDCs were prepared by Henry. One is known franked with a block of 14. FDC Henry was to frequently, during this period, prepare covers with the largest known coil multiples. FDC
According to Mittermeier, Henry’s first FDC in volume was the 3-cent Victory issue of 1919 (Scott 537). He prepared about 25 single covers and a few covers with blocks. Many of the covers were addressed to Mr. E. E. Sherer, a USPOD employee. FDCs Then came the 1920 Pilgrim issue (Scott 548-550) of which he made about 50 FDCs of the various denominations with some complete sets on cover. One of these covers has plate blocks of all three Pilgrim issues. Pilgrims He may have been the only servicer to prepare FDCs of the Scott 597 and 604 coils.
A New FDC Era
The presidential victory of Republican Warren G. Harding in 1920 resulted in the installation of a new Post Office Department. Among its first acts was the introduction in 1922 of a new series of definitive postage stamps, the Fourth Bureau Issue, to replace the Washington-Franklin series that had been in use since 1908. It was with these new stamps that the USPOD established the foundation for the modern FDC. This consisted of the creation and consolidation of the following policies, some of which had been practiced earlier, but not to the new scope and extent.
- Press releases of upcoming First Day of Issue information for all new postage stamps; not only for commemorative stamps, but definitive and special service stamps as well.
- The release of new postage stamps at sites of significance to the subject of the stamps.
- Public First Day ceremonies to formally release the new stamps.
A search of eBay indicates that the popularity of FDC servicing and collecting took off like wild-fire during this period. It was about this time, according to Mittermeier, that Henry started servicing 200 covers of each issue. However, this had to be true for the lower denomination values, not the high denomination values of the Fourth Bureau Issue. A 1993 AFDCS survey of the dollar valued Fourth Bureau FDCs, published in Volume 38, Nos. 2,4,6 of FIRST DAYS, shows 17 covers of the $1 FDC, 12 covers of the $2 FDC, and 8 covers of the $5 FDC. I believe a few more have been tallied since then. The survey indicated only one of each value being serviced by Henry. $FDCs Siebold also serviced high value Fourth Bureau FDCs as well and unfortunately, some dealers and collectors incorrectly assume the Siebold covers are Hammelman serviced covers. This distinction will be covered in more depth later in this bibliography. Henry also serviced a number of combination FDCs for stamps that had common First Days. Combinations
Special Delivery Treaty Rate Covers
Like other cover servicers of his time, Henry was into many different areas of “firsts.” He was a foremost servicer of covers for the first day of new postal rates and services. One area of this that he definitely was in front was for U.S. international special delivery covers. Prior to January 1, 1923, any incoming Canadian cover requiring special delivery service within the U.S. had to be prepaid with a U.S. special delivery stamp, a postal inconvenience. Likewise, U.S. covers had a similar requirement, but in Canadian stamps, for special delivery service in Canada. Post offices in large cities maintained courtesy stocks of special delivery stamps to accommodate the popular service. After several years, a treaty agreement was made between the two countries that simplified the process by allowing for the use of the sending country’s special delivery or equivalent stamps on incoming mail for special delivery service within the receiving county. The special delivery fee for the service was set at 20 cents. Henry prepared January 1, 1923 FDCs for the revised service for each direction of mail flow. Covers
The U.S. expanded this special delivery service to other countries. A series of treaties was started in 1926 which resulted in more than 40 countries being added to the new reciprocity convention by the end of 1935. Henry’s job at the USPOD enabled him to be aware of many of the first days of implementation and he is known to have received back FDCs from each of 28 different countries that he sent covers to. He missed some countries because of insufficient announcement lead times or because covers were not returned to him from his contacts. Henry’s return address is on the back side of all of the covers. Cover
A New Headache
Henry was investigated in 1925 for the “possession of a quantity of postage stamps.” A letter in his USPOD personnel file is addressed to the Chief Post Office Inspector and reads:
Yesterday it was brought to your attention that Mr. Henry Hammelman, a clerk in the Division of Post Office Service, had pawned with George D. Horning, a pawn broker in this city, on April 13, 1925, uncancelled postage stamps, of various denominations, valued at $36, and on April 18,1925, stamps of the value of $48.
