Museum Publishes Travers Papers Finding Guide

Online Access to Digital Copies Now Available
June 25, 2014
News Release
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The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum has announced the creation and publication of the Travers Papers Finding Guide. This collection of more than 4,000 pages will make available to historians and collectors official documents relating to the production of U.S. 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.

“By digitizing the collection, creating a finding guide and partnering with the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, we are able to make this valuable collection available to collectors around the world,” said Allen Kane, director of the museum. “Our partnership with the Classics Society provides online access to digitized copies of these extraordinary papers for the first time.”

“It is gratifying to see these important historical documents now archived in their natural home, the National Postal Museum,” said John Barwis, president of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society. “The Classics Society is privileged to have been able to participate in their preservation and presentation.”

The Travers Papers were donated to the museum in March 2009 from the Jack Rosenthal family of Casper, Wyo. The Travers Papers consist of hundreds of typed and handwritten pages, an unpublished manuscript and related post office documents from the Third Assistant Postmaster General files (1847 – 1910). The donation also includes 13 rare essays of stamp designs that were never issued.

Travers was the key figure in the story of the preservation of the principal records about the production of early postage stamps. Travers was a trained lawyer, but his affection for stamp collecting led him to seek employment at the Post Office Department, where he would later be appointed to the third assistant postmaster general’s office as chief clerk. Travers became familiar with the mass of historic data regarding the department, which was inaccurate. This led him to create a book on the production of the early U.S. postage stamps, using the official records as his base. Travers prepared a document titled, “United States Postage Stamps: A Compilation of the Official Historical Records,” also known as the Travers Papers.

Travers’ work in assembling the documents was overshadowed when he was indicted in 1911 on charges of having sold rare “blue paper” stamps from Post Office Department stocks to a Philadelphia stamp dealer. Although never prosecuted, Travers admitted to the sale, paid a fine and lost his job. The documents were eventually rediscovered and sold at auction in 1993 to Jack Rosenthal, a noted philatelic collector, stamp designer and former chair of the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee. Eager to find a repository for future scholars, Rosenthal and his sons Michael, Robert and Richard, selected the National Postal Museum for this donation.

The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at


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Marty Emery