Book Review: The Trans-Mississippi Issue of 1898 – Randy Neil

Discussion in 'Stamp Chat' started by Molokai, Feb 2, 2016.

  1. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    United States of America: The Trans-Mississippi Issue of 1898 by Randy Neil, with Jack Rosenthal. Andrew Levitt 1997, 168 pp, OS Hardback/Embossed. Current prices: Amazon ($10.00), eBay ($29.00), ABEbooks ($39.95).

    Jack Rosenthal apparently owned the Trans-Mississippi collection. Andrew Levitt, a well-known and well-respected dealer and collector.

    Of the 19th Century U.S. stamps, this is one series which never came much on my radar as a collector. Like many others, I was more attracted to the (somewhat similar) Columbian issues which indeed are more well-known. But it can be argued that at least in design and artwork the Trans-Mississippi is a more attractive series of stamps. Thus, when I saw a new copy on for $10.00 the book collector in me simply could not resist!

    First -This book is a beauty! Heavy glossy stock pages with a full section of luscious color plates!

    Chapters: Preface, Introduction, 1) The Essays & Proofs, 2) The One-Cent Value, 3) The Two-Cent Value, 4) The Four-Cent Value, 5) The Five-Cent Value, Color Plates, 6) The Eight-Cent Value, 7) The Ten-Cent Value, 8) The 50-Cent Value, 9) The $1.00 Value, 10) The $2.00 Value, 11) A Census of High-Value Usages, Bibliography.

    From the Preface –

    “What makes this set so intriguing? Is it because it truly does have an enchanting story to tell, a tale that begins with the crusade to get a giant international exposition off the ground and have it honored by stamps? Is it the story of a cantankerous philatelic and general public which resisted the issuance of these stamps? A story of designers and engravers committed to make the most beautiful set of stamps ever issued…and then having to make a rather disappointing compromise which, even then, still resulted in a nine-stamp group of legends. Of course, it is the series of stamps that contains the one stamp that is considered by philatelists to be the best-designed issue ever produced by our country.”

    The Introduction begins with a quote from John N. Luff n the American Journal of Philately, 1898 – “The much heralded Omaha Exposition stamps have at last appeared and they are very disappointing.”

    The Introduction covers the genesis of these stamps, their conception and development and the protests of them - "Mekeel's Stamp News remarked in early 1898, 'Protests from philatelists in every part of the country are pouring in on the Postmaster General, Senators and Congressmen.'" It is quite an intriguing tale told in 12 pages. You just have to love philately for the history it teaches. And, as is the entire tome, extremely well-illustrated! It concludes with two pages of Luff’s Opinions which make fun reading with over 100 years of hindsight. As a trader I can sympathize with Luff – the future is tough to predict.

    In the Essays and Proofs chapter offers a thorough – and I mean thorough coverage of them! Forty-one pages of facts, figures, story line and information on all the essays and proofs! Did I mention illustrations, photos and plates? Seventy-two – along with many tables covering the pertinent details. At the end of this chapter, three pages on the ‘Posthumous Die Proofs’ found in FDR’s collection upon his death. Farley… :shame:

    The specific issue chapters are well laid-out and follow a consistent path of Design and Production ->Stats -> Postal History. Most chapters have a nice breakout box with an interesting side story; I love those, they appeal to my short attention span! The postal history of the Trans-Mississippi stamps is woven nicely into these chapters – and accompanied by pictures of dozens of interesting covers.

    Let’s take a look at the chapter on the Four-Cent Issue – Indian Hunting Buffalo:

    “Philatelic students have traced the special story of the development of the vignette for the four-cent issue – for the originally scheduled design was abandoned in favor of what many believe was less significant art. For much of this century experts have speculated on the reasons for the change – using everything from redundancy to the late 19th-century opinions of some political leaders that an American Indian chief should not play a featured role on a postage stamp.”

    Depth of coverage? There are here pages from the diary of Marcus Baldwin who did the engraving of the original design, “Indian on Horseback.”

    Just the fact’s Ma’am:

    Designer – R. Ostrander Smith, the model was approved May 7, 1898.

    Engravers – Vignette: G.F.C. Smillie; Frame: Marcus Baldwin; Letters/Numerals: D.S. Ronaldson.

    Plates Used – Three Plates: #s 599, 634 and 636.

    Numbers Issued – 4,924,500 issued to postmasters. An uncertain number of these stamps were recalled and destroyed in March, 1900.

