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Finding Guides

The Museum has created research guides for collections that are frequently accessed or that have additional research potential. These guides provide concise descriptions of the scope and content, provenance and list of materials for each collection.

Archival | United States | International | Topical/Thematic


Bank Note Engraving

1847 Federal Postage Stamp Correspondence

Forty-five handwritten communications between the printing firm Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, the Postmaster General and Assistant Postmaster Generals and others relate the history behind the production, sale and use of the first federal stamps.

sepia photo of a man in an plane reaching out toward two men in bowler hats

The Benjamin B. Lipsner Airmail Collection

Lipsner's career as First Superintendent of the United States Air Mail Service and his personal collection of documents, photos and other items from that time are summarized here.

black and white photo of a man in a bowtie

George W. Brett Papers and Documents Finding Guide

The George Brett Collection was bequeathed to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Upon his death, this collection was separated from both his stamp collections and his personal library. It contains material ranging from handwritten research notes, copies of historical documents, and an extensive collection of his philatelic correspondence. The Collection includes the Hugh McLellen Southgate Papers and Documents Collection. This collection was shipped to the museum in Washington, DC between 2007 and 2009.

Canal Zone- a red stamp from the Republic of Panama

Canal Zone Files at the National Postal Museum Library

Finding aid for the Panama Canal Zone Post Office collection consisting of correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, government documents, stamp design files, photographs and other illustrations. The files cover the history of the Panama Canal Zone Post Office from 1904 to 1999.

Photograph of Catherine Lemmon Manning

Catherine Manning Papers and Documents Finding Guide

Catherine Lemmon Manning (1881-1957), the first woman outside the sciences to achieve the title “Assistant Curator” at the Smithsonian, tended the National Philatelic Collection for nearly thirty years. During her tenure, she organized the collection, processed thousands of specimens received from the Universal Postal Union and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, published articles, exhibited, and participated widely in the philatelic community.

black and white photo of a man in profile

Hugh McLellan Southgate Papers and Documents

The Hugh McLellan Southgate Papers and Documents Collection consist of 26 volumes totaling over 6,900 pages of information. Southgate was an important collector and student of the Bureau Issues of the United States. He was a founder and first president of the Philatelic Plate Number Association. He was also the first president and chairman of the board of its successor, the Bureau Issues Association (now the United States Stamp Society).

Photograph of Arthur M. Travers

Travers Papers Finding Guide

This collection of over 4,000 pages will make available to historians and collectors official documents relating to the production of United States postage stamps from 1847 to 1910. Except for small bits of information that have occasionally come to light, these have been unavailable for the past 100 years.

Hindenburg crash disaster

Zeppelin Hindenburg Crash Mail Documents Finding Guide

This collection includes the first list of mail salvaged from the wreckage to reach philatelic hands. Postal officials typed the lists in 1937 as they prepared the disaster mail to be processed and delivered to the addressees. In addition, certificates of expertization, correspondence, and clippings kept by Arthur Falk relate to Hindenburg disaster mail.

United States

National Air-Mail Week May 15-21, 1938- advertisement

James A. Farley “National Air Mail Week” May 15 – 21, 1938

This collection is a specialized collection of National Air Mail Week cachets from May 15 – 21, 1938. It consists of approximately 7,350 objects arranged into thirty-five binders and organized alphabetically by state and town of origination.

5.000- a depiction of George Washington surrounded by a green and red border

Eagle Collection Finding Guide

The Eagle Collection was formed by Clarence H. Eagle in the early years of the twentieth century. The greatest strength of the collection lies in the essays and proofs of United States revenue stamps, especially the private die proprietary stamps. The collection 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.

