Vol. XXVII No. 1 — January 1949

Masonic Postage Stamps

The combination of philately with the study of Masonry has been most fascinatingly described by W. Bro. George B. Clark of Denver, Colorado, whose beautifully illustrated study, A Masonic Stamp Collection has just been issued by The Masonic Service Association.

Many countries have issued numerous postage stamps of Masonic interest and significance. Brother Clark’s personal collection, which he states is far from complete, contains in its foreign section alone four hundred sixty stamps commemorative of more than a hundred great Masons in thirty-eight foreign countries. In his United States collection — which forms the basis of his illustrated book — are one hundred sixty-eight stamps, almost all of them issued by this nation; a very few, commemorative of American Masons, were issued by foreign countries.

In his description of how to combine Masonry and postage stamps, Bro. Clark states:

A Masonic stamp collection is made of ordinary postage stamps each of which bears the portrait of a Mason or has some particular Masonic significance. Then, accompany each Masonic picture with a short sketch of the life and activities of the subject together with his Masonic record.

Begin with the United States because that is closest and most familiar. The United States Post Office Department publishes periodically a booklet descriptive of all U.S. stamps issued. Postage stamps have been issued to honor all Presidents of the United States from Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt and ninety-nine historical characters among whom no less than thirty-four have Masonic records.

Some prefer stamps that have not seen postal service; they are called “new,” “unused,” or “mint” copies. However, many collectors prefer to know that the stamp has actually been used in postal service. For purposes of clarity of reproduction, the United States portion of my study is illustrated by unused stamps, but I have in my files copies actually used, which I, personally, prefer.

Where to find the information? Watch Masonic magazines for biographical or Masonic information concerning prominent Masons. Read Masonic books and histories and, with the list of portraits on stamps before you, it will soon be easy to match Masonic records and stamps.

Having the United States Masonic collection in hand, it is advisable to study the foreign Masonic situation because in most of the foreign countries there are many Masons honored by portraits on their countries’ stamps. Many of the heroes and liberators and the distinguished civil and political leaders there were members of the Craft.

Study the latest stamp catalog, country by country, and make a list for each country of all stamps which carry portraits of, or monuments to, its prominent men. These lists or cards are then arranged alphabetically for ready reference. Continue reading Masonic literature and whenever the name of a prominent Mason in a foreign country appears, consult the stamp list. You will be surprised to find how many names appear on both lists.

Several prominent figures in United States history have been honored on stamps of foreign countries. Among these are George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Charles A. Lindbergh and Will Rogers, all of them Masons. These stamps may be parts of a Masonic stamp collection with credit given to the country so honoring them.

It is advisable also to take cognizance of the Anti-Masonic movements as represented on stamps; e.g. the Serbian Anti-Masonic stamp issue of 1941. Sometimes a controversy has arisen as to whether or not a certain person was or was not a Mason. If he has been pictured on a stamp, I include the stamp and a brief sketch of both sides of the argument. Count Tolstoi of Russia is an example.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to make such a collection complete — indeed, that is one of its charms. “Completeness” will differ with each collector; some will want only portraits of Masons; some will confine their Masonic postage stamps to non-portraits; some will have a very inclusive, others a restricted formula. There are few limits to the idea and those very wide.

In Bro. Clark’s United States collection of stamps of Masonic significance are only portraits and scenes of Masonic significance. But this limited classification may be extended. For instance, the parcel post stamps of 1912-1913 include a fifteen cent stamp showing an automobile used in collecting mail. The machine is apparently a Ford. Ford was a Mason. The Lexington-Concord commemorative stamps, issued 1925, delineate three patriotic scenes. Warren and Revere, both associated with the first battles of the Revolution, were Masons. A Charleston, South Carolina, commemorative stamp was issued in 1930. Charleston is the “See” of Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Masonry and with both city and Rite are associated great names in Masonry.

Then there are the Revenue Stamps, some of which bear portraits of great Masons (DeWitt Clinton, for instance). On some private proprietary revenue stamps are to be found some Masonic symbols, such as beehive, all-seeing eye, treasurer’s key. Some postmasters have used hand-cut canceling devices which imprint the Square and Compasses, (both with and without the letter G), Trowel, Six-pointed Star, the Anchor and so on.

What to include in such a collection is for each collector to decide; the point here made is that what is complete from one collector’s standpoint may be incomplete according to the formula of his brother.

Not all Masons whose portraits are on postage stamps, of course, were “great” Masons. Many who might be called “great” as Masons never did get upon stamps.

The United States has put portraits of all Presidents upon stamps except Hoover and Truman and these, doubtless, will eventually be so immortalized when they have died. Of the Presidents on stamps who were Masons, Washington, Jackson, and Harding had perhaps the most distinguished Masonic careers. Of Washington postage stamps there are a large number, in many colors and sizes. Clark illustrates forty-three in A Masonic Stamp Collection.

Monroe, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Johnson, Garfield, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, are all stamp-commemorated. John Quincy Adams appears, too, not as a Mason but as a distinguished anti-Mason. Truman has been pictured on a Brazilian stamp.

Of patriots and distinguished citizens whose faces adorn stamps there is a long list including Audubon, Austin, Boone, Burbank, Byrd, Clark, Clay, Mark Twain, Decatur, Admiral Dewey, Farragut, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Stonewall Jackson, Paul Jones, Kosciuzko, Lafayette, Lindbergh, Livingston, Long, MacArthur, Macdonough, Marshall, Oglethorp, Perry, Pulaski, Putnam, Will Rogers, Schley, Scott, Sevier, Seward, Stanton, Sousa, Sullivan, Sun Yat-Sen, von Steuben, Wayne and Brigham Young.

