The Jeanette C. Rudy Duck Stamp Collection

The Jeanette C. Rudy Duck Stamp Collection

Refer to caption
Jeanette Cantrell Rudy

The Migratory Bird Hunting Act, shepherded through Congress by Jay N. “Ding” Darling and passed in 1934, has spawned the longest running series of stamps in American history, fondly referred to as “duck stamps.” Funds raised by the sale of these revenue stamps have secured incalculable benefits for migratory birds, wildlife, sportspersons, and all those who struggle to safeguard the nation’s vanishing natural landscape. The stamps are among the most beautiful ever printed and, thanks to the annual Duck Stamp Contest, have engaged the public’s imagination and anticipation far beyond that of any other issue.

The lovely, alluring duck stamps have captivated many collectors, including Jeanette Cantrell Rudy. The indomitable Mrs. Rudy, however, occupies a niche all her own. Over a fifty-year span, she assembled the hobby’s foremost collection. Further, as a philanthropist, businesswoman, conservationist, lifelong collector, and hunter, she has transcended stereotypes in each category, claiming distinction as a woman in domains dominated by men. Thanks to her foresight and generosity, for over a decade rotating displays at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum offered visitors the opportunity to view the unique and often extremely rare items from her collection.

Jeanette Rudy Interview
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Lovely, alluring duck stamps have captivated many collectors, including Jeanette Cantrell Rudy. The indomitable Mrs. Rudy, however, occupies a niche all her own. Over a fifty-year span, she assembled the foremost duck stamp collection. Further, she has transcended stereotypes claiming distinction as a woman in domains dominated by men.

00:00

Rudy:

You know that we had

00:02

post office material.

00:06

And then I joined a philatelic society.

00:08

And then they said well, what are you

00:11

collecting? Of course I wasn't collecting anything

00:14

I just went in as a new member.

00:16

And I boldly said,

00:18

I collect duck stamps, because I had four

00:21

or five, and I took those with me.

00:25

So that is how - because I said, I collect duck stamps.

00:36

Interviewer:

Now when you were a child did you collect?

Rudy:

