In today’s post we shall focus our attention on Charles and Libby Schwartz’s lives and work in Missouri, during the 1960s and 1970s. I will provide a glimpse into their home settings and a rather unique lifestyle which, as was the case with Aldo Leopold and his iconic shack, influenced Charles’ artistic expression and was the location for much of their actual work.
At the behest of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDOC), the 1960s gave rise to two exciting long-term projects that would substantially alter Charles Schwartz’ oeuvre. Whereas during the first half of his career (1940s – 1950s) Charles was to become known for his detailed, anatomically correct drawings and illustrations in black and white – his artistic output during the second half would know no boundaries in terms of either size or color.
We shall take a close look at my original inspiration for this series of posts, the enchanting trout stamps Charles created and, in another Extended Cut, I will expound the pivotal role Charles and his stamps played in helping to establish the nascent hobby of fish and game stamp collecting as a popular philatelic niche.
The Jefferson City Homes
Upon returning back from Hawaii in 1947 (see Part Two) the Schwartzes purchased their first house. According to Libby’s memoir, “Because it was nearing the time for school to start, we felt obliged to find a home where we could be permanent and send Barbara to school. We found one [on what is now Forest Hill Avenue] in Jefferson City and we were happy to be settled in our own home at last…’
“When we bought this house, it was [located] on the last street in town with a city park across the street and undeveloped land all around. Gradually, we became surrounded by homes and no longer had the space we cherished. However, our house was very adequate. We converted a sun room into Charlie’s studio where he had his drawing board and art supplies. My desk was in the living room with typewriter and adjacent bookshelf. In the dining room we constructed an editing table for our motion picture work and in the basement we built an efficient dark room. It was close to a good elementary school and to a bus line that took the children to junior and senior high schools. Probably the best feature of all was a big screened in porch that we used all spring, summer and fall. But we lacked the space we wanted outside for of other activities.”
In 1965 the newly renamed Missouri Department of Conservation (MDOC) built permanent headquarters in Jefferson City (previous to this they had rented office space). Upon completion, Charles and Libby were both provided with government office space for the first time. Prior to 1965, the Schwartzes had always worked out of their home or on location (see Figure 1).
The resulting reorganization of their effects likely factored into their decision to at last make a move: “We finally located some land that suited us just three miles from the city limits and, with two friends, purchased an 80 acre abandoned farm next to the Jefferson City Country Club…our friends never used their part and we were permitted access to the entire property…’
“We designed a house that would fulfill our various needs and located it in the center of the property. We built a 3/4 acre pond and several smaller ones and enjoyed having a place where we could be at home and still be out-of-doors. Now our dogs could run without getting into the neighbor’s yards, we could have pens for various wildlife subjects we were using in our motion pictures, and we built up a flock of Canada geese (to 100) that we enjoyed. This was where we studied our turtles. We lived here for 16 years and returned each spring and fall for many years after that.”
Both homes were the locations for visits from notable friends like Aldo Leopold and Sir Peter Scott, as well as John Olin, Maynard Reece, Cotton Pershall and King Buck (see John Olin, Ding Darling, Maynard Reece & King Buck: The Making of an Icon – Parts One to Four) and Harold and Stanley Stearns (see Saving the Nene, Extended Cut).
Charles and Libby became close with Pershall (the famed breeder and trainer of retrievers) as a result of their fondness for black labradors. Pershall subsequently introduced Charles and Libby to Olin and they all got on well. Olin and King Buck were frequent visitors to the Schwartz home and Olin developed a great respect for Charles’ talent as a wildlife artist. He asked Charles to provide illustrations for one of his most popular conservation publications, an 80 page book by John Madson titled The Mallard. Over the years, the Schwartz family would have seven black labs of their own, the last of which they named “Buck” (see Figures 2, 3 and 4).
