Today we will start to take a look at the Tennessee fish and game stamps that were designed by Worth B. Carnahan. We will see essays, proofs, regularly issued stamps, errors and usages from the collections of Morton Dean Joyce, Les Lebo, E.L. Vanderford and David Curtis – as well as new discoveries from The Carnahan Archive.
Tennessee became a state in 1796 and the first laws pertaining to wildlife were passed in 1825. These allowed licensed individuals to build fish traps in rivers. The first game and fish seasons were established between 1873 and 1875. In 1875 the killing of ducks for profit on Reelfoot Lake (the only large natural lake in the state) was prohibited.
In 1889 the State Legislature created game warden positions for the purpose of game and fish law enforcement. However, it was constables and Justices of the Peace who first served in this capacity. Starting in 1901, residents were required to purchase hunting licenses. Tennessee adopted Chapter 169 in 1903, providing for the statewide protection of game and fish resources by actual game wardens and their deputies.
Chapter 169 was a comprehensive Act that defined wild game and declared birds and wild game to be property of the state; defined the methods allowed to take wildlife and established hunting seasons; required non residents to purchase a hunting license and repealed all local and conflicting laws. Perhaps most important – it set penalties for violations.
In 1915, Chapter 152 established the Department of Game and Fish. Initially the Department was headed by a State Game and Fish Warden who was appointed by the Governor. A new Department of Game and Fish was created by the Reorganization Act of 1937 and placed within the Department of Conservation.
In 1949, The Tennessee Game and Fish Commission was established. The Commission consisted of nine men – three from each of the Grand Divisions of the state – who were appointed by the governor from lists submitted by local sportsmen’s clubs (see Figure 1).
The 1955-56 Big Game Stamps
Janousek, Applegate and Vanderford all stated that Tennessee first issued Big Game stamps in 1955-56, followed by Trout stamps in 1956-57. In my first exhibit and in other places on this website, I have perpetuated what I now know to be this same incorrect information.
My research for this post has shown that on April 17, 1955, The Tennessean from Nashville announced “The State Game and Fish Commission decided to wait until the beginning of a new license year, or June 1, before requiring hunters and fishermen [to purchase] new licenses and permits authorized in legislation enacted by the recent General Assembly.
Provisions of new Chapter T52, Public Acts of 1955, require [sportsmen to purchase] a $1 stamp to fish for trout and a $5 stamp to hunt big game as well as moderate increases in new non-resident hunting and fishing licenses.
The Commission, however, felt it would work undue hardship on hunters and fishermen to make the new requirements effective yesterday as set out by the statute. Thus the big game stamp will not be required for turkey hunts this spring and trout stamps will not be necessary until June 1.”
We will revisit this rather startling revelation about the trout stamps later in this post and in the next one. For now, it appears that the Big Game stamps were first required for the (fall) 1955 deer hunting seasons.
This part would be consistent with the information published by Janousek, Applegate and Vanderford (see Part Three) and the the write-ups provided on exhibit pages by Les Lebo in the 1970s and myself in the 1990s (see Figures 2 and 3).
The 1955-56 Big Game stamp was to fulfill a lifelong ambition on the part of Worth B. Carnahan. Taken in context, many of his life experiences – from collecting stamps as a young boy and hanging out at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to designing covers for pulp magazines and comic books – may be seen as laying the groundwork for this achievement.
By this time, Worth was hardly a novice when it came to designing stamps, having illustrated dozens of pulp and comic book pages with his stamp artwork. However, this was the first opportunity for one of his designs to leap from the pages of a fantasy and into the real world.
The first Tennessee Big Game stamp is now considered by collectors to be a classic and features a buck white-tailed deer head. Surrounding the central vignette is a “picture frame” border that contains all of the printed text.
According to Vanderford’s listings in the State Revenue Newsletter (1970) and The Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps (1973), “The design was originally proofed and accepted in a rich ruby red and [the] color as issued was actually a printer’s error”.
