By Ellen Tillapaugh
Leatherstocking Stamp Club was founded in January 1934 with the express purpose of promoting a baseball stamp for the centennial celebration of baseball planned for 1939.
By no means has the club been active for all its history — but it has fairly complete minutes and bylaws from that early founding when approximately 20 locals gathered together in the Otsego County Courthouse to form the club. The club continued to meet at the Court House throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, and when the grand jury was in session it moved to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce office also located in the building.
The first president of the club was a woman, Dr. Marguerite Cockett, who was not only a philatelist, but also a physician and an artist.
April 19, 1937, the Board of Directors of the Cooperstown Chamber
of Commerce adopted a resolution encouraging the federal government
to consider issuing a commemorative baseball stamp to coincide with
the centennial plans in 1939. Two weeks later, the club endorsed this resolution.
Within the club, a committee chaired by Howard P. Michaels was formed to design cacheted covers. Michaels contacted Alfred R. Cobbett a local architect and draftsman, to design cachet covers. Corbett designed the first for National Air Mail Week in 1938, promoting the
baseball centennial. Corbett also submitted three other designs, one
of which was selected by the club and became the official cover of
National Air Mail Week was a nationwide public relations campaign designed to help airlines and promote air mail service during the Great Depression. Activities were planned to honor 20 years of air mail service; the inaugural airmail flight having occurred on May 15, 1918 between New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC). During the week-long, 1938 campaign held between May 15 and May 21 the goal was to have each citizen mail and/or receive an air mail letter.
Festivities were kicked off on May 14 when Scott No. C23, the new six-cent eagle, multicolored air mail stamp was issued. Many of the NAMW covers created by Alfred Cobbett at the behest of Howard Michaels, who owned Michaels Market, have the Michaels Market address on them for the May 19 flight in our area.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 individual cachets were created throughout the then 48 states, as well as many US territories. The majority of these all had some local connection — or interest element. In Cooperstown’s case, we were promoting a baseball centennial celebration for 1939.
While many Air Mail Week cachets were available for the entire week, most covers were mailed on Thursday, May 19, in order to be carried on special one-day-only NAMW flights, linking thousands of participating sites.
LSC members were not idle between the founding of the club in 1934 and its first cachet four years later. It was busy raising interest and promoting the idea of a baseball centennial stamp to coincide with the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame which was under construction and slated to induct its first players in June 1939.
Club minutes and newspaper articles of the time, including a 1936 clipping indicate that the club “adopted a resolution encouraging the federal government (specifically Postmaster General James A. Farley) to consider issuing a commemorative baseball stamp to coincide with centennial plans in 1939.” Local papers also noted that the idea had powerful backing when they reprinted a story that had appeared in a New York City paper indicating that quote: “Ford Frick, the National League's progressive young president,” was also promoting the idea. The article went on to say that “Frick is keen for a commemorative stamp because he is a philatelist of long standing. Ford related today that he has collected stamps ever since he was a grammar school kid. Ford has a collection of … many valuable first flight air mail covers, and he spends many a winter evening at home transferring his prizes into the new type of big loose leaf albums.”
June 12, 1939, the first U.S. baseball stamp (Scott No. 855) was issued in Cooperstown
with US Postmaster General James A. Farley autographing and selling
the first sheets.
In 1935 Cobbett had provided the design of a seal to also promote the observance of the baseball centennial. The seal was intended to be used on the reverse of envelopes, on parcels, etc. and the seals were sold locally in the stores at a moderate price in order to encourage people to use them on mailings. It is also to be found on many of the official documents and correspondence of Cooperstown Baseball Centennial, Inc.
Ultimately that seal in a larger format was used on many of the club's cachets. However, it is not what is considered the official club cachet for the 1939 stamp. In addition to the seal, Cobbett submitted three designs to the club, one of which was selected by the club and became the "official" club cover of the centennial. The other designs were used by some of the club members for their own covers.
It is estimated that 398,000 stamps were cancelled on cover. The LSC serviced 25,000 with the Cobbet design. The proceeds from the sale of the covers at 35 cents each were used to help offset the costs of the Village's Centennial Celebration Committee.
Within six months Cooperstown again was the site for a first day ceremony. Scott No. 860, the James Fenimore Cooper stamp, was issued on January 29, 1940 as part of the Famous American series.
a decade of activity, spurred by the Centennial of Baseball in 1939,
the activities of the club gradually ceased. It was reactivated in
of the clubs major activities was the sponsorship of a stamp
show in August of each year. Known as COOPERPEX, the first exhibit
was held in 1973 at the American Legion Rooms in Cooperstown. The
show was being held in conjunction with the Oneonta Stamp Club at
the Elks Club in Oneonta. Because of its connection with these well-known
communities, this show attracted visitors from a wide area.