by David R. Torre, ARA
The non-pictorial stamps issued by Marion County, Kansas, have long held a fascination for advanced collectors and students of fish and game stamps. Over fifty years ago it was first reported that Marion County might have issued the first local fish and game stamps in the United States (Janousek, 1959). Since that time, a relative lack of published information about the stamps and the area where they were used has prevented the stamps from enjoying widespread popularity. The same can be said for many other fish and game stamps, aside from pictorial waterfowl stamps. The purpose of this article is to tell the story of the Marion County stamp program and to provide descriptions of stamps which were previously unrecorded. It is hoped that this knowledge might enhance the appreciation of longtime collectors for this interesting segment of fish and game philately and, perhaps, encourage prospective new collectors to take a closer look at these stamps.
Information about the stamps was first published in The American Revenuer in 1959. In his “State Game Hunting and Fishing Revenue Stamps” column, pioneer fish and game collector Joseph J. Janousek provided a description of Marion County’s first two fishing stamps, which he reported as being issued for 1939-40 and 1940-41 (see Figure 1), as well as fishing and duck stamps issued from the mid 1950s through 1958-59. Janousek stated that no information was available on fishing stamps issued from 1941-1955 or duck stamps issued from 1939-1953. No mention of the stamps was made in [Frank L.] Applegate’s Catalogue of State and Territorial Game and Fishing License Stamps, which was published by the noted state revenue dealer in the early 1960s.
The early 1970s brought about a relative explosion in published information. In his Kansas State Revenue Catalogue, Charles J. Bellinghausen provided descriptions of four early stamps not recorded by Janousek. These were the 1943 and 1944 duck stamps and the 1944-45 and 1953-54 fishing stamps (see Figure 2).
Just previous to the catalogue being published, fellow Kansas specialist Hugh L. Smiley informed Bellinghausen that remainders of most of the stamps issued from 1954 through 1970 were still kept in a box at the Marion County courthouse (Smiley, H.L., 1991). With the remainders to study, Bellinghausen was able to provide detailed descriptions and illustrations of the stamps and recorded many significant printing varieties including the popular “Dusk” error of 1969 (see Figure 3). In a separate publication, Compound Roulettes of the Marion County Fish and Duck Stamps, Bellinghausen described rouletting variations and combinations which he discovered on many of the remainders.
In 1973 E. L. Vanderford’s Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps was published. This invaluable reference covered the stamps in additional detail and provided descriptions of six early stamps which were previously unrecorded. These were the 1946 and 1947 duck stamps which had been discovered by the legendary stamp dealer Gilson Willets of Flying Horse Stamp Company fame (Vanderford, 1991), as well as the 1950 and 1951 duck stamps and the 1950-51 and 1951-52 fishing stamps which had been reported by revenue specialist Dr. Kenneth Pruess (see Figure 4). Vanderford also provided descriptions of fishing and duck stamps issued in 1971 and 1972.
In 1977 Vanderford’s Checklist of State and Locally Issued Migratory Waterfowl Hunting License Stamps was published and included a description of the 1973 duck stamp (see Figure 5). Already a collector of federal waterfowl stamps for many years, the check list would have a profound effect on my life. It was at this time that I first became interested in learning more about (and soon enjoyed collecting) non pictorial waterfowl stamps. I began to check them off.
In the 1980s, after becoming especially intrigued with the stamps issued by Marion County, Kansas, I began to make pilgrimages there in search of previously unrecorded stamps and new information. It turned out to be a marvelous treasure hunt. With each new discovery I felt more compelled to write this article and share what I had learned. So here we go…
I found the town of Marion charming and the people very friendly. The lake was still picturesque and unspoiled. As a result of my avid interest in the stamps and their history I found it all captivating. New friends and other contacts made over the years would occasionally locate a license or two or perhaps a loose stamp. However, on two separate trips amazing new finds were made.
J.E. Mullikin was the first Marion County Park and Lake Supervisor. I was introduced to a woman who was the caretaker and housekeeper for the Mulliken family. When relatives cleaned out Mullikin’s house in 1992, they apparently saw no value in the stamps, licenses and records he had saved. Everything was boxed up and brought to the curb for collection. The caretaker had a deep attachment to the family and retrieved some of the items from the boxes to keep as mementos, including Mullikin’s personal hunting and fishing licenses. Mullikin’s licenses were incredible. They bore many previously unrecorded stamps and would soon become a part of fish and game lore.
After meeting with the woman she allowed me to purchase most of the licenses that served as the basis for this article. After the article was originally published in 1993, she contacted me again. She was quite pleased with the finished product and informed me that she had found another box containing additional licenses and some unused stamps. This second group of items forms the basis for much of the updated portion of this article and for our collaboration I will always be grateful. Is is safe to say that without her vigilance and foresight, many of the early Marion County stamps would never have been recorded and I could not have told their story in such a definitive way.
The second remarkable find came about after knocking on the door of John Waner, the person who succeeded Mulliken as Park and Lake Supervisor. I shall recount this afternoon in detail later in the article. Along with the stamps from both these finds I was eventually able to list and describe all of the Marion County waterfowl stamps except for the one from 1952 in the 3rd edition of my Catalog of U.S. Non-Pictorial Waterfowl Stamps (Torre, 1999). Today, a great deal more is known about both the Marion County stamps and the area where they were used. Some of the more important facts concerning the stamps are as follows:
- In 1940, three years after Kansas became the first state government to issue a fish and game stamp with one required to hunt quail in 1937, Marion County became the first local government to issue a fish and game stamp in the U.S. (see Figures 1,19 and 20) with one required for fishing (Marion County Record of Sports Licenses).
- Second only to those issued by the State of Ohio for Pymatuning Lake in 1938, they are the earliest stamps on record to have been required specifically for fishing in the U.S. (In 1938 Virginia began issuing a combination hunt-trap-fish stamp for use within their National Forest.)
- In 1941 Marion County first issued a waterfowl stamp (Marion County Sports License Records), and surviving examples rank second only to Ohio’s 1937 stamp for Pymatuning Lake as the earliest state or local waterfowl stamps on record (see Figure 6).
- The 1943 duck stamp recorded by Bellinghausen is now known to be the first stamp issued by any government in the world to bear that inscription (see Figure 2). It may further surprise collectors to know that since that time only the states of California and Nevada have joined Marion County in issuing true “duck stamps.”
- The Marion County Waterfowl stamps are the longest consecutively issued series of waterfowl stamps by any state or local government in the twentieth century (1941-1973).
- In December of 2014, over forty years after the series was discontinued, the final unrecorded Marion County stamp was discovered and recorded for philatelists by Michael Jaffe – the 1952 stamp for duck hunting.