However it was their second residence, especially, that would become a mecca for visitors from all walks of life. These included their coworkers at the MDOC, family, friends and local acquaintances, as well as newspaper, magazine and television interviewers, still photographers and cameramen. Also countless strangers who (correctly) deemed the down to earth Schwartzes to be approachable – and whom all sought to spend some time with Charles and Libby and their remarkable menagerie (by now quite renowned in the “Show-Me” State).
Libby continues, “I’ve mentioned that we used a lot of different animals in our motion pictures. We preferred them in the wild when possible but sometimes used captive ones for close-ups. These were kept for a while at our home. We also served as an orphanage for baby animals that neighbor’s cats or dogs retrieved or for injured animals that friends brought us.”
The Schwartz family developed a close bond with many of their wild visitors: “A red-tailed hawk was kept in our basement until it was old enough to fly… I raised a baby fox from about 3 days of age until we released it into the the wild as an adult… John had a pet mallard duck that slept in his bed and went sledding with him… Little Deer was a family favorite too. We received this fawn after his leg was injured by a farmer’s mower. We took him to a veterinarian who put a cast on the leg. Ultimately the leg healed and the deer continued to live with us…’
“John and Bruce each raised a family of sparrow hawks that was found in a tree felled by a storm. And they cared for families of of gray squirrels and flying squirrels that suffered the same fate. John was the sole custodian of a barred owl we named ‘Strix’… There was an assortment of other animals – weasel, badger, raccoon, rabbit, gray squirrel, skunk and pocket gopher, to mention a few. We were studying mammals, too, for our mammal book… The list is almost endless: these animals provided pleasure, work and education [and a memorable childhood for Barbara, Bruce and John – see Figures 5, 6 and 7].”
Extraordinary to Some; Quite Familiar to One
While most visitors found this environment to be rather extraordinary (think Dr. Doolittle), for Charles it must have felt quite familiar, as it was akin to the one he enjoyed as a boy growing up in St. Louis (and documented in the September 15, 1929 St. Louis Globe multi-page feature, “Youthful Naturalist Has Turned His Mother’s Home into a Veritable Menagerie” – see Part Two).
Libby goes on to say: “Charlie developed a personal relationship with most [of the] animals. He just seemed to know what they needed. One speciality was learning to ‘talk’ to our geese… He loved to watch them circle overhead and then land on our pond (as Aldo Leopold did on his own farm) all the time calling to each other and to him. They were the subject of many of his drawings and paintings (see Figure 8).”
Amiable Charles and the enchanting Schwartz residence made for “good Copy” and was, therefore, a favorite media subject for several decades. According to the introduction for “Charles Schwartz… Capturing the Wonders of Wildlife”, a multipage feature by Mary Kimbrough that ran in the renamed St. Louis Globe Democrat on August 26, 1979 (coincidentally, nearly 50 years to the date after “Youthful Naturalist…” was first published in the same newspaper):
“The house nestles comfortably into the Missouri woodland, sitting there quietly as though loathe to intrude itself into the peaceful green world of the wild which sprawls out in every direction and around the trees down to the water’s edge.’
“But neither the house nor its occupants could strike a discordant note. For these 40 acres and the man-made pond on the outskirts of Jefferson City, secluded from the traffic and the blare, make up a special, harmonious world – the world of Charlie and Libby Schwartz and friends.’
“The rustic house, tailored to seem a part of its surroundings, is also a mini-art museum, a scientific laboratory, a creative writing, photography and film making workshop as well as the headquarters of a wild game refuge, a haven for creatures of the wild.”
The media helped to make people curious – and many were inspired to drop by for a visit.
The MDOC Murals
In 1965, the Conservation Commission asked Charles to create eight large murals to decorate the foyer of the building being constructed to house the new Missouri Department of Conservation in Jefferson City. The purpose of the murals was to pictorially tell the story of conservation in Missouri.
According to James Keefe (The First 50 Years), “The murals trace the history of the fish, forest and wildlife resources of the state from the pristine conditions of 1700 through the era of settlement and exploitation to the present conservation efforts.”
