Album Gossip

I have seen a stamp album – a blank one, by the way – whose clean, white pages no writing of any kind mars, not even the date of issue of the stamps, but which contains a mine of information and is moreover a storehouse of interesting tales. The owner originally intended only to make a description as to watermark, perforation, etc., on the space for each stamp before he inserted it but later developed it into placing thereunder any stray items of interest that might be connected with the stamps, in fine handwriting.

That this is not necessarily a dry, uninteresting detail of former owners and may add incalculable interest to any collection, I shall endeavor to show by the following imaginary gossip between two stamps, a common U.S. 2-cent current issue and a Western Australia 4-pence rose, representing two extremes of the album and also two great nationalities, on their neighboring stamps, all of which gossip might with a little stretch of his imagination be embodied in the real facts which any collector might write beneath his stamps as a history of acquisition. Such memoranda not only add to a collector’s interest in his own collection but give it added value when it passes into the hands of another, since counterfeits, dates of issue of obsolete stamps and causes for peculiar cancellations, etc., can often be traced with comparative ease by such data. It may also lead the collector to value more highly those stamps which he removes from original covers which have told him their history, and value less those which he purchases from a dealer, and thus lead him back to the original interest and aims of stamp-collecting.


“Good morning, Miss Western Australia. How are you and all your folks?”

“Quite well, thank you, Mr. Two-Cent Carmine. My Aunt Sixpence Lilac has been feeling sort of worn out for a while back but she went to the stamp repairers this morning and is feeling as bright and well ever now.”

“I’ve got a little cold myself. Been taking some important dispatches up to a press correspondent in the Klondyke region and the change from the balmy air of Washington to forty below zero gave me a cold on the lungs.”

Dear me. You ought to take something right away. I’ll tell you what is good. Six-cent orange Proprietary was telling me about it this morning. It seems she was living with a bottle of Koff’s Lung Balm. A certain doctor prescribed it for a philatelist sick with consumption. He was almost gone when he began on the first bottle but began to pick up immediately and was a well man in three weeks. Some folks say it was the sight of the Six-cent Proprietary on the bottle and the not the medicine that cured him, but at any rate I would try it.”

“Thank you. Say, are you acquainted with that Nicaragua stamp over there?”

“No, we British Colonials never associate with Seebecks.”

“He has a rather interesting history, though, and is a pretty good fellow when you get to know him well. He came up from the Mosquito Coast and landed in New Orleans at the time of the yellow fever epidemic of in 1897. They were using disinfecting canceling machines there then which perforated holes all through the envelopes and stamps and he got several scars - you can see them on his face yet although they are nearly healed by Bilkins Patent Repair Hinges.”

“Oh, is that what those marks are? I didn’t know but it was smallpox.”

“Who is that there?”

“That is Sir Dominica One-shilling, C.A.”

Aha, some of your nobility. You English Colonials have so many titled heads. Almost everyone you meet is a C.C. or a C.A.”

“Yes, we are most all of royal blood, with crown watermark.”

Speaking of watermarks reminds me of my own. Some people claim that I have one and some that I am of the 1895 No Watermark issue. Confidentially, I’ll tell you I think I have one but it would never have been seen.”

“Dear me. You shock me. It is horrid to pun so. I really hope you do not use benzine.”

“Have to, you know. Regular diet. You folks with good constitutions and plain watermarks don’t know anything about it. Now, there is a family over there with more original check than any other I knew,” indicating a set of unused Hawaiians.”

“Original gum, you mean.”

“Well, it’s all the same thing. They are so stuck up and think they are the most privileged people in the world and yet they never carried a letter or did anything useful in their lives. Just because they were given away by King KalaKau to a friend in the United States they think they are better than common folks.”

“There’s one of our new neighbors just moved in. Surcharged Newfoundland. They tell me he was sent with a marked letter that was mailed to catch a post office clerk who was suspected of taking stamps off letters and packages. The clerk fell into the trap and was convicted through the evidence of this stamp, losing his position and just escaping imprisonment.