Oh, I did like all children, I sent out for

00:39

these packages you know and got back a

00:41

package of made yourself $2 and from a

00:46

catalog advertisement and then they send

00:51

in the packet of understands you know

00:53

then I bought a catalog you know a

00:57

folder and I begin to lick them for the

01:00

mom didn't I learn that you don't lick

01:01

stamps went to the stamp Society I

01:04

learned about stamp collecting then

01:07

because the others in the Indians expect

01:10

in the society stamp Society Saint club

01:16

had their little books you know and they

01:20

said this one I said well when did Ducks

01:22

first again and I didn't know so I began

01:27

to read and from the library I'll I'm

01:31

very over over there had some books on

01:34

that on the stack collection but they

01:37

didn't have anything anything on ducks

01:39

and then I begin to I wrote to

01:42

Washington you know there was a little

01:44

flyer that I wrote the ducks their

01:47

headquarters and asked for sending

01:50

material on duck stamps and from then on

01:53

I began to seriously put my stamps not

01:57

licking thing on and I when I bought one

02:00

duck stamps I did not sign them across

02:03

the face and I always prayed that the

02:06

warden wouldn't come by

02:07

hey but I had my pen real handy so I

02:10

signed it right

02:11

now my husband sign he is but I didn't

02:15

sign mine and then I began to find out

02:18

about plate blocks that I begin to find

02:22

out about all the other the perforations

02:27

and then that other learning from the

02:32

other people want to live for in Arras I

02:35

didn't know what error was or had to

02:39

learn what an error was it other stamps

02:41

that maybe look for errors in any deaths

02:45

that but then I began to contact other

02:49

people who collected that stamps I

02:51

thought I was the only one that

02:53

collected those things but there were

02:56

lots of other people that collect enough

02:58

stamps then we begin to talk but then I

03:01

begin to exhibit what few I am and

03:03

believe it did not I even won in the war

03:06

of course it was a club award but I

03:09

thought that was the greatest thing that

03:10

ever worked it was for the new new

03:17

member you know I were it was a novice

03:20

award for exact the novice exhibit and

03:25

so that you know do better by getting

03:31

more so I really got into it I guess it

03:35

was folks to somewhere between 55 and 60

03:37

that my whole heart and body was into

03:40

the best amps and I just put my other

03:43

little classics and things I had done to

03:45

one side but I did a lot of

03:47

letter-writing did a lot of telephone

03:50

calls and I went to a lot of shows and

03:53

the first thing I have that phone with

03:55

that stamp exhibit they were not not

03:59

genuine II mean interest but you got to

04:02

have a little money to go along with it

04:04

that's a terrible thing to say but

04:08

because every there's so many many

04:11

people want to be collectors and they'd

04:13

like to have the good things too but

04:17

they're you know letting those different

04:21

people's ways and some people don't have

04:23

the

04:24

financial ability to to buy them they

04:27

had to use it for the more essential

04:30

things and that's a handicap of course

04:35

to get the rarities is the finances part

04:41

and I hate that but I remember one time

04:45

my exhibited ever I won't call the main

04:50

of the Stamp Club and I had a couple I

04:55

overheard a couple conversations about

04:57

well we might as well take our exhibit

04:59

Danny it won't look like anything next

05:01

to that mrs. Rudy's and I heard of

05:06

derogatory March but mine was better

05:09

than theirs you know that they never

05:10

could win if I was ever going to enter

05:12

anything and you know from that day on I

05:16

never exhibited again I thought well am

05:20

I really taking away from from the

05:25

average person which I thought I was an

05:27

average person and I think I am I want

05:31

to be but I can't help it you know if

05:36

things came my way and I did get some I

05:41

I didn't exhibit them in those but I

05:45

mean the other big fan shows like in

05:47

Washington the court of honors and

05:49

things like that way it is expected

05:52

I'll exhibit in that but I don't go to

05:55

smaller clubs and exhibit anymore

05:58

because I don't want to do that to them

06:01

and then why should I negate anyone

06:05

elses thrill and enthusiasm in it just

06:08

because I want to be a hotshot which is

06:11

not what I want and by doing that I

06:14

think that I may be encouraging them to

06:18

go ahead and exhibit whatever you may

06:20

have exhibited because it's always you

06:24

know excitable to someone and we can't

06:27

do that to other people do you remember

06:30

when you first began

06:32

yes sudden as if it were yesterday I

06:35

married in the February of 1949

06:39

okay and that fall then said how about

06:45

going to get me my Duck Stamp and I

06:48

being a nurse a registered nurse I had

06:52

no conception what a duck that was and I

06:57

said what did you say he said I need a

07:00

duck stamp I said well what is that he

07:03

said well I'm going duck hunting I said

07:05

okay I never thought that I want to go

07:07

to see did you go to the post office and

07:10

get me a text and that was my very first

07:13

meeting I was duck family it was the

07:16

golden that and I thought it was a

07:17

beautiful nice green stamp and I said

07:21

well if you're going I want to go to he

07:24

said you don't know how and I said but I

07:26

can learn so much at the beginning it

07:31

was the beauty of the artwork was

07:36

magnificent I thought you know and I

07:39

want to go then after I begin to get to

07:41

be a better shot I wanted to go duck

07:44

hunting for the thrill of the duck

07:46

hunting and then I began to learn about

07:49

where the ducks came from and when and

07:54

how they knew that they were coming down

07:56

at this time of year I learned all about

07:58

duck hunting and then came in the

08:02

conservation part of it how they came

08:05

from Canada and so since then I have

08:11

been privileged to have Ducks Unlimited

08:14

take me to Canada and see all the

08:19

potholes in the while they were nesting

08:21

and see the Ducks in their nest and

08:24

being able to pick up the eggs and to

08:27

put them to the light that you ever done

08:30

that to see the eggs and to timetable

08:32

them in there through the little channel

08:36

tube and it was there our conservation

08:42

came into it

08:43

then I began to read the statistics

08:47

about what the how much of the next

08:51

stamp went to constantly I didn't do

08:53

that at first it was because they were

08:56

pretty then it then they became more

09:00

meaningful the longer I was into it I

09:03

was into it August for five years before

09:06

I really come home what it was all about

09:08

