By Nathaniel Gilchrist P.M.
I would venture a guess that the majority of us at one time or another in our lives, whether it be as a youth or even in our adulthood, still have or had a coin or stamp collection. Stamp collecting, specifically Masonic Stamp collecting, has always been an interesting and very popular pastime in the Masonic Fraternity. Stamp collectors are known as Philatelists.
Certainly Masonic Stamp collecting has long been an interest that Masons have been hugely passionate about and participate in a wide variety of ways. The Fraternity has published Masonic stamp information articles, Masonic stamp collecting guides, specific Masonic stamp overviews in fraternal quarterly publications, and has supported numerous Masonic stamp collection clubs. These activities have been a part of the Fraternities involvement and support in recognizing the popularity of Masonic Stamp collecting. Masonic Stamp collecting has long been a major area of interest with Masons not only domestically, but throughout the world.
The United States Postal Service, as well as the world postal services, have also recognized the significance of the Masonic Fraternity through the vast array of domestic and international Masonic stamps that have been published for decades. In fact, it is said that a search for all the possible domestic and international masonic stamps would be monumental a task, and if ever accomplished would resemble more of an encyclopedia of masonic stamps than a collection!
So, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I discovered a Masonic Stamp Collection among the archives of the Andrew Hershey Lodge materials a few years ago. The collection consists of four volumes of stamps and/or support materials.
Of the four volumes, two volumes contain the actual stamp collection, with one volume devoted to Presidential Masons and Famous Masons. The second volume is devoted to International Masonic stamps. The other two volumes consist of documentation in the form of Masonic Stamp Club newsletters from the past, and specific cataloging of stamps in the collection, newspaper articles, and other miscellaneous stamp information that was maintained and cataloged by the creator of this collection.
The collection had been the property of Andrew Hershey Lodge member Maurice Chas. Stallsmith. While I can find no specific records indicating how this stamp collection became the property of the Andrew Hershey Lodge, my assumption is that Brother Stallsmith donated the collection to the Andrew Hershey Lodge prior to his death in 1974, or it was donated to Andrew Hershey Lodge after his death by his family.
Andrew Hershey Lodge records indicate Brother Maurice Chas. Stallsmith was a 50-year mason! He was entered, passed, and raised in Neoga Lodge No. 279 in Neoga Illinois in 1923-1924. He moved to Lancaster in 1950 and transferred into the Andrew Hershey Lodge.
Brother Stallsmith briefly served as Secretary for Andrew Hershey Lodge, but it appears he took on a much lengthier and more dedicated role as one of the Lodge historians. In that role, he was very active in retaining newspaper articles on anything that was published about Andrew Hershey Lodge or the local Masonic fraternity. There is also correspondence on various subjects he pursued in his role as historian. He compiled a vast quantity of articles and newspaper clippings on masonic stamps which he included in the collection as reference material.
It is obvious he was passionate about stamp collecting and appeared to be a true Philatelist, specifically by evidence of his Masonic Stamp Collection, which I will identify as the “Maurice C. Stallsmith Masonic Stamp Collection”.
Initially when I found the collection, and admittedly knowing nothing about stamps, I thought I had uncovered a virtual treasure chest of stamps by the fact that many of the stamps dated back into the 1800’s. The George Washington collection of stamps is quite significant as an example, with the earliest one dated 1861.
In researching some specific Presidential stamps online I found what I thought were examples of very rare stamps that were quite valuable. I was to find out later, like coin collecting, there are some very specific minute details that differentiate the valued rare example from the like version of the same stamp. Our research has shown the examples in the collection are not the rare versions, however, it does not distract from the beauty and significance of this very skillfully prepared Masonic collection of US and International Postage Stamps.
Initially, I thought I would have the collection evaluated by a professional stamp Philatelist but was quickly cautioned that the cost to do so would more than likely far exceed the value of the collection. This is a common occurrence that can be very costly only to learn that the collection has no significant value.
