Today we will look at Ken Pruess’ involvement with the the State Revenue Society, The State Revenue Newsletter and E.L. Vanderford’s Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. Through Ken’s selfless giving of his valuable time (he was a professor at The University of Nebraska at Lincoln for much of this period), Ken helped shape the future of revenue stamp collecting – and fish and game stamp collecting in particular – for generations to come. It is safe to say that without Ken Pruess, our hobby would not not be the same today.
The history of state revenue literature is surprisingly long and dates back at least to 1892, when Mekeel’s Stamp News included an article, Scott Auction Contains the Finest Lot of California Revenues Ever Offered, by K. Narca. Mekeel’s would continue to be a primary source for information about state revenues into the 1950s.
Fish and Game Hall of Famers Frank Applegate and Elbert Hubbard (under the name E.S. Amsler) wrote many articles about state revenues in Mekeels prior to the birth of The State Revenue Newsletter, starting in 1921 and 1944, respectively. Hubbard’s earliest work was a long-running column titled State Revenue Lore.
This column was superseded by Hubbard’s The State Revenoor. He was then credited variously as E.A. Hubbard, El Hubbard and El S.A. Hubbard. Hubbard printed copies of his articles that appeared in Mekeels and independently distributed them to state revenue enthusiasts known to him.
The State Revenue Newsletter
In 1959, Hubbard founded the State Revenue Society (SRS) and it’s official publication was The State Revenue Newsletter (SRN). By August, 1960, David C. Strock of Seattle , Washington had taken over publication duties for the SRN from Hubbard. At this point, Elbert S.A. Hubbard was listed as Editor-In-Chief and Strock as Managing Editor. As it concerns our story, it was then that Ken Pruess became a new member of the SRS (see Figure 1).
The earliest mention of E.L. Vanderford in the SRN occurred December of 1960, and was in reference to the Illinois Daily Usage stamps. According to Strock, Mr. E.L. Vanderford tells us that our comments in the June number to the effect that these were issued from 1955 on, should have read “from 1953 and up”.
One of Ken’s primary interests throughout his collecting life was in stamps and seals relating to honey; for honey is made by bees and being an Entomologist, Ken had a keen interest in bees. His first contribution to the SRN was in November of 1961, and was about Washington Honey Seals (see Figure 2).
In January of 1962, David Strock started soliciting his replacement as Managing Editor of the SRN (eventually Nelson Caldwell of Missouri would assume his position). In the April, 1962 issue of the SRN, Strock spoke highly of a new monograph by Ken Pruess titled Stamps, Taxes and Entomology (see Figure 3).
In the August, 1962 issue of the SRN (following an SRS meeting at Westpex, in San Fransisco), Hubbard announced that he was placing Dr. Kenneth Pruess on the SRS Board of Governors.
With the November, 1962, issue, Ken started to contribute original articles to the SRN. His first was a report on the Illinois Cigarette stamps. In the June, 1964, issue, the SRN included an updated membership list. Ken listed his stamp collecting interest as “insects on any type of stamp or seal” and his other hobbies as “photography, hunting, fishing and bowling”.
A New Editor for the SRN
In mid 1964, Caldwell had become ill and the SRN changed from monthly to bi-monthly. The November-December issue featured Ken’s first full length article, Louisiana Insecticide and Fungicide Stamps. In 1965 and early 1966, the SRN saw sporadic publication as Caldwell dealt with his illness. By September of 1966, the SRN had a new Managing Editor, Ken Pruess (see Figure 4).
This was an enormous undertaking on the part of Ken, as he he had recently accepted a full time professorship at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln the previous year. In the May, 1967 issue of the SRN, Charles Hermann was announced as an Assistant Editor and E.L Vanderford was acknowledged for his many fish and game contributions (see Figure 5).
Starting with the September, 1967 issue of the SRN, E.L. Vanderford was also named as an Assistant Editor (Fish & Game) and the first of his fish and game listings appeared (see Figure 6). Ken Pruess had convinced Van to update Joseph Janousek’s fish and game listings that previously had appeared in the American Revenuer (see Figure 7).
