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  • School History
Stamp of Approval

Fifty years ago, the Loomis Stamp Club met on Sunday afternoons in Huntington Lounge. Long admired across America as an “everyman” hobby (all one needed to get started was access to delivered mail), by the 1970s, stamp collecting at Loomis Chaffee included a “multitude of glassine envelopes and cigar boxes” holding donated stamps and several albums into which students sorted and posted the club’s collection while also growing their own personal collections. Samuel Cutler, faculty advisor to the group and now curator of the Mequon River Postal Museum in Wisconsin, described these meetings in a 1972 Loomis Bulletin article. A donation of 1930s stamps by Samuel Title ’43 was a highlight that year.

Samuel Cutler followed history teacher Bud Porter as club advisor and recalled English teacher Adrian Bronk’s guest appearance at a meeting. “He was a great fellow, quite unassuming. … Adrian had ‘dabbled’ in stamp collecting and still had a few stamps, so I asked him to show the boys what he had. To my surprise and the amazement of everyone, he had … the first two U.S. stamps issued in 1847. These were the ‘Holy Grail’ for U.S. stamp collectors. For Adrian it was ‘no big deal,’ but for the rest of us, we had eyes big as saucers.” During the 1940s, when Samuel Title was a three-year member, the club met at the home of advisor Howard Morse for many of the same activities as their later counterparts in Ammidon.

Loomis students may have known they shared a hobby with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR began stamp collecting at age 8, and, according to the National Postal Museum, spent time every day with his collection even while serving in the Oval Office from 1933 to 1945. During his first presidential campaign, The Wall Street Journal described FDR as a “voracious stamp collector,” and later White House-issued photographs of the president working on his stamp albums helped to popularize the hobby. Sheila Brennan’s detailed history Stamping American Memory examines FDR’s efforts to use limited-issue postal stamps to market his New Deal programs to the American public and build national pride, in part, with the sublime beauty of the American landscape. He worked closely with Postmaster General James Farley to design a stamp to support Admiral Richard Byrd’s second expedition to Antarctica in 1933 and, during the next year, suggested the idea of a series depicting national parks to encourage tourism. These, according to Ms. Brennan, subtly endorsed the Civilian Conservation Corps, supported by New Deal legislation and integral to building trails, shelters, and infrastructure at national parks. Samuel Title’s gift included the 1935 stamp reissue for collectors only — one unperforated and ungummed full sheet for each of 10 parks in the series — and full sheets celebrating the Chicago World’s Fair, Mothers Day, Byrd’s Expedition, and others. 

In 1932, working in her Loomis studio, sculptor Evelyn Longman completed her frieze design for Hartford’s Federal Building, a stylized depiction of the Pony Express as its centerpiece and celebration of the U.S. Postal Service. Throughout the 1930s, The Loomis Log carried ads for Hartford’s Hobby Shop where “postage stamps and all the accessories” could be purchased. And in 1933, The Loomis Institute embarked on its own project of making images of its beautiful landscape. Artist Donald Witherstine created etchings of well-known views: Loomis Homestead, Chaffee House, William H. Loomis Hall, Warham Hall from the Senior Path, the chapel’s Palladian window, and a view of Founders Cupola seen through the Head’s Garden. These were available for purchase and used as gifts to alumni and friends of the school. 


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