Prepared by Gordon Trotter, Museum Volunteer, James O’Donnell, Museum Specialist, and Thomas Lera, Winton M. Blount Research Chair.
COLLECTION SCOPE & CONTENT
The Eagle Collection (NPM accession number 203453) consists of 24 volumes of essays and proofs of
United States revenue and postage stamps from 1851 to 1903. The collection is housed on the original
pages as mounted by Clarence H. Eagle. Most volumes are in their original binders, but the pages have
been removed from volumes 23 and 24, and are kept separate from the binders.
The collection was formed by Clarence H. Eagle in the early years of the twentieth century. Upon his
death in 1922, the collection went by bequest to the Library of Congress, where it would be accessible to
the public. In 1958 the collection was transferred to the national philatelic collections of the Smithsonian
Institution. When the National Postal Museum was created in 1993, the collection was transferred there
along with the Smithsonian’s other philatelic holdings.
The greatest strength of the Eagle collection lies in the essays and proofs of United States revenue stamps,
especially the private die proprietary stamps. Starting in 1862, the federal government imposed taxes on a
wide variety of goods and services, largely for the purpose of funding the Civil War effort. Revenue
stamps were issued to facilitate collection of these taxes. Because of the high demand for many types of
stamps, manufacturers were allowed to design their own dies and printing plates for their stamps, subject
to approval by the government. This suited the entrepreneurs who were able to work some useful
advertising copy into the stamp designs. These private die proprietary stamps comprise the first 16
volumes of the Eagle collection. They are commonly called match and medicine stamps, but stamps were
also issued for taxes on canned fruit, perfume and playing cards.
General federal issue revenue stamps are represented in volumes 17 through 20. These include eight
copies in different colors of the famous $5,000 “Persian Rug” proof of the second revenue stamp issue.
An outstanding group of essays and proofs of postage stamps are found in volumes 21 through 24. Of
particular interest are proofs of the August 1861 issue, and an array of non-Scott listed essays that have
been described in Essays and Proofs of the Untied States Internal Revenue Stamps by George Turner.