The Nebraska Pheasant & Quail Stamps – Part Two

In Part One, we saw that Nebraska first required resident and non resident hunters to purchase a license to hunt or fish in 1901. For the first ten years, residents were not required to obtain a license unless hunting outside the county in which they lived. Starting in 1911, that law was tightened up so that residents had to obtain a license when hunting outside of their own property.

Nebraska licenses that were issued through 1911 were non pictorial. Then, after an official from the California Department of Fish and Game transferred to a similar position in the Cornhusker State, Nebraska began to issue their own pictorial licenses. Also in 1911, the Nebraska Game and Fish Commission began to stock the state with pheasants.

Quail, especially the native bobwhite species, were also abundant. The Nebraska State Game Farm was established in 1937 and between 1937 and 1949, the farm produced over 130,000 ring-neck pheasants that were redistributed throughout the state.

Also in 1937, neighboring Kansas began to require hunters to purchase quail stamps and affix them to their license. The fees collected went into a fund which supported their state quail farms.

The Columbian Bank Note Company was created in 1904; organized by a group of former officers of the Western Bank Note Company – which had just been acquired by the dominant security printer of the day, the American Bank note Company.

Following the end of WWII, returning servicemen fueled a boom in hunting and fishing in the U.S. Many states began issuing adhesive stamps to raise funds for various wildlife conservation programs and to facilitate the regulation of increasingly stringent laws designed to preserve and protect wildlife populations for future generations.

At this time, the largest bank note companies began to compete with each other for contracts to produce state fish and game stamps. Starting in 1948, Michigan issued an annual trout stamp which they submitted for bid. For two years, 1949 and 1950. South Dakota solicited bids for their resident waterfowl stamps.


A New Stamp on the Block

Starting in 1955, the bank note companies had a new stamp contract to compete for. Thanks in large part to the continued efforts of James C. Columbo, a local businessman and avid sportsman, the Nebraska State Legislature had recently passed Bill 340. Known as the “Stamp Act”, it authorized the Game Commission to solicit bids for a Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp.

The stamp was designed by C.G. “Bud” Pritchard, a talented local wildlife artist living in Lincoln. Claremont Gale Pritchard was born in 1910, on a farm located just outside Kenesaw, Nebraska. Pritchard grew up drawing wildlife along the Platte River and frequented other nearby wetland areas. He received no formal art training, aside from enrolling in two correspondence courses.

During WWII, Pritchard enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in North Africa, India, Italy and the Philippines. He continued to draw the wildlife he observed in these counties – on scraps of paper, the back sides of envelopes and in the margins of military forms. After being discharged in 1948, he returned to Nebraska and was recommended to the Game and Parks Commission by a game warden who appreciated his talent for drawing wildlife.

In 1949, his art was featured on the cover of Outdoor Nebraska, the official publication of the Commission and the precursor to NEBRASKAland Magazine. For many years Pritchard was the primary illustrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, producing over 50 magazine covers and designing all of their early stamps.

Prior to designing the first Pheasant and Quail Stamp, Pritchard had already begun entering the annual Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, first held in 1950. Pritchard placed second in 1952 and again in 1956. The subsequent experience he gained in designing the Nebraska stamps helped him to win the contest in 1967 and his artwork, featuring a pair of Hooded mergansers served as the vignette for the 1968-69 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp (see Figures 1 and 2).



Figure 1. 1968-69 Original Artist Copy by C.G. Pritchard, courtesy of Richard Prager.



Figure 2. RW35 (1968-69) Graded 100, courtesy of Gordon Wrubel.



Columbian Wins the First Contract

The contact to produce the first Nebraska stamps in 1955 was won by the Columbian Bank Note Company. According to E.L. Vanderford’s Handbook of Fish and Game Stamps, the stamps were printed in booklet panes of 20 (2 x 5) and five panes were stapled to form a booklet. A wide tab was included at the left side of each horizontal pair and likely served information gathering and record keeping purposes (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. 1955 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp, horizontal pair showing the large tab at the left side. This is pair has been separated from the pane of perfin specimens kept in the Columbian Bank Note Company files.



The 1955 Nebraska pheasant and Quail Stamp was lithographed in brown ink on white paper and featured and pheasant hen with a bunch of baby chicks (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. 1955 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp, enlarged to clearly show the Columbian Bank Note Company imprint at the bottom.




