Arago: Exhibits

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John Wanamaker's Unique Imperforates

Retired Milwaukee lawyer Benjamin K. Miller (1857-1928) purchased this complete set of gummed, imperforate pairs from Nassau Stamp Company, New York City, in 1923. One of Miller’s proudest philatelic possessions, it is believed to be the only set in existence. The Columbian series produced no imperforates except those sheets from which Miller’s collection was drawn. Miller told a reporter at the The Milwaukee Journal: “For years there has been a rumor among stamp collectors that a pair of unperforated stamps of this issue, in pairs, was in existence . . . and that Postmaster General Wanamaker had purchased and paid for a set of these unperforated stamps and taken them to Henry Hilton, a wealthy merchant from New York, for Hilton’s son. It was considered that, in the absence of any proof that such an unusual set existed, that the rumor was rumor and nothing else, but two or three years ago the set actually showed up and I got them.”

Philadelphia business tycoon John Wanamaker (1838-1922), postmaster general from 1889 until 1893, and New York merchant and Tammany Hall insider Henry Hilton (d. 1899) enjoyed a relationship dating to the early 1880s. Wanamaker, famous for his chain of department stores and ingenious advertising techniques, purchased the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga Springs, New York, from Hilton. A lawyer and intimate of millionaire entrepreneur A.T. Stewart, Hilton controlled Stewart’s estate, including the Grand Union Hotel, after Stewart’s death in 1876. Wanamaker purchased the hotel when, after Hilton refused entrance to the hotel to Jewish visitors, patronage slumped. Wanamaker later purchased another of the deceased A.T. Stewart’s businesses, again operated by Hilton, in 1896. Wanamaker’s friendship with Hilton, one of New York City’s wealthiest citizens, continued until Hilton’s death in 1899.

In 1925 Benjamin K. Miller donated his collection, the most complete compilation of United States stamps in existence at the time, to The New York Public Library. The donation included the set of Columbian imperforate pairs.

Note: To view details of the stamps on this sheet, click on the image. Another window will open. Click on the thumbnail of this sheet, which will appear on the far right column.

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The complete set of gummed, imperforate pairs from the Benjamin K. Miller Collection