During the course of an interview with Mr. Hammelman today it developed that he has been a stamp collector since boyhood days, and when new issues are brought out by the Department he is also desirous of obtaining specimens of them, and it was for this reason that he pawned the stamps above referred to. It was also learned that at various time since September, 1923, Mr. Hammelman has pledged stamps with Horning, and at present has about $400 in pawn.
As a result of the interview, we are convinced the stamps pledged with Horning were secured honestly, and the unusual transactions had with the pawn broker are the work of a man who has little or no conception of the ordinary rules of business. No further action is therefore recommended.
There are no more comments in Henry’s file regarding the incident. Was it a problem of Henry not understanding business rules or the USPOD not understanding stamp collectors? It is also interesting that the memo states that Henry had started collecting stamps prior to the Pan-American Exposition mentioned by Mittermeier.
The First FDC Exhibitor?
The Second Philatelic Exhibition was held in New York City in 1926. Among the 499 stamp and cover exhibits was only one that can be called a FDC exhibit, that one belonging to Henry Hammelman. Its description reads:
Historical covers of the United States, postally used, during the World War and up to 1926, contained in two albums. The collection comprises covers with stamps postmarked on the first day of issue, including the only known complete collection of offset printed stamps, the current (definitive) set complete, all commemorative and coil stamps; a unique collection of first day covers of United states services (special delivery) abroad, also air mail covers postmarked on the first day or trip, chronologically arranged.
Other well-known FDC personalities had exhibits at the Exposition, but none of their exhibit summaries mention FDCs. Phillip Ward had two exhibits. The first specialized in stamps, proofs, and essays of the 1893 Columbian Issue. There is no mention of covers. His second exhibit was a collection of postal franks of the Presidents of the United States from Washington to Coolidge. Edward Worden had three exhibits: Sheets of nineteenth century United States stamps; Great Britain; Miscellaneous postage and revenue stamps. A. W. Filstrup of Covel Manufacturing showed the 10-cent issue of 1871-1877. Karl Koslowski had a Latvian exhibit. Leo Rutstein presented a first flight exhibit of covers carried on the first trans-continental flight from New York City to the Pacific coast. It is interesting that the fledgling air mail specialty had its own class at the Exhibition with 25 exhibits.
Was Henry the first formal exhibitor of a FDC exhibit? It’s hard to say for sure, but other possible claimants seemed to have other exhibiting interests. In any case, Henry was at the forefront of FDC exhibiting when the hobby of FDC collecting, as we know it, was in its infancy.
Henry had a fondness for full booklet panes (with selvage). His Scott 583a FDCs readily catch one’s eye. 583a As we will see later, he would frequently use booklet panes on air mail flight covers.
Air mail service was rapidly expanding after 1926 and Henry, like many other FDC servicers, became involved in preparing First Flight Covers (FFCs). His air mail interest would eventually equal, or even exceed, his interest in FDCs. There is evidence that this interest started much earlier. The Act of May 6, 1918 authorized the Post Office Department to carry mail by airplane and set the rate at 24 cents per ounce. The first air mail stamp (Scott C3), issued on May 13 of that year, was created to meet the new rate. The first flights using the stamp were made on May 15 between New York City, Philsdelphia, and Washington, DC. This marked the establishment of the first air mail route in the United States. Henry prepared a cover for the event, using a block of six of the new stamp (probably unique for the event), and sent it to stamp dealer Bartels in New York City. The cover is cancelled with a “First Trip” cancellation. Flight
Cacheted FDCs were starting to catch the fancy of collectors by this time. Even though some Hammelman FDCs from this period have a variety of cachets, I have found no real evidence that Henry was ever instrumental in preparing these cacheted covers and it must be assumed that the cachets are add-ons, that is, the cachets were applied by others after the covers had gone through the mail. However, one of the reasons why Henry was probably attracted to FFCs was that the Post Office Department was applying free hand-stamped cachets to foreign and domestic first flight covers. Covers
Henry had joined the APS as member #6628 in 1922. For some reason he discontinued his membership in 1928.
The Graf Zeppelin Issue
Henry became intrigued by the three stamp Graf Zeppelin issue of 1930. According to Mittermeier, Henry borrowed $1,200 to buy 300 sets, at a face value of $4.35 per set, and held onto them until they eventually reached a market value of $17 per set. His interest in the Zepps would eventually end his FDC exhibiting.
