Robert Brinton Postal History Collection - Chester County History Center

ROBERT BRINTON POSTAL HISTORY COLLECTION

Collection Title: Robert Brinton Postal History Collection

Collection Number: 241

Dates of Collection: 1705 – ca. 1960, bulk 1900 – 1946

Box Numbers: 49 boxes

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

Project Archivist: Bill Schultz, Jasmine Smith

Biography:

Robert Feree Brinton was born November 13, 1888 to Samuel Lewis Brinton and Elizabeth Brinton (born Smith). He was one of five children, with brothers Francis D. Brinton, Dr. Clement S. Brinton, and Willard Brinton, and a sister, Ellen Star Brinton.  He attended West Chester Teacher’s College (now West Chester University) and Pennsylvania State College (now Penn State University). Robert Brinton married Mary Pusey Hazard in 1914, in Delaware. They had one child, Anne.

During his adult life, Robert Brinton of “The Lindens” excelled as a farmer. He was elected president of the Master Farmers Association of Pennsylvania in 1939 after having earned the “Master Farmer Award” from the Pennsylvania Farmer in 1928. He also served as head of the Milk Sanitation Bureau of the State.

Robert Brinton and his siblings shared a common interest in history. Both Robert and his brother Francis actively supported the Chester County Historical Society. Robert was especially fascinated by postal history and became an authority in the subject. He energetically participated in the West Chester Stamp Club, among many other local and national postal organizations. He was a highly successful exhibitor. His talent shows in his winning, among other prizes, the Philip Ward, Jr. Cup from the Society of Philatelic Americans in 1941 for the best U.S. exhibit; he showcased the Westtown Local and postage due covers.  

With his combined passion for both history and post offices, he spent much of his free time trying to document all the post offices of his native Chester. From the size of the collection, it appears that Robert Brinton traveled to each post office, photographed it, and collected available documents and covers for the location.  He also requested, and then compiled, a signed post card from each active post master in the county in 1938.

The collection makes clear that Brinton intended to compile his research and philatelic study into a book titled Early American Post Offices and Post Roads, 1674-1800. He had written the introduction to this book, describing how what began as an interest in Chester County postal history blossomed after Brinton noted that the USPS had long undercounted the number of operating post offices in the U.S. prior to 1789. His book was intended to accurately capture early postal history and explore how the colonists and early Americans used and viewed the postal system.  

Sadly, before he could create the book for which he had accumulated so much research, Robert Brinton died in Orlando, Florida, January 18, 1946 at the age of 57.

Researchers can read the CCHS Newspaper Clippings for R. Brinton for more information. 

Collections Scope:

The Robert Brinton Postal History Collection includes a wide range of postal history material. Robert Brinton was a collector, exhibitor, and research, working on a comprehensive book history of the postal system. The collection includes his book research, philatelic organization and exhibiting materials, some of his personal postal history collection, post office materials from several of the post offices in Chester County, and Brinton’s personal papers. His correspondence appears throughout the collection, as he was a prolific letter-writer, communicating with libraries, repositories, dealers, and friends. Further description is provided in the Collection Contents at the series level. 

This finding guide was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Preservation Assistance Grant. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this collection guide do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    This collection is available by appointment. Please contact the library at library@chestercohistorical.org or (610) 692-4800 x 221 to arrange a visit.
  • Preferred Citation:
    Item description. Series number, Box number, Folder number. Robert Brinton Postal History Collection, MS 241, Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA.

Collection Arrangement:

Collection Arrangement: The collection is arranged into six series, listed below. Materials are boxed alphabetically or chronologically, as applicable.

The collection is arranged in the following series:
Series 1 – Robert Brinton’s Research
Series 2 – Special Formats
Series 3 – Exhibiting
Series 4 – Postal History Items
Series 5 – Post Office Files
Series 6 – Personal Papers and Community Engagement

Related Material:

The Robert Brinton Postal History Photograph Collection (DN 68) includes Brinton’s photo documenation project of post offices in Chester County. 

The CCHC Newspaper Clippings collection includes many clippings for Post Offices. See a librarian for assistance with the newspaper clippings. 

The CCHC collection includes additional Chester County postal covers arranged by post office. Ask a librarian for more information. 

The CCHC Postcard Collection highlights postcards that feature Chester County locations and views. Ask the photo archivist for more information. 