32 cent holiday stamp with an adobe house and a cactus

Carl T. Herrman Collection Finding Guide

As an art director for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 15 years, Carl T. Herrman designed more than 50 stamps and guided more than 250 stamp projects, including Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, and Comic Strip Classics. He also served as art director for five of the Celebrate the Century stamp panes. He donated this collection to the National Postal Museum in 2012.

painting of a lighthouse

Howard H. Koslow Collection Finding Guide

The Howard H. Koslow Collection of modern U.S. stamp art consists of one box of forty-eight folders containing pre- and post-production materials for nearly every stamp Howard Koslow designed. The folders are arranged into three series. The first series comprises stamp art, mainly highly developed pencil sketches and acrylic paintings for accepted and unaccepted stamp designs. The second series comprises Koslow’s artwork for his private cachets. The third series comprises correspondence and additional reference material such as photographs and newspaper clippings. Koslow donated this collection to the National Postal Museum in 2012.


Essay of the Katipunan or First Republic issues of General Aguinaldo

Col. Hans Lagerloef Specialized Collection of the Aguinaldo Revolutionary Stamps Finding Guide

The Smithsonian Institution received donations from Col. Hans Lagerloef on November 8 and December 15, 1943, which were a complete collection of postage stamps and stamped revenue paper from the Aguinaldo Revolutionary Period of the Philippines. The collection has over 2200 objects which include singles, pairs, blocks and full sheets.

a Chilean stamp with the depiction of a man's head in profile

Bernard Peyton Collection of Chile Finding Guide

This significant international collection was donated by Bernard Peyton to the Smithsonian national philatelic collection. The collection begins with a comprehensive study of the different color shades of the first issues of Chile from 1853-67 including rarities, varieties, multiples, cancellations and bisects and postal history.

a Chinese stamp next to Chinese script

Robert Hopkins Specialized Collection of Chinese Postage and Revenue Die Proofs and Essays Finding Guide

This collection of early Chinese die proofs, engraver's models, ink drawings and essays from 1912 to 1928, was donated in 1963 by Robert Hopkins. Hopkins was the son in-law of William A Grant, one of two Americans responsible for establishing the Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

a sheet of purple Colombian stamps

The John M. Taylor Specialized Collection of Colombia

Stamps of Colombia from 1859 to 1910 including the states of Bogota, Antioquia, Bolivar, Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Panama, Santander and Tolima.

Green Egyptian stamp with an illustration of a building

Royal Imperforate Printings of Egyptian Stamps

In April 1926, the Survey Department, a government agency in Cairo, took over the printing of Egyptian stamps. One sheet of each stamp printed by the Survey Department was sent to the Royal Collection. The Palace Collections of Egypt were auctioned off at the Koubbeh Palace, Cairo on February 12 - 15, 1954 by H. R. Harmer of London. The stamp collection was donated to the Smithsonian Institution on December 23, 1960.

an envelope with several stamps and an address in elegant script

Specialized Collections of El Salvador Finding Guide

The Specialized Collections of El Salvador consist of three volumes of the John M. Taylor Collection, three volumes of the Charles S. Hamilton Collection, the J & H Stolow Album of the First Airmail Issue, and two volumes from the Michel Postal Stationery of the World Collection.

a piece of paper with elegant script

Henry A. Meyer Collection of French Revolution and Napoleonic Covers and Documents

French postal markings go back a long way before the French Revolution. At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, postal markings had long been standardized and the Revolution soon showed itself in postal history. The Meyer Collection of Napoleon and French Revolution Covers and Documents illustrate this postal history.

Eire- cancelled stamp from Ireland

Shafer Collection of Ireland Stamps, Covers, and Essays 

The collection was donated in two parts to the museum by Francis A. Shafer. Two albums were donated in 1960 and one in 1964. It includes stampless covers from 1728 to 1841, 1922 – 1925 overprints printed by different companies, propaganda labels, essays of the “Angel with Trumpet” and the “Plowman” stamps, covers from the 1929 Experimental Air Service, coils and booklets, and several revenue documents. There is also a temperance letter from Father Theobald Matthew.

an envelope with Japanese cancellations

A.M. Tracey Woodward's Specialized Collections of Japan Finding Guide

L. W. Christenson donated the specialized 4-volume specialized collection of Japan the 1-sen blue postage stamp of 1872 in 1960. There are a total of 1,156 objects in these volumes. Again in 1960 he donated another specialized 4-volume collection of Japan the 2-sen yellow and 4-sen rose postage stamps of 1872 – 1873. There are a total of 1,138 objects in these volumes labeled as Volumes 5 - 8. These albums contain the original plating study of A. M. Tracey Woodward which resulted in several chapters of his two-volume book entitled Postage Stamps of Japan and Dependencies (1928). 