Henry finally reached the level of a Grade 4 clerk with a $1,980 per year salary in 1930. The pay increases had become significantly smaller after 1924 when his salary had been raised to $1,740 per year with a promotion to a Grade 1 clerk. The country was now feeling the effects of the depression and belts were being tightened. The Post Office Department was not an exception. Due to an “exigency in the Service”, 46 employees in the USPOD were dropped from the rolls “without prejudice” on July 31. 1933. Henry was among them. He had worked for the Postal Service for 33 years, the last 26 years being with the USPOD. An annuity of $1,200 per year under the Civil Service Act was granted to Henry. He could now spend 100 percent of his time in his true life’s interest.
Henry’s residence during much of the 1920s was at 8 Seventh Street, S.E. in Washington, DC. He moved to 42 B Street, S.W. in 1929. After retirement, he moved again and was living at 600 Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland. Some of his international treaty rate special delivery covers have that return address.
New York City
Henry moved to New York City in 1935 and lived at 214 Riverside Drive. Mittermeier stated that Henry lived with his brother, but research indicates that was not true. Henry’s brother Paul did indeed live in New York City, but at 180 West Street. Henry soon rented a two room office in the hub of the New York philatelic district at 116 Nassau Street and set up a cover business under the name of The Pioneer Stamp Company. His business should not be confused with others of the same name located in Kansas City and on the west coast. Mittermeier claims that Henry had a stock of 100,000 covers.
The Pioneer Stamp Co. Catalogue
Henry published in early 1936 a 28 page catalogue which listed FDCs, FFCs, and mint air mail stamps of the world. Catalogue He touted the FDC section of his catalogue as a complete list of the known U.S. FDCs, by FD city, of the twentieth century. Any covers priced were said to be for sale. His stock of pre 1922 covers was spotty and he had no Kansas-Nebraska covers, a series he never serviced. But otherwise, with only three exceptions, he apparently had every FDC for every FDC city from July, 1922 through November, 1935. You could get the 2-cent Lincoln FDC of 1909 for $20, a combination FDC with blocks of four for the Pilgrim stamps of 1920 for $20, the 1-dollar Capitol from Springfield for $10, the 2-cent Sullivan Expedition from all 15 FD cities for 25-cents per cover, a combination FDC of the three Zepps for $40, etc. It appears that Henry had acquired FDCs from other servicers. How and who is not known. A search of periodical advertising of the time shows no clues. Or did Henry overstate the extent of his stock of FDCs? Price List
In addition to new issue FDCs, the catalogue also included two pages of new postage rate covers for ordinary mail, air mail, and special delivery. The latter included his international reciprocity covers for 1923 through 1935.
Six pages of FFCs includes U.S. covers flown on regularly operated government routes, contract mail routes, and other flights operated under contract with the government. The stamps on the priced covers are mostly in blocks, coil strips, and booklet panes. Blocks Coils Panes There is a very detailed description of each FFC. Intrigued by this, I eventually amassed a fantastic collection of the FFCs, which, as a byproduct, has given me more insight into Henry’s servicing of covers. The catalogue also mentions that many flight covers with fewer stamps were available upon request for lower prices. Another nine pages includes air mail stamps from 57 countries.
A Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News columnist said of Henry’s catalogue, “It is considerably more complete than any other such recently seen. A few more like it would be of considerable benefit to the cover hobby.” I found this to be true when I compared it to Scott’s 1936 U.S. Specialized Catalogue and Leo August’s 1936 U.S. Specialized Catalogue of FDCs.
The 1936 International Philatelic Exhibition (TIPEX) was held in New York City. Among the 859 exhibits were six FDC exhibits. They competed in categories which consisted mainly of nineteenth century exhibits. Henry’s exhibit, First Day Cancellations of the 20th Century, consisted of one display frame of covers and three albums of covers held by the exhibitor for examination by the judging jury. The covers were undoubtedly from his personal collection. The other FDC exhibits were shown by John Paalzow, Wilbur Vakiener, Lena Wohn, Norman Enrenberg, and Robert Paulson, a junior collector. Henry earned a trophy for the best FDC exhibit. None of the other FDC exhibits earned awards. Philip Ward was there, but none of his eight exhibits mentioned FDCs. There was also an Air Mail Section of 98 exhibits. Air mail collectors were more organized than FDC collectors at that time. Henry had an air mail exhibit, U.S. Government Flights: 1918 to 1926, which earned a silver medal.
