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Walter A. Weber: Winner of the First Federal Duck Stamp Contest – Part Four

In today’s conclusion to our series about Walter Alois Weber, winner of the first federal duck stamp contest, we shall start by looking at two errors that occurred when printing the 1950-51 stamp. Then we will see how Alvin Broholm once again plays into our story, look at some amazing usages and finish the fish and game portion of this post with a discussion of the prints that were made of Walter’s winning entry. For many readers, one final surprise awaits you.


Printing Errors

One major and one minor error have been recorded on the 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp. As with the 1944-45 issue, at least one example has been recorded with original gum applied to both the obverse and reverse (see Figure 1). It is currently featured in the international version of the Csaplar’s exhibit, A License and Stamp System for Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S.



Figure 1. 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp, gummed on the obverse and reverse. Photo courtesy of the Csaplars.



The second error is relatively minor – but with great eye appeal, nevertheless. In this case, the stamp shows a “gutter snipe” at the right, the full perforated selvage including the guide line, that is found between panes on the larger sheet (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp with gutter snipe at the right.



Normally, the panes are cut along or close to the guide line, resulting in selvage with a straight edge opposite the stamp side (as in the top plate number single in Figure 1). These kinds of errors are, as a rule, not especially rare and it is likely many of these are in collections today.


The Alvin C. Broholm Connection

In 1950, Alvin C. Broholm plays a much more significant role in our story than in most years – directly contributing to one of the highlights in this series of posts. As he had done with other artists previously, Alvin wrote to Walter during the summer to ask if he would sign some stamps.

However, Walter was not home to receive his letter. According to his wife, Grace, he was on a field assignment in Alaska and would not return home until October (see Figures 3 and 4).



Figure 3. Letter from Grace Weber to Alvin Broholm, dated July 3, 1950.



Figure 4. A proud Walter Weber holding a pair of sheefish. Found only in arctic and subarctic North America and Asia, their large size, fighting ability and fine eating qualities make the sheefish one of the most unique fish in North America. Photo courtesy of Russell Fink.



Upon Walter’s return from Alaska, he found about 200 stamps that had been sent for him to sign. The letter he sent to Alvin, dated October 18, 1950, is illuminating for several reasons. First, it reveals the number of stamps being signed by a duck stamp artist during this period in time.

Second, it indicates the reason Alvin sent in numerous stamps for each artist to sign was because they were not only for himself – but also for his friends. The third and most intriguing reason (as it concerns today’s post), is that Walter extends his gratitude to Alvin and his friends for being the only ones to send him a stamp for his own personal use.

Walter states “Since I have not as yet got around to buy one for the coming waterfowl season, I shall affix this one to my hunting license. It will probably bring me good luck.” (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. A revealing letter form Walter A. Weber to Alvin C. Broholm, dated October 18, 1950.



Upon receiving the signed stamps back from Walter, Alvin once again added the top plate number single to his expanding exhibit (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp, top plate number single signed for Alvin C. Broholm.



Coming up next, we have the treat I have been promising. Walter subsequently took the stamp he received from Alvin and his friends as a gift, signed it and affixed it to the reverse of his own hunting license. By an amazing stroke of good luck (as Walter predicted), the license has not only survived – but entered the collector market (see Figures 7 and 8).



Figure 7. Walter Weber’s 1950-51 Virginia Resident License to Hunt Only, obverse.



Figure 8. Reverse of Walter’s hunting license showing the signed federal stamp he was given by Alvin Broholm, as well as his Virginia big game stamp. Ex Rudy, ex Csaplar.



Originally in the Rudy and then Csaplar collections, it is now in mine and I am able to share it with you via this post. The license, bearing a 1950-51 Virginia resident big game stamp in addition to his own personal copy of the stamp that won the first federal duck stamp contest, serves as an elegant remembrance not just for Walter Weber the acclaimed artist but also the avid sportsman.


Jerry Mullikin Buys one of Walter’s Stamps

Jerry E. Mulliken, then serving as the Park and Lake Supervisor for Marion County, Kansas, purchase one of Walter’s 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamps and affixed it to his own license.

It was a Kansas Combination Resident Hunting and Fishing License, to which he also affixed the current Marion County duck and fishing stamps, as well as a 1950-51 Kansas quail. The federal and the quail stamps are both signed by the fish and game legend (see Figure 9).



Figure 9. Jerry Mullikin’s 1950-51 Kansas Combination Hunting and Fishing License.



This is the last of his remarkable licenses that survived the catastrophic flood that hit Marion in 1951. At this time, the water rose to eight feet on Main Street and nearly all paper items were lost. For more on Jerry Mullikin and the historic flood, see The Fish and Game Stamps of Marion County.


The 1950 Federal Print – First Edition

There were two editions of Walter’s Trumpeter Swans image. The first edition was produced using the fine grain gravure technique, better known as photogravure. This is essentially a photographic  reproduction process. For a detailed explanation, see My Favorite Federal Duck Stamp – Part Four. 

