At the turn of the 19th century trade cards were at the height of their popularity and albums were available to mount them. Children liked to cut them up and create their own unique scrapbooks. Adults kept records of the travels of their friends and themselves with albums full of postcards. So with these tendencies of the times it's no wonder that stamp collectors were just that, folks who ripped the stamp off their covers to put in their albums. It was just the style of the times, though following generations of cover collectors have bemoaned the waste.
Technology in the form of motion pictures would get peoples' heads out of their scrapbooks and their bodies into theaters to see the new miracle of film. The world weathered its first war. The Jazz Age came to ease things a bit and soon disappeared in a puff of smoke. The country had been riding high but fell into the Great Depression. Another war had everybody cutting back, saving copper and fat and finding doses of patriotism with stamps and covers.
Collecting was all about the stamps until Robson Lowe (aka the father of postal history) came along to show collectors that cancellations and other markings on their stamps on envelopes could add up to not only added interest, put extra dollars as well.
Stamps and the Movies
What really got people out in the early part of the 20th century was a new technology we now call the movies. In fact the USPS has been good in issuing stamps to commemorate American film, including classic films, and popular actors and actresses like Henry Fonda and Marilyn Monroe, among many others. Most recently, 2012's Great Directors, including Capra and Ford was issued. The variety of first day covers (FDC's) for this popular area is mind boggling and includes blockbusters like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.
Covers have traced movies from the very first film in 1903, which, believe it or not was shot in New Jersey. A marvelous collection of film related material can be put together quite reasonably from souvenir postcard folders to the stars homes, to fan mail sent to stars often poignantly found with markings indicating that the missive never reached its intended recipient.
The Philatelic Machine Hits its Golden Age
Chicago was also in on the big railway news with the new version of the streamlined 20th century limited traveling between New York and Chicago in a remarkable 16 hours in the late 1930s. Not only were covers carried on the train's first trip, but the locomotive itself was commemorated on one of the All Aboard series of postcards issued in 1998.
As the decade progressed the United States, while feeling the war jitters coming from the European situation, was nevertheless hitting another stride of prosperity that would be capped at decade's end with the 1939 world's fair. But some truly happy news for stamp collectors had come earlier, when one of their own, Franklin Roosevelt was elected president. FDR's campaign in the philatelic world included the phrase "Put A Stamp Collector In The White House."
After FDR the country would have two presidents on the opposite end of the charisma scale. Truman and Ike didn't have a clue as to how to create the cult of personality that Roosevelt had created around himself. In any event it wasn't their style anyway. It wouldn't be until JFK that once again the country would have a celebrity president like FDR, whose every move, both political and personal was of intense interest.
Ike never sought the spotlight, preferring to be the laidback paternal figure and voice of reason for the nation. Of course, philatelically he was well-known from his appearance on countless commemorative patriotic covers as General Eisenhower, hero of D-day and other WWII campaigns and events.
Stamp Collecting After the Golden Age
And in fact, Kennedy signals the next period when there is a shot adrenaline into the American society and by reflex into the world of collecting. The Beatles, the space race, the escalating of the cold war has added immensely to the stocks of stamps and covers. Without the Mercury capsule, perhaps there would be no shuttle covers, just as without the Sanitary Fair covers with special stamps to raise money for wounded Civil War vets there would be no covers like fundraisers for pets from Ellen Degneres, for all animals through PETA with stars like Pamela Anderson or Madonna collectible covers for victims of aids. Or consider Christmas Seals and earlier tuberculosis seals used as fundraisers, though also residing in many stamp collections.
If any dare doubt that Americans do not take care of their own, including from the days of the War Between the States, up to today, invite them to read our mail. Or if they don't want to take the time to read, just take a look at our covers.