ERIC LEWIS (1907-2001)
His Unique Photo and Stunning Silk Screen Cachets
By Lynn Culkowski
Some years ago, I purchased some beautiful silk screen FDC’s from another dealer and sold them to 2 different collectors. Most were pencil addressed to Eric Lewis. I was told at the time that they were fairly scarce but I had no idea how really scarce they were. Thanks to Mr. Lyle Hall from Richmond, Virginia, I would like to share Mr. Eric Lewis’ story with you. Eric Lewis went to work for Eastman Kodak, in Rochester, NY, in the Camera Works section in 1927. He also worked in the research lab, and then was manager of emulsion testing, and retired 46 years later. Mr. Lewis had an interest in First Day Covers and started having uncacheted and other makers cacheted covers serviced in 1936. On February 11th, 1947, Eric Lewis serviced his first “home made” photo cachet, Scott # 945, the Thomas Edison issue with 4 known covers. Most of his covers were pencil addressed to his relatives, friends or to himself. His next known issue was the Scott # 949 Doctors issue. He continued making photo cachets for most Scott numbers through the George Eastman issue, Scott # 1062, for which he made both photo and silk screen cachets. The George Eastman covers have the most varieties known for Lewis cachets. His photo cachets include both hand drawn and a photo art collage type similar to what we now call “clip art”. Scott # 975, Will Rogers, is an example of his hand drawn photo cachets. The (known) number of photo cachets for each issue done ranges from 1 to 5 each. For most of the photo cacheted issues, it appears that Eric drew the cachet design, photographed it, combined the photo with a photo outline of an unfolded envelope and photo printed the results. His photo cachets are somewhat similar to Beazell cachets but for one major difference. Lewis’ covers were “uniquely” treated with chemicals on the right hand side of the envelope to provide a good bond for the stamps and to prevent smearing of the ink used for the cancels. The consistency of his design characteristics, photo-paper envelopes, and long run of issues make the Lewis photo cachets an important addition to First Day Cover collecting. Looking at the entire Lewis cover legacy, however, his work to this point was just a prelude to his magnificent silk screen work.
Scott # 1027, the New York City, 300th Anniversary issue, was the first issue that Mr. Lewis used to make First Day Covers using his silk screen process. The New York City, the 8 Cent Liberty, and the George Eastman issue are the only known issues that have both Photo and Silk Screen Cachets. I have selected a few covers to show examples of the intense colors and clarity of his silk screen cachets. He produced more of the silk screen cachets than the photo cachets but they are still scarce as the known number produced ranges from 1 to 8 through 1959, and 1 to 30 through 1971. A Mystery Solved. Mr. Mellone’s Specialized Cachet Catalog of First Day Covers of the 1960’s lists Scott #s 1155-26 and C60-18 as unknowns. They are both Eric Lewis cachets. Scott # 1155-26 has a known number of covers produced of 10, and Scott # C60-18 has a known number produced of 6. Therefore, they are quite valuable. Mr. Lewis also produced limited numbers of many Postal cards and Postal stationary during these periods.
By 1962, after missing very few issues, Eric must have anticipated that he would not be able to keep pace and keep up with the Postal Service new issues. He designed a Generic Flag cachet, that was first used on the Sam Rayburn stamp. By 1965 the Generic cachet was being used more frequently and apparently he could no longer keep up with the new issues. Although not as desirable as a normal cachet, his generic cachets also had very limited numbers produced. In 1971, Eric Lewis made his last cachet for the Blood Donor issue Scott # 1425. He had produced cachets for over 380 stamp issues, not counting the different designs or special events. The known total cover count is over 3,100 for all issues and with the knowledge of this special man and his covers, we hope that we will find a few more of those we know he gave to others.