Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc.

Chestnut Street Line Local

Go to Table of Contents for the Golden Sale

Chestnut Street Line, Philadelphia Pa.,
1c Black on Pink Glazed (unlisted in Scott)
One of two recorded examples on Pink paper
Chestnut Street Line, Philadelphia Pa.,
1c Black on Yellow Glazed (unlisted in Scott)
The only recorded example on Yellow paper

The Chestnut Street Line local stamp is believed to have been issued in 1856 for use on letters dropped into mail receptacles mounted on omnibuses on the Chestnut Street route, which included the location of the Philadelphia post office on the Dock Street side of the Merchants' Exchange Building. Although no contemporary advertisements or records mention this particular post, there are records of other such travelling mail-drop boxes on omnibuses serving areas such as Southwark and Kensington (according to Perry). This service was more than a mere convenience to people living as much as two miles away from the main post office.
View of omnibus in foreground and
Merchants Exchange building in background
(courtesy of Library of Congress)

The Chestnut Street Line local stamp was documented as early as 1863 by John W. Kline ("A. C." Kline), the Philadelphia stamp and coin dealer, in his publication Stamp Collectors Manual (2nd edition, 1863). Kline did not list the Chestnut Street Line stamp in his 1862 edition, which indicates he first saw it in 1863. The entry reads: "Chestnut St. Line (Philadelphia Omnibus), drop letter, 1 cent, bust of [Stephen] Girard, black imp [impression], square on pink [paper]." At the time he wrote this, Kline lived in Philadelphia and was privy to first-hand accounts of the post, which would logically be the source of his attribution. The item on which Kline's 1863 report is based is illustrated above. The second known Pink stamp was acquired by Sloane in 1953 from a Florida collector who, years earlier, tore it off a cover from old family correspondence that included other locals (Blood's etc.). The stamp on Yellow paper, used on cover, was part of the Henry Abt collection, his source of acquisition is not known.

Although recognized as a Philadelphia local in 1863, the sole recording example -- the stamp on this cover -- was lost to philately for more than 30 years until it was "rediscovered" by Bogert & Durbin, Philadelphia stamp dealers. They published a report in the September 1895 Philatelic Monthly, announcing the "newly discovered" local and illustrating a cut made from the same stamp on this June 7th cover -- the tying ink marks are visible in the illustration. The 1895 report misread the date of the docketing as "1845", which it obviously cannot be. The same item was reported again in the March 1898 American Journal of Philately, which identified Bogert & Durbin as the source. Probably at this time the cover was sold to Ferrary, because it next appears in the 10th sale of Ferrary's collection, held in Paris on June 18-20, 1924. For several years during the period of Ferrary's ownership, beginning in 1900, the Chestnut Street Line local achieved Scott Catalogue recognition. However, it was later dropped, presumably because the controversial Henry Needham claimed that the stamp was clipped from an omnibus ticket and dismissed it as a bogus post. Perry refuted Needham's statement by pointing out that the omnibus fare was never one cent and that the horse carriages did not begin operating until 1859. Needham himself seems to have changed his mind, because he acquired the cover in the 1924 Ferrary sale and retained it as part of his collection. However, the cloud of mistrust he created hung over the cover at the Ferrary sale, because it was included in a mixed lot with the eloquent description "Chesnut fantaisie 1c noir sur rose colle sur une enveloppe affranchie avec Yvert No. 4." The rough English translation is "a fantasy on a cover with 3c 1851."

In the early 1950's, Needham's collection came into the marketplace through Eugene N. Costales, and the Chestnut Street Line cover was submitted to the Philatelic Foundation in 1956. Despite opinions of genuineness from Perry and Sloane, the Expert Committee on Feb. 6, 1956, declined to render an opinion. Winthrop S. Boggs, in a letter to Sloane, remarked "We gathered what information we could, but the Committee felt that it was insufficient to arrive at any definite conclusions. Perhaps in due time the students of locals will find further information so that the status of this label can be settled." Perry evidently held to his opinion and brokered the sale of the cover to Frank A. Hollowbush in 1958. It next appeared in the John Fox Aug. 15, 1966, sale of the Hollowbush collection.

Most of the stamp's design is devoted to a full-face portrait that almost certainly depicts Stephen Girard, the wealthy Philadelphian who died in 1836 and left his $6 million fortune to the city. His close association with Chestnut Street and the similarity of this rendering to portraits of Girard are fairly overwhelming evidence supporting the contention that the stamp depicts Girard. We illustrate an engraved three-quarter portrait of Girard and invite comparisons.

This year, the Chestnut Street Line local stamps on Pink and Yellow papers are not listed in the Scott Catalogue. However, 137 years after its discovery, the historical legitimacy of the Chestnut Street Line post, as well as the existence of three examples from three different sources, should provide enough justification to create a new catalogue listing. 



This Web Site is Copyright Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. - All Rights Reserved





for Sale