Stamp Collecting in the 1930’s

Philately in the 1930s was defined by two major events- one of major historical import-the Great Depression which virtually destroyed the world wide economy and the other with only philatelic importance- the rise of the stamp dealing firm of H E Harris. Our current economic malaise is serious so imagine how our unemployment rate would feel if it was four times higher than it is now-nearly 40% as it was in 1932. And this in a population of largely one wage earner families so unemployment always meant destitution. There was no unemployment insurance, and bank failures affected nearly everyone because when a bank failed people lost their money as there was no Federal bank insurance. People were not inconvenienced, they were impoverished. And yet stamp collecting flourished and in fact made its first foray into mainstream America. Led by the H E Harris company, which produced the Captain Tim radio show that promoted philately, Harris offered a wide range of inexpensive packets and albums to introduce people to the hobby. And philately was a great hobby for people with lots of time on their hands and little money. It was cheap, required no monthly fees, and the travel it offered was in the collector’s mind.  It was informative and educational and inculcated the values of thrift and study which a fearful and economically distressed population desired. Probably a higher percentage of Americans collected stamps during the 1930s than at any time before or since.

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