As stamp collectors, philatelists, many of us manage several collections—all seemingly simultaneously. I have always been in awe of those able to keep multiple things straight. My mind is much too cluttered to permit this particular form of mental gymnastics. It is easier for me to keep things simple and focus on just one collection at a time. Although I have several collections, I focus best on one at a time. Consequently, I frequently forget what I have lurking in the albums lining the wall in my stamp room.
The other day, I pulled out a couple of albums that hadn’t seen the light of day for a few years. I wanted to show some of my “stuff” to friends. As I turned the pages, I experienced a sense of wonder. As it was turned, each page showed new surprises and delights. Is wonderment the word? It was fun recovering my memory and enjoying this wonderful hobby.
We had the same experience of rediscovery as we packed up the Clubhouse for the movers. It is one thing to be aware of our material and books. It is an altogether different experience to handle the material personally. To hold the books in your hands. Sure, you knew we had the items in the library at the Clubhouse, but encountering them anew is a special feeling.
There are wondrous items in our Clubhouse. Old albums and catalogs from before the turn of the 20th century. Photographs of Club dinners from the 1910s. A Confederate adversity letter written on repurposed wallpaper. A treasure trove of John Luff’s philatelic medals. The gold medallion signifying Alfred Lichtenstein’s selection as the leading philatelist of the first half of the 20th century. Wow! Plus, we had a lot of philatelic material, i.e., stamps, stored in the Clubhouse vault—some exceptional collections donated by members years ago.
Amongst all this, we came across something extraordinary. We found a portfolio containing a group of hand-drawn images of architectural details, mostly lighting fixtures. The firm that produced them, “Cassidy Company, 101 Park Avenue, New York City,” was stamped in the upper left-hand corner of each page. One of the images we found was a lighting fixture in the form of a globe. This may have been an early drawing of the lighting fixture that hung in the center of the 2nd floor of 22 East 35th, between the front lounge and the presentation room. This globe forms the basis of our Club’s logo today. The drawing is exquisite and has multiple colors and fanciful images drawn into it. Not having been around at the time, we surmise that this was an early sketch that eventually led to the final design. This sketch is to be treasured and preserved. We hope to display this in our new Clubhouse and not have it just squirreled away in a vault.
Why do I bring all of this up? What does it have to do with anything?
We recognize the mixed emotions many of you have regarding this move. Many of our members have great affection for the stairs, the columns, and the very fabric of the building. There are memories of conversations with many greats of our hobby. So, there is a natural fear that with our leaving the building, we will lose sight and contact with our past.
This is not going to happen.
Let’s take, as an example, the Luff medals. They were in a display table in the 2nd-floor lounge. A lamp rested on top of the glass. We needed a locksmith to open the display table. There was no “write-up” for the medals. I don’t think people “knew” they were there. I doubt any attention was paid to them. At least for a long time. Unfortunately, the medals have deteriorated. We will need to have them conserved. We will do this. But, more importantly, they will be displayed appropriately. These things matter.
There were some real treasures in our vault. But no one saw them. They were locked away. Because of our move, we recognize these items anew and will make them accessible. Could we all agree to make precious philatelic material available for viewing or returned to the philatelic market? Sitting in a vault, unseen, does no one any good.
Our Library was split into four separate rooms. In our new home, it will be united into a single space. It’s that the way it ought to be? I was speaking with a member the other day, and it became clear that this division of the Library was not helpful. I asked him to imagine the entire Library on the same floor. The word is accessible. Our truly amazing collection of journals will no longer be figuratively buried in the basement, and our rare books in a rarely visited 3rd-floor room. And we now have control over our auction catalogs. Plus, they are now being properly stored.
We all collect stamps and covers. By nature, we seek to preserve and retain. We have been doing this at the Club and will continue to do this. But we will make these gems available and visible.
We have started to discuss details with our architect, and our new home will be an extraordinary place. Promise. What will make it even better will be your plan to see the Clubhouse in our new space? Stay tuned. Good things are worth the wait.