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

In today’s post, we shall continue our survey of the 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp – the first of two federal stamps featuring artwork by Walter. A. Weber. When we get to usages, I shall introduce an exciting new discovery that is relevant to our story and then provide an inside look at the prints made for the 1944-45 federal stamp.


Printing Errors

Two Major printing errors have been recorded on the 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp. Both were acquired by famed duck stamp collector Jeanette Cantrell Rudy. In addition to assembling one of the finest collections of federal, state and local waterfowl stamps of all time, Jeanette was a hunter and expert marksman. She held the title of Tennessee Ladies State Trapshooting Champion for nine straight years and was twice named to the U.S. Women’s All America Trap Team (see Figure 1).



Figure 1. Rare early photo of Jeannette Cantrell Rudy taken at a trap shooting exhibition.



Jeannette enjoyed collecting and assembled impressive collections of not just waterfowl stamps but also gun and powder advertising covers and Tennessee postal history. Her legacy includes a substantial donation to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in order to make possible a room devoted entirely to waterfowl stamps. The Rudy Duck Stamp Gallery opened in 1996.

Jeannette succeeded in concentrating a high percentage of the recorded key waterfowl items into one collection and especially sought out errors. For this reason (in addition to her generous support of the hobby) she was an initial inductee into the Fish and Game Collectors Hall of Fame. In the future, a series of posts shall cover her life, collections and philanthropy in a comprehensive manner.

Toward the end of her life, Jeannette decided to disperse her various collections. She donated portions to the National Postal Museum and engaged the firm of Sam Houston Philatelics to sell some of her key waterfowl items directly to collectors and exhibitors.

The same firm then printed and distributed a sales brochure offering additional highlights for outright purchase. The balance of Jeanette’s extensive waterfowl stamp collection was sold in a series of public auctions conducted by Sam Houston Philatelics starting on September 16, 2006.

One of the 1944-45 errors was a top left corner block of four, printed from plate number 155603. The block is unique in that it contains a major pre-printing paper fold that, when unfolded, is quite striking (see Figure 2). This item was sold to a private collector soon after he received the brochure.



Figure 2. Top left corner block of the 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp with a pre-printing paper fold. Photo reproduced from the original brochure distributed by Sam Houston Philatelics.



The second error was included in the September, 2006 auction as lot #277. It was a bottom plate number single – gummed on both the obverse and reverse (see Figure 3). This error was won by the Csaplars and included in the national version of their exhibit,  A License and Stamp System for Waterfowl Conservation in the 20th Century U.S.



Figure 3. 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp, gummed on the obverse and reverse. Ex Rudy collection.



This type of error has always fascinated me, as the sheet would have to have been fed through the gumming process twice – once upside down. While this is known to have occurred on several different issues that were printed on a flatbed press, the 1944-45 is the earliest that I am aware of.



A Spectacular Usage

This section was going to look quite different until just a few weeks ago. At that time, a startling new fish and game discovery was made. A collector called from Ohio and informed me that a friend of his father had finally decided to part with a 1945 Pymatuning waterfowl stamp on an Ohio resident hunting and trapping license, a piece that was previously unknown to me.

It is exciting to learn of any new Pymatuning discovery and since I did not have a 1945 hunting stamp on license, I made an offer that was quickly accepted. When the package arrived I was surprised to find it was an even rarer 1944 hunting stamp – only the second recorded example – then shocked when I realized it was printed on yellow instead of manila paper (see Figures 4 and 5).



Figure 4. Type I 1944 Pymatuning Waterfowl stamp printed on manila paper.



Figure 5. Type II 1944 Pymatuning waterfowl stamp, printed on yellow paper, affixed to the reverse of an Ohio Resident Hunting and Trapping License in combination with a 1944-45 federal.



As soon as I held the license in my hands, it immediately became my favorite 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp usage. Not bad timing either, as I was then preparing for this series of posts!