Libby stated: “This was a large order – in fact much larger than we ever anticipated… The subject we chose for the murals was the History of conservation in Missouri [sic]… Once the basic decisions were made, the next step was to obtain references for the subjects and plan how to show them in relation to each other. Charlie made many sketches, individual and composite, before he was satisfied. Then we had to research materials for painting and techniques for applying the canvas to the wall. The framework for all eight panels was built at the same time the building was constructed; we applied canvas to the first four.”
Originally planned to be completed in time for a late summer to early fall grand opening (the Department moved in on August 27 and then held an open house on October 1), the epic MDOC mural project would become somewhat of lifetime’s work for the Schwartzes and would not be completed until 1987 – a full seven years after their joint retirement. Libby explained:
“Charlie started to paint before the building was completed but found his estimate was way off. He painted furiously – days, nights, week-ends – but didn’t seem to make headway. Then moving day came… and personnel occupied the building. They came and went through the lobby and were curious about the progress of the murals. Visitors abounded. Everyone stopped to watch what was going on and they usually talked some to Charlie so that his progress became slower and slower and slower. It soon became obvious that he couldn’t work under these conditions and and the painting was [temporarily] stopped (see Figures 9, 10 and 11).”
Libby continued, “Then the typical problem arose: once you get out of the swing of doing something, it is awfully hard to get back into it [I can relate]. One motion picture after another was ‘needed’ and other aspects of the Department’s program needed his attention… It’s surprising how many requests there were for [Charlie’s] artwork. ‘We need a drawing for a new logo, a letterhead, a birthday card, a Christmas card, or a trout stamp, or a duck stamp, or a drawing for Eagle Day or a retirement party, or drawings to illustrate a brochure or a story for the [Missouri] Conservationist.”
At the end of the day (18 years), the MDOC murals were completed and were truly fabulous – they may prove to be Charles Schwartz’s most enduring work and a testament to his great range as a wildlife artist. Whereas he is best known for his small, detailed (primarily) black and white drawings, the MDOC murals are something else, altogether.
Of the eight murals, two were completed in time for the Department’s open house on October 1. According to Keefe, “Panel 1 illustrates the wildlife species associated with the forests that once covered thirty million acres of the state. The mountain lion was the largest of these, and has since virtually disappeared from the scene. Wild turkey, ruffled grouse, channel catfish, river otters, a bowfin fish caught by the otter were all present in abundance. The colorful Carolina parakeets in the lower right, once common in the river bottoms, are now extinct (see Figure 12 and 13).”
“Panel 2 is devoted to the prairies that at pre-settlement times covered the western and northern third of the state. The Indian plucking a blue-winged teal is seated in front of a clump of native bluestem grass. The lifestyle of the Indian, the herds of buffalo and elk, and the prairie wolf present in the mural have all vanished from the state; only a few species of the myriad shore, marsh and water birds remain today (see Figures 14 and 15).”
The third and fourth murals were completed while Charles and Libby still worked for the MDOC and lived in Jefferson City, however, the last four were painted at their new home, outside Couer d’Alene, Idaho. In retirement they chose to move to Cour d’Alene to be closer to their family – as Barbara, Bruce and John and their families were all living in Idaho and Oregon.
According to Libby, “We now had time to paint the four remaining murals for the lobby. We stretched a big canvas on a frame [that] we built the correct size and started to gather material and work on the sketches. Charlie painted without interruption and was pleased with his results. On our next trip to Missouri, we rolled up the canvas, took it with us… and installed it in its permanent location. We returned to Idaho, painted another panel, and took it back to Missouri (see Figures 16-19).’
“This project served several purposes. It permitted us to complete something Charlie wanted to do badly, gave us a project we enjoyed, and provided an excuse to travel to and from Missouri. The Department of Conservation was delighted. The murals were finally dedicated in 1987 during the 50th anniversary year of the Conservation Commission.” To see all eight in one gallery, click here.
