U.S.S. Constitution Collection, 1899-1979 (bulk 1931-1939): Finding Aid
Published in 1993
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- 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.
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.
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
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.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of Mrs. Oscar Hengstler in March 1984 and May 1984. Accession Nos. 84-12 and 84-13.
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.
Processing and Other Information
U.S.S. Constitution Collection, MS 283
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
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.
Name and Subject Terms
- Cachets (Philately)
- Constitution (frigate)
- Hengstler, Oscar
- Stamp collecting
- Cancellations (stamps)
Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1929-1979 Boxes 1-5Series 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.
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.
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.
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.
Series 2: Cachet Cover Albums, 1931-1965 Boxes 5-8Series 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
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."
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.
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.
Series 4: Books, Photographs, and Personal Miscellany, 1899-1961 Boxes 9-10Series 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.
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.