The beginning of the Postal History Foundation (PHF) dates back to 1960 when Bill Alexander gathered together a group of interested stamp collectors with the idea of establishing an organization for the study and promotion of research into the postal history of Arizona and the Western United States. The objectives of the proposed organization were to:
- Organize a youth educational program to stimulate stamp collecting among youth.
- Obtain and preserve postal history of all periods for all of the Western States.
- Gather a collection of historical objects related to the transportation and distribution of the mail.
- Foster the study and research of postal history.
- Organize a sponsoring society of philatelists, historians and others who have an interest in promoting and preserving these objectives for future generations.
The organizers then approached Dr. Ray Brandes, Assistant Director of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society (now the Arizona Historical Society) with the idea of establishing a postal history department at the Society, which came into being as the Western Postal History Museum (WPHM). In order to ensure a reliable source of funding to support the WPHM, a group was formed to carry out fundraising activities – thus was born the Arizona Philatelic Rangers.
From its earliest days a major focus of the WPHM was the encouragement and support of youth philately. To this end in 1964 an affiliation was undertaken with the National Foundation for Asthmatic Children’s Sahuaro School in Tucson. A youth philately program was established which became the basis for the extensive youth activities that have become a hallmark of the PHF’s outreach over the past fifty years, including the regular involvement with several of the public schools in Tucson. The donations of literally hundreds of thousands of stamps from hundreds of donors have enabled the program to become the success that it is.
A number of significant donations over the years helped to enhance the collections of the WPHM as well as shape its future. The first large donation was received in October 1960 from the Raymond H. Weill Co. of New Orleans, Louisiana. It contained many books along with a six volume general collection of stamps. Raymond Weill and his brother Roger continued to support the WPHM with several other substantial donations of material. Over the years, many individuals and organizations made significant donations to the WPHM. A major collection of United States proof and essay stamps was received in 1978 from Stephen D. Bechtel, Sr., the sale of which enabled the WPHM to purchase its own building, the current headquarters at 920 North First Avenue. In 1996, the parents of Peggy Slusser, a long-time volunteer, donated $750,000 for the construction of the magnificent library which bears her name, and stands today as one of the most outstanding philatelic libraries in the country. Peggy’s collection of books, including a substantial collection of material relating to the Civil War, greatly enhanced the Library’s holdings.
The evolution of the Western Postal History Museum into the Postal History Foundation occurred over several years, but was finalized with the official name change in 1990. The reason for the name change was to reflect the substantial broadening of activities which the institution had undertaken over the years, to widen its base of support and to allow for future program growth.
Over time, many philatelic exhibits have been created and displayed at the PHF’s Tucson location as well as at stamp exhibitions, libraries and schools. The PHF also has an extensive collection of artifacts that relate to stamps and postal history. These are on permanent display throughout the Postal History Foundation and include the original turn-of-the-century Naco, Arizona post office.
After 50 years, it is evident that the Postal History Foundation has succeeded beyond expectations to become one of the top philatelic organizations in the United States. By promoting education through stamps and the study of postal history, the PHF has benefited not only its members, but the City of Tucson, as well as stamp collectors and philatelists throughout the world.