I became aware, through one of our Lodge Trustees, of Robert and Jason Martin, father/son local Masons who are very knowledgeable and actively involved stamp philatelists. I came to understand they often provide presentations and publish papers on the subject, and their expertise in Philanthropy is quite significant and highly regarded.
In contacting both Jason and his father Robert, both were very happy to accommodate us with a professional courtesy evaluation of the collection. Their combined findings revealed that while there were no specific high value rarities, the collection itself was very nicely done, and was a very nice representation of a variety of Masonic stamps. It would be a valued addition to the Albert L. Einolf Museum.
The “Maurice C. Stallsmith Masonic Stamp Collection” follows a very specific recommended organization of Masonic Stamp Collections. Presidential Masons, Famous Masons, Masonic Buildings, Masonic Symbolism, and Masonic Legends both for domestic stamps as well as international postage stamps. It also includes a page of Anti-Masonic Postage Stamps that were produced in 1941 as issued in Serbia when they were under German occupation.
Presidential Masonic Stamps
Brother Stallsmith in his collection provided a brief Masonic history of each individual Masonic President on their individual title page, followed by his collection of issued postage stamp or stamps that have honored them.
Each Masonic President was honored with at least one postage stamp. In the collection George Washington for example is represented with 57 different stamps! The earliest in the George Washington collection is dated 1861. (see Figure 1)
Our James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, has been honored with only 2 stamps, both of which are part of the collection. In 1938 his portrait appeared on a fifteen-cent stamp. There was also a three-cent stamp issued with his home, Wheatland, displayed on the stamp. No date of issue is indicated on the Wheatland stamp. There is also a “first day of issue” postcard dated August 5, 1956 included in the collection. (see Figure 2)
There are 15 Masonic Presidents represented in the collection in total.
Famous Mason Stamps
There are sixty-two Famous Masons, in addition to the fifteen Presidents identified in the Volume One of the 2 volume collection. Each Famous Mason Stamp includes a statement of their Masonic history and hi-lights their most significant contribution(s) to society for which they are associated.
The collection also includes “first day of issue” post cards some as early as 1948 and 1949 representing Teddy Roosevelt and Will Rodgers “first day of issue” examples. There are many other “first day of issue” examples in the collection dated in the 1950’s.
International Masonic Stamps
Volume Two of the collection represents a very diverse collection of Masonic Symbols, Symbolism, as well as International Famous Masons, among them Kings and Political Leaders of the world. (see Figure 3)
The postage stamps reveal how prominent Freemasonry has been in the world as reflected on the stamps by the various working tools, the Bible, and masonic symbolism that has been produced over the ages.
The Masonic Kings of the World collection reflects dozens of stamps of Masonic Kings from ten different countries spanning many decades of world history.
Also included in Volume Two of the collection are the many different “first day of issue” stamps. “First day of Issue” stamps are post marked on the day of issue on a printed post card representative of the stamp being issued. Included among the “Maurice C. Stallsmith Collection” of “first day of issue” is the James Buchanan Wheatland stamp.
Albert L. Einolf Museum Display
The “Maurice C. Stallsmith Masonic Stamp Collection” will be maintained in the Albert L. Einolf Museum in a locked display case. It would not be possible to physically display every page of the collection as space simply does not allow. However, realizing there are avid Philatelists in our fraternity who may like to review this masonic collection, that can be arranged. The collection cannot be physically removed from the museum. You can however make an appointment through Nat Gilchrist, Lodge 43 Museum Curator, and physically view the entire collection on the premises at a pre-arranged time.
The “Maurice C. Stallsmith Masonic Stamp Collection” represents an amazing collection that undoubtably encompassed the work of the 50 year Masonic Life of our brother Maurice Chas Stallsmith from 1924 until the time of his death in 1974. We now can honor him and his work by bringing forth this collection, putting it on display, and making it available for review for everyone, most especially the Philatelists among the fraternity.