The Burger Brothers – Early Stamp Dealers

Discussion in 'United States Stamps' started by Molokai, Apr 29, 2016.

  1. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    The Burger Brothers, Arthur and Gus, were another of the ‘old-timers’ in the stamp business. Their business reached back into the 19th century as you can see from the interesting cover I just added to my Stamp Dealers collection.

    Apparently they were quite cantankerous and could be difficult with which to deal. There are several stories in Nassau Street about them. Apparently there was an informal Fox Club one could only join if you outsmarted the Burger Brothers on a purchase – buying from them and selling it at a profit in an auction. Since, as Herst notes, the Burgers were ‘anticipatory’ in pricing, it was a small rather elite ‘club.’

    Purchasing from them could be an exercise unto itself. A customer might be quoted $20.00 from one brother, who would turn to the other brother for confirmation, "That sounds about right." At which the brother would say to the customer - who had heard the entire conversation - "$40.00." :joyful:
    BurgerBros.jpg
     
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  2. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    Best Answer
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  3. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Molokai:

    What a great cover! A lot of collecting points on this one such as the association value of the Burger Bros., it's a 19th-century stamp dealer cover, another stamp dealer in the return address, a registered cover with a Central RR of New Jersey cinderella on the reverse, and, most of all, the fantastic block of 3c Columbians used as postage. A real prize! Thanks for posting an image of it.

    I have only one Burger Bros.-related cover and it dates from well into the 20th century. Their store was then at 90 Nassau Street, and, according to my informal census of Nassau Street dealers, they were still at the 90 Nassau St. address as late as 1939.

    My cover shown below is addressed to Arthur who was apparently in Minneapolis possibly on a buying trip or maybe for a stamp show and exhibition. It looks like the desk clerk wrote the room number 1110 on the cover upon its arrival. Franking is much more modest than your cover, but still interesting. It is Sc 650, the 5c Intern'l Civil Aeronautics Conference commemorative issued in 1928. The stamp was intended to pay the international 5c surface rate to Europe, but it also met the 1929 airmail rate for a one ounce letter. The contents must have been somewhat important for it to go airmail. Seems I remember reading that the Burgers were "tight fisted" and did not waste money on excess postage. The stamp is a straight edge and would probably have been a slow seller. If Gus prepared the cover for mailing, he apparently felt the needs to write "Air Mail" on it to alert the postal clerks to the added postage. Unfortunately, there is no receiving cancel on the reverse.

    Hope you will post some of your other interesting covers.

    Don

    Burger Bros cover.jpg
     
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  4. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    Hello, Don -

    I hope your week is going well!

    That's a cool cover. Very neat - from one Burger Bro to the other!:cigar:

    From what I read they were indeed tight-fisted. They must have been quite the pair..I'm sure you're familiar with the 'Mary's baby' story in Herst.

    I do like the covers with multiple features - and the detective work such as you've done on yours to get as much of the scoop on it as possible.

    For not being a cover collector, I seem to be buying a lot of them. I am watching a couple of Souren covers on eBay but haven't had any luck with a few others on my list of Dealers and Authors.

    Have you seen the Belasco catalog? Some very nice items. (The .pdf took awhile to load...) http://siegelauctions.com/exhibits/Belasco.pdf
     
  5. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Molokai

    I had forgotten the Burger/Mary's baby story, but I found my copy of Nassau Street and reread it. A little grizzly to say the least! Wonder who Mary was, a daughter or a wife. Seems like if were a wife, the note would have read "our baby." Maybe an illegitimate child of a daughter, or niece. Somehow the story doesn't seem consistent with the content of Nassau Street, but real life things are frequently not what they should be.

    Attached below is one of my Herst covers from his days on Nassau Street. This one from 1941. It is addressed to Lester Hansler who is listed in both the 1935 and 1935 Blue Book of Philately. He specialized in U.S., Canada, and Newfoundland stamps and was a life member of the APS, the TMPS, and other stamp societies and clubs. He was born in Niles, Michigan in 1902 and was still a relatively young man when this cover was mailed to him.

