We have now reached the apex of Worth B. Carnahan’s career as an artist and designer – the Tennessee Trout stamps. Trout stamps are one of the most popular categories of fish and game stamps, second perhaps, only to the venerable waterfowl stamps. Of all the trout stamps issued in the U.S., those designed by Worth from 1957 to 1963 are among of the most admired.
As a series, they represent a high water mark for mid century fish and game stamp design. Worth’s stamps look more like small posters, featuring clean, simple artwork that is seamlessly integrated with the lettering and numerals.
The regularly issued stamps for 1959-60 and 1960-61 are considered to be classics by collectors of fish and game stamps and vie for the title of Worth’s philatelic magnum opus.
For exhibitors and students of philately, what really sets the Tennessee Trout series apart from those of other states is the archival material (essays and proofs) brought into the collector market by Gene Lebo and Worth, himself.
As we saw in parts one and two, competition on the newsstands during The Depression and WWII was fierce (see Figure 1). As a product of this competitive environment, Worth was trained to go the extra mile when creating his magazine covers. This included taking extra time to proof his designs in a variety of different colors and, when appropriate, color combinations.
It is with the Tennessee Trout essays and proofs that Worth’s years of training in the studios of Adolphe Barreaux becomes palpable to even the most novice of philatelists.
A strong work ethic and attention to detail, engendered by Barreaux and augmented further by Harry Donenfeld, drove Worth to proof his trout stamp designs for the Game and Fish Commissioners in as many as ten different colors or color combinations. As a result, Tennessee Trout archival material is unparalleled in the fish and game hobby.
The 1955-57 Trout Stamps
As we saw in part four, the first Tennessee Trout stamp was issued on June 1, 1955 and was valid for the 1955-56 fiscal year. It was the only Tennessee Trout stamp out of the first seven or eight that was not designed by Worth.
For the purposes of providing a comprehensive overview for the series and providing context for Worth’s subsequent stamps, I have decided to include it in this discussion.
The stamp itself is a die-cut decal, mounted on a lightweight card stock which was then rouletted to facilitate separation. Janousek stated that all of the Tennessee Trout stamps were issued in sheets of 25. This presumably includes the decal but I cannot verify this.
Vanderford described two varieties, “red on cream on ivory card” (Type I) and “red on ivory on ivory card” (Type II). While acknowledging the existence of decals that appear to be printed on different colors of paper, I have switched the 1955-57 type designations for the following reason:
I believe all of the decals were originally printed on ivory paper and that subsequent exposure to heat, humidity and pressure resulted in upward gum migration and a darkening of the decal. The uniformly darkened decal is what Vanderford has described as “red on cream” (see Figures 2 and 3).
The Joyce collection included an unusual error on this stamp, with the decal bearing a second (not as distinct) inverted impression of the red design. Note that while the majority of the decal is ivory, the right side is beginning to slightly darken (see Figure 4).
As Janousek specifically stated the decal was valid “from July 1 to June 30th, 1956-1957” – and since the stamp is not dated – I began to suspect the the stamp was, in fact, first issued on June 1, 1955 and used for more than one fiscal year.
With the benefit of a modified frame of reference, I re-examined my collection of usages and came up with some interesting findings. First, the stamp was clearly used for the 1955-56 fiscal year, as I have many usages to document this (see Figures 5, 6a and 6b).
Second, I found the stamp was also used during the 1956-57 fiscal year (see Figures 7a, 7b and 8).
The 1957-58 Trout Stamps
The 1957-58 issue features a trout swimming toward the right. When the time arrived for Worth to design his first trout stamp, he submitted an essay to the Game and Fish Commissioners. The difference between an essay and a proof is that an essay contains a design element not present in the actual stamp (the finished product).
The essay included the “1957” year date at the left. Prior to the discovery of the Carnahan Archive, one example had been recorded. It was obtained for Les Lebo from the Commissioners by his son, Gene, and the margins were cut close to the image like a traditional small die proof (see Figure 9).
In the Carnahan Archive, Worth had a similar essay. However, it was not cut down and more resembles an unmounted large die proof (see Figure 10).
The Game and Fish Commissioners rejected Worth’s initial design, instructing him to remove the 1957 year date. As the first Tennessee Trout stamp was used for two years, it seems likely that some members of the Commission considered also using Worth’s stamp for more than one year.
The next step was to redesign the left side and create proofs. The difference between trial color proofs and regular proofs is that trial color proofs differ in color from the actual stamp, as issued.
Janousek reported three proofs in “deep blue, blue green and deep brown”. Vanderford stated “Imperforate trial color proofs on white paper of the accepted design exist in brown, blue and green”.
In this case, Janousek is more correct than Van. Worth submitted proofs of his accepted design to the Commissioners in three different colors. Janousek has described the colors as I would. All were labeled “Proof” and initialed WBC on the reverse. The deep brown color was subsequently approved by the Commission.
Since the deep brown color was approved and used for the regularly issued stamps, the deep blue and blue green may be said to be trial color proofs and the deep brown, simply a proof (see Figures 11 and 12).
