Stamp of the Week

This week we are featuring the three cent Francis Parkman from the Prominent Americans series, 1965 through 1978. This issue was designed by Bill Hyde and printed on a rotary press. It was used extensively for bulk mail. I have seen a lot of pre-cancellations with city and state location inside two black bars and the black bars alone. On Ebay I came across one with the unusual inscription of ‘BUNCH OK’.

I have also seen several neat looking perforation errors of this stamp and a fold-over error with an interesting tear on the bottom edge. This latter error had a decent price tag on it, too, around four hundred and fifty dollars. Unfortunately, the sheet, plate block and coil line pairs I have in my collection have no error.

Aside from the stamp itself being interesting, Francis Parkman had an interesting life and personality.

He was born into wealthy Boston society and at an early age he developed a passion for the wilderness. In the 1840s, after his graduation from Harvard, he headed off to the West in pursuit of that passion. He wrote a book about his experiences, The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life, and it quickly became a best seller.

He could have been just another rich kid traveling to exotic places on his father’s money, then writing of his exploits in the popular magazines for East Coast elites. However, two things had set him apart from that and made him one of America’s first great historical writers.

First: He was committed to use his gift as a historian to write a comprehensive history of the American continent before it was formed into a nation. That was a risky decision because it was contrary to the trend in respected historic writing at the time. Classical history and the Spanish exploration of North America were the topics of inquire, not French explorers and Native American tribes.

Second: He was a gifted writer who grasped the drama and importance inherent in American historical facts. By effectively conveying that drama, he invented the historical narrative that is popular today.

There is no doubt that Francis Parkman established a reputation as a noted historian and was one of the most widely read authors of nineteenth-century America. Theodore Roosevelt dedicated his four-volume history of the frontier, The Winning of the West (1889–1896), to Parkman. Like every great thinker, he has his critics, but the majority of historians consider his body of work to be an accurate and valuable account of the early Europeans exploring and settling North America.

I read the first few pages of his first book, The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life. It was so engaging that I purchased a copy, along with a few of the pre-cancellations I mentioned earlier.

Happy collecting!

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