Episode #197 – The Colombian Exposition, H. H. Holmes, USPS Supreme Court Patent Case, and Colombian Stamp Issue

Welcome to Stamp Show Here Today Episode #197

Welcome to Stamp Show Here Today Episode #197 – Today we are discussing the Colombian Exposition of 1893 including its link to H. H. Holmes, the nations first serial killer. Also the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear a patent case involving the USPS, and the Colombian Issue of stamps that came out for the Exposition. We also discuss United Kingdom and Canada Christmas issues and upcoming shows, including the Black River Stamp Clubs Ohio show that is going to feature an airmail exhibit. Enjoy.

Hosts – Tom, Scott, Caj, Mark

Colombian Exposition of 1893

October 30th marks the last day of the 125th anniversary of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.

The fair was an amazing spectacle with over 23 million visitors and in at least one way changed the face of the world as we knew it.

The fair included many technological wonders including the first gasoline powered motor car in the United States, the Daimler quadricycle. It also housed an alternating current power plant, a 46 foot long cannon, a 1,500 lb Venus De Milo made of chocolate and Juicy Fruit Gum. The fair was also home to the world’s first ferris wheel. And brought us the Columbian Exposition stamps.

The transportation building contained the horse drawn carts, alongside bicycles and boats, which were all dwarfed by American manufactured steam locomotives. The expositions organizers believing the trains were the transportation of the future.

Only one vehicle in the entire display had an internal combustion engine and it was tucked away in the back of the hall. A wire wheeled quadricycle similar to that which Daimler had displayed in Paris at the 1889 World’s Fair. Even though most Americans had never seen one before the vehicle got almost no notice. It was so overlooked that the press barely covered it and it was not even mention in the exhibition catalog.

It was however noticed by two individuals. Bicycle mechanic Charles Duryea who ended up partnering with his brother to create the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1896 and produce a one cylinder Duryea Motor Wagon, the first mass production gas powered vehicle in the United States.

The other notable party to show interest in the Daimler Quadricycle was none other than Henry Ford. Ford returned to Dearborn, Michigan and created what he called the gasoline buggy. Ford drove the carca for the first time on July 4th, 1896 and later sold it for $200.00. Only a few years after that he incorporated the Ford Motor Company. The age of the automobile had officially begun.

Only a few items from the fair still exist today in Chicago. The Palace of Fine Arts is now home to the Museum of Science and Industry, and anand area called the Wooded Island was described as a place to get away from the noise of the fair had fallen into disrepair though in 2015 an $8.1 million dollar renovation was completed.

There was a 65 foot “Statue of the Republic” that served as a symbol of the fair. The original statue is gone, but there is a 24 foot bronze replica that sits in Jackson Park.

The Columbian Exposition also holds on other item of historical note. Close to the site of the Exposition was what many came to describe as the “The Murder Castle” a building owned by America’s first serial killer H. H. Holmes.

Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett in New Hampshire in 1861. In 1885 he abandoned his wife and young child fleeing accusations of fraud, poisoning and murder and moved to Illinois where he changed his name to Holmes in what many believe was an homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes took work at a pharmacy near Jackson Park which would become site of the fair 8 years later. Believed to be a masterful con artist and highly charismatic he is suspected of having swindled money from his pharmacy coworkers and used it to buy an empty plot of land in the Englewood neighborhood.

Holmes built a two story building on the lot and later added a third. During the construction Holmes is said to have hired and fired several workers in order to hide the true intentions of the building. The building which is said to have contained several false staircases and doorways as well as small interior rooms that were rigged with gas lines that Homes could control to suffocate guests and then put them in a chute that led to the basement where they would be subsequently killed and disposed of. The basement contained acid vats, quicklime pits and a crematorium. He sold skeletons to medical research facilities with connections he had made during a brief time spent in medical school.

Having become adept at insurance fraud during medical school by desecrating cadavers and saying they died in accidents Holmes was able to collect on insurance policies that he had taken out. It is believed that he used the same tactics on victims of what has been dubbed the murder castle.

