Robson Lowe - the father of postal history - his story

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Robson Lowe - the father of postal history - his story

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John Harry Robson Lowe (7 January, 1905, London – 19 August, 1997, Bournemouth), Robbie to his friends, was an English professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer.


Life and career

Lowe is regarded by philatelists as the father of postal history, having published many definitive works on the subject and having introduced the term in his first major book Handstruck Postage Stamps of the Empire 1680-1900 in 1948. In 1970 he was awarded the Lichtenstein Medal by the Collectors Club of New York.

He started his philatelic career at Fox & Co. in 1926 and then established his own firm, Robson Lowe Ltd. in Regent Street, London in 1926. He moved premises to 50 Pall Mall in 1940 and ran an auction business from Bournemouth starting in 1945.

For health reasons he was unable to serve in the military during World War Two. He refused to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists due to the refusal to remove the name of South African Adrian Albert Jurgens, whom he considered a stamp forger.

Lowe was regarded as something of a raconteur and a larger-than-life character. According to one story, while playing cards in South Africa, and possibly after several drinks, he won an orange farm, but was able subsequently to swap it for a stamp collection.

As well as leading in postal history, Lowe was one of the first to recognise the potential of revenue philately which had been long neglected. In 1990, he was the first President of The Revenue Society.

Reading Lowe’s work is like reading a history of the 20th century. In July, 1938 he wrote his customers…

Owing to the depression in Wall Street Messrs. Robson Lowe Ltd. have been able to secure a large number of U.S. items at specially low prices, and now that Uncle Sam is stirring again, early application is advisable before all the best items are snapped up.

A few years later, Lowe’s messages took on a more somber tone…

Our new address from November 1, 1940 will be 50 Pall Mall London. 96 Regent Street has been badly damaged by enemy action and will not be available for use until after the war.



Link

https://www.robsonlowe.co.uk/

MODS, if there is a thread on Lowe could you combine with this one please.
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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by bathurst stamper »

Love your work portbelly :D Where would we all be without him ?

I can add the following but I just can't remember where I got this from, it's certainly an obituary, maybe from the BBC website:

ROBSON LOWE 1905-1997


Philatelist and Pioneer Postal Historian

Robson Lowe, who died in Bournemouth aged 92 (after a long illness which, however, did not prevent him from working until the last few weeks of his life), will be best remembered as the father of postal history, a subject upon which he published many definitive works. He was, in all probability, THE professional philatelist of the twentieth century.

Robbie, as he was known to his many friends throughout the world, will be remembered as an avuncular character and his corpulent frame, cherubic visage, corn-cob pipe and penchant for risqué jokes, postcards and limericks were but a few of his distinguishing characteristics.

His colleagues in business occasionally saw the other side of his personality which could erupt in outbursts of petulance should he not get his own way; however, the turbulence never lasted long and he was not a man to harbour grudges. From his staff, he expected extreme loyalty and dedication, yet he was not aloof and was always on hand to give paternal advice and practical assistance whenever required.

He believed that teamwork was the cornerstone of a successful business. His relationship with the philatelic trade could be uneasy and more than one prominent dealer was turned away from an auction for not having settled an account.

John Harry Robson Lowe was born in London on January 7th 1905 and had an inauspicious start to life as his mother sustained a heart attack shortly after his birth; in his early years he was brought up by a foster mother and his sister.

He began collecting postage stamps in 1911 and his first "major" purchase was made at the age of 10 when he acquired 1000 British Empire stamps for one shilling and nine pence. It was during his early school days that he started trading stamps with his fellow pupils.

On May 6th 1920 Robson Lowe embarked on a career in philately which was to span over five decades and have a profound effect on the hobby that was effectively his life; virtually every serious collector has benefited from his multifarious activities. To list all his achievements during a highly eventful life is the work of a biographer, but the following are some of the landmarks listed in chronological order.

1920 - he sold his personal collection for £20 and opened a bank account, one of his first successful transactions was the unlikely acquisition of a commode for 10/-, the commode contained a cache of early letters from India which were sold for £75.

1923 - he bought a box of some 10,000 stamps which proved to be forgeries by the Spiro Brothers of Hamburg; this instigated his great interest and knowledge of the subject which culminated in him purchasing, on behalf of the British Philatelic Association, the master forger Jean de Sperati's stock for £8,000.

