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  Space Cover 171: "So, who was Barbara Baker?"

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 171: "So, who was Barbara Baker?"
stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-22-2012 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 171 (July 22, 2012)

The first Barbara Baker cacheted cover is shown for X-15 test pilot J. A. (Joe) Walker's test flight, March 25, 1960, Edwards, California. In the cachet, Walker has written, "First NASA Flight." The X-15 flown cover shown is one of only three flown covers for this first NASA flight. It is recorded in the "Ellington-Zwisler Rocket Mail Catalog," vol. 2 as USA cover 89. The flown Joe Walker X-15 cover made by Barbara Baker is shown courtesy of Tom Steiner.

Space Cover #171: So, Who Was Barbara Baker?

I did not know Barbara Baker. But I greatly admired her work, especially the space covers she made, avidly collected, traded to fellow collectors, and upon her death, left behind. Barbara was a consummate space cover collector, and although she was handicapped and wheelchair bound, she was industrious and determined to record early space events at the beginning of the modern Space Age. She was an exceptional space cover collector, too.

Barbara made her own space covers from scratch, many of which are illustrated in the "Ellington-Zwisler Rocket Mail Catalogs," volumes 1 and 2. In her own words in an article written for the Space Unit's "Astrophile," journal in March 1970, she writes, "The X-15 had excited my imagination, and I followed its development closely. I believe it was sometime in 1958 that it was announced that Scott Crossfield, Joseph A. Walker, Major Robert M. White, would be the first pilots flying this plane. I wanted a souvenir of these flights which I regarded as an important step in our country's goal of spaceflight. I had read about covers being flown on airplanes, but had never seen one and did not know quite how to go about it. I knew the cachet was important, as it must contain proof that the cover was actually flown, but exactly what information must it have? I placed an airmail envelope in the typewriter, and, with a new black ribbon, typed the following cachet:

FLOWN BY X-15
EXPERIMENTAL ROCKET PLANE

FLOWN FROM________________
TO________________________
DATE______________________
TEST______________________
REMARKS:


PILOT_____________________

Barbara continues, "In trying to make the covers as attractive as possible, I made up several types of rocket labels in various shapes: diamond, triangular, hexagon, rhomboid, etc. I used a MAK-UR-OWN Rubber Stamp Printing Set to print "Via Rocket" on the labels. I then sent these covers to the three pilots with the request that they fly them. As this was more than a year before the actual flights, no policy had been established, as yet, prohibiting the pilots from carrying extraneous material."

She started writing to test pilots early in 1958 at the advent of the X-15 program, but her efforts were unfruitful. She received no responses back from the test pilots to whom she was writing. But suddenly she received three covers returned from one of the X-15 test pilots. She was ecstatic, commenting, "But suddenly there was a breakthrough.... Pilot Joseph Walker flew three of my covers on the first government flight of March 25, 1960, at a speed of 1,320 mph and altitude of 48,630 feet. He overshot the landing point by five miles because of strong tailwind, but landed safely. Naturally, I was thrilled with these covers!"

Barbara continued, "It was a time of great excitement, coincidences, and just plain fun. As there were so few space collectors in those days, we were a relatively close-knit group who would help each other out by exchanging information and covers." As was typical for Barbara, she kept only one cover and traded, or gave away, the other two covers to fellow space cover collectors and friends.

In this early "Astrophile" journal article, she reminisces, "Even though I did not have any real hope of having more covers flown on the X-15, each time I found out that another pilot had been appointed to the program, I would send two covers along to him. To my genuine amazement, I finally received two covers from Major William "Pete" Knight that had been flown on the X-15-2 during the record-breaking flight of November 18, 1966 when the plane reached a speed of 4,250 mph or Mach 6.33!! He also sent along an autographed picture of himself standing beside the X-15. Of course I was quite euphoric. Major Knight had made a notation on the cover that it was test #2-50 and was a speed record, along with the number of feet per second. I had affixed a small silhouette of the plane and the 5c Kennedy stamp and the 3c Coast and Geodetic (Scott #1088) stamp. It was postmarked at Edwards, California, on November 22, 1966."

Late flown X-15 cover made by Barbara Baker and flown by X-15 test pilot Major Pete Knight November 18, 1966, Edwards, California. Knight's test flight on this date set an X-15 speed record of Mach 6.17 or 4,696 miles per hour. It is recorded in the "Ellington-Zwisler Rocket Mail Catalog," vol. 2 as USA cover 97. The Barbara Baker cover is from the X-15 collection of the author.

Barbara's success in making and obtaining flown covers continued well after the X-15 program, culminating in 1971 in a rare flown to the Moon cover for Apollo 15. A scan is not available for this cover, see the E-Z Catalog for additional information. As space cover collectors, we owe her an incredible debt of gratitude for graciously showing us how it is done in collecting space covers.

Steve Durst, SU-4379.

cosmos-walter
Member

Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-22-2012 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, Thank you for this great story!

LM1
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Posts: 368
From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 07-22-2012 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
People like Barbara Baker should be in the Space Unit Hall of Fame. Others could be Bob Ekas, Bob Boudwin and other creators of space covers in the early days of this hobby.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-22-2012 04:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, Wonderful story about Barbara Baker.

When I was a young collector just starting out during the Apollo era, I had seen an astrophilatelic feature about her.

Inspired by her imagination in trying to "expand the envelope" so-to-speak, I wrote to her seeking advice and information about how she was able to assemble an incredible and outstanding "one-of-a-kind" collection.