According to Keefe, “Panel 6 shows the result of conservation efforts. Lookout towers were an important first step in halting the fires that destroyed thousands of acres of forestland every year. Halting wildfires and initiating restoration programs for white-tailed deer and wild turkey have improved timber as a market resource and [as] a home for wildlife, and resulted in abundant populations of these game animals.”
Of all the murals, the seventh is my own personal favorite, owing in large part to the context for the 1969 trout stamp Charles provided at the lower left. Keefe continues, “Scenes in Panel 7 depict wildlife management activities and wildlife protection by the Department. Schwartz says he painted Canada geese nesting on the arctic tundra to show they, like the mallards in the center of the painting, are wildlife Missouri shares with other states and countries.’
“The trout angler and trout stamp symbolize the many popular cold-water fisheries in the state, while the youngster and the bluegill denotes a simpler, more basic way to enjoy the state’s fisheries resources.” It should be noted that the youngster is Craig Miller, Barbara’s son and of invaluable assistance on this project (furnishing us with many of the Schwartz family photos).
Speaking of Trout Stamps…
By the mid 20th century, trout fishing had become a popular activity in Missouri and helped to sustain a large recreational industry in the state. The following is brief history:
Some fossil evidence points to salmonoid species inhabiting the state of Missouri during the ice age. However, as soon as the ice receded and temperatures warmed they disappeared. For this reason, trout are not considered native to the state. Further, when Missouri became a state in 1821, there were no trout within its boundaries. At that time the closest trout species were the brook trout located in what is now northeast Iowa.
As stated in Part One, settlers began pouring into the state after Lewis and Clark’s reports were published in 1806 and the number greatly increased shortly after the the Civil War ended in 1865. Many of these early settlers depended upon fish and game resources for subsistence and they were, therefore, quite disappointed to discover the lack of trout.
In 1878 the Missouri Fish Commission began what would amount to several decades of rather indiscriminate stocking of various waterways throughout the state, much of it politically motivated. Trout eggs were initially obtained from northern California and hatchlings from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, which was conveniently located in Missouri.
The first of many state-owned trout hatcheries was built in 1921 at Sequiota Spring, near Springfield. Then, when the Missouri Conservation Commission was established in 1937, fisheries management became much more efficient.
According to A Plan For Missouri Trout Fishing (2003), “Stocking was concentrated in cold water [my emphasis] streams in three trout parks and five trout management areas which were open to public fishing. From these beginnings, the program greatly expanded. Hatchery production was increased, allowing more areas to be stocked and a greater diversity of trout fishing opportunities became available to Missouri anglers.”
By the 1960s, Missouri’s trout program consisted of four trout parks and numerous cooperative management areas. The latter included Lake Taneycomo and sections of seven cold water streams, selected to provide anglers an opportunity to catch trout in a “more natural and less-crowded setting” than a trout park. The trout management areas were operated by the MDOC in cooperation with local land-owners or agencies. The MDOC stocked the waters with trout and the latter provided a means of public access (see Figure 20).
Similar to the federal waterfowl program, anglers have historically been responsible for covering the cost of operating Missouri’s trout program. Starting on January 1, 1962, The MDOC began requiring anglers to purchase a trout permit when fishing outside of the four trout parks.
According to Keefe, “Daily fees were initiated at the trout parks in 1938, which defrayed the cost of the put-and-take fishing operations, but at Lake Taneycomo charging daily fees was not possible. To offset costs an annual trout license [or permit] was initiated in 1962, later to become a trout stamp…’
“When the MDOC was reorganized in 1964, Fisheries became a separate division… organized into four sections: hatcheries, research, management and special uses. The latter manages public areas where fishing is a prominent feature.”
After Charles competed his first two murals (to widespread public acclaim), It appears that someone – or a group of people – within the new Fisheries division decided that they could use Charles’ art to good advantage by creating a trout stamp. They could charge anglers more money if they retained a keepsake and additionally increase funding by developing a legion of collectors and other buyers who would not actually use the stamp or otherwise apply pressure to Missouri’s limited trout habitat (see Figures 21 and 22).