Holmes was ultimately captured and convicted of murder of one of his “friends” Benjamin Pietzel. Holmes convinced Pietzel to fake his own death and have his wife collect the insurance money. Instead of finding a cadaver to use as the body however, Holmes actually murdered Pietzel and convinced his wife that he was still alive and in hiding in London. HolmesHolme was even able to convince Mrs. Pietzel to hand over custody of three of her children who he later killed as well.

It is said that Holmes killed anywhere from 20-200 people, but he was only ever directly tied to nine. He was found guilty and hung in Pennsylvania in 1896. It is reported that his neck did not snap and that he slowly strangled for almost twenty minutes.

Years later the Murder Castle was mysteriously burned down. A witness reported that two men had entered the building and a short time later were seen running away as the building started burning.

Can you take a guess a what stands on the site of the now infamous lot?

The Englewood Post Office.

And in true fashion of a con man it was rumored for a long time that Holmes had bribed his way out of the gallows and a cadaver was was buried instead of Holmes. As it was his wish that he be buried ten feet deep and covered in concrete, many people believed that the story was true. The rumors were finally put to rest in 2017 when the grave was opened and the body exhumed for DNA testing as part of a television series where one of Holmes descendants believed that he survived and moved to London to become Jack the Ripper. The tests however indeed proved the body to be that of Holmes.

Supreme Court to Hear Patent Case Involving USPS

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up a dispute involving a small Alabama company that accused the U.S. Postal Service of infringing on its patented mail processing system and improperly convincing a federal tribunal to cancel the patent.

The justices will hear an appeal by Return Mail, Inc of a lower court ruling that upheld the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal’s 2015 determination that the company’s patent covering a system for processing undeliverable mail was invalid.

Return Mail argued that since the Postal Service, a self-supporting independent federal agency, cannot be sued in the same way as private companies it should not be eligible to ask the patent office to review a patent’s validity like private companies can. The Trump administration, backing the Postal Service, asked the Supreme Court not to hear the case.

The case began in 2011 when Return Mail sued the U.S. government, accusing the Postal Service of stealing its technology after the company had tried to license its system but the agency instead developed its own.

The Postal Service challenged the patent’s validity at the patent office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The board’s patent review processes have become especially popular with high-technology companies that are frequent targets of patent lawsuits and have led to a high rate of patent cancellation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last year upheld the board’s decision to invalidate a key part of Return Mail’s patent.

Rulings by the board can prevent further challenges to a patent’s validity in a federal district court, where infringement lawsuits are typically resolved. But the same constraints are not applied to the federal government when it is accused. Return Mail argued that this means the government should not be allowed to launch challenges before the board.

Columbian Exposition stamps of 1893

The Columbian stamps were supplied by the American Banknote Company, which had a four-year contract for the production of United States postage stamps beginning December 1, 1889.

However, where previous contracts had required printing companies to provide designs and plates at their own expense for any new stamps required by the Post Office, the 1889 contract specified that the Post Office would pay those costs.

Indeed, Postmaster John Wanamaker (of department store fame) executed a new contract with American Banknote specifically for the Columbian stamps without any competitive bidding process, which allowed the company to charge 17¢ per thousand stamps, in contrast to the 7.45¢ per thousand it had been collecting for stamps of the 1890 definitive series.

This arrangement prompted considerable public criticism which was not allayed by American Banknote’s argument that the Columbians’ size (double that of normal stamps) warranted a higher price.

Fifteen denominations of the series were placed on sale by post offices on Monday, January 2, 1893. They were available nationwide, and were not restricted to the Exposition in any way. This was a larger number of stamps than the United States Post Office had ever offered in a definite series, thanks to the unprecedented inclusion of stamps denominated $1, $2, $3, $4 and $5: no U. S. postage stamp previously issued had cost more than 90¢.

A sixteenth stamp, the 8 cent, to provide for the newly lowered registered letter fee was added during March. As a result, the face value of the complete set was $16.34, a substantial sum of money during 1893. In 2018 dollars, the set would cost approximately $458.32.

