The mystery solved, or somewhat solved.

In a “What Is It?” article in last month’s Perf- Dispatch, I raised a question about three Public Herald labels that I discovered in an old stock book.  I was curious about the labels, and I wondered what they might be.

Since then I have spent some time researching Public Herald labels. I sent letters of inquiry to four dealers, people who might be able to tell me about the labels or who might put me in touch with someone who could help me.

I also spent time online—lots of time.  And it was during my online research that I discovered—almost by accident—that there was an article titled The Public Herald “Seals” that appeared in the January – February 2009 (Volume: 88 Number:1) issue of the COLLECTORS CLUB PHILATELIST, a publication that I was unaware of.  I sent an email off to the APRL to see if this was a journal that might be in the library. Marsha Garman found the journal, and emailed me a copy of the article.

Jim Kotanchik

Jim Kotanchik

The five-page article was written by Jim Kotanchik, who I can only describe as a truly eminent philatelist.  His article, The Public Herald “Seals”, answered some but not all of my questions.  I decided to contact Jim Kotanchik, only to learn that he died in 2011.  Kotanchik authored POST OFFICE SEALS OF THE UNITED STATES AND POSSESSIONS (ISBN-10: 0977654907).  This is a massive 350-page book, and it is wickedly expensive, but I hope to find a discounted copy.  Note that I am now referring to the Public Herald labels as “seals”, not “labels”.

It was about this same time that Eric Jackson, one of the dealers I contacted, sent me a copy of an article by Jim Kotanchik that appeared in THE OFFICIAL SEAL NEWSLETTER (date unknown).  Another publication unknown to me. This article, also titled “The Public Herald Seals”, appears to be an earlier version of what was printed in the issue of the COLLECTORS CLUB PHILATELIST.

Kotanchik tells us that the Public Herald seals were the work of Louis Lum Smith, a Philadelphia publisher (the PUBLIC HERALD and the AGENT’S HERALD).  They were, in effect, post office seals that were provided to fourth class post offices as a kind of gimmick to encourage subscriptions to Smith’s two newspapers.

At our September club meeting I’ll have more information and copies of the COLLECTORS CLUB PHILATELIST article.  I will also have the Public Herald seals and some covers/cards to share with you—“show and tell”.  My thanks to Phil Schorr for continuing to encourage me in my effort to uncover the story behind the Public Herald seals, and to Nathan Esbeck who discovered a Public Herald seal on a cover offered on Ebay.

Editor’s Note: One of our surmises at the last meeting, the one concerning bundling, was mostly correct. However, there is more to the story. Don’t miss hearing more at our upcoming meeting.

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