A Set of Stamps for the Ages
When Charles W. Schwartz was asked to design Missouri’s first trout stamps, it would prove to be a momentous and far-reaching (philatelically speaking) decision, affecting not just Missouri sportsmen. Friends and fans of Charles and his art, conservation-minded lovers of wildlife art around the country and, especially, a growing number of fish and game stamp collectors were in for a very special treat – as he chose to produce the stamps in multicolor.
As a result, Missouri became just the second state or local government (following Nebraska in 1967) to follow the precedent set by the federal migratory bird hunting stamp program a decade earlier – with a stamp whose vignette was created by Iowa artist Maynard Reece and featured John Olin’s champion retriever, King Buck (see Figure 23).
When I wrote the introduction to Part One of this blog series, I included the following passage:
[Charles] has been quoted as saying “black and white reduced everything to its simplest terms”. However, I believe there was a much more tangible benefit; when you are exposed to his art (the illustrations, especially) you bypass the fleeting “skin deep” impression and are taken to the next level from the outset. This provides a rare opportunity to delve deeper, perhaps resulting in a more meaningful, lasting impression.
In other words, Charles wanted to remove the distraction which is multicolor and, in so doing, facilitate a deeper insight into our world. His attention to detail and his connection with nature allowed Charles to present birds and animals in a way that was not only anatomically correct and completely natural – but in a way that captured the imagination of viewers of all ages.
With this in mind, it may seem curious or even paradoxical that Charles Schwartz, an esteemed artist who had (until the 1960s) purposefully eschewed the use of color in order to bypass the initial, fleeting “skin deep” impression, would now choose to bring “the pretty” into play and become known – in philatelic circles – for being a multicolor trendsetter.
Especially when you consider that for state trout stamps, specifically, staff artists and / or issuing state agencies historically chose to make minimal use of color – right up until Missouri issued their first stamp in 1969. The Indiana trout stamp shown below typifies the status quo that existed for state trout stamp art from prior to Charles’ stamps (see Figure 24).
So Why Choose Multicolor?
Charles’ skill set combined his knowledge as a trained biologist with prowess as a wildlife artist specializing in small detailed drawings, extensive experience as an illustrator for books and magazines and an innate ability to represent his subjects in an anatomically correct and completely natural way. Hence it was custom made to produce trout stamps that would keep in line with the status quo, and yet, almost certainly be guaranteed to surpass (aesthetically) all those that had come before.
So we are left to ask the question, why would Charles Schwartz – of all people – become the first artist to choose to have his trout stamps produced in multicolor? There are a number of possible explanations and the choice was likely made due to a combination of these:
First, Charles and Libby enjoyed duck hunting, albeit in moderation (see Figures 3 and 4 above). Therefore, they were not only aware of the federal migratory bird hunting stamps as a result of discussions with artist friends such as Maynard Reece and Stanley Stearns – they would have actually purchased a new stamp every waterfowl hunting season and affixed it to their licenses.
As wildlife art was such a big part of their lives, we can safely assume it was not simply a matter of buying a couple of stamps, slapped them on their licenses and buried them in their billfolds. More likely, they would have shared in admiring, studying and discussing each new issue. In other words, the Schwartz’s certainly would have kept up with the current parameters for federal duck stamp art and when their friend Maynard Reece “broke the color barrier” with his soulful rendition of King Buck in 1959, it would not have gone unnoticed.
Second, in Collecting Used Federal Duck Stamps – Part Three, I suggested that Reece’s 1959-60 stamp was part of a collective effort on the part of all American artists to “elevate their game” in order to help preserve the American spirit during the Vietnam War. As a result, the 1960s and early 1970s were, arguably, responsible for the greatest period of federal duck stamp art in the program’s history. This group of stamps includes not only three by Reece – but also Stanley Stearns’ Nene in 1964 (see Figure 25).
As we have seen throughout this blog series, Charles Schwartz was nothing if not compassionate and multitalented. Therefore, I do not believe he would have been immune to this calling.