1926 - he opened offices at 93 Regent Street and made his first visit to the USA where he covered the country by car and made significant finds of correspondence, notably Wells Fargo and Co., and other Western Express Company letters during visits to the Gold Rush towns.

1928 - he married Winifred Marie Denne; among the wedding gifts was an example of the famous USA 24c. Inverted Jenny donated by the finder of the sheet, Col. E H R Green. Sold for £90, the proceeds furnished their home.

He then travelled to South Africa where he did a thriving trade and unwittingly acquired an orange farm in Natal after a bibulous evening with fellow philatelists; after two months he managed to exchange the farm for a stamp collection and made a profit.

1932 - he published the first edition of the Regent Stamp Catalogue and three years later this became the Regent Encyclopaedia of Empire Postage Stamps.

1935 - he started the Regent Stamp company, specialising in retailing rare stamps and collections of the British Empire.

During the reigns of George V and George VI, when Sir John Wilson was the curator, Robson Lowe was a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace and assisted both Kings, who were avid and knowledgeable philatelists, in adding to the Royal collection.

1936 - he contracted hepatitis and retired to Bournemouth and wrote the first edition of the Handstruck Stamps of the British Empire.

1939 - he moved to 50 Pall Mall after a bomb had damaged the premises of the Regent Stamp Company. 50 Pall Mall was to become one of the Meccas of philately until the business was transferred to Bournemouth in 1976.

1941 - he held a series of Red Cross auctions in conjunction with Christie's. These were the start of a close relationship culminating in the acquisition by Christie's of Robson Lowe Ltd in 1980.

During the war years Robson Lowe's Specialised Stamp Sales continued trading and offered important collections including those of McGowan (GB), Beckton (Finland), Jewell (Argentina), Vallency (GB), Small (Br. Guiana) and Ginger (New South Wales).

1945 - he started Bournemouth Stamp auctions; operations started with a staff of two. The highly popular general sales attained an annual turnover of over £1,500,000 before they closed in1991.

1947 - he set up an office in Philadelphia and held a series of successful auctions in partnership with Arthur Pierce; the operation ceased when the British Inland Revenue ruled that he had to pay both US and British taxes - the venture bankrupted him.

1948 - he published The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, Volume I (Europe); subsequent sections have been published with the final volume remaining incomplete.

1950 - he founded the Postal History Society to promote interest in and knowledge of the subject.

1956 - he acquired the eminent dealers P L Pemberton and with the business their stock and their house magazine "The Philatelic Journal of Great Britain".

1961 - he set up in partnership with fellow auctioneers Jacques Robineau (Paris), Urs Peter Kaufmann (Basle) and J.L. Van Dieten (Hague) who amalgamated to exploit the potential market in Switzerland; the conglomerate was named the Uncommon Marketeers. They were later joined by Adriano Landini of Milan making it a potent force in the European philatelic community.

1962 - he received instructions to offer the major part of the incomparable worldwide collection formed by Maurice Burrus, a tobacco magnate from Switzerland; the collection was dispersed over a period of some three years and Lowe's sales totalled over £2,000,000.

1964 - he acquired printers D. Wood and Sons of Perth.

1966 - he held a sale of stamps on board the Queen Mary, an adventurous operation which entailed radio communication links being set up from the ship to bidders in Great Britain, the USA and European capitals; unfortunately the auction was a fiasco due to adverse weather conditions and a telephone strike in Paris.

1968 - he continued to expand his business by forming Robson Lowe International, with representatives being appointed on a global scale in over 15 countries.

1980 - he sold Robson Lowe Limited to Christie's in September. Later in the decade, he processed the Corsini, Medici and Venturini 15th to 18th Century Italian correspondences which he meticulously researched.

In April 1993, Christie's acquired Spink and Son Ltd., the fine art and collectables dealer. At this time Christie's worldwide coin, banknote and medal auctions were merged with those of Spink and auctions were held worldwide in association with Christie's. Then in January 1997, in order to increase the services to stamp collectors worldwide, the stamp department was added to the collectables division of Spink.

In his later years Robson Lowe spent much of his time writing and producing The Philatelist but he never failed to keep in contact with his philatelic friends, his Christmas letter being appreciated by many throughout the world.