Liberia Airmail stamp

Republic of Liberia Finding Guide

Most of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum’s holdings of Liberian philately are not organized as such. Rather, they are scattered throughout multiple collections transferred by the U.S. Post Office Department and the United States Postal Service; purchased using private funds; and donated by individual collectors. The purpose of this finding guide is to describe this Liberian material in one document and thereby make it accessible to researchers.

Mexican cancelled stamp

A.O. Tittmann Specialized Collection of Sonora, Mexico Finding Guide

On March 31, 1960, Mrs. Margaret Tittmann donated the collection to the Smithsonian Institution. It was catalogued as 5,413 objects. Included are stamps issued between 1913 – 1914, with many types, varieties and usages. It is one of the Museum’s finest international collections.

One penny New South Wales stamp with a depiction of a woman in profile

B.H. Homan Collection of New South Wales Finding Guide

Mr. B.H. Homan of New York, New York, donated this 46-page album of New South Wales proofs to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology on December 19, 1957. This collection showcases die proofs and plate proofs from nearly every New South Wales issue from 1850 through about 1880, as well as unaccepted essays, proofs from unfinished dies, vignette die proofs, trial color proofs with ink recipes, and a proof of an attempted forgery.

a stamp from Panama featuring their flag

Specialized Collection of Panama Finding Guide

This series of the Republic of Panama stamps was issued late 1906, early 1907. It was Panama’s first portrait series and was engraved and printed by the Hamilton Bank Note Company of New York. The ornate frames and colors of each value differ, but the portraits in the center of all are black. Contained in the three volumes are artwork, die proofs, plate proofs, essays, mint stamps, inverted center stamps, and UPU specimens. This finding guide presents historical background of the image illustrated on the stamps as well as what items are found within each volume.

an envelope with one stamp

The Bernard Peyton Specialized Collection of Peru Finding Guide

The Bernard Peyton Collection consists of 13 volumes of stamps, proofs, essays and covers from Peru from 1779 - 1897.

Municipio di Monte Marciano- blue official stamp with a crest

Specialized Collection of Pontifical State Postal Markings

The collection was donated in two parts. The first gift, made in 1953 by Irvin Hermanoff, William Winokur, Seymour Winokur, and Lawrence Hollander, consisted of 8 volumes. Two years later, Hermanoff and the Winokur brothers made a second donation. It includes a wide variety of postmarks, cancellations, auxiliary markings, and official cachets from the former Pontifical State. Approximately 90% of the known straightline town cancels are represented, either on cover, fragment, or stamp.

pastel-colored Russian stamp

Kaestlin Collection of Zemstvo and Imperial Russian Stamps and Covers Finding Guide

George H. Kaestlin, one of three remarkable philatelists to join the Rossika membership rolls, was a quiet collector, building his collection without exhibiting it or authoring articles for Rossika, nor joining the Rossica Society after WWII. However, Kaestlin’s attention to detail and fastidious collecting habits, so evident in the layout and handwriting on his album pages, made him a natural source of information for Karl Schmidt, author of the monumental zemstvo catalogs of the 1930s.

an envelope with cancellations from Taiwan

L.W. Christenson's Specialized Collections of Taiwan (Formosa) and the Treaty Ports

This specialized collection includes two albums of the first issues of Taiwan (Formosa) and three albums of the Chinese Treaty Ports of Chefoo, Foochow, ChinKiang, ChungKing, Hankow, IChang, Kewkiang and Nanking, and the HaiNan – Samah Land Post and Wei-Hai-Wei Courier Post. There are also two gray boxes with folders containing large multiples and post office sheets, mainly of Kewkiang Treaty Port, and stamp stock book pages.