Third, in the same post I pointed out that “In acknowledgement, more hunters than ever before took great care when signing their stamps, lessening their impact on the ameliorative artwork.” This was likely not lost on either Charles or Libby, whose shared goal was to reach the most people possible in their quest to strengthen the connection between humans and the natural world.
If bringing “the pretty” into play on Charles’ trout stamps would help to capture the attention and focus the interest of a larger audience – in addition to the possibility of serving as an emotional salve during the height of American involvement in the Vietnam War – then why not? Besides, hadn’t he just spent a considerable amount of time working in full color, creating the murals for the MDOC?
Finally, from the standpoint of the MDOC, the goal of these new trout stamps was to raise as much money as possible to fund restocking programs. If the additional expense of printing the stamps in multicolor was likely to result in more attention being paid to the new stamp program and, therefore, produced a greater bottom line – the historically progressive (as of the 1930s) Missouri Department of Conservation would find a way to make it happen.
On June 20, 1968, the Department created a $3 trout stamp and less than a month later, on July 18, Charles’ multicolor design for the first stamp was approved.
The Whole Package
On a number of occasions I have compared the visual impact of federal duck stamps going from monochrome to multicolor with movies going from black and white to technicolor, for it is one of my favorite analogies. I believe the technicolor analogy is even more appropriate when discussing Charles’ first six or seven stamps.
When used for feature-length movies in the 1930s (including such classics as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz) a 3-strip process converted red, blue and green into cyan, yellow and magenta. These strips were then overlaid to produce the “glorious technicolor” known for its bold, highly saturated colors. The result was visually stunning.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that when those famous films were first shown to live movie audiences in 1939, they did not look the same as the much higher quality restorations we view today. There were occasional slight problems with the registration between the three strips and a lack of detail here and there. However, technicolor films were something new and magical and their lack of perfection, in a way, enhanced their period charm.
This was much the case with Charles’ trout stamps. Unlike Maynard Reece and Stanley Stearns, Charles did not have a support team like the Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP) to help design, engrave, color proof and print his stamps. Therefore, Charles’ trout stamps, similar to the original Wizard of Oz prints, were not of such high quality. While stunning, they still retained some of the imperfect charm associated with the classic fish and game stamps that had come before them and, because of this, stood alone in the hobby. For stamp collectors, they embodied “the whole package.”
What made the stamps truly sublime is that they featured the natural artwork of Charles Schwartz – an artist who had been inextricably linked to black and white – now in vivid color. It was not unlike the scene where Dorothy opens the door of the house after it was carried away by the tornado and the audience was taken from faded sepia to a magical, multicolored world… (see Figure 26).
1969, the First Issue
Charles’ first trout stamp, previously seen in Figures 18, 19 and 22, was fairly conventional in design, featuring a rainbow trout leaping for an artificial red fly. However, as those familiar with his work had come to expect, the trout was more anatomically correct, the artwork was more detailed and, above all else, the scene was more natural than was found on any of the trout stamps that had been issued in the past – for this was Charles Schwartz’s uncommon gift.
The origins of this ability can be traced back to St. Louis in the 1920s, when a young boy became fascinated with the natural world and began to draw. In middle age and having achieved full mastery, Charles would now create a set of stamps for the ages; trout stamps that at once could strike a familiar cord with Missouri anglers, warm the hearts of lovers of the outdoors and intrigue the many collectors of federal duck stamps.
Aside from being printed in multicolor, all Missouri trout stamps issued through 1980 were printed in panes of ten (2 x 5) with a blank space or selvage along the left side. The selvage was used to accommodate staples without damaging the artwork, with which five panes were held together to form a booklet (see Figures 27, 28 and 29).
1970, the Second Issue
The trout stamps Charles designed from 1970 through 1974 or 1975 are considered his “classics.” Unlike the 1969 design, they most definitely are not conventional as, with each stamp, he tackles a different aspect of the trout fishing experience. Taken altogether, they illustrated the story of trout fishing in Missouri – and called attention to a popular way in which humans could connect with the natural world.
