|Special Collections Division
the University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries
Vol. XV I* No. 2 * Fall 2002
United States Postal Service's promotional sheet for the Sesquicentennial stamp.
Special Collections is proud to announce the acquisition of the Texas Sesquicentennial Series of the Norman Alan Cohen Collection of Texas Postal Issues. The collection, consisting of 14 binders and two boxes, contains materials relating to the issuance of the Texas Sesquicentennial stamp in 1986. These materials include an extensive collection of stamp collecting cachets with cancelled stamps of numerous designs, primarily cancelled Texas Sesquicentennial stamps, blocks of unconcealed Texas Sesquicentennial stamps, and numerous items related to the Texas Sesquicentennial stampís release, including press releases, clippings of articles from philatelic publications, correspondence between Norman Cohen and others interested in the stamp, and programs and other memorabilia from events and philatelic conventions held throughout the Texas Sesquicentennial year of 1986. The Texas Sesquicentennial commemorated 150 years of Texas independence from Mexico.
The Norman Alan Cohen Collection was originally brought to the attention of Dr. Gerald Saxon, Associate Director of Libraries, through the efforts of a previous Special Collections benefactor. "Mr. Cohen called me and said that Gordon Bleuler, a donor to Special Collections and a world-class stamp collector and friend of Mr. Cohenís, had suggested to him that he consider the University of Texas at Arlington for the permanent home for his Sesquicentennial Collection," said Saxon. "After looking at his collection, I told him UTA would be interested."
Cohen first became interested in collecting stamps through the inspiration of a grade school teacher in the early 1940ís. With the encouragement of his father, Cohen joined the American Philatelic Society and even wrote a column on stamp collecting for his school newspaper. While in college and through the early years of his business career, Cohen moved away from stamp collecting to focus on his career and personal relationships. He once again became an active collector in 1960, thanks to some medical advice. "My family doctor told me I had to have a hobby because I couldnít work all the time," quips Cohen. He has been extremely active in stamp collecting in Texas. He has served as first president and a co-founder the Dallas Collectors Club, founder of the Nimitz Chapter of the Universal Ship Council Society, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Texas Philatelic Association, a member of the American Philatelic Society for over 50 years, and is still a very active member of the Park Cities Dallas Philatelic Society.
Cohen was also instrumental in the creation of the central focus item of this series, the Texas Sesquicentennial Stamp. The idea was initiated by former State Representative Chris Semos, an associate of Cohenís. Semos made a presentation to the Postmaster General, William Bolger, which resulted in the announcement that there would be a Texas Sesquicentennial stamp. Cohen worked with the Texas Sesquicentennial Commission in Austin on the format of the stamp. On working with the Commission, Cohen says, "The professionals there were totally lacking of philatelic knowledge and so we had to guide them. It was a fun experience."
The development of the Texas Sesquicentennial stamp design came to a critical phase at a meeting in Austin to discuss the format of the stamp. At this meeting were Norman Cohen, the members of the Sesquicentennial Commission, legendary author James Michener, a retired postmaster, former Health and Welfare Secretary Wilbur Cohen, and two University of Texas deans. "Michener led the whole [meeting], held it under control, and was generally a friend of the stamp collector," reminisced Cohen about the 1984 meeting, which produced the design for the Texas Sesquicentennial stamp and the design for a stamp honoring Admiral Chester Nimitz, who was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, and under whom Michener had served in the Pacific theater during World War II. This meeting also inspired Cohen to build the Texas Sesquicentennial series of his Collection of Texas Postal Issues. Says Cohen about the inspiration for the collection, "It dawned on me that if I concentrated with the information at my fingertips, I could build a great accumulation and assortment of stuff."
Even though Cohen has been involved with stamp collecting for much of his life, he finds his enjoyment in the construction of the collections. Rather than keeping and maintaining them himself, he prefers the completed collections to be accessible to others who share his interest in philately. "I do not enjoy owning them after they are formed. I just enjoy building them."
The bulk of the series consists of envelopes printed with Texas-related images with Texas Sesquicentennial stamps affixed and cancelled, many with First Day of Issue cancellations, which are highly prized among stamp collectors. Cohen designed and printed a large number of these envelopes, known as cachets, while obtaining others from fellow philatelists. Cohen is very pleased with the cachet designs he created and printed: "I had co-authored a book on the Texas Centennial, and used the format of the material that I had accumulated as a basis for many of the cachets and pictorials and so on." The cachet designs range from famous Texas historical and political figures to landmarks and significant Texas historical moments, to symbols uniquely associated with Texas heritage, such as the bluebonnet, the longhorn steer, and the Texas flag, and include some unique hand-drawn cachet designs.
Also of interest are the widely varying cancellation marks used by the Post Office on the stamps. While many are simple cancellations, others possess intricate designs commemorating numerous special events and philatelic conferences that were held during 1986, ranging from the Texas State Fair in Dallas to the Homecoming Whoop-T-Do in Iowa Park. As a part of gathering this collection commemorating the Sesquicentennial, an associate of Cohen had a cachet with a Texas Sesquicentennial stamp on it cancelled at the post office in the county seat of each county in Texas and then gathered them for Cohen to include in his collection.
Overall, the Texas Sesquicentennial series of the Norman Alan Cohen Collection of Texas Postal Issues captures a special moment in Texas history from a unique perspective and is a fascinating study for anyone interested in the Texas Sesquicentennial.
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