First Flight Covers

April 18, 2012

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Henry Hammelman is best known as a servicer, dealer, and exhibitor of classic FDCs. Like many other cover servicers of his time, he was also deeply into FFCs. In fact, his eventual interest in FFCs would equal and at some point exceed his interest in FDCs.

Henry accumulated many of his covers while working at the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) in Washington from 1908 to 1933. The names on the covers are usually those of his co-workers or people who lived at his residences. Names He used their cooperation when building up his inventory of covers for a cover business he would start-up in New York City after his retirement from the government.

His firm, the Pioneer Stamp Company, was located at 116 Nassau Street, the philatelic hub of the country. During 1935, his first year of business, he published a catalogue that listed the many FDCs and FFCs that he had for sale. The listing of FFCs is interesting because of the great detail he used to identify individual covers. These covers often attract attention because of Hammelman’s distinctive handwriting and the fact that many of the covers are franked with large blocks, coil strips, or booklet panes of low value stamp denominations on legal size envelopes. Some covers are typewritten or addressed by some of his associates. The catalogue states that many unlisted FFCs were also available posted with single stamps.

The objective of my collection of Hammelman FFCs is to accumulate an example of each of his listed FFCs. Some of the specific FFCs might be found with more than one addressee. Each exhibited cover is identified by a unique lot number found in the Pioneer Stamp Company catalogue. A Missing lot number implies that the associated cover is not in my collection. The catalogue lot numbers are as follows:

First Day Air Mail Rates
521 – 524

Special Flights
2001 – 2008 Dirigible Flights
2009 – 2039 Lindbergh Flights

International Flights (FAMs)
2040 – 2047 Blocks of Air Post Stamps
2048 – 2061 Blocks of Commemorative Stamps
2063 – 2069 Blocks of Ordinary Stamps
2070 – 2071 Coil Strips of Ordinary Stamps

Domestic Flights (CAMs)
2072 – 2075 Blocks of Air Post Stamps
2076 – 2114 Blocks of Commemorative Stamps
2115 – 2115 Coil Strips of Commemorative Stamps
2116 – 2123 Booklet Panes
2124 – 2143 Coil Strips of Ordinary Stamps
2144 – 2152 Blocks of Imperforate Ordinary Stamps
2153 – 2183 Blocks of Perforated Ordinary Stamps

All of the categories are broadly represented in this exhibit except for those with commemorative stamps. It is possible that used block specialists of the twentieth century may have ravaged those covers.

I have found only a few of Henry’s unlisted flight covers posted with single stamps. Either the unknown covers were addressed in a manner that I have not yet identified or they did not survive the Pioneer Stamp Company’s demise. I recently (10/2014) did find in a large lot of 240 FFCs a matched set of eleven Hammelman covers for CAM 33. That route on October 15, 1930 replaced portions of three earlier routes that existed somewhere between Atlanta and Los Angeles. Different cachets were assigned to each of the 13 cities on the new route. Hammelmman’s covers are each franked with the 5 cent Aeronautics stamp, Sc. 550. CAM33 covers

Covers shown in this exhibit are listed by Hammelman’s catalogue number followed by a first flight designation.

Scott numbers mentioned in this exhibit are taken directly from the Pioneer Stamp Company catalogue descriptions which are found in the listing “Pioneer Catalogue Pages.”

Besides Hammelman hand-addressed covers and various typewritten covers, there are covers addressed by three other people. The first is Randolph Holtzclaw, the son of Henry’s landlady in 1928 and 1929. His covers include 2130, 2175, and 2179. I believe the second person is Nellie Saunders, a secretary at the USPOD. Her covers are 2069 and 2122. The third person is Clare Kleinschmidt, a woman who shared an apartment with Henry in 1929 and 1930. There are several covers with her script. The first is cover 2001.They also helped Henry with FDCs.

Not much is known about Henry’s cover servicing activity in New York City. He never updated his Pioneer Stamp Company catalogue. There is evidence that much of what Henry added to his cover inventory during this period was obtained through other dealers, collectors, and auctions. I have found only a handful of his own first flight covers from that period. They are all addressed, except the last-listed cover, to 116 Nassau Street where Henry had his office. Each cover has some combination of the following addressing; Pioneer Stamp Company, Henry Hammelman, Room 816, Miss Marie Nathan, Miss Miriam Wiener, and Miss E. Kaufman. Room 816 appears to be Henry’s office number. I am still looking for more information about the ladies. These covers are identified by NY designations and they are sequenced by date. Only air mail stamps are used on the covers. Some air mail FDCs are also included in the listing. I have seen other covers that might be Hammelman covers, but I have not found the key linking them to Henry. An exceptional Hammelman New York cover is NY (Z-404), a Hindenburg Zeppelin cover.

Henry closed his business in the early 1950s. Not much is known about the status of, some say 100,000, of his inventory of covers. I do know of one significant dispersion. The H. R. Harmer auction catalogue of February 23-25, 1954 announced the sale of The “Henry Hammelman” Collection of Air Mail Covers, chiefly Trans-Oceanic, formed and offered by order of Henry Hammelman of New York. A highlight from among many gem lots was a lot of 39 pilot autographed 1933 Balbo Triptyched covers from the Italo Balbo aircraft armada of 24 flying boats that flew from Italy to Chicago. Balbo Covers You should Google “Balbo” to find out more about this event. The eight pages of this auction are available at : Auction

More can be learned about Henry Hammelman, his covers, and his many associates at henryhammelman.wordpress.com

Covers may be reached by clicking on individual “pages” located on right side of this home page or by utilizing the “go to next cover” phrase on each page.

All covers, without supporting detail, are sequenced by date at sequenced by date.

You can return to the home page from any page by clicking on “Henry Hammelman” in the home page header.

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