    Herst sent this cover parcel post indicated to me that it contained merchandise, undoubtedly stamps. Note in the upper left hand corner the number 174. I believe this is either a bidder number or a lot number for a mail bid sale (probably the latter). If he was a regular, trusted bidder, Herst probably put the lot he won in an addressed envelope and mailed it to him after the sale closed. I'm not sure what the number in the lower left corner represents.

    The cover's franking is not spectacular, but the 5c Walt Whitman from the Famous Americans poet series is a nice addition, and the NYC parcel post handstamp is a nice touch too.

    I have another Herst cover from his 116 Nassau Street office and one from his much later Shrub Oak address. Somehow the latter is just not as interesting as those from
    the Nassau Street office.

    Don

    Herst cover.jpg
     
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  6. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Molokai:

    Looks to me like you are a cover collector! There was a time that i scorned covers and wouldn't even look through them at stamp shows. I can't recall what brought about my change in viewpoint, but in the mid-1990s, I became a cover collector, at least for awhile. My preferences for covers ebbs and flows. For the last couple of years my cover purchases have been few, but so far this year my interest in them is picking up again.

    You mentioned authors as a collecting specialty. I don't search for them, but I have purchased a couple that I could not pass up once I saw them. One of them whose work I'm sure you have read may be of interest to you.

    It is an association cover for James Michener. Michener was, I believe, a collector of sorts. I have not been able to identify the sender, but my guess is he was a friend who had served with Michener, was discharged and at home in Colorado. Given the commemorative stamps used and the careful placement on the cover implies to me that the sender was a collector. The cover is postmarked October 3, 1945, only a few weeks after the war in the Pacific ended. I am reasonably confident that the addressee was the novelist. Michener was an officer in the U.S. Navy and after the end of WW II he received orders to travel the Pacific Theater and help write an official history of the Navy in the Pacific during WW II. Note that the cover addresses him as "Force Historical Officer". It was this assignment that gave him the opportunity, idea and background for his first successful book, Tales of the South Pacific. Hawaii was another highly successful Michener book that also must have had its genesis during this period of his life.

    I would be interested in your opinion, and the opinion of others on this forum, as to whether or not this is a bona fide Michener association cover.

    Don

    Mitchner cover0003.jpg
     
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  7. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    Don, I can attest to the fact that the address on the cover is indeed a valid one. The fleet post office had at one time 3 locations and employed 6,000 men and women and 50 officers. Anyway, this link is historical information about the fleet post offices in San Francisco you might find interesting. Although a word search of Michener didn't get a hit, he could very well have passed through.
    The second link is a bio, he was indeed assigned to the "administrative history project". I was quite surprised at the many awards he received which included the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    http://www.earthwander.com/Roots/Holmquist/Docs/Military/USFleetP0-SanFran-CA.pdf
    http://navy.togetherweserved.com/us...pp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=525298
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016
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  8. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    Best Answer
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  9. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    Hi, Don –

    Indeed, the Mary’s Baby tale was a tad macabre for a stamp book! But perhaps Herst felt it a way to symbolically explain to the reader how the Burgers were somewhat separated from the league of dealers on Nassau Street, mysterious. Or, perhaps he just followed a stream-of-consciousness while writing.

    I really like that cover! Just curious – I don’t want trade secrets – but how do you find and gather the information on the recipients of these covers? Great stuff, for sure! You and <SherlHOCH Holmes> are way ahead of me in the detective game!

    I saw a couple of Herst covers recently, but they didn’t reach out and grab me. I do agree with you – his time on Nassau Street is much more interesting. I noted in the ‘Stories’ books (three of them) his tone is different, almost a touch of anger here and there...

    Right now I am hunting Souren, Herst, Johl and Atherton on covers. I seem to be avoiding purchasing stamps – books, now covers. I guess I am delaying the decision on what to collect. Somewhat like my quest in chess – I’ve spent 50 years searching for an opening repertoire, LOL!

    The Michener cover is awesome! He is quoted as saying, "The ultimate travel destination for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco."
     
  10. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Hochstrasse:

    Many thanks for the links you provided to biographies of Merrill and Michener. The rapidity of Michener's rise from Seaman Apprentice in 1942 to Lt. Commander in 1946 amazed me! As I recall there is a "time in grade" requirement to be met in order to advance from one rank to another. He must have had someone with authority and connections to make this quick move up the ladder. Samuel Eliot Morrison, perhaps. Maybe Michener was working for Morrison on the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II and Morrison recognized Michener's research and writing talents and got him a rapid promotion in hopes he would remain in the Navy. It would be interesting to know for sure.

