Franklin

Western Philatelic Library
Open Access to Knowledge

History of the Western Philatelic Library

The Western Philatelic Library was organized as the South Bay Philatelic Library (SBPL) in 1969. At that time, the Sunnyvale (California) Public Library provided space for SBPL in the mezzanine of its new building. By 1971, as the size, importance, and mission of the philatelic library had grown from its original local frame of reference to the point were it was deemed appropriate to change the name to the Western Philatelic Library.

The Western Philatelic Library is composed of several important, historic collections. The oldest component is part of the collection of Hiram Edmund Deats, who was a born in New Jersey in 1870, and whose philatelic collections were assembled from 1886 onward. Deats was a founding member of the then newly formed American Philatelic Association (APA), which was a precursor to the American Philatelic Society (APS) formed in 1886. Deats was very active in many philatelic circles as a collector and an exhibitor, and he formed a philatelic library second, at that time, only to the John K. Tiffany Library. In the APA/APS, Deats served as Secretary, Librarian, Vice President, and President. His library indexes and annual reports on literature prepared for APA are of lasting reference value. He was also the founding Librarian of the Collectors Club of New York. On his death his literature collection went to the Philadelphia Free Library (originally started as the first public library in the colonies by Ben Franklin), and a part of the Deats library was later sold through auction to Dr. Don Dahlquist, a prominent Houston (Texas) surgeon..

Dahlquist also acquired the stock of duplicate or overrun material produced by the APS. This material had originally been purchased by George Turner, curator of the Philatelic Section of the Smithsonian. All of Dahlquist's library was purchased by the Friends of The Western Philatelic Library (FWPL) through the negotiations of Herb Trenchard in 1971, when Dahlquist decided to sell his library due to reasons of health. FWPL member Jim Strietweister took over the packing and transportation of the collection from Texas to Sunnyvale, California. The material, which consisted of 329 cartons and weighing nearly 18,000 pounds, was packed in a rental truck by an enthusiastic crew of college students who worked all night.

Pacific Philatelic Society (PPS)

The Pacific Philatelic Society was founded in 1884 by such notables as Henry J. Crocker, John N. Luff, Dr. E. S. Clark, H. B. Philips, and W. Sellschopp. The Pacific Philatelic Society formed a library collection housed first at 126 Kearny Street in San Francisco. In 1900 it became housed in the building of the Mechanics Institute, which was lost in the 1906 earthquake. After about three years the library was rebuilt.

Another group, the San Francisco Philatelic Society, which was formed in 1915, grew to become the largest philatelic organization in the U.S. by 1925 with 225 members. The depression affected both the Pacific Philatelic Society and the San Francisco Philatelic Society, which merged in 1937, under the joint name of the San Francisco-Pacific Philatelic Society (SF-PPS). SF-PPS later loaned its library to the Philatelic Research Society (PRS), a group organized in 1953, as a result of another independently organized library, the Cano Library of Juan Gualtero-Cano. The PRS built their library in Oakland, California, in the basement floor of the home of Fredrick B. Thomas, who was APS President from 1961 to 1965. For fifteen years, PRS held their meetings in the Thomas home.

In 1968 it became necessary to place the library holdings in storage. In 1972, the PRS library merged its collection with the collections of the Western Philatelic Library. The PRS has continued to meet, and the members were eventually made life members of FWPL.

The merger of the holdings of PRS and WPL was worked out between Jack Hughes, an Oakland stamp dealer, and Jim Jefferson, past president of SBPL. The physical transfer of 189 boxes of material (weighing 15,120 pounds and containing 2000 reference texts, plus handbooks, pamphlets and periodicals) was accomplished in August, 1972, and located in space in the basement of the Sunnyvale Public Library.

Many of the prime pieces of the WPL collection can be traced by their bookplates which reflect their various homes of the items over the last century. The strength of the current library stems from the accumulated foundation of all these former notable collections and the tradition of donating books and personal libraries to the WPL.

The WPL Transferred Back to FWPL

A 1994 study by the Sunnyvale City Library indicated a need for expansion of the general collection but a lack of library building space. In 1995 a study of the philatelic collection usage suggested the need to shift the collection into an area of the Raynor Activity Center which had recently been vacated by the Patent Library. At this time the FWPL agreed to operate the WPL with volunteer help. Under these circumstances, the Sunnyvale City Council approved the shift and returned ownership of the collection to FWPL.

It seems appropriate to offer a description of the library at this time for the historical record and for those distant members who do not get an opportunity to visit the library. What makes up the Western Philatelic Library?: The main collection consists of books, periodicals, pamphlets, and catalogs, plus tear sheets and duplicate books for sale. Located 40 miles south of San Francisco, the Western Philatelic Library is one of the largest public philatelic libraries in the United States today, containing over 3000 linear feet of shelving full of books, catalogs and bound periodicals, plus 48 file drawers of unbound periodicals and 30 drawers of pamphlets with a 15 drawer index. The computerized catalog in 2001 lists 13,000 books and pamphlets, 4000 bound volumes of journals, 2000 stamp catalogs, and 2000 auction catalogs from the USA and around the world.  Our collection includes works in over a dozen languages in addition to English.

A library is not a static an entity of books and other media sitting on shelves. On the contrary, the library is ever-changing and requires the work of many dedicated people. Frequently, specific tasks undertaken by volunteers are ongoing for many years. Tasks which are virtually endless include: cataloging, binding, listing periodicals, listing tear sheets, acquisition, sorting through an ever increasing backlog of donated material, editing and mailing of The Bay Phil newsletter, negotiating new directions for housing, mergers and cross-cataloging with other libraries so that inter-library loans can be made. Any one of these activities represents a genuine challenge and acceptance of a tremendous burden by the dedicated volunteers who keep it all going and growing.

Our primary sources for library material are from ongoing donated materials and donated cash to fund our acquisition programs. Negotiations to incorporate orphaned libraries, both public and private, into the WPL collections are always being considered. Efforts to affect mergers of WPL with other libraries are also often being pursued. Perhaps the most major issue facing WPL is to find adequate housing for the collections of the library, where our valuable library materials can be properly preserved to the benefit of collectors and the general public worldwide.

At present, the main collection is housed in 3000 square feet of donated space. The rest of the collection is scattered over four other locations, wherever donated storage can be obtained.  Our greatest long-range goal for the WPL is consolidation of all resources in one location. The goal is to house all of the materials in a space owned by the Library. Help us build the future.  Become a Member and an active donor to the Western Philatelic Library.


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