When the new stamps first went on sale an article appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, headlined “Sale of Pheasant Stamps May Produce 40,000 Birds,

“Now on sale is Nebraska’s new pheasant and quail stamp – which every hunter over 16 years must sign and affix to his state hunting permit if going afield for pheasants and quail.

“Stamp No. 1 fittingly has gone to Omahan James Columbo, the No. 1 booster for the upland game stamp fee…

“The stamp act stipulates that at least 90 per cent of the receipts shall be used by the Game Commission solely for the purpose of propagation and restoration of pheasants and quail in accordance with the policies of the Game Commission…

The stamps are not transferable and must be signed on the face in ink. The stamps must be affixed to the state hunting permits…” (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. The original article that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, ex Vanderford.



While visiting his old friend from California, E.L. Vanderford was introduced to James Columbo and the three men went hunting together on several occasions. Columbo and Vanderford soon became close friends and one day James surprised Van with his personal copy of the article (shown above) and also his 1955 Nebraska Resident Permit To Fish and Hunt – bearing the first copy sold of the first Nebraska Pheasant and Game Stamp (see Figures 6 and 7).



Figure 6. James Columbo’s 1955 Resident Permit To Fish and Hunt, front.



Figure 7. James Columbo’s 1955 Resident Permit To Fish and Hunt, back with the first stamp sold affixed.



In 1956, Congress passed the Agricultural Act (Soil Bank Program) and this said to have led to a boom in the population of pheasants.

The 1956 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp was also designed by C.G. Pritchard and produced by the Columbian Bank Note Company. Pritchard’s design of a male (cock or rooster) pheasant in flight was lithographed in deep rose ink on white paper and is a favorite of fish and game collectors, especially those who are women (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. 1956 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp.



While Pritchard once again designed the 1957 stamp, the contract was not won by the Columbian Bank Note Company. It was won by the Eureka Specialty Printing Company located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Eureka Company specialized in printing check paper, safety paper and gummed paper products, including Christmas seals for the American Red Cross and a variety of gummed labels (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. This block of ten 1911 American Red Cross Christmas Seals recently sold on Ebay. Note the Eureka Speciality Printing Co. imprint in the top selvage.



The Eureka Specialty Printing Company was trying to break into the state fish and game stamp printing market and winning the bid for the Nebraska Stamps in 1957 and 1958 helped them secure a huge contract to produce all of South Dakota’s Hunting stamps in 1959 (see Figure 10).



Figure 10. 1959 South Dakota Resident Game Bird Stamp, enlarged to show the Eureka imprint at the bottom.



The 1957 Nebraska Stamp featured a covey of bobwhite quail in flight and was printed in green ink on white paper (see Figure 11). The Nebraska pheasant harvest for that year was estimated to be over 500,000 birds.



Figure 11. 1957 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp, produced by the Eureka Specialty Printing Company.



And now we have reached the remarkable stamp which prompted this series of posts. The 1958 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp was also designed by Pritchard and produced by the Eureka Speciality Printing Company. It features a spaniel flushing a cock pheasant and was printed in bright blue ink on white paper (see Figure 12).

This stamp was arguably C.G. Pritchard’s most important contribution to the fish and game hobby – it’s popularity exceeding even that of the 1968-69 federal duck stamp. The composition is elegant, yet powerful and the color is very pleasing to the eye.



Figure 12. The charming 1958 Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamp.



And now for a special treat. In 1958 the Nebraska pheasant population exploded – doubling in size in a matter of months. So Van took time off from his job as an auto parts manager and visited his two friends in Nebraska. He told me they took him on the wildest pheasant hunts of his life. Here is a 1958 Permit to Fish and Hunt bearing Nebraska’s most popular stamp – signed by E.L. Vanderford (see Figure 13).



Figure 13. 1958 Nebraska Resident Permit to Fish and Hunt with a stamp signed by E.L. Vanderford.



The Nebraska Pheasant and Quail stamp series was short and sweet, being superseded by a new series of Upland Game Bird Stamps in 1959. But they were tremendously popular with the pioneer fish and game collectors (see Figure 14) and continue to capture the imagination of collectors today.

The Nebraska Pheasant population? In 1959 it was estimated at over 9,000,000 birds.



Figure 14. A page from Mrs Powell’s exhibit, featuring her own beautiful artwork.



To see the Nebraska Pheasant and Quail Stamps in one gallery, click here.


When I have time, I will continue with the Nebraska Upland Game Bird Stamps…




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