As these designs are all unique, over the years each of them has developed its own fan club, independent of the others. That is to say, over the years stamp collectors and people from various walks of life have developed an opinion as to which of Charles’s trout stamps is their favorite. While opinions vary, I have found their picks to be concentrated among the following five or six stamps.
The 1970 issue, as stated above, features an enlarged version of a scarlet ibis fly making contact with the surface of the water. Charles’ design is elegant and the red, white and blue color scheme is eye-catching. As a result, this stamp is the favorite of many a stamp collector and fisherman, alike (see Figures 30).
1971, the Third Issue
In the book Wildlife Drawings (1980), Charles shows the original black and white artwork for the 1971 trout stamp and provides some personal insights:
“The kingfisher is a familiar companion to most trout fishermen. And I imagine everybody has seen lures swinging merrily in the breeze, tangled in a tree from some unlikely back-cast. Put the two together, and you’ve got a common sight along a Missouri trout steam.’
“I’m not sure that the people who rear the trout in hatcheries are very fond of the kingfisher, but for this [stamp] I wanted something different from the usual picture of a trout jumping out of the water or on the end of a line…’
“And so the kingfisher. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching them when I’m fishing or floating – the way they can swoop down an snatch up a minnow that’s just under the surface of the water. And the way they sit on a dead snag looking so proud of themselves. But I suppose I’d be proud of myself, too, if I could fish as successfully as these birds do.”
The 1971 stamp was a favorite of Charles (see Figures 31 and 32).
1972, the Fourth Issue
According to an MDOC press release, “The 1972 stamp portrays a rainbow trout enticed into action by a struggling May fly on the surface of the pool. This 2″ x 1 1/2″ adhesive, done by staff artist, Charles Schwartz, captures vividly the reaction of the rainbow to this tasty morsel.”
The beautiful stamp was an instant favorite of stamp collectors when it was issued. In recognition of Charles Schwartz’s uncommon artistry and the lasting impact he made on our hobby, it remains one of the most popular fish and game stamps among collectors today (see Figure 33).
1973, the Fifth Issue
Both Charles’ original artwork and a photo of an actual 1973 trout stamp were first revealed in the March, 1973 issue of the Missouri Conservationist. They were used to illustrate an article by Charles Hicks on the current state of trout fishing in Missouri titled “Trout ’73” (see Figure 34).
I first made contact with Charles Schwartz in the mid 1980s. Charles had long since sold what remaining stamps he had left to stamp collectors and dealers (after giving the bulk of them away to associates, friends and admirers of his art).
At this point, he retained a set of unused blocks of four as mementos and some miscellaneous single stamps that were of otherwise personal significance. Charles and I hit it off and we spoke on the phone many times over the next couple of years. On one such occasion, he allowed me to purchase the blocks and some (at the time) seemingly random unused singles.
I chose to save the stamps in my own collection as I was, by then, a big fan of Charles Schwartz – both the artist and the man, himself. We shared a love for the outdoors and conservation (one set of my grandparents had a large ranch and the other a resort that featured steelhead fishing along the Russian River, both in Sonoma County. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time hunting, fishing and hiking, in addition to collecting duck stamps and serving as president of the local conservation club) and enjoyed many wonderful conversations together.
I will share a couple of Charles’ blocks, starting with the 1973 issue. For obvious reasons, this is his stamp that most takes me back to my days fishing along the Russian River (although we frequently fished out of a small boat) and it is a favorite of fishermen, in general. This stamp is also an excellent example of the “vintage” charm that resulted from taking Charles’ drawings and producing them in multicolor. As Charles and Libby expected, Missouri trout fishermen greatly respected this art and, more often than not, took great care when signing their stamps (see Figures 35 and 36).
