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U.S.S. Constitution Collection, 1899-1979 (bulk 1931-1939): Finding Aid

Published in 1993

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 283
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: U.S.S. Constitution Collection
  • Dates: 1899-1979
  • Bulk Dates: 1931-1939
  • Size: 6.92 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 6 manuscript boxes, 4 slip cases, 2 flat boxes
  • Creator: Hengstler, Oscar
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: The U.S.S. Constitution Collection consists of postal covers and cachets commemorating the frigate Constitution, especially her 1931-1934 national tour and subsequent return to Boston. Included with the covers and stamps are related letters, news clippings, photographs, and ephemera, some of which bear autographs of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and other political and military figures.

Biography of Oscar Hengstler

Oscar Hengstler was a philatelist and employee of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) from North Bergen, New Jersey. At different times, Hengstler served as President of the George Washington Chapter of the Scouts on Stamps Society, the New York Chapter of the American Topical Society, and the New Jersey Chapter of the American Topical Society. He was also a member of the Universal Ship Cancellation Society. In addition to being a collector, Mr. Hengstler was also a designer of cachets/postal covers.

The primary focus of Hengstler's collecting was the U.S.S. Constitution and her 1931-1934 national tour. On July 1, 1931, U.S.S. Constitution was recommissioned, and the following day, sailed on a tour of 90 American ports of call along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts. U.S.S. Constitution had her own post office, established on September 10, 1931, and its own postal clerk, Navy Clerk Harry Moore. The ship also had its own official postmark (cancellation) and its own specially designed cachets. Throughout its cruise, philatelists such as Hengstler would mail covers to the U.S.S. Constitution's post office in order to have them cancelled, cacheted, and returned.

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Description of Contents

The U.S.S. Constitution Collection, created by philatelist Oscar Hengstler, focuses on the U.S.S. Constitution and, in particular, her 1931-1934 national tour and subsequent return to her home port of Boston. The collection spans from 1899 to 1979 (bulk 1931-1939) and comprises 6.92 linear feet of documentation.

The collection is composed of cachet covers, with related or topical correspondence, periodical articles, news clippings, photographs, and ephemera and memorabilia, such as guest tickets, buttons, and scrip money. The collection has been estimated to contain over 1,100 postal covers.

Many of the postal covers, photographs, and letters include the autographs of notables and/or individuals associated with the U.S.S. Constitution. Among the notable autographs are those of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover and their Cabinets, Supreme Court Justices, Admirals and naval figures, governors and mayors, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Constitution Louis J. Gulliver, the officers and men of the U.S.S. Constitution, and the designers and sponsors of U.S.S. Constitution cachets. Much of the additional correspondence within the collection consists of responses to Hengstler's solicitations for autographs. A full list of autographs is available in Volume 12 of the collection.

The collection also includes material pertaining to Oscar Hengstler as a U.S.S. Constitution hobbyist, including his ribbons and awards, certificates, and articles and news clippings on his collection and speaking engagements.

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The U.S.S. Constitution Collection is organized into the following six series:

  • Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1929-1979
  • Series 2: Cachet Cover Albums, 1931-1965
  • Series 3: Correspondence Albums, 1920-1942
  • Series 4: Books, Photographs, and Personal Miscellany, 1899-1961
  • Series 5: Artifacts, 1934, undated
  • Series 6: Exhibit Materials, 1932-1934
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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The U.S.S. Constitution Collection is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Oscar Hengstler in March 1984 and May 1984. Accession Nos. 84-12 and 84-13.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to the 1931-1934 national tour of the U.S.S. Constitution may be found in the U.S.S. Constitution Scrapbooks, 1931-1934, MS 281 in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

U.S.S. Constitution Collection, MS 283

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1993. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1993 and revised by David D'Onofrio in January 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Cachets (Philately)
  • Constitution (frigate)
  • Hengstler, Oscar
  • Stamp collecting

Genre Terms

  • Cancellations (stamps)
  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
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Contents List

Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1929-1979 Boxes 1-5

Series Description

Scrapbooks are composed of Constitution materials, including postal cachets covers, photographs and illustrations, periodical articles, and assorted memorabilia and ephemera. The majority of the material pertains to the Constitution's national tour of 1931-1934.