Robson Lowe was an avid collector who formed fine studies of historical letters, including missives from the Battle of Agincourt, Queen Anne and many other European monarchs; he also collected United States Local Posts and Postal History; his last interest was prisoner of war mail.

For his services to philately Robson Lowe received numerous awards including the 1970 Liechtenstein Medal (Collectors Club, New York), the John Luff Award of the American Philatelic Society and the National Philatelic Writers Hall of Fame Award in 1980.

He was also a signatory of the American and South African Rolls of Distinguished Philatelists. Although proposed, he declined to sign the United Kingdom Roll of Distinguished Philatelists unless they deleted the signature of the South African faker, Jurgens; they did not.

He is survived by his daughters Annabelle Forrest and Marion Fortnum both of whom with their respective husbands, were partners in his business for many years.
No longer in Bathurst, but too good a double pun to request a name change.

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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by portbelly »

bathurst stamper

Thank you.

All that information is on the link at the bottom of my first piece. Just click on the link: http://www.robsonlowe.co.uk/

And click on the arrows.
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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by GlenStephens »

Robbie was a most important figure in stamps.

Let's keep this thread on him, and add any others in seperate threads thanks.

I just just split off one such post.

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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by mikeg »

Portbelly- you give me a good excuse to post this: :lol:

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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by portbelly »

(mikeg) I am envious, great piece.
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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by mikeg »

Thanks Portbelly :D

I suppose it is postal history :lol: :lol:

I have a stack of old correspondence to/from or about RL from Rev. Hines.

I will look thru it and try to find some more interesting bits.

Not everyone was a fan of him:

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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by portbelly »

Quote for an article, author unknown.

'Tall poppies' : successful people
'Tall poppy syndrome' : the tendency to criticize successful people

'Tall Poppy Syndrome'

In Australia, a tall poppy is a successful person or achiever who, as a result, is the target of jealousy and grudging remarks. The goal is to make everyone the same, but the result is no one strives to be great or believes that change is possible.

He had some very firm views on postal decorum and issues with post office cancellations in general.

Not to detract from the story of this "Father of Philately"

My parents had friends who imigrated from Italy after WW1. these people came here with nothing, just a suitcase with donated clothes. They worked hard and I mean hard, bought a small farm in Ingham, north of Townsville Queensland. Planted veggies and sold them on the roadside, then expanded to markets.

Bought land and expanded their farms and planted cane. Became very successful and employed Aussie labor. They had their house fire bombed, they were spat on, abused, assaulted when in the township, and the list goes on. Most of the family were interned at the commencement of WW11 in camps, because Italy was the enemy.

Some of the family convinced the Government to allow them to grow vegetables for the troops, and the civilians, which they did with success. They had to report to the Police every week and had spot check visits by Government officials.

They were more Aussie than some of their neighbors but even today people try and bring the descendants down. They love Australia and I would call them very patriotic hard working Aussies.

I don't want this expanded as I don't wish to detract for this great man and his achievements.

It is just an explanation on the mind set of some Aussies, don't know if it happens to the extent it does here, in other countries..
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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by ScotsmanAbroad »

Fascinating reading!

I've seen the name Robson Lowe hundreds of times in magazines and catalogues etc, it is great to be able to put a face and more to the name.

What an interesting life!
It's good to shoot the breeze with like-minded people.

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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by Rod Perry »

bathurst stamper wrote:Love your work portbelly :D Where would we all be without him ?

I can add the following but I just can't remember where I got this from, it's certainly an obituary, maybe from the BBC website:

ROBSON LOWE 1905-1997


Philatelist and Pioneer Postal Historian

Robson Lowe, who died in Bournemouth aged 92 (after a long illness which, however, did not prevent him from working until the last few weeks of his life), will be best remembered as the father of postal history, a subject upon which he published many definitive works. He was, in all probability, THE professional philatelist of the twentieth century.

Robbie, as he was known to his many friends throughout the world, will be remembered as an avuncular character and his corpulent frame, cherubic visage, corn-cob pipe and penchant for risqué jokes, postcards and limericks were but a few of his distinguishing characteristics.

His colleagues in business occasionally saw the other side of his personality which could erupt in outbursts of petulance should he not get his own way; however, the turbulence never lasted long and he was not a man to harbour grudges. From his staff, he expected extreme loyalty and dedication, yet he was not aloof and was always on hand to give paternal advice and practical assistance whenever required.