    First Printing – From Plate #599 on May 28, 1898.

    Shades – Orange and Deep Orange in a slight variation.

    There doesn’t seem to be many books specifically for the Trans-Mississippi issue. The bibliography notes several dozen articles but only two books and I believe one is itself an article:

    Rosenthal – The Columbian and Trans Mississippi Collections of Jack Rosenthal

    Sloane – The Trans Mississippi Issues of 1898 – Stamp Specialist, Green Book

    As I have stated, United States of America: The Trans-Mississippi Issue of 1898 is absolutely gorgeous, a very attractive and eye-catching layout with many illustrations, photos and plates. It is well-written, informative and entertaining - a jackpot for both the book and stamp collector in me. If you collect 19th century U.S. I cannot think of too many better bargains for a mere Hamilton!
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  2. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    You got a bargain at $10. I'm sure with all the notables contributing to it must be a great read, I always marvel at the collector cost of the Columbian and Trans-Mississippi stamps back when they were issued and how much that translates to in today's dollars. The Trans-Mississippi set in today's dollars would cost a collector over $100, imagine the Columbian stamp cost with all those dollar values.
    SATX Collector and Molokai like this.
  3. tasha

    tasha Active Member

    wow that is a bargain for sure! I love reading and it would be great to find a book that has the archaeology or interesting information on historys secrets and maps to go with it!
  4. SATX Collector

    SATX Collector Remember the Alamo!

    The T-M set is one of the most desired collectible series in the early groups of stamps. Flanked by the Columbians on one side and the Pan-Americans on the other, this series is not easy to come by in Mint conditions. I have a good number of most of them but the 292 and 293 in Mint conditions take a little saving up to be able to afford.
    Molokai likes this.
  5. SATX Collector

    SATX Collector Remember the Alamo!

    Molokai: your library must be FANTASTIC with all the reviews you do here.

    Maybe you can claim me as a 'dependent' this year and I can use them once in awhile!!:bookworm::bookworm::bookworm:
    Molokai likes this.
  6. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    The philatelic collection is a work in progress, SATX. My wishlist of books on U.S. stamps is about 350 now. I have close to 100 and there are another 100 I'd really like to acquire over time. Some are really expensive - The Travers Papers and the White 5-volume colors/papers set. I'd love to have complete runs of about 15 periodicals but those are real budget busters. We do have a wonderful philatelic library down in Denver - but I love books and like to have my own copies when possible.

    I'll review Barbara Mueller's uber-classic, United States Postage Stamps and Maurice Coles' tome The Black Jacks of 1863-1867 sometime. I am going to wait awhile tho, I don't want Peter to think I am hogging the joint here, toss me out in the cold.:zombie: I really like all the people here, friendly and helpful. Some other boards (won't mention names) I am afraid to post, get my head bitten off if I am wrong on some small detail.
  7. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    Yes, I heard the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library was a good one. The one close to me, the Western Philatelic Library, is moving from Sunnyvale to Redwood City. The open house is this weekend. I don't know if I'll make the open house, I think my wife already has plans. Anyway that is quite a wish list for your personal philatelic library! Already having a 100 books on stamps is a milestone in and of itself.
    Molokai likes this.
  8. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    Around 10-12 years ago I happened to see an unbound run of American Philatelist on eBay. The seller was the RMPL. I don't remember how many years - several decades for sure - when I went down to pick them up it was six over-sized boxes. I thought, "Someday I might get back into stamp collecting." A couple years later I figured that day would never come so I sold them.:banghead:

    I had the thought recently - What if for the past 25 years or so I spent say $100 a month on stamps, tossed them in a box and forgot about them? What a fun time I would have now sorting and studying them! Oh, well...

    Wives often have 'plans' for us is my experience <Hoch>!
    Hochstrasse likes this.
  9. SATX Collector

    SATX Collector Remember the Alamo!

    DUDE!!! Might as well have given away the keys to your '58 T-Bird to the neighbor kid just because you didn't want to drive anymore! Those mags would come in handy now... especially in your library.

    Really resonated with your second comment... that is almost EXACTLY where I am today. I bought numbers of stamps in the 70's (mainly starting just before the Bicentennials), 80's, 90's, and 2000's and just put them in many boxes as I had no time to organize them. I was working on coins for most of that time and really started getting serious about my stamps again around 2004.

    Now I am YEARS behind in trying to create an inventory, and I see a lot of them that I didn't realize I had!
    Hochstrasse likes this.
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