A Masonic stamp collection need not — indeed, should not, unless the collector robs himself of pleasure — be confined only to portraits of great men who were Masons, or great Masons who were also distinguished in civil, political, religious or scientific life. Among the most interesting stamps are those commemorative of great scenes in United States history which may, and often do, have a Masonic significance; Washington’s headquarters at Newburgh, New York; the Lexington-Concord stamps in which battle so many Masonic patriots were concerned; the inauguration of Washington on the Bible of St. John’s lodge of New York, with Chancellor Livingston officiating; the first steamer through the Panama Canal, on a Theodore Roosevelt stamp; Roosevelt reviewing troops in Liberia; the Alamo, with Sam Houston and Stephen Austin; George Rogers Clark at Vincennes; Decatur and Macdonough with the famous frigate; Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the famous "We,” are instances.

Then there are the great symbols of America; the United States Capitol, the White House, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty (Bartholdi, its sculptor was a Mason).

Included in Clark’s collection — and surely they should be in all! — are the ten beautiful stamps of the national parks. Why? Here is the story, as told in Clark’s book:

Cornelius Hedges, sixth grand master and seventh grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Montana, has been claimed as the Masonic father of all the National Parks.

He was a member of the Washburn-Langford-Doan Expedition (Langford was the fifth grand master in Montana) which first put fact and evidence in place of myth and legend regarding the Yellowstone region.

At the junction of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, which form the Madison River in Yellowstone Park, stands National Park Mountain. In the small museum at Madison Junction is a transparency showing the meeting of the members of the Washburn party at the base of that mountain when they claimed the Yellowstone region as their own, to exploit it for private gain. From the Historical Note at the end of her novel, Colter’s Hell, the author, Miss Grace Johnson, writes:

“The party camped at the junction of two Rivers (Firehole and Gibbon), at the base of what is now called the National Park Mountain. Thrilled and inspired by the knowledge that the tales of Colter and Bridger were true, they gathered at the now-famous campfire meeting to decide what should be done with the region.

“The first thought was to utilize the astounding territory for private speculation by securing title to land including the canyon and geser areas, and charging admission to see them. A decision as to how the land might be divided up without giving one an advantage over the other developed, and the idea advanced that the whole might be thrown into a common pool for the benefit of all.

“Judge Cornelius Hedges - dignified and ipressive - arose from his place. Features alight with inspiration, he declared that the country should not be exploited for private gain, but should be set apart, its wonders and natural life protected; a region for the enjoyment of all the people for all time.

“The outcome was the Act of Dedication, signed by President Grant March 1, 1872, setting the Yellowstone aside as a great natural preserve, providing against the spoilation of natural curiosities and wonders within the Park and the wanton destruction of fish and game . . . a region to be preserved in its wilderness state 'for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’”

Yellowstone National Park thus became the first and therefore the mother of all National Parks, not only in the U.S., but in Canada. Had Hedges not persuaded the explorers away from their idea of exploiting the fruits of their discovery for their private gain, uncounted millions who have enjoyed our many National Parks might have been deprived of that pleasure, education and inspiration.

Masons who undertake to make a Masonic stamp collection may buy a copy of Clark’s fine pamphlet, and find ready-made the biographies and Masonic histories of all the Masons on United States postage stamps. But this should be but a beginning. Anyone can make a list of the stamps in A Masonic Stamp Collection and send an order to the nearest postage stamp dealer, but that only commences the collection.

The principal joy in collecting stamps is not in paying money to dealers; it is in correspondence with other collectors, in stamp clubs, in exhibitions, in reading stamp magazines, in "trading,” in hunting through dealers’ published lists for the stamp or stamps needed to complete some section.

The fun of Masonic stamp collecting is hunting out details of lives and events and connecting thereto the Masonic record of man or happening which makes some stamps particularly appropriate to the study.

Source material for history and biography of great men is easy to obtain; any good encyclopedia, a good dictionary or biography, Who Was Who in America, the records of various historical societies, are all available in the larger libraries.

Source material for Masonic data is not difficult to find especially about famous brethren such as the Presidents of the United States and some of the great leaders in other than political fines.

There are the Masonic encyclopedia (Mackey), the great histories (Mackey and Gould), the histories of the several grand lodges as published by them, all easily to be had from the larger Masonic Libraries: New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Dakota, Texas, etc., all of which are most cooperative with any seeker for Masonic light.

Of the mechanics of such a collection any stamp collecting friend will be a Mentor; what size album to obtain, how to learn the dainty art of handling and attaching stamps to exhibition pages, the most impressive methods of display, can be ascertained either from a stamp-wise friend, a stamp dealer, or any one of dozens of books on the art, hobby, science, of philately.

Many readers will wonder how it was possible that Clark’s booklet be so magnificently illustrated with pictures of stamps. There is a provision in postal and secret service regulations that if for a philatelic purpose, and printed in black and white, United States postage (not revenue) stamps may be reproduced if larger than one and one half times the original or smaller than three-fourths of the original. The brilliantly executed illustrations in the Clark book are all one and five-eighths times the size of the originals, printed from very fine screen half-tone plates on the best glossy paper the market afforded. The result is a book not only of interest and inspiration but of typographic beauty seldom equaled, produced thus attractively in the hope that it might inspire many to make such a collection.

No one can collect and arrange stamps from the Masonic angle and not add to a personal satisfaction a new view and a greater knowledge of the ancient Craft.

The Masonic Service Association of North America