an envelope with one stamp

The John M. Taylor Specialized Collection of Uruguay

The John M. Taylor Specialized Collection of Uruguay covers the specialized early issues from 1858 – 1901, mostly singles, some postal history and Back of the Book Official overprints.

a sheet of yellow Venezuelan stamps

Venezuela and La Guairá Finding Guide

The specialized collection of Venezuela was anonymously donated on October 1, 1976 and on December 22, 1961. The first two albums include the early issues of Venezuela (Scott 1 – 20) and their overprints (Scott 40 - 48). These albums also include reconstructed rows and full sheets. The third album contains the local post from La Guairá, with the exception of the La Guairá Numeral Issues and Jesurun Issue from Curaçao. Plating studies and reconstructed rows and sheets are also seen in this album. The finding guide also includes information about formular cards and postal cards of Venezuela from the Michel Postal Stationery of the World Collection.

an envelope with a variety of stamps and a long address

John P.V. Heinmuller Specialized Collection of Zeppelin Mail Finding Guide

The name ‘John Heinmuller’ is famous among those studying early airmail. Heinmuller was an aero-philatelist and a past president of the American Air Mail Society. He officiated for the 1927 Lindbergh transatlantic flight and other pioneer flights. Heinmuller donated over 2,000 examples of flown zeppelin mail from his collection of over 5,000 zeppelin covers to the Smithsonian Institution in the 1950s.


a sheet of blue globe stamps signed by Malcolm MacGregor

Malcolm MacGregor Collection of Autographed Stamps

This collection is Malcolm MacGregor’s personally amassed collection of autographed stamps, covers, related correspondence, and ephemera. In the summer of 1948, Malcolm MacGregor focused his collecting activities to the securing of autographed stamps directly (for the most part) from the notables involved. His collection includes items signed by different people in whose honor the stamps were issued. These comprise notables from all walks of life - Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses, Statesmen, Artists, Athletes, and so forth. MacGregor bequeathed the thirty-three albums to the National Philatelic Collection. The collection was originally catalogued as 1,794 autographed objects and 1,407 unautographed philatelic objects, totaling 3,201 objects. 

a blue illustration of the globe

Allen Lee’s “Maps on Stamps” Collection

Allen Lee’s “Maps on Stamps” Collection, donated in 1977, is 26 albums illustrating all of the features and types of cartography found on postage stamps.

a stamp featuring Jascha Heifetz in profile

Heifetz Music Collection Finding Guide

Jascha Heifetz, Russian-born American violinist is associated with musical perfection. He became a U.S. citizen in 1925 and toured the world giving concerts. Heifetz’s specialized collection is about anything connected with music. The five albums of this collection of stamps from around the world were donated by Mr. Jascha Heifetz on February 14, 1978. There are over 6,421 objects including mint and used postage stamps, mint and used souvenir sheets, essays and proofs, postal stationery, and labels and sheet music.

stamp with an illustration of a harp and hands playing a violin

Haywood Music Collection Finding Guide

The collection is a broad compilation of thematically organized stamps, covers, commemorative sheets, and more philatelic objects. Themes presented in the collection include composers, performers, musical instruments, festivals, and music industry. Dr. Charles Haywood donated this collection, part of his personal collection, in 1984. It then consisted of 16 albums with 5,168 objects. Now, the philatelic material is divided into 22 separate albums.

a sheet of purple World's Fair stamps

Philately and U.S. World's Fairs Finding Guide

The United States Post Office Department played a major role in America’s world’s fairs by issuing postage stamps to promote and honor the international expositions and their themes. The U.S. post office issued its first commemorative postage stamps for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, initiating a significant change in the postage stamp program. Scholars who study American world’s fairs will discover untapped resources in the philatelic collections, archives, and library at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.