Collections Contents:

Series 1 – Robert Brinton’s Research
Description: Brinton’s efforts to write a comprehensive overview of the history of the Post Office are captured in this series. His draft of a book forward (Box 1) provides useful context for understanding this series and the collection overall. Brinton employed at least two individuals, Evelyn A. Benson and Bart Anderson to conduct research and take or type notes for him. Brinton and his assistants sent letters to a variety of institutions and individuals. Brinton’s research by location and the notes from his assistants reflect the original order of Brinton’s filing systems. Research by location denotes the place of interest, not the location where research was conducted. Early postal history materials are items from Brinton’s collection that predate specific post offices in Chester County (see series 4 and 5), and are pertinent to his writing project.
Box 1: Book Notes and Drafts
Box 2: Early Postal History
Box 3: Research by Correspondent or Topic
Box 4: Research Notes by E.A. Benson
Box 5: Research Notes Continued
Box 6: Research Notes by Bart Anderson
Box 7: Research by Location, Alaska-New York
Box 8: Research by Location, Pennsylvania-Vermont
Box 9: Research by Location: VA-Intl. & by Publication

Series 2 – Special Formats
Description: Brinton collected a variety of postal history materials. The Special Formats series includes RPO items, revenues, stamps, and autographs. Smaller groupings of Doane cancels, blotters, and more are included. The Purchasing/Collecting box includes correspondence between Brinton and various postal history sellers, as well as catalogs.
Box 1: Misc. Special Formats and Autographs
Box 2: Railway POs and Revenues
Box 3: Registered Chester County PO Receipts
Box 4: Registered Receipts to Chester County & Stamps
Box 5: Purchasing/Collecting & Oversize

Series 3 – Exhibiting
Description: Brinton belonged to numerous local and national philatelic societies, including the West Chester Stamp Club, Cover Collectors of America, and many others. Two of his exhibits survive largely intact. The Influence of the Society of Friends or “Quakers” on Philately and The Westtown School and Its Stamp exhibits are included in this series. Brinton also collected and arranged his awards in a scrapbook. Brinton’s Chester County Survey captures the project to procure a signed card from the postmaster at each operating post office in Chester County in 1938.
Box 1: Philatelic Societies and Misc.
Box 2: Westtown Local Main Exhibit
Box 3: Westtown Local Supporting Material
Box 4: Awards and Chester Co. Survey, OV Misc.

Series 4 – Postal History Items
Description: This series includes items, primarily covers, which would be of interest to postal historians. Materials are arranged by Chester County post office.
Box 1: Post Offices A-DE
Box 2: Post Offices DO-L
Box 3: Post Offices M-O
Box 4: Post Offices P-S
Box 5: Post Offices T-Z
Box 6: West Chester PO
Box 7: Chester Co. Overall

Series 5 – Post Office Files
Description: Also arranged by post office, this series includes cash books, register books, ephemera items, and more. Items in this series are informative, but may not be considered collectibles like the items in Series 4.
Box 1: Chester Springs
Box 2: Chester Springs Oversize
Box 3: Doe Run
Box 4: Doe Run Oversize
Box 5: Goshenville to Hamorton
Box 6: Lenape to Morstein
Box 7: Marsh, Milltown, and New Garden Oversize
Box 8: New Garden
Box 9: Oakbourne to Seal
Box 10: Strickersville to West Chester
Box 11: Seal, Thornbury, Warwick Furnace Oversize
Box 12: West Chester
Box 13: West Chester
Box 14: Westtown
Box 15: Westtown
Box 16: West Chester Oversize
Box 17: Chester County
Box 18: Location Unidentified

Series 6 – Personal Papers and Community Engagement
Description: Brinton’s personal papers and community engagement materials include event invitations and philanthropic activity, as well as his daybook. The letter books are copies of his outgoing correspondence for the dates described. The outgoing letters are often postal in nature.
Box 1: Personal Items and Community Engagement
Box 2: Letter Books, Sept. 1900-Aug. 1902
Box 3: Letter Books, Aug. 1902-July 1903
Box 4: Letter Books, July 1903-Aug. 1904
Box 5: Letter Books, Aug. 1904-Aug. 1905
Box 6: Letter Books, Sept. 1919-mar. 1921