As a result, of the most expensive stamps, especially the dollar values, only a small number were sold and unsold stamps were destroyed after the Columbian Issue was removed from sale on April 12, 1894. In all, the American Banknote Company printed more than 2 billion Columbian stamps with a total face value exceeding $40 million.

Opinion regarding the Columbian Issue at the time was mixed. The set sold well and did not have the sort of criticism that resulted in the withdrawal of the 1869 Pictorial Issue. However, approval was not universal. An organization known as the Society for the Suppression of Speculative Stamps, also called the Society for the Suppression of Spurious Stamps, was created in protest of the creation of this set, deeming the Exposition in Chicago insufficiently important to be honored by postage, and some collectors balked at the Post Office Department‘s willingness to profit from the growing hobby of philately.

Ridiculing the $5 stamp, the Chicago Tribune stated that it could be used for only one purpose: mailing a 62½-pound package of books at the book rate.

The Columbians did not immediately increase in value after being removed from sale, due partly to substantial speculation resulting in a glut of stamps on the secondary market. However, in 2018, in mint condition, a full set has a catalog value of $9,498.00. These prices go substantially higher for never hinged and well centered examples in high grades. Per Professional Stamp Experts Stamp Market Quarterly price guide the price for a never hinged set with a grade of 95 is in excess of $300,000.

It was not only in design and commemorative purpose that this issue proved a watershed in U. S. stamp history. The Columbians, like all previous U. S. stamps, had been produced by private security printers on limited-term contracts periodically presented for bidding. They proved, however, to be the last U. S. stamps printed by a private company for many years.

During early 1894, the American Bank Note Company failed to secure a renewal of its stamp contract because the U. S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing submitted a lower bid; and the Bureau then enjoyed a monopoly on U. S. stamp production for decades thereafter.

It was not until 1944 that a private company again produced U. S. stamps (the Overrun Countries series, which required special multicolor printing) and the Bureau subsequently resumed its exclusive role in production, only gradually relinquishing it over the next sixty years. U. S. stamp operations at the Bureau ceased entirely during 2005.

Scholars believe that the Bureau’s first task during 1894 was to finish some Columbian sheets printed by American Banknote; what makes this theory plausible is that, while many Columbian stamps are perfectly perforated, others are distinctly substandard in this regard, with partially punched chads and/or holes that are missing, ragged or misplaced – flaws that would also mar the stamps of the first Bureau definitive issue, released later during 1894.

New Issues

Canada post releasing Christmas Stamps November 2nd.

Send Christmas greetings to family, friends and loved ones with this booklet of 12 Permanent domestic stamps featuring a fresh and contemporary look at the Nativity.

At the centre, above baby Jesus, is the bright Christmas star. More stars spell out the words Christmas and Noël at the top and bottom of the image.

In a departure from past Christmas issues that have reproduced Old Master paintings, this year’s Christmas stamp tells the story of Christ’s birth through simple, colourful imagery and rich symbolism evocative of traditional folk art.

Ideal for holiday cards and letters, or for sending invitations to seasonal events and parties, these simple, elegant stamps add a warm dose of Christmas cheer to your festive mail.

Also the Royal Mail is releasing their Christmas stamp set on November 1st.

The stamps feature traditional Christmas scenes with people posting their Christmas mail at various styles of post boxes – in the countryside and towns.

The set features eight stamps including 1st, 2nd, 1st large, 2nd large, £1.25, £1.45, £1.55 and £2.25

Show Schedule

November 9-10

31st annual mid-cities stamp club Expo

Grapevine, Texas

Grapevine Convention Center, 1209 South Main Street

Website: mid-citiesstampclub.com/stampshow.htm


November 10

Rubber City Stamp Club 99th Annual Stamp Show

Akron, Ohio

Akron General Health and Wellness Center, 4125 Medina Rd


November 10-11

MSDA Fall Cincinnati Area Stamp Show

West Chester, Ohio

Four Points by Sheraton Cincinnati North, 7500 Tylers Place Boulevard

Website: http://www.msdastamp.com


November 10

2018 Johnstown Stamp Show

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

St. John Gualbert Activity Center, 110 Adams St.

Leave a Reply