the most I guess three what really got

09:13

me going was having about the number one

09:17

stamp and the main

09:25

brought it down here to my home and I

09:30

said I won't bite unless I see it and he

09:33

had a six-figure number price I said

09:38

break that he brought that I didn't know

09:40

him he didn't know me and I have a real

09:43

close policeman friend and I asked him I

09:46

said I don't know this man he's coming

09:48

into my home I said I want you to be

09:51

present armed of course but in a

09:55

civilian cities civilian clothes I said

09:57

I just want you to watch the deal and I

09:59

had the newspaper people here and I said

10:03

if it's going to be I'm going to if I'm

10:05

gonna be ripped I'm gonna be rooks

10:08

royalty and it all turned out to be that

10:12

was absolutely perfect it was they stamp

10:15

he had the documentation and I was

10:19

thrilled to death and of course the

10:22

newspaper people were and of course I

10:24

didn't need my policemen but Bob you

10:27

know was quite at first you know he

10:29

didn't know he was intimidated think

10:31

that I had but that I guess that was the

10:38

greatest moment of my whole life just

10:40

get that number one step cuz I knew that

10:43

I could go from there because no one

10:45

else had that and always trying to get

10:48

to things that were the rarest and to

10:52

try to see to it that their writings on

10:56

the back of the stamp I wanted

10:57

everything they've about to rise over

10:59

Baxter I wanted to know all about the

11:01

gums on the back of the stamps some had

11:04

gums some of them did not have gums the

11:07

writings were all different and I set

11:10

them aside a of their own little

11:11

exhibits and then the errors were set

11:14

was a different collection altogether

11:18

I began to get serious because I knew

11:21

then that I was way behind in calling

11:25

myself a collector and I wanted to be a

11:29

good collector and I wanted to have a

11:32

good exhibit I wanted to win the

11:35

big-time exhibits and I started doing

11:38

and exhibiting much stamps in what

11:41

little I knew then till the others I

11:44

with the Denver it's exhibit I've been

11:46

to Washington to exhibit Georgia Alabama

11:51

and certainly Kentucky and Tennessee in

11:55

Washington when I took it to Washington

11:57

and it was exhibited next to the Queen's

12:01

exhibit and it was spectra member that

12:09

Jim in at the Washington exhibit I had

12:13

the gold medal in there nice big gold

12:17

medal that I want for my exhibit and it

12:20

was exhibited in the Court of Honor and

12:23

the Queen's exhibit was in the Court of

12:26

Honor it right next to my notes that she

12:29

was next to me that I next to her and

12:32

that to me I thought that I had really

12:36

done what I wanted to achieve and that

12:38

was make the best exhibit that I could

12:41

possibly make being a judge oh it was a

12:43

British thrill I had ever ever known and

12:47

to be selected I think you know Norma up

12:50

grand I knew who she was

12:52

and I thought she was one of the

12:54

greatest women everyone to have that

12:57

position and I was you know quite

13:00

fascinated with her and having never met

13:03

her and I'd never got to had the chance

13:06

when I was up there to me then to get

13:09

that telephone call to say that this is

13:13

no more up grand one of those one of

13:20

those kind of days yes and she said

13:24

today that we've went through this

13:27

procedure said we have selected you as

13:29

one of our judges for this year's

13:31

that stamp contest and then it came to

13:35

me well maybe this really was normal and

13:38

I said oh you're kids she said oh no can

13:40

you be in Washington or such-and-such

13:42

time I said yes I can be there tomorrow

13:43

if you walk and to this date Norman I

13:47

have a great great remembrance of that

13:50

first conversation and when I was there

13:53

during the judging I was just they don't

13:55

know what I was floating on cloud nine

13:57

the old time yeah I didn't just walk I

14:00

floated all through that and it is a

14:03

wonderful experience and believe it or

14:06

not I have a twin sister

14:09

and she was a judge also one of the hot

14:13

was Jim Jim's

14:19

so we both were judges I just warned him

14:24

in something very special because they

14:26

were special and if they were to be

14:28

exhibited in the fire were to give him

14:30

something special and I thought about

14:32

that long time years before I ever acted

14:36

funny because I know that without any

14:42

children to pass them on to that might

14:45

not have any interest to them and I

14:47

thought well I have had them to myself

14:49

for so many years the people you know

14:56

God's been good to me and I think we all

15:02

think about a legacy and this would be

15:06

what I could leave for someone else

15:09

that's what a legacy is and I've done

15:13

this and enjoyed it so much and it I

15:15

hate to brag on it but it is a fabulous

15:18

collection and I know that it is I don't

15:23

like to brag on what you do but but so I

15:28

still enjoy it and I still get a thrill

15:32

every time I see one of those things

15:34

gosh you know I just somehow they say

15:38

men men make

15:42

the history and the women preserve it

15:46

and this is true you look back in our

15:49

general history men make that history

15:53

Angeles I'm never of the dollars of the

15:56

American Revolution and we preserve

15:57

everything and I thought well you know I

16:02

would like to be a history maker too and

16:06

there are a few women that came through

16:10

during my lifetime and other like being

16:13

Earhart some of these other great people

16:15

are women and the firt one of the first

16:19

women doctors I thought that was the

16:20

greatest thing everyone and I was quite

16:23

interested in Florence Nightingale that

16:25

first nurse you know supposedly

16:29

in do it I've researched her history but

16:33

it's a beautiful huge it's a pathetic

16:35

history but how nurses came about and

16:39

that's where I did my nursing school but

16:44

I wanted to be remembered somehow and

16:50

not that I mean anything special I

16:51

thought what everyone wants to be

16:54

remembered somehow and somehow is always

16:58

their children and with people without

17:01

children what are we going to do we must

17:04

find that way you know in my house of

17:10

life that we travel before the interns

17:13

you go through the woods and you know I

17:16

look back and see if I've left a

17:18

footprint

17:19

sometimes I walked heavily I think that

17:21

that will be there when I'm gone

A donation from the S. D. Bechtel Foundation has made the Rudy collection accessible to viewers worldwide as a virtual exhibition, “Glorious Flight: The Jeanette C. Rudy Duck Stamp Collection.” The display features a sampling of the collection’s premier items, including the first duck stamp ever sold, errors, artist-signed issues, and remarques.