‘Little Colored Bits of Paper’ Collected in the Progressive Era




Brennan, Sheila A.

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Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press


While the postal service promotes philately today, it was not until the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1892–1893 that the U.S. Post Office Department acknowledged and capitalized on the growing world of philatelists when it issued the first set of American commemorative stamps. Printing limited-issue collectible stamps generated greater interest in the postal service and for collecting the Department’s most popular product.The Columbian Exposition forever linked the postal service with stamp collectors after years of traveling on separate paths. The USPOD recognized the public presence of philatelists and spoke to them through promoting philately and issuing a decorative series of commemora- tive stamps. Philatelists participated in the world’s fair and perpetuated a dialog that they had begun decades earlier through buying, trading, and collecting stamps. Because philatelists professionalized by forming associations and publishing journals, Postmaster General Wanamaker recognized their presence and understood that the government needed those private organizations to promote good will and help to maintain the fiscal health of the US Post Office Department.



Federal government. United States. History, Collectors and collecting, Collecting


Brennan, Sheila A. "‘Little Colored Bits of Paper’ Collected in the Progressive Era" in William M. Blount Symposia, Select Papers, 2006–2009, Thomas Lera, editor, 15-22. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2010.