He believed that teamwork was the cornerstone of a successful business. His relationship with the philatelic trade could be uneasy and more than one prominent dealer was turned away from an auction for not having settled an account.

John Harry Robson Lowe was born in London on January 7th 1905 and had an inauspicious start to life as his mother sustained a heart attack shortly after his birth; in his early years he was brought up by a foster mother and his sister.

He began collecting postage stamps in 1911 and his first "major" purchase was made at the age of 10 when he acquired 1000 British Empire stamps for one shilling and nine pence. It was during his early school days that he started trading stamps with his fellow pupils.

On May 6th 1920 Robson Lowe embarked on a career in philately which was to span over five decades and have a profound effect on the hobby that was effectively his life; virtually every serious collector has benefited from his multifarious activities. To list all his achievements during a highly eventful life is the work of a biographer, but the following are some of the landmarks listed in chronological order.

1920 - he sold his personal collection for £20 and opened a bank account, one of his first successful transactions was the unlikely acquisition of a commode for 10/-, the commode contained a cache of early letters from India which were sold for £75.

1923 - he bought a box of some 10,000 stamps which proved to be forgeries by the Spiro Brothers of Hamburg; this instigated his great interest and knowledge of the subject which culminated in him purchasing, on behalf of the British Philatelic Association, the master forger Jean de Sperati's stock for £8,000.

1926 - he opened offices at 93 Regent Street and made his first visit to the USA where he covered the country by car and made significant finds of correspondence, notably Wells Fargo and Co., and other Western Express Company letters during visits to the Gold Rush towns.

1928 - he married Winifred Marie Denne; among the wedding gifts was an example of the famous USA 24c. Inverted Jenny donated by the finder of the sheet, Col. E H R Green. Sold for £90, the proceeds furnished their home.

He then travelled to South Africa where he did a thriving trade and unwittingly acquired an orange farm in Natal after a bibulous evening with fellow philatelists; after two months he managed to exchange the farm for a stamp collection and made a profit.

1932 - he published the first edition of the Regent Stamp Catalogue and three years later this became the Regent Encyclopaedia of Empire Postage Stamps.

1935 - he started the Regent Stamp company, specialising in retailing rare stamps and collections of the British Empire.

During the reigns of George V and George VI, when Sir John Wilson was the curator, Robson Lowe was a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace and assisted both Kings, who were avid and knowledgeable philatelists, in adding to the Royal collection.

1936 - he contracted hepatitis and retired to Bournemouth and wrote the first edition of the Handstruck Stamps of the British Empire.

1939 - he moved to 50 Pall Mall after a bomb had damaged the premises of the Regent Stamp Company. 50 Pall Mall was to become one of the Meccas of philately until the business was transferred to Bournemouth in 1976.

1941 - he held a series of Red Cross auctions in conjunction with Christie's. These were the start of a close relationship culminating in the acquisition by Christie's of Robson Lowe Ltd in 1980.

During the war years Robson Lowe's Specialised Stamp Sales continued trading and offered important collections including those of McGowan (GB), Beckton (Finland), Jewell (Argentina), Vallency (GB), Small (Br. Guiana) and Ginger (New South Wales).

1945 - he started Bournemouth Stamp auctions; operations started with a staff of two. The highly popular general sales attained an annual turnover of over £1,500,000 before they closed in1991.

1947 - he set up an office in Philadelphia and held a series of successful auctions in partnership with Arthur Pierce; the operation ceased when the British Inland Revenue ruled that he had to pay both US and British taxes - the venture bankrupted him.

1948 - he published The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, Volume I (Europe); subsequent sections have been published with the final volume remaining incomplete.

1950 - he founded the Postal History Society to promote interest in and knowledge of the subject.

1956 - he acquired the eminent dealers P L Pemberton and with the business their stock and their house magazine "The Philatelic Journal of Great Britain".

1961 - he set up in partnership with fellow auctioneers Jacques Robineau (Paris), Urs Peter Kaufmann (Basle) and J.L. Van Dieten (Hague) who amalgamated to exploit the potential market in Switzerland; the conglomerate was named the Uncommon Marketeers. They were later joined by Adriano Landini of Milan making it a potent force in the European philatelic community.