We now get to see one of the surprises I promised in part three, the original printing plate for the 1955-56 proofs. This would not have been the plate used for the regularly issued stamps, as that one would have duplicated the die 15 times (5 x 3) as opposed to the five we see in Figure 4.
A finished proof can be seen in Figure 5. Worth identified all his proofs as such on the reverse and initialed them WBC – for Worth B. Carnahan.
We now know that the first Tennessee fish and game stamp was actually the trout stamp issued on June 1, 1955. It was issued as a die-cut decal mounted on rouletted backing paper, a sample of which was was sent to Worth by the Game and Fish Commissioners (see Figure 6).
As an avid stamp collector – and one that frequented the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as a youth – Worth would probably not have approved of this format for the stamps he designed.
One of the biggest surprises we found in The Carnahan Archive was a ruby red “proof” with what appears to be rather crude (sewing machine?) perforations. We occasionally see this in U.S. governmental second issue revenues.
I believe this stamp (the reverse is not initialed) was created in order to persuade the Game and Fish Commissioners that his stamps should be perforated. Worth could have made the case that perforations would facilitate easy separation (see Figure 7).
As reported by Vanderford, the 1955-56 stamps, as regularly issued, were perforated 11 3/4 and printed in Vermillion ink from printing plates with 15 subjects (see Figures 8, 9 and 10).
Update (January 2019): Cynthia Carnahan has discovered a partial sheet of 1955-56 Big Game stamps in boxes of her father’s things. It now appears that Worth provided the format information to both Janousek and Vanderford and that neither writer ever saw either the “sheet” or a xerox before publishing their format descriptions. The piece is not straight edged at the bottom as Vanderford stated and, therefore, almost certainly represents the upper three rows of a sheet that originally was printed with 25 subjects (5 x 5). As we shall soon see, this format was adopted for printing all of Tennessee’s Big Game stamps.
The 1956-57 Big Game Stamps
The 1956-57 issue features a leaping buck white-tailed deer and has an elegant mid-century modern feel to it. Janousek stated two trial color proofs were printed, in “sepia-brown and deep green”. Vanderford stated that three were printed; in “sepia, green black and dark green”.
I believe that Janousek was correct as I have only seen them in two different colors. I believe that Van misstated and that, in fact, the “green black” and “dark green” proofs he described are actually one and the same (see Figures 11 and 12).
There were two types of 1956-57 stamps. At this point, there were apparently still some members of the Commission who were not completely sold on perforations. Type I was imperforate or die cut and printed in bright blue ink with a red serial number.
It is not known if this stamp was regularly issued. The distribution and handling of die cut stamps on the part of license agents, while not without precedent, seems like it would be cumbersome.
There are some who have argued that this stamp is actually a proof. However, I have examined two (from the Lebo and Curtis collections) and both lack the proof designation and Worth’s initials on the reverse (see Figure 12). No Tennessee Big Game proofs have been recorded with serial numbers.
Type II stamps were perforated 11 3/4 and printed in green ink. Those that were issued to hunters were serial numbered at the bottom. Vanderford stated they were “From sheets of 25 (5 x 5) approx 135 x 185 mm and imperf all four sides” (see Figure 13). Examples of perforated stamps that lack a serial number are either unsold remainders or printer’s waste. (see Figure 14).
The 1957-58 Big Game Stamps
The 1957-58 issue features a wild turkey in flight. It is one of Worth’s most popular stamp designs and and epitomizes the enticing “small poster” artwork that his unique background made possible.
A fair number of collectors specialize in stamps that were required (or not) to hunt turkeys and this stamp is one that is at the top of their list.
Janousek stated three trial color proofs were printed, in “brown, maroon and olive green”. Vanderford stated the trial color proofs were “printed on white paper in miniature horizontal sheets of two (slightly different designs) in the following colors: sepia, rich brown, maroon, olive green”.