Series Arrangement

Arranged by volume number.

Box 1 Folder 1

Volume 1, 1932-1934

Includes cachet covers sponsored during the George Washington Bicentennial Year or associated with Washington, a group of cachet covers autographed by President Herbert Hoover and his Cabinet, and National Cruise cachet covers.

Box 2 Folder 1

Volume 2, 1934

Includes cachet covers showing portraits of U.S. Navy officers associated with the Constitution, a group of cachet covers autographed by President Franklin Roosevelt, a group of cachet covers autographed by the Supreme Court Justices, and National Cruise cachet covers.

Box 3 Folder 1

Volume 3, 1931-1934

Includes items pertaining to efforts to save the Constitution (including Rear Admiral Philip Andrew, Chairman of the Save Old Ironsides Committee), photographs and cachet covers autographed by officers and men of the Constitution, the Constitution commissioning ceremony, an autograph of former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, and National Cruise cachet covers.

Box 4 Folder 1

Volume 4, 1934-1935

Includes cachet covers pertaining to Constitution's return to home port in Boston, cachet covers designed and sponsored by Oscar Hengstler, cachet covers and photographs pertaining to Constitution's tender U.S.S. Grebe (Minesweeper : AM-43), and cachet covers autographed by enlisted men. Also includes materials regarding Hengstler's collection activities, the Universal Ship Cancellation Society, contests, exhibitions, awards, and information on Hengstler's publications.

Box 5 Folder 1

Volume 5, 1929-1979

Includes John Paul Jones cachet covers and postage stamps, photographs of Oscar Hengstler, Constitution commemorative buttons and key chain, Constitution postage stamps, correspondence autographed by Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet officials, and cachet covers autographed by Herbert Hoover, A.H. Dresel (Commander of the airship Macon), and R.E. Byrd.

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Series 2: Cachet Cover Albums, 1931-1965 Boxes 5-8

Series Description

Volumes of cachet covers chronicling the National Cruise of U.S.S. Constitution and her return to Boston, as well as some covers from the 1940s and later. Volumes 6-10 consist entirely of cachet covers. Volume 11 consists of cachet covers, as well as several pages of miscellaneous items.

Series Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Box 5 Folder 2

Volume 6: Constitution Cachet Covers, 1931 September-1933 January

Includes Armistice Day cachet covers, as well as cachet covers autographed by Huey P. Long, James Clark McReynolds, and Charles Francis Adams III.

Box 6 Folder 1

Volume 7: Constitution Cachet Covers, 1933 February-June

Includes a cachet cover autographed by Admiral William D. Leahy.

Box 6 Folder 2

Volume 8: Constitution Cachet Covers, 1933 June-August

Includes serial cachet covers, including "Important events in the life of John Paul Jones," "Important events in the history of Old Ironsides," "Important events in U.S. History," "Important events in the History of the U.S. Navy," and "American naval heroes."

Box 7 Folder 1

Volume 9: Constitution Cachet Covers, 1933 August-November

Box 7 Folder 2

Volume 10: Constitution Cachet Covers, 1933 December-1934 April

Box 8 Folder 1

Volume 11: Constitution Cachet Covers and Miscellaneous, 1934 April-June, 1946-1948, 1960-1965

Includes materials regarding speaking engagements by Oscar Hengstler.

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Series 3: Correspondence Albums, 1920-1942 Boxes 8-9 and 11[OS]

Series Description

Volumes 12-14 are primarily composed of responses to Hengstler's requests for autographs on cachets, plus other letters and items regarding his interest in the Constitution. Some of the letter bear autographs of prominent individuals. Volume 12 includes a list of autographs in the collection and a brief description of its contents. Volume 15 consists solely of envelopes from correspondence.