1974, the Sixth Issue
Of all Charles’ trout stamps, the 1974 issue is my own personal favorite. While I love the composition and delicate use of color for all the different flies and portions of the large feather, there is something else about this stamp that draws me to it and makes me feel good. As I spend much of my time busily moving through my life, I am grateful for the fact that when I spend a little time with this stamp – it invariably results in a feeling of tranquility (see Figures 37 and 38).
1975, the Seventh Issue
While Charles would continue to design Missouri’s trout stamps through 1982, the 1975 issue is considered to be the last of his great “classic” designs. According to an MDOC press release:
“Charles Schwartz continues his fine work on the 1975 edition of our trout stamp. This unique stamp honors the fly tying art. The foreground of the stamp is given to a just-finished fly gripped in the fingers of the craftsman. A typical fly-tying bench is depicted in great detail in the background. This departure from Charlie Schwatrz’ usual wildlife theme for this stamp emphasizes his interest in correctness and detail.”
An article which appeared in the December, 1974 issue of the [Sikeston] Daily Standard provides additional details about the model for the stamp: “This year’s stamp features the fly-tying fingers of E.E. Bryson, Springfield. Bryson posed for Charles Schwartz, Department of Conservation artist, tying the fly.” With this stamp, Charles’ artwork benefits greatly from the multicolor process and appears to posses an almost pastel watercolor appearance (see Figures 39).
1977, the Ninth Issue
In early 1970, Charles was asked to design what has been variously described as a new logo, emblem or insignia for the MDOC. According to James Keefe, “In June of 1970, the Commission adopted a new emblem designed by Charles W. Schwartz – the now familiar triangle with the oak leaf, bass and raccoon representing the forestry, fisheries and wildlife programs of the Department.”
As 1977 marked the 40th Anniversary of the MDOC, Charles was asked to incorporate the new logo into his current trout stamp design. The resulting stamp marks one of the few times that one of Charles’ designs was not popular with collectors. For this reason, far fewer were sold and it has always been more difficult for collectors to acquire in unused condition (see Figures 40 and 41).
1979, the Eleventh Issue
This particular trout stamp was one of Charles’ personal favorites. In Wildlife Drawings he explained: “For another [stamp] I drew the gross embryology of the trout. In the course of making a motion picture on the production of trout in our hatcheries, it occurred to me that showing the development of a baby trout might make a good stamp. It’s one of my favorites.”
In fact, the origins for his idea can be traced back to one of the books Libby wrote and he illustrated for children, When Water Animals are Babies (1970). In this Junior Literary Guild Selection, at the top of one of the pages, can be found a very similar drawing (see Figures 42 and 43).
Charles Schwartz’ Philatelic Legacy
When Charles introduced his trout stamps in 1969, the hobby of fish and game stamp collecting was comprised predominantly of thousands of general U.S stamp collectors who were seeking to complete a set of federal duck stamp singles in order to fill spaces in their Scott National album.
Some of these collectors additionally sought out plate number singles and or plate blocks, however, owing to the fact there were only 35 different stamps, the prospects for specialization were limited.
A small number of pioneer fish and game collectors, such as Ken Pruess and E.L. Vanderford, seeking additional opportunities for enjoyment and, often, a greater challenge – had expanded beyond the federal stamps, into the closely related fields of non pictorial state and local waterfowl stamps (the first pictorial state waterfowl stamp was not issued until 1971), state big game and upland game bird stamps and state and local fishing stamps.
As the early state and local fish and game stamps were not produced with stamp collectors in mind, their artwork – when any was present – was usually confined to relatively “primitive” drawings, quickly created by conservation department staff artists and typically produced in monochrome as shown in Figure 24 or, perhaps, using two colors.
As such, general U.S. stamp collectors typically paid little notice to these “back of the book” items. Simply put, Charles Schwartz and his captivating trout stamps, along with the help of Ken Pruess and E.L. Vanderford, changed this situation forever.
For a gallery including images of all 14 of Charles’ trout stamps, click here.
For the A Set of Stamps for the Ages – Extended Cut, click here.