The first edition image was 5″ x 7″. The photogravure was printed in blue-gray ink on white paper. The print was not numbered. It has been reported that the original edition size was 500. Of these, only 200-250 prints were titled and signed by Walter A. Weber, in black ink (see Figures 10 and 11).



Figure 10. Framed 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp print, first edition.



Figure 11. Enlargement of the print shown above.



The ink Walter used to sign the first edition 1950 prints is not as fugitive as that used to sign the first and second editions from 1944. Having said that, it is still good practice to fix the signatures of all waterfowl stamp prints that have been signed in ink prior to restoration. Better safe than sorry.


The 1950 Federal Print – Second Edition

The second edition was also produced using the fine grain gravure process. The image size was increased to 7″ x 10.125″. The edition size was 300. The prints were titled (2nd Edition noted), numbered and signed by Walter A. Weber in pencil (see Figure 12).



Figure 12. Unframed 1950-51 federal waterfowl stamp print, second edition.



Appearing at the upper left of each first and second edition 1950-51 print (just above the image) is a line that reads “Copyright 1950  Walter A. Weber”. This is printed in the same color ink as the image.


The Conservation Award

Following the great honor of becoming the first art contest winner, Walter continued to collect field specimens and paint. His artwork was featured in The National Geographic Magazine through 1968 (by then titled National Geographic).

In 1967, The Department of the Interior presented Walter Alois Weber with its highest civilian honor, The Conservation Award (see Figure 13).



Figure 13. Walter Weber (right) receives the Conservation Award from Stanley Cain. Photo courtesy of Russell Fink.



According to Walter’s biography in Duck Stamp Prints by Stearns and Fink, at he presentation Cain stated “As staff artist for the National Geographic Society, you are truly one of the outstanding wildlife and nature artists in the nation today. You acquaint persons in all walks of life with the conservation goals of this Department and inspire them to a wider interest in our native wildlife”.

For most naturalists, the Conservation Award would be the apex of their career. For Walter, it would prove to be his penultimate source of pride and recognition.


Walter’s Artwork Used For the Apollo 11 Patch

Apollo 11 was the first spaceflight that landed humans on the moon. It was during this historic event, in July of 1969, that Neil Armstrong made his unprecidented “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Just about everybody knows this. Probably not as many know the patch that became symbolic of this event was based on artwork by Walter A. Weber (see Figure 14).




Figure 14. Final artwork for the iconic Apollo 11 patch. Photo courtesy of NASA.



Following in the tradition set by the crew of the Gemini V, the Apollo 11 crew was given the task of designing its own mission patch. Astronaut James Lovell suggested using an eagle, the national bird of the United States, as the focal point of the patch. Crewmate Michael Collins then found a picture of an eagle he liked in a book published (in 1965) by the National Geographic Society about birds, Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America. He traced it using a piece of tissue paper.

The artist whose painting illustrated that book? You guessed it – Walter A. Weber. The illustration appeared on page 236.  NASA took the image, cropped it, flopped it and rotated it 40 degrees to incorporate the eagle into the patch design (see Figures 15 and 16).



Figure 15. Walter’s modified artwork, taken from Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America.



Figure 16. An actual patch worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts.



NASA’s final artwork for the Patch, including Walter’s eagle, was subsequently used on the reverse of the U.S. Eisenhower $1.00 coins, starting in 1971 (see Figure 17).



Figure 17. 1971 Ike $1.00 coin obverse (left) and reverse (right) with Walter’s eagle.



So there you have it. Not only did Walter Alois Weber win the first federal duck stamp contest and become the first artist with multiple duck stamps to his credit – he also created the original art that later served as the focal point for the Apollo 11 patch and the reverse of the Eisenhower dollar. Pretty heady stuff.


Last Years Spent in the Company of His Peers

In the late 1960s, Walter gradually painted less frequently until he was, effectively, retired from his career as a professional nature and wildlife artist. Not long after the Apollo mission, in 1971, Walter was elected into a group of his peers –  the Washington Biologists’ Field Club.

The club was founded in 1899 (some accounts say 1900) by botanist Charles Louis Pollard and is composed of persons interested in the biological sciences and in researching the fauna and flora of the District of Columbia area. Walter remained with the Club, enjoying his retirement, until he passed away from a stroke on January 10, 1979 (see Figure 18). He was 72 years old.



Figure 18. Walter enjoying his retirement.




I hope you have enjoyed learning about Walter Weber, one of this country’s greatest nature and wildlife artists. These series of posts are often a team effort and I would like to thank the following for helping to clarify various points and also for providing images used to illustrate the text: Will and Abby Csaplar, Michael Jaffe, Russell Fink, James O’Donnell and the NPM and Richard Prager.




 Birds Eve View by Walter A. Weber.



1 Comment

  1. James Piggott on February 25, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I married Walt’s daughter, Antoinette, and he was like a father. Under his tutelage we fished, and hunted deer, ducks and wild turkeys together. Not just a great artist but a great person.

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