    The Merrill connection is interesting too. I noted in Michener's bio that he (Michener) received his master's degree from the University of Colorado, perhaps there was a connection with Merrill that developed there. Greeley is not far from Boulder and Merrill may have taught a journalism class on campus.

    All interesting stuff, at least to me, and the connections and coincidences that develop from these covers is one of the reasons I collect them. Covers offer a lot more human interest than stamps and I'm thinking it's the human interest factor that helped change my perspective on covers. I still collect stamps enthusiastically , but I must admit there is not as much to speculate about with most of them.

    Didn't there used to be a Cover of the Day thread on one of the forums? If not, I think there should be so that discussion of covers does not take up the space that stamp discussion might otherwise fill. I'm thinking that all my verbiage about covers is keeping the stamps only members from posting.

    Don
     
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  11. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Molokai:

    No secret involved. I just look up the names in the Blue Book of Philately. Many times I find an entry for the addressee or sender of covers. Most of the time I don't.

    The Blue Books were published by Harry Lindquist of Stamps Magazine in 1935 and and again in 1938. As far as I know there were only these two editions. I have posted a couple of pics of the books below. I found my copies on eBay 10 to 12 years ago. If interested, you might be able to find them on one of the used/rare book sites.

    Entries were voluntary and free. Lindquist would publish a call for entries in Stamps and collectors apparently responded with information about themselves. Some even included a photograph that Lindquist published. Given the info that I occasionally glean from them, I consider them a good buy.

    There is guy who posts mostly on Stamp Community Forum who is a real wizzard at finding out biographical and historical information about covers. He uses the internet exclusively, but he uses it so much more effectively than I can. Wish I had his skills.

    Here' the photos of the Blue Books.

    Don

    20160430_100751.jpg 20160430_100843.jpg
     
  12. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Molokai:

    Many thanks for the link to the Belasco Collection. What an assemblage of dealers' covers and lists! Stamp dealer covers is not a big collecting area in my opinion. I'm thinking he bought many of those items at bargain prices. Not so much anymore. Even some of the little known dealers' covers are seeing price increases. Still, there are bargains to be found every now and then. Most of the dealers' covers I see for sale on on eBay and at stamp shows and both venues are seeing increased prices asked, probably to meet rising expenses incurred in offering them for sale.

    I've seen many stamp dealers covers on eBay of late with a note indicating they are from the Belasco Collection. None that I have seen are cheap, but it's a joy to see them.

    Don
     
  13. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    I have to agree that cover collecting really is the best of many worlds. I too love the "story" that many covers tell. You really pose some interesting tangents on the Merrill and Michener story. I thought that their love of nature and their writings were the common threads that drew their connection, but that's speculation on my part. You may be right about the collegial connection.
     
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  14. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Hochstrasse:

    It could be a love of nature the brought them together. The university connection is speculation on my part too. Another possibility is a common interest in the history of Colorado. Merrill may have been a knowledgeable local historian and Michener was certainly interested enough in the area to write Centennial. However, the cover in question was before Michener was an established writer and Centennial was one of his later novels.

    The answer probably lies in Michener's papers, which, I believe are at the University of Texas in Austin. I'll have to look and see if any of his correspondence is digitized and available online.

    Don
     
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  15. Hochstrasse

    Hochstrasse Moderator Moderator

    Don, I found the largest repository of his papers and effects is being assembled at the University of Northern Colorado. I did note a niche collection at the University of Miami and some in the Library of Congress. I don't believe that it is digitized at this point in time.

    https://www.questia.com/library/jou...s-a-michener-special-collection-university-of
     
  16. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Hochstrasse:

    Thanks for the info on the Michener Collection at the U. of Northern Colorado. I have made an initial look at it and it is interesting to say the least. I'm going to have to make an inquiry about the existence of a letter to Michener close to the date of the postmark on the cover in question. There is a brief bio of Merrill from the inventory to his papers. He apparently was older than Michener and the brief bio doesn't indicate the basis of their relationship. I'll post any other relative information I find.

    Don
     
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