 Signed Stamps Benefited The Red Cross

On May 29, 1944, Alvin C. Broholm contacted Walter to see if he would sign some stamps (for more on Broholm, see My Favorite Federal Duck Stamp – Part Three). Walter replied that he would be glad to, however, he informed Broholm that he was charging $1.00 per stamp with the proceeds going to the [American] Red Cross (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. Walter Weber’s reply to Alvin Broholm, dated June 21, 1944.



Broholm readily agreed and upon receiving the signed stamps back from Walter, added the top plate number single to his exhibit (see Figure 7).



Figure 7. Top plate number single signed for Alvin Broholm.



In researching this post, I learned the National Postal Museum has a top plate number block of six 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamps, with each stamp signed Walter A. Weber. Whoever submitted this wonderful piece for Walter to sign made a $6.00 donation to the Red Cross – no small sum in 1944 (see Figure 8).



Figure 8. 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp, top plate number block of six with each stamp signed by Walter A. Weber. Photo courtesy of the National Postal Museum.



The 1944 Federal Print – First Edition

There were three editions of Walter’s White fronted Geese image. The first edition was a lithograph, pulled from a stone in the manner described in My Favorite Federal Duck Stamp – Part Four. The image was 6.5″ x 9.25″. The litho was printed in black and sepia ink on white paper and was titled and signed by Walter A. Weber in very fugitive black ink. The print was not numbered but records indicate it was an edition size of 100. As in 1941-42, The image on the first edition print is a mirror image of the original (see Figures 9 and 10).



Figure 9. Framed 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp print, first edition. Note that the image is reversed or flopped as opposed to that of the stamp.



Figure 10. Enlargement of the print above. This print has never been restored, therefore, the signature is bold and solid.



The stone for the print was not drawn by Walter Weber. Rather, it was “ghosted” by an artist employed by the printing firm George C. Miller and Son, in New York City. According to Russell Fink, a close personal friend of Walter’s as well as being a leading wildlife art dealer, Walter was very unhappy with the first edition prints for two reasons.

First, unlike (as I have previously speculated) Edwin Kalmbach, Walter was dismayed the stone was incorrectly drawn – resulting in an imaged that was reversed or “flopped” from his original artwork. Second, he wasn’t satisfied with the artist’s interpretation of his work.

Walter immediately requested that a new stone be drawn.


The 1944 Federal Print – Second Edition

The second edition was also a stone lithograph. The image size was the same as the first, as was the color of ink used for both the printing and the signatures. The edition size was 200. The obvious difference is that the image has the White Fronted Geese flying toward the right, as in Water’s original painting and on the stamps, themselves (see Figures 11 and 12).



Figure 11. Framed 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp print, second edition. Note the image matches the stamp.



Figure 12. 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp print, second edition. Never framed, this print retains it’s full, original margins. They are so large that Walter first signed it too far away from the image. Ex Bill Webster collection.



It is important to understand that prior to a print from the first two editions being conserved or “restored”, the signature must first be fixed with wax. This step is a time-consuming and expensive process that, if skipped, will result in the signature becoming reduced to an outline or completely lost. Even with fixing, the color of the ink signature will change from black to brown-black or often brown. This is to be expected.

When Walter saw the second edition prints, he was still not completely satisfied with the the image. After living with it for a number of years, he finally asked Miller and Son to ship a litho stone to him in Virginia and drew the stone for the third edition himself.


1944-45 Federal Print – Third Edition

The third edition print is a stone lithograph with greenish gray background tint-block. The stone was drawn by Walter Weber, then shipped back to George C. Miller and Sons in New York, who pulled the prints from the stone.

The edition size was 90. The prints were numbered (3rd Ed), titled and signed by Walter A. Weber in pencil (see Figure 13). As the stone was actually drawn by Weber, the third edition is referred to as an artist’s print.



Figure 13. Unframed 1944-45 federal waterfowl stamp print, third edition.



Although today the background often strikes collectors as different or even somewhat unusual, Walter experimented with several different colors before ultimately choosing the greenish-gray. In other words, it was the third edition – as issued – that finally allowed him to reach peace of mind with the print.



Continue to Part Three



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