The plan, which originated with Ken, was to take Vanderford’s work upon completion and publish it as a stand alone Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. Of interest to fish and game collectors, the November 1967 issue of the SRN included a notable new member – future Hall of Famer Les Lebo. Les was nominated by Ken Pruess (see Figure 8).
Ken and Van would work tirelessly on this project for over six years. This was to take a great toll on Ken, who continued to soldier on (see Figure 9).
Ron Lesher would soon become the next State Revenue Newsletter Managing Editor.
The Handbook Was Ken’s Idea
On April 18, 1973, Ken sent Van a letter of interest to our story for two reasons. First, we can see that Ken is aggressively pursuing all fish and game stamps by this time, not just trout stamps. Second, he states that he is returning to Van some stamps he xeroxed for reproduction in the updated Handbook.
I found in the letter copies of the xeroxes, including one for the unique 1938 Ohio Pymatuning stamp (see Figures 10 and 11). It makes me kind of uncomfortable when I think of them putting the Pymatuning stamp in a glassine and sending it back and forth in the mail!
On May 2, 1973, Ken sent Van another letter of interest. In it he includes a xerox and a photocopy of two previously unrecorded Montana stamps he had acquired. Note the last paragraph where he asks Van to consider publishing a stand alone version of the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. In other words, the Handbook, like the original listings in the SRN – was Ken’s idea and not Van’s. Also, we see Ken originally intended for the Handbook to include values (see Figures 12 and 13).
On August 16, 1973, Ken sent Van a letter telling him his duties as Managing Editor for the SRN were concluded, “My last Newsletter went in the mail today”. He also sent to Van a pre-publication copy of the front page of the July, 1973, issue of the SRN. It contains an article by Van on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation stamps. Of more significance to our story, it includes a good-bye from Ken (see Figures 14a and b).
The Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps
With the responsibilities of Managing Editor for the SRN behind him, Ken was able to focus his available time on the Handbook. The first thing to do was design a cover. Ken laid out a sample cover and sent it to Van for input on September 1, 1973. Much to his surprise, Van made no changes and the rather crude first draft became the charming cover we know today (see Figures 15a and b).
Next, was to determine the size of the first edition and its selling price. This took a little longer to decide. Ken sent an initial letter to the SRS Board of Governors on August 31 and a follow-up on September 20, 1973 (see Figures 16 and 17). In the second letter, he indicates he would handle the Handbook sales, himself.
On the reverse of Van’s copy of the letter dated September 20, Ken typed an additional private correspondence. In it, Ken suggests using Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps as a title for the book, the same as was used in serial publication in the SRN. Ken also asks permission to include his two recent Montana discoveries in a future SRN article and informs Van he is negotiating to buy the stock of famed fish and game dealer, Art Soderling (see Figure 17).
So there you have it; as Managing Editor for the State Revenue Newsletter, It was Ken’s idea for Van to update Joseph Janousek’s fish and game listings as a serial publication in the SRN. Ken made all the xeroxes, stencils and layouts and then published and mailed the actual newsletters, themselves.
Then it was Ken’s idea to take the completed listings and turn them into a book, the Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps. Ken designed the cover, produced the books and handled the sales.
The Handbook would become the leading fish and game reference for 20 years and the “bible” of our hobby. It single-handedly was responsible for guiding hundreds of fledgling collectors through their growing pains and deserves much credit for helping to establish the collecting of fish and game stamps as a viable niche in the largest hobby in the world.
Along the way, Ken would directly help many fish and game collectors to get started, including future Hall of Famer Les Lebo. Elmore Vanderford was a good friend and my biggest mentor, largely owing to the fact he lived two hours away from me in Sacramento (while Ken lived in Lincoln, Nebraska). For decades, Van has received the lion’s share (or all) of the credit for the listings in the SRN and for the Handbook, itself.
Ken Pruess was a very humble man and he wanted it that way. In the past, I have kept quiet out of respect to both of my friends. However, one of our goals for this website is to record fish and game history for posterity as accurately as possible. If you are like most of us, your copy of the Handbook is well worn. The next time you look something up in it, perhaps you will remember Ken Pruess.