Copyright 2011-2022 John N. Lupia, III

Fig. 1. Photograph of John Friedrich Seybold published in Philatelic Journal of America, Vol. X (1893) : 170

John F. Seybold (1858-1909), "The Father of Postal History," was born in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, on July 22, 1858, the eldest of six children and first of two sons of German immigrant parents from Würrtemberg, Jacob Seybold (1827-), and Catherine Elisabeth Kühner Seybold (1841-).

Jacob Seybold sailed on the SM Fox from Le Havre, France to America arriving at New York harbor on the 21st of July, 1851. Jacob Seybold was part of a massive migration of Germans escaping the fallout of the devastation of their homeland from the Napoleonic Wars. It is no surprise he would wind up in Onondaga County, New York since it was established in the 18th century as a German mission site. By 1840 there were over one 1,000 Germans in Onondaga County, New York and a high concentration in Salina, a town that was settled by German immigrants. Then came the Napoleonic Wars of 1848 bringing death, destruction and displaced families. In 1850, more than 113,000 German immigrants settled in the United States. In 1855, Catherine Elisabeth Kühner came with her family from Würrtemberg, Germany to America. In 1857, Jacob Seybold married Catherine Elisabeth Kühner. The Seybold family lived in the newly established city of Syracuse, when the villages of Salina and Syracuse joined and became incorporated on December 4, 1847. Charles Ferre Williston was the mayor of Syracuse from 1856 to 1857, when the Seybold's were married. Williston was succeeded by William Winton in 1858, when John F. Seybold was born there in the city of Syracuse, now in its eleventh year. John F. Seybold was born the day after his father Jacob celebrated his seventh anniversary arriving in New York harbor as a German refugee. Jacob Seybold began as a common day laborer and by 1870 established himself at Syracuse as a miller. By 1900, well into retirement age, seventy-three year old Jacob Seybold was working as a bartender in the local brewery.

John F. Seybold lived with his parents between Laurel and Butternut Streets at 1308 Lodi Street, Syracuse, New York. Their house was built in 1880. It is situated near Highland Park, Franklin Square Park, and a little park off Clinton Square in recent years renamed the Robert R. Haggart Memorial Park, and of course, on the same street as Friedens United Church of Christ, 1501 Lodi Street, a German Lutheran Evangelical Church where he and his parents attended Sunday services.

John F. Seybold began working as a clerk in the dry goods industry.

He opened his own dry goods store at 904 Butternut Street, Syracuse, New York.

His brother Jacob George Seybold (1865-1901?) had married in 1890, Catherine, a New York woman of Irish descent. Their first child was born on November 6, 1890, and was named after him, John Frederick Seybold.

Fig. 39 year-old John F. Seybold correspondence with stamp dealer Frank P. Brown, postmarked Registered Syracuse, New York, September 22, 1897, franked Scott #272 8c Sherman. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. Estimate $200. Write

Fig. An early use of Scott #1 5c Franklin dated May 2, 1848 that once formed part of Seybold's personal collection bearing his private stamp in purple ink on the back. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. Write

According to Frank C. Young, "Stamps of British North America," The Canada Stamp Sheet, Vol. IV, No. 5, February 1 (1903) : 171, Seybold was collecting stamps and covers for more than thirty years. If this is accurate then he must have been collecting at least by 1872.

Seybold's 1851 Canada 12-p black Ex William H. Gross Collection Lot 206 sold by Spink for $250,000, but his “Rush 1847 Cover" sold for $1.95 million.

In September 1902, he acquired a cover franked with an 1852 Canada 12-p black postmarked Hamilton, Ontario, December 9, 1853, which was valued at $600 at that time.

In the summer of 1909 John Seybold suffered from severe depression and insomnia that resulted in what is commonly called in laymen's terms a nervous breakdown. Seybold was suffering from a very severe case of psychotic disorder of depression on both axes of melancholia and panic. Psychobiographic clues suggest Seybold was a reclusive closet alcoholic which co-occurred with his psychotic disorder of melancholia coupled by panic attacks with which he could not cope. Regardless, either during the late evening or night of August the 12th or early in the morning of August 13th, 1909, he was at his dry goods store and shot himself in the right temple collapsing dead on the floor. His family and community were shocked and left speechless by his unexpected suicide. The mental disorientation, confusion and inability to cope with stress and repressed fears undoubtedly led to this tragic, fatal and drastic act. Besides he may have been superstitious fearful of Friday the 13th. His funeral services were at the Friedens United Church of Christ, corner of Ash and 1501 Lodi Streets, Syracuse, New York.

Fig. Seybold's suicide was reported across the nation in the newspapers. Watertown Daily Times, Friday, August 13, 1909, page 6

Julius Caesar Morgenthau quickly negotiated to purchase the entire John F. Seybold philatelic collection for a mere $26,000 in cash. Morgenthau sold what he claimed was the entire collection, but the facts tell us a very different story. Many items known in the collection never appeared among the various lots of the three auction sales. Certainly, these were sold privately for undisclosed sums. Nevertheless, the public accounting ledgers reveal a gross sale realization of only $32,254.15 of a collection appraised between $50,000 to $100,000. But J. C. Morgenthau was not the only auction house to conduct creative accounting ledgers. In the end, these poor dealers always seem to barely have recaptured their initial investment and broke out even, and sometimes, sadly at a loss, i.e., if we are gullible enough to believe their financial reports. Dr. Bierman in his biographical sketch of Seybold is rather tongue-in-cheek about it, and rightly so.

John F. Seybold died intestate. However, during his lifetime he verbally expressed his intentions to bequeath his library to the Boston Philatelic Society.

On May 30, 1910, celebrated by newspaper coverage Jacob Seybold presented his son's philatelic library to the Boston Philatelic Society.

Bibliography :

Daily People, Saturday, September 13, 1902, page 2

Frank C. Young, "Stamps of British North America," The Canada Stamp Sheet, Vol. IV, No. 5, February 1 (1903) : 171

Watertown Daily Times, Friday, August 13, 1909, page 6, suicide report

"Library of Stamp Books Goes to Boston Society," Post-Standard, Monday, May 30, 1910, page 7

Stanley M. Bierman, M. D., More of The Worlds Greatest Stamp Collectors (Linn's Stamp News, 1990) : 1-11