The 1957-58 Trout stamps were perforated 11 3/4 and issued in sheets of 25 (5 x 5). Vanderford stated “A few sheets were issued [imperforate] on all four sides. The balance had perforated selvage on all four sides…” The stamps issued to hunters were serial numbered in dull red ink.
In part three, I explained that the Carnahan Archive contained large quantities of two trout stamps, from 1957-58 and 1962-63. I have given this considerable thought and have come up with a possible explanation. Vanderford stated that “With the exception of the decal… the designer of all [Tennessee Trout] stamps through 1963-64 was Worth B. Carnahan”.
Perhaps the 1962-63 Trout stamp was the last one Worth actually designed. If so, might Worth have put aside quantities of his first and last stamps for posterity – including future generations of his own family – to enjoy? More on this later.
Stamps without serial numbers are either unsold remainders or printer’s waste. For the 1957-58 Trout stamp, the Carnahan Archive included one set of (three) proofs, quantities of printer’s waste for the brown proof, quantities of the stamp as issued and quantities of printer’s waste for the stamp as issued.
To my knowledge, printer’s waste for a proof is unprecedented in fish and game stamps. They are imperforate, without serial numbers and the colors range in shades from close to the normal deep brown to a much lighter color. Often, there is ink smearing or some other printing defect present. None of these are labeled “Proof” or initialed by Worth (see Figure 13).
In the case of printers waste for the stamp as issued, the most common form is perforated on all four sides and lacking serial numbers. However, there are some pieces that were clearly mis-perforated and likely rescued from the trash.
At least one such sheet was imperforate vertically and instead contained extra rows of horizontal perforations. The Barry Porter and David Curtis collections contained examples of this form of printer’s waste (see Figures 14 and 15). As you can see – not all printer’s waste is created equally, for these examples are pretty cool!
The 1958-59 Trout Stamps
The 1958-59 issue features a trout leaping to the left. It was also the first Tennessee Trout stamp to have the period of validity included in the design. By this point the Game and Fish Commission must have committed to printing new stamps for each fiscal year.
Janousek stated “Proofs exist in horiz. imperf. green; and imperf. in green, green on blue, and brown and green on yellow”. Vanderford stated “Imperforate trial color proofs exist in blue-green as well as brown on white, yellow, blue and green papers.
Neither Janousek nor Van was close this time. Eight proofs in different color combinations were submitted by Worth to the Commission. Four were printed in brown ink; on green, yellow, blue and white paper and four were printed in blue-green ink, on the same four colors of paper. Gene Lebo obtained the complete set from the Commission for Les (see Figures 16 and 17).
As the color combination of green ink on white paper was approved for the issued stamps, it is a proof. The other seven are trial color proofs. Gene also obtained two unusual numbering proof pairs. It seems the Commission was trying to decide whether or not to have an “No” prefix before the serial numbers (see Figure 18).
There are two types of 1958-59 stamps. Type I stamps were perforated 11 3/4 on all four sides and issued in sheets of 25 (5 x 5) with a perforated selvage on all four sides of the sheet. Serial numbers were printed in red ink, without the prefix (see Figure 19).
Vanderford’s update did correct Janousek in one important regard; the “proof” he described as being “horiz. imperf. green” is actually a regularly issued stamp.
According to Vanderford, Type II stamps are “[The] same as Type I except issued in horizontal strips of 5 imperf at top and bottom. Perforated 11 3/4 vertically between stamps and at the right and left selvage” (see Figure 20).
As you may recall from part three, Van further explained “These stamps were cut in strips from a limited number of 25 stamp sheets which had been perforated vertically only and was an experiment to placate license agents who criticized the full sheets as being too large and cumbersome.”
For the 1958-59 Type II stamp, Lebo also had a vertical error pair, uncut between (see Figure 21).
The 1959-60 Trout Stamps
The 1959-60 issue was the first of two vertical Tennessee Trout stamp designs created by Worth. The vertical format – especially on oversized stamps – greatly enhances the small poster effect.
It features a trout leaping out of the water to the left. The composition is very pleasing; the lettering perfectly compliments the central trout motif, the upper herringbone element tricks your eyes into seeing movement and is well balanced by the serial number tablet at the bottom.
From the beginning, Worth knew he wanted this stamp to be printed in green ink. He submitted proofs to the Commission in four different shades. Vanderford stated “Imperforate trial color proofs on white paper exist as follows: olive, emerald, yellow-green and blue green” (see Figure 22).
As the olive-green shade was approved by the Commission for the regularly issued stamp, it is a proof. The other three shades of green are trial color proofs.
The stamp is perforated 12 1/2 and was printed in sheets of 25 (5 x 5). Thanks to the Carnahan family, I am privileged to be able to show you the original printing plate (see Figure 23).
The stamp, as issued, includes a red serial number inside the tablet at the bottom (see Figure 24). One sheet was printed with the serial numbers inverted, in error. I have examined three such error stamps; from the collections of Les Lebo, Barry Porter and David Curtis (see Figure 25).
By this point Tennessee Trout stamps used on resident licenses are not particularly noteworthy. I do have one uncommon usage, on the reverse of a Non-Resident 3-Day Sport Fishing Only License, to share (see Figure 26).