Henry was keenly interested in Zeppelin covers. When he significantly over committed himself at auction while acquiring these covers, he had to sell his personal collection of FDCs to Mittermeier to make up the difference. This put an end to his FDC exhibiting, but he did build up a Zeppelin collection which included 125 complete sets of the Scott C13-15 Zeppelins, all on flown cover.
The Facts of Life
Even though Henry probably started his new business with great zeal, It appears that he was not much of a businessman and with the poor economy, times became difficult for him. Herman Herst, a fellow Nassau Street dealer, said of Henry: “When Henry needed lunch money (and this was as often as six times a week), he would come to our office with an envelope bearing a cancelled block of Scott 541. They were always fearfully off center. When he needed rent money, he might bring in several. Several times he did offer a complete set of Pilgrims on FDC. It never came down to quoting us a price, we simply did not have buyers for such items. Every time we see a copy of #541, we think of Henry. Every cover we purchased from him was soaked. At one time we had over 1,000 copies of #541 on hand. They just didn’t sell and we dreaded noon of succeeding days when we knew he would be in with one more cover. It was difficult to decline their purchase. The gaunt appearance of the unshaven dealer, wearing clothes which could be correctly described as rags, was not one which enabled one to decline with good conscience.” 541 cover
Some philatelic historians claim that Herst was prone to exaggerating his recollections, but Mittermeier does confirm some of Herst’s observations. “Henry had a hard time making sales of the earlier issues after the cacheted covers came along. He never really was a businessman in the strict sense of the word and whenever he needed money, he would become somewhat easier to deal with.” Allan Thatcher, another cover dealer, recalled the following of Henry. “Among his stock of FDCs were the parcel post FDCs, most of which I purchased. He was not a businessman and just about gave the material away, charging only about 30 cents each for such covers.”
Sandy Zuckerman recalls that when Harvey Dolin & Company was preparing a FDC price list in 1941, Henry suggested that they include some of his covers. In addition to many of his earlier covers, it was decided that Henry would also put up half of 50 sets that he had of the high valued 1938 Presidentials, all cacheted. “There was not much interests in FDCs during the war years then and most of Henry’s covers were still available in 1944 when the price list was being updated. Henry became tired of the venture and sold off his FDCs at bargain prices, several going for one-half face value.” There is no mention of how Henry acquired the Presidential FDCs and how they can be identified is not known.
Herst also mentions that “Henry was a loner and had no close friends. He, never to our knowledge, attended a stamp club meeting, nor did he share his knowledge in the philatelic press.” Mittermeier reinforces this image by stating of Henry: “After leaving his office each day, he would go to Times Square and stay there until twelve or one o’clock in the morning. During the 1939-40 World’s Fair, he remained at the Fair every night until closing.” It is not known when Mittermeier and Henry became friends, but Mittermeier did say that “the two of us have spent many a pleasant hour discussing stamps, FDCs, and the (philatelic) goings on in Washington.”
Life Goes On
Henry continued to exhibit from his air mail collection. His exhibit, Historical Airposts, received a gold medal at the Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition (CIPEX) in New York City in 1947.
Hammelman New York City Covers
I have found only a handful of covers from Henry’s New York City era that I can definitely tie to him. This scarcity might be traced to my activity level in looking for such covers, the lack of identification keys to such covers, and the fact that he may not have been very active in servicing covers. I think a “key” could really help since I have seen a number of covers that my intuition says could be Hammelman covers.