Series Arrangement

Arranged by volume number.

Box 8 Folder 2

Volume 12: "Old" Ironsides - Letters Book No. One, 1934-1938

Box 9 Folder 1

Volume 13: "Old" Ironsides - Letters Book No. Two, 1934-1939

Box 9 Folder 2

Volume 14: Naval Letters and other Items of Interest, 1920-1944

Includes materials pertaining to Hengstler's membership in various cancellation societies, such as the Naval Shore Station Cancellation Society, the Universal Ship Cancellation Society, and the National Cachet Directors Council, as well as his business dealings.

Box 11[OS] Folder 1

Volume 15: Official and Chamber of Commerce Envelopes, "Old Ironsides", 1931-1941

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Series 4: Books, Photographs, and Personal Miscellany, 1899-1961 Boxes 9-10

Series Description

Books, clippings, photographs, postcards, cachets, and a limited amount of correspondence pertaining to the U.S.S. Constitution, philately, and Hengstler's career and interest in both.

Series Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by document type.

Box 9 Folder 3

Books - Albright, C.L. the East Coast Cruise of the U.S. Frigate Constitution: A Philatelic Narrative, 1934

Signed by the author.

Box 9 Folder 4

Books - Bartley, D.C. Cachets of the U.S. Frigate Constitution Pacific Coast Cruise 1933-1934, 1934

Signed by the author.

Box 9 Folder 5

Books - Gwynne, C.L. The 1931-1934 Cruise of the U.S. Frigate Constitution: A History of the Ship Postal Service and Catalogue of Cachets that were Sponsored at Every Port of Call, 1949

Signed by the author.

Box 10 Folder 1

Books - James, H. Heroes of the United States Navy: Their Life Histories and Achievements, 1899

Box 10 Folder 2

Cancelled Covers with Constitution Cachets, 1932-1934

Box 10 Folder 3

Correspondence, 1933-1948, undated

Includes correspondence with the Naval Academy Museum and the Aberdeen (Washington) Chamber of Commerce. The Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce letter is on a 1/80" piece of spruce.

Box 10 Folder 4

Newspaper Clippings, undated

Clippings regarding the recommissioning of the Constitution.

Box 10 Folder 5

Pamphlets, Programs, and Periodical Clippings, 1933, 1941, 1961, undated

Includes programs for Constitution's port visits and articles pertaining to Hengstler.

Box 10 Folder 6

Photographs - Constitution, 1933, 1948, undated

Photographs, photographic postcards, and clippings of the Constitution and her crew and commanders.

Box 10 Folder 7

Photographs - Oscar Hengstler, undated

Single negative of Hengstler.

Box 10 Folder 8

Photographs - U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, undated

Three picture postcards of the Academy Chapel.

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Series 5: Artifacts, 1934, undated Box 10

Series Description

Physical and decorative objects, including printing plates and stamps, depicting the U.S.S. Constitution.

Series Arrangement

Arranged by item type.

Box 10 Folder 9

Commemorative Plate, undated

Rectangular glass plate bearing the image of the U.S.S. Constitution.

Box 10 Folder 10

Key chain, undated

Hexagonal metal key chain bearing the image of the U.S.S. Constitution.

Box 10 Folder 11

Printing Plate, undated

Printing plate bearing the image of the Constitution.

Box 10 Folder 12

Stamp, 1934

Metal stamp for Hengstler's July 8, 1934 Constitution cachet.

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Series 6: Exhibit Materials, 1932-1934 Box 12[OS]

Series Description

Materials for an exhibit on the national cruise of the U.S.S. Constitution. Included among the materials are photographs of the Constitution and her commanders and crew, a narrative of the Constitution's history, and exhibit captions and mats. Also included in the series are two copies of a poster commemorating the return of the Constitution to Boston following the national cruise.

Series Arrangement

Materials are stored loose in a single flat box.

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