“That reminds me of the good old times of ’93 that my Uncle One-dollar Columbian used to tell about, when post office clerks frequently ‘held up’ high value stamps as rich booty. So annoying did this become that Uncle One-dollar, when sent out to carry a package of stamp albums, was protected after cancellation by a coat-of-mail, a sheet of thin, transparent mica, and so arrived safely. I also had a relative who once tried to pass through the mail without a passport, which as you know is the cancellation. Or rather his owner, a Chinaman, tried to pass him through. After attaching him to the letter he smeared him all over with a thin gum that hardened and which was almost invisible, so that the cancellation took effect on this coating only and did not touch my cousin. He went to China, had the varnish washed off, came back and started to go again but was caught in the act. At the trial he turned state’s evidence on the Chinaman and got off Scott free. He’s the Twenty-four cent purple on the next page.”

“It seems to me that Three-cent 1861 is looking brighter.”

“Yes, poor thing, she was in pretty bad condition when she first came, feeble and poor color, but she’s been taking peroxide and is getting back her color again. She was quite rosy once but an experience she has had turned her gray.”

“Do tell me about it.”

“She was in the Washington post office in 1865. Next door was the B. & O. Telegraph office. There was a brown Telegraph stamp there that she used to chat with quite often through the open window. She grew to think a great deal of him. One day they quarreled over something – a trifle. She accused him of being fast. He retorted that she was as slow as a mail wagon. She replied in a sarcastic tone that he was Complimentary and thanked him frigidly. Just then the window slammed down. The shot that jarred a whole nation might have caused it. President Lincoln was shot. The Telegraph Stamp was sent to a far Northern city to tell the news; the Three-cent 1861 was sent to the far West. They never met again. She is here; he is in some collector’s album far away, and they quarreled at parting.”

“Yes, she was a little older; born in 1851. How she hated to be called Imp. ‘Don’t call me an Imp,’ she would say. ‘I am Imperforate.’ She went off on a Star route somewhere and has never been heard from. What queer folks stamps are. Now there’s old Mauritius over there. Claims close relationship to the original Post Office Mauritius and carries her chin two dots in the medallion frame higher in consequence. But what did she ever do of note? No one knows; carried a letter doubtless, or perhaps it was on a paper or package, from some British sailor to no one knows who in England. While over there is a common Brazilian stamp who brought the news of Dom Pedro’s fall to a court of Europe.”

(A Three-cent Canadian Jubilee approaches.)

“Hello, Aunt Spec.”

“You are very disrespectful. Why do you call me that?”

“Oh, come now, you know you are speculative. You can’t deny it.”

“Our family is just as respectable as your rich Uncle Dollar Columbians. Good day.”

“Ho, ho, ho. Goes off on her ear. Double-faced old lady, that. But she’s not far off about Uncle Columbian.”

“They tell me there are rumors of a new addition to your family. Do tell me, is it true?”

“Please don’t speak of it. That Omaha Exposition business is a sore point with us. It will bring disgrace on us all.”

“Oh dear, here comes that Native Indian State. He is a regular Bhore. He wearies me so.”

“Did he ever tell you how he came to this country?”


“It seems an American autograph collector wanted Rudyard Kipling’s ‘fist’ and wrote to him in India for it. Rudyard was up there in the jungles somewhere stalking tigers or elephants or something (that’s another story, anyhow) and wrote him from there that owning to an accident to his arm he was unable to hold a pen and signed it and sent the Bhore stamp with it down to Calcutta, where one of the regular Indian stamps joined it and they came over to New York together. Rudyard’s arm is still a little lame, I hear.”

“Well, here comes your match.”

“Hello, Ives. How do you feel?”

“Blue, blue.”

“What’s the matter?”

“If you’d been through what I have I guess you’d feel blue. You know our relatives on pink paper are held in high esteem and I being but a common paper envied them and wanted to be like them. S I tried to blush to see if I couldn’t make my complexion pink but in the effort I set fire to the matches whose wrapper I was attached to and the factory caught. I barely escaped by leaping from a three-story window to the ground, where a street urchin collector picked me up unconscious. I am the only one saved. Wouldn’t you feel blue?”

“Hot stuff, isn’t he?” to Miss Australia, as Ives Match passes on. “Wonder Robie hasn’t signed him for his circus. What’s all that noise? What is everyone running out for?”

“A Counterfeit. A Counterfeit. Put him out. A counterfeit Numeral Hawaii. Off with him to Molokai. Off with him to the leper colony at the end of the album. That’s the place for all counterfeits. Come on, come on. Let’s hustle him.”

(Exieunt all.)