There are just a few covers addressed to Henry. One involves the Hindenburg Zeppelin. The first trip of the Hindenburg to the United States was timed to coincide with the Third International Philatelic Exhibition being held in New York City in May, 1936. Henry, like many cover collectors, received Hindenburg first flight covers. One year later, the Hindenburg returned to the United states and had its fatal crash at Lakehurst. A number of the German survivors were taken to Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan: probably because there was a high percentage of the staff there who spoke German. In fact, prior to World War I, the hospital was called the German Hospital. The crew survivors did sign some autographs for people during their hospital stay. It’s easy to visualize Henry taking advantage of that opportunity since his parents were born in Germany, he probably spoke some German, and his apartment was only three miles away from the hospital. Henry obtained signatures on one of his 1936 Hindenburg covers. Hindenburg Other covers addressed to Henry include a 1937 FFC for a Honolulu flight to Hongkong and a 1940 FFC for a San Francisco flight to New Zealand. Covers
The majority of the remaining covers are addressed to Miss Marie Nathan and to Miss Miriam Wiener. These covers were all sent to the Pioneer Stamp Company or to Room 816, Henry’s office number, at 116 Nassau Street. I do not know the ladies’ relationship to Henry. Herman Herst mentioned that Henry had possibly married an (unnamed) African-American woman. New York City records do not support his claim. Henry was a bachelor. There are no New York City directories to be checked for this period. However, the 1940 United States Census records shows that both ladies were Caucasian and Nathan was an older woman who had been born in Germany. Some of the covers are Sidenius air mail FDCs. FDCs I have seen duplicates of these addressed covers on eBay. Other covers addressed to them are international FFCs. Covers.
There are also FFCs for helicopter service in the Las Angeles area. One cover has a rubber stamped address to Henry and another cover has a H1 Hammelman script addressed to Miss Nathan, both sent to 116 Nassau Street. Covers
There are a fair number of Hammelman serviced FDCs that have add-on cachets. Mellone’s 1994 Planty Photo Encyclopedia of Cacheted FDCs, Volume 1, 1901-1928 shows 600-2, 627-27, 635-2, and 643-10, all Hammelman serviced FDCs, with cachets. In each case, the photo is accompanied by the words “probably added.” I have seen another reference that calls Scott 627 Hammelman’s first cacheted FDC. I don’t think so. My searches over the years has revealed significantly more uncacheted versions of that Hammelman cover than cacheted versions. I do not believe that Henry personally made the transition to cacheted FDCs. It appears that he did allow some servicers to apply cachets to his already serviced covers. John Sidenius is probably the most known of those servicers. FDC(702) FDC(720) In fact, as mentioned earlier with some air mail FDCs, Sidenius did send his own serviced cacheted covers to Henry and the Pioneer Stamp Company. I also have several copies of Sedenius’ 1936 Texas Centennial FDC (Scott 776) addressed to Henry at 116 Nassau Street and at his residence. FDC There is even one addressed to Henry’s brother Paul. I hope that no one ever gets around to adding cachets to Henry’s early covers. In my eyes, and those of many others, the cachets would mar the covers.
Henry’s Last Known Covers
Henry serviced covers for the first day of a new air mail parcel post service that went into effect on September 1, 1948. There are four known covers, all similarly addressed in Henry’s handwriting, to Robert L. Jones of Philadelphia. These FFCs represent a span of 35 years since Henry’s first (parcel post) FDC made in 1913. Cover
I recently (December, 2016) came across a 1950 cover. It’s interesting that even though it is addressed to Henry, the address is not Nassau Street, but a P.O. box number. See the comment about retirement in next paragraph. Latest
The Remaining Years
According to Heins, Henry sold off his stock to Mittermeier upon his retirement from the stamp trade in 1950. The reference to this claim can not be established. Mittermeier makes no mention of this in his articles, though he does say in a 1967 article about Henry’s 100,000 covers, “which have gone into numberous collections.” However, some veteran stamp dealers from that era, including Lou Robbins, felt that the bulk of his stock of covers never came back on the market after the Pioneer Stamp Company closed. I believe this includes his FDCs and domestic FFCs. A major exception to the various claims is that Henry sold his vast inventory of trans-oceanic FFCs in a 1954 H. R. Harmer auction.
Henry died in New York City on October, 16, 1957. According to Thatcher, he died in poverty. Henry is buried in the Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, NJ. Certificate A search of philatelic periodicals of the time finds a mention of Henry’s death only in Linn’s. Linn’s It mentions that the Pioneer Stamp Company was the mecca for collectors and dealers with “tough” want lists. My intuition tells me that Mittermeier was responsible for the Linn’s obituary.
Mittermeier said of his friend: “He made FDCs when hardly anyone was collecting them. Philately and especially covers, were his whole life. I doubt that anybody today realizes how much he contributed to FDC collecting by his knowledge and perseverance. On the other hand, I doubt that there is a FDC collection of any merit today which doe not contain some of his covers.” Amen.