Van was correct about the miniature sheets. They are all labeled “proof” and initialed by Worth on the reverse. However, as the designs were slightly different and one (on the left) differs from the final stamp design – these miniature sheets can more accurately be described as combination essays and trial color proofs.
As such, they are unique within the field of fish and game collecting – perhaps literally – as I am only aware of the one set that was obtained by Gene Lebo from the Game and Fish Commission for Les.
I believe Janousek was again correct about the colors. I have only seen these miniature sheets in three colors and am of the opinion that the sepia and rich brown mini-sheets described by Van are one and the same (see Figures 15a, b and c).
The Carnahan Archive did contain two more surprises here and one of these may help to explain Van’s confusion. Worth had a trial color proof in black ink on white paper and a proof in the same color as Type II of the regularly issued stamp in his personal collection.
Van described the issued color as “rich brown” in both the SRN update and his Handbook. Both of the items in Worth’s collection were labeled “proof” and initialed by him (see Figure 16).
As Worth almost certainly described the colors of these items to Van in their correspondence (Van’s collection did not contain any Tennessee archival material), the fact that there existed what Worth, himself, referred to as “proofs” in two different colors of brown – one in the miniature sheet and one as a single – may have caused Van to “get his wires crossed” when it came time for the listings.
The regularly-issued stamps have also been recorded in two distinct shades of brown. I have identified these as Type I and Type II based on their serial number range. It appears there were two printings and that when the ink was mixed for the second – it was not exactly the same as that used on the first (see Figure 17).
As with the 1956-57 issue, unnumbered stamps have entered the collector market and these are either unsold remainders or printer’s waste ( see Figure 18).
By this point, the Game and Fish Commission had ordered larger resident hunting and sport fishing licenses. The larger licenses were able to accommodate three separate stamp boxes; one each for the Big Game and Trout stamps, as well as one for the federal waterfowl stamp (see Figure 19).
The 1958-59 Big Game Stamps
The 1958-59 issue was the only one of Worth’s stamp designs to be printed in two different colors. Philatelists refer to these stamps as “bi-color” and the (albeit costly) printing process contributes greatly to the eye appeal of the finished product.
Many of the world’s most famous stamps, such as the 1918 U.S. “Inverted Jenny” airmail stamp that Worth illustrated and discussed on one of his comic book stamp pages, are bi-color. For this reason, one can imagine that Worth would be eager to make his own contribution to this special oeuvre.
His stamp features a black bear, which is commonly found throughout Tennessee’s Great Smokey Mountains. In addition to the lettering proof shown in part three, as the stamp was bi-colored, it was necessary to proof it in many (five) different color combinations before the right one was agreed upon (see Figures 20 and 21).
Another one of the surprises in the Carnahan Archive, was a set of blocks of four of the five different 1958-59 trial color proofs. They were the only proofs present in multiple form and serve to remind us of Worth’s fondness for this issue, presumably one of his favorites (see Figure 22).
The final colors for the stamp were green and black. In combination with a deep red serial number, the stamp is very pleasing to the eye and remains popular with collectors today (see Figure 23).
Big Game Stamps Discontinued
In his introduction to the Tennessee Big Game stamps, Vanderford stated they were “issued annually through the 1958-59 season and superseded thereafter with tags. The card covers of the booklets of tags are imprinted ‘Big Game Stamp and Hunting Record’ and have stamp-like illustrations of various big game but no actual stamps were issued after 1958-59”.
This statement is correct. What I find especially interesting about the booklet covers, is that Worth’s stamp-like illustrations bear a marked similarity to his first published stamp illustration that appeared in The Lone Ranger Magazine back in 1937 (see Figures 24 and 25).
The Big Game booklets continued to be issued through the end of the 1960s. However, the last one believed to be designed by Worth was for the 1962-63 season. The “stamp” image features a standing turkey looking toward the right. The Carnahan family loaned me a proof strip of four for this booklet cover to share (see Figure 26).