1962 - he received instructions to offer the major part of the incomparable worldwide collection formed by Maurice Burrus, a tobacco magnate from Switzerland; the collection was dispersed over a period of some three years and Lowe's sales totalled over £2,000,000.

1964 - he acquired printers D. Wood and Sons of Perth.

1966 - he held a sale of stamps on board the Queen Mary, an adventurous operation which entailed radio communication links being set up from the ship to bidders in Great Britain, the USA and European capitals; unfortunately the auction was a fiasco due to adverse weather conditions and a telephone strike in Paris.

1968 - he continued to expand his business by forming Robson Lowe International, with representatives being appointed on a global scale in over 15 countries.

1980 - he sold Robson Lowe Limited to Christie's in September. Later in the decade, he processed the Corsini, Medici and Venturini 15th to 18th Century Italian correspondences which he meticulously researched.

In April 1993, Christie's acquired Spink and Son Ltd., the fine art and collectables dealer. At this time Christie's worldwide coin, banknote and medal auctions were merged with those of Spink and auctions were held worldwide in association with Christie's. Then in January 1997, in order to increase the services to stamp collectors worldwide, the stamp department was added to the collectables division of Spink.

In his later years Robson Lowe spent much of his time writing and producing The Philatelist but he never failed to keep in contact with his philatelic friends, his Christmas letter being appreciated by many throughout the world.

Robson Lowe was an avid collector who formed fine studies of historical letters, including missives from the Battle of Agincourt, Queen Anne and many other European monarchs; he also collected United States Local Posts and Postal History; his last interest was prisoner of war mail.

For his services to philately Robson Lowe received numerous awards including the 1970 Liechtenstein Medal (Collectors Club, New York), the John Luff Award of the American Philatelic Society and the National Philatelic Writers Hall of Fame Award in 1980.

He was also a signatory of the American and South African Rolls of Distinguished Philatelists. Although proposed, he declined to sign the United Kingdom Roll of Distinguished Philatelists unless they deleted the signature of the South African faker, Jurgens; they did not.

He is survived by his daughters Annabelle Forrest and Marion Fortnum both of whom with their respective husbands, were partners in his business for many years.
This quite short thread, on the greatest Philatelist the world has known, needs a bump.

Firstly, a personal note: I was privileged to have dined with "Robbie" on a number of occasions.

In the early 1970s/early 1980s I was the Lowe organisations biggest auction buyer in Australasia.

It was probably not for my good looks alone that Robbie entertained me from time to time.

At those one-on-one events, once he got in to gear, heck, you just didn't want him to shut up. Unforgettable memories!

As a tribute to this Great man, I thought it appropriate to post the following three items, from a pioneer Postal historian, for whom Robbie would have had a degree of admiration, I'm sure.
As early as 1898, W.R. Bray, Forest Hill, Kent, U.K., was curious about philatelic matters, other than the Traditional:

Image

Image

Jun 1898: Bray forwards postcard to a Postmaster, with request: "Would you kindly re-direct this Post-Card to the above address [his] as I want the Postmark of your village for my collection."

Amongst the redirection markings is a 1D tax marking, which no doubt would have delighted our pioneer Postal historian.

Image

Image

Aug 1898: Becoming more philatelically daring, Bray casts an unpaid postcard to the wind: "Will the one who picks this Post Card up, at once without delay, Direct it to the above address [Bray's]"

The finder dutifully completes required details, and amongst other markings is another taxing.

Image

Image

Aug 1899: Another posted-to-the-wind unpaid postcard, by now Bray developing more in to a pure Philatelist: "The above postmark illustrates that the figures & letter under a surcharge correspond to the figures & letter in the ring at the right side of the postmark."

All expressed in an exquisite hand.
Seldom are philatelists like Robson Lowe, and W.R. Bray, minted nowadays.

One wonders, what would they have to say of the ever escalating minutiae we nowadays suffer, such as "never-hinged", and "graded stamps"?

Rod
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Re: John Harry Robson Lowe - father of postal history

Post by Cill Dara »

Rod,

Newtownmountkennedy is located about 10KM from Bray in Co. Wicklow.

I'm sure that W.R. Bray already had a Bray postmark. :wink:

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Re: Robson Lowe - the father of postal history - his story

Post by vicaf60 »

The thread is free of Photobucket :D

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