Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III

Photo of Henry Chapman Needham in 1934.

Henry Chapman Needham (1866-1939), was born on November 8, 1866, son of Henry Miles Needham (1829-1890) and Helen "Nellie" Elizabeth Chapman Needham (1840-1903).

He was a lawyer and since 1889, Commissioner of Deeds for Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. He was also a famous philatelist living with his brother George a dealer in safes and bank vaults, at 89 Hancock Street, Brooklyn, New York.

Herman Herst, Jr., Nassau Street, gives us a thumbnail sketch of Needham back in the early Depression Era 1930's when Herst worked for Lebenthal and Company selling municipal bonds. Needham was a client and Herst used to visit his office at the Bennett Building, 93-99 Nassau Street, New York, delivering bonds to him from the Lebenthal office.

"Needham at that time enjoyed the respect and admiration of all the philatelic world; not until after his death was the true story of his philatelic manipulations and peculations made known. To this day the mystery remains as to why a wealthy and respected philatelist who had no motive whatsoever should have doctored so many philatelic items for profit and rewritten philatelic history not according to fact as shown by his research, but as he felt it should be written. Even today [sic 1960] the Scott catalogue shows his influence in his special field of United States locals by continuing to carry illustrations of stamps long since proven to be counterfeits, at the same time omitting genuine emissions which for some reason Needham did not honor with a blessing." Herman Herst, Jr., Nassau Street.

"Two New York auctioneers, Max Ohlman and Vahan Mozian, would bring their entire auction to Needham's office and leave the sale there, for his inspection, in order that he might bid on as many lots as possible. Needham would in turn specify delivery of his bonds for days on which auction lots would be on view, and I would spend my lunch hour going over them with him, learning the finer points of philately.

"Do you have a ten-cent 1847 cover in your collection?" I heard one day when I entered Needham's office. Knowing by that time he was talking of an item easily worth $20.00, I laughed and told him it would be a long time until I did, my salary then being well under $20.00 per week. "You have one now," he said, handing me a beautiful cover with an exceptional single stamp on it. "I bought this for you in Ohlman's sale for $12.00. You can pay me $1.00 per week for twelve weeks." Herman Herst, Jr., Nassau Street.

This above story took place about 1933-1934. Today that same cover would most probably cost anywhere from $750.00 to well over $1,000.

In 1912, Needham published “Concise History of locals", Philatelic Gazette, filled with forgeries.

In 1912, the Collectors' Club, New York awarded Needham with the Club's Gold Medal for his work on U. S. locals.

Fig. Photo of Henry C. Needham published in Philatelic Gazette, 1913.

Needham was the American Philatelic Society's Expert on U. S. Locals. In the 1980's the APS announced anyone with a Needham Expert Certificate should resubmit the stamps since he had made some mistakes.

Needham owned the old family homestead of his grandfather Sylvester Needham (1804-), at Wales, Massachusetts, and stayed there as his summer home.

Needham died on March 18, 1939, at the old Needham homestead, Wales, Massachusetts. He is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York.

Bibliography :

Herman Herst, Jr., Nassau Street (New York : Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1960) : 5, 301