Within a week, she had written me back a long letter (I still have it today) that was the beginning of a long-time correspondence between us.

Barb was a tremendous help to me in expanding my small, at the time, collection of carried, located and flown covers.

In my book, Barbara Baker would be the foremost and pioneer astrophilately collector of carried/flown covers in covering an exciting golden
era of aerospace travel and space exploration throughout the 1950-70s.

Off hand, maybe Steve or someone would know; Did Barbara ever put together or publish an article, guide or booklet with all of her carried and flown covers?

I've seen several copies from her collection, but never knew of a formal or complete listing of such historic covers.

LM1
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Posts: 368
From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 07-22-2012 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These pioneers of space philately will all be forgotten unless they are formally remembered in the Space Unit Hall of Fame.

spaceman1953
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Posts: 933
From: South Bend, IN United States of America
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 07-23-2012 06:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, indeed, for all the details about Ms. Baker. I always knew the name, of course, but never knew "the rest of the story" !

She must have been a true gem to meet and talk with !

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 07-23-2012 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your comments Walter, LM1, Ken, and spaceman1953. I did not know Barbara and unfortunately can only imagine what it must have been like corresponding with her. Her attention to detail and persistence were especially noteworthy.

By 1966 when test pilots carrying covers on X-15s was all but prohibited, she persisted and got her covers on three additional X-15 flights, two by Pete Knight and one by Mike Adams!

Ken, in response to your comment, I don't know of a comprehensive work cataloging her covers, but we do know what she was able to have flown on X-15 flights from the articles she wrote in that time frame. Do you or anyone of our other SCOTWers have a photo of her, would have liked to have shown that in this posting.

I really enjoyed writing this article, many thanks for your comments everyone!

LM1
Member

Posts: 368
From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 07-23-2012 09:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Articles like this would be perfect for the Astrophile. It makes the hobby of space philately more personal.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-23-2012 09:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, having just located my Barb Baker cabinet file folder, I haven't seen inside it for perhaps 20+ years or more it would seem!

I was hoping to find a picture of her in it, but there are none. I do have many of her copied articles along with lots of our letters written between us. Fortunately, I was able to maintain carbons and/or copies of my letters to her. It looks like our first contact together had been in 1974 when I was a high schooler.

In looking over one of her letters to me in 1982, Barb had asked for another one of my ASTP rollout covers, if still available, and wanted to order another set of my Viking convoy rollout covers.

In that same letter, she was seriously thinking about moving to Florida from New York, and interestingly enough, asked me if I had seen any "snakes, scorpions, or black widow spiders" in my house or in the yard!

I did write back to Barb and said that on rare occasions, we do have snakes in the garage and yard. But more common, believe it or not, are alligators in the nearby ponds and small lakes.

Needless to say, after that report, I don't think Barbara wanted to live in Florida as she never again mentioned the topic.

LM1
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Posts: 368
From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Oct 2010

posted 07-24-2012 12:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM1   Click Here to Email LM1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a photo of Barbara J. Baker from the August 1970 issue of the Jack Knight Air Log of the Aerophilatelic Federation of the Americas -

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-24-2012 12:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LM1, what a great shot of Barbara with some of her historic space covers and other space memorabilia treasures.

While I do recall subscribing to issues of the Jack Knight Air Log throughout the 1970s/early 80s, I just can't seem to remember ever seeing a picture of her.

Thanks for posting as it does bring back some fond memories, even though we had never personally met during our long correspondence friendship.

Eddie Bizub
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Posts: 32
From: Kissimmee, FL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 07-24-2012 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Eddie Bizub   Click Here to Email Eddie Bizub     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great article Steve! I was lucky enough to see Barbara Baker's collection back in the late 80's.

After she passed away, Dad and I were contacted by a fellow collector asking if we were interested in purchasing her collection. This individual was working with an auction house to dispose of her collection. Dad knew who she was so on a Friday night we went to Madison Square Garden during a stamp show and were given 30 minutes to view the collection.

We were blown away! Covers flown on every possible aircraft and by many pilots more than familiar to us space collectors. There were of course the X-15 covers as well as covers flown on the various Lifting Body aircraft and most of the experimental aircraft being tested during the 50's, 60's and 70's.

There were T-38 covers flown and signed by Charlie Bassett, Elliott See, Roger Chaffee and Frank Borman just to name a few. Not to mention one flown by Chuck Yeager. Unbelievable stuff!

We did make a decent offer for the collection as I'm sure the few other dealers who viewed the collection did as well. In the end, we were told the family chose not to sell the collection.

However, we believe that the individual who first contacted us purchased the collection after having the dealers establish a value for it. This individual had similar covers in his own collection and did not want to devalue his own collection by having Barbara's collection hit the market.

We did keep in touch with this individual for a number of years and often asked about certain covers from the collection. He always said he would look for them and sell them to us but that never happened.

I do not know what ever happened to this individual over the years. I also do not know what happened to either his or Barbara Baker's collection.

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 07-24-2012 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good story, Eddie, as I've always thought the Baker family kept most of Barb's collection intact and within the family.

In addition to several flown X-15 rocketplane covers, I recall seeing copies of astronaut carried simulator and flight test covers (Mitchell, Scott, etc.), and of course, her legendary "Flown to the Moon" cover carried aboard Apollo 15 as a gift or favor from Barbara Gordon.

Maybe we should start up a flown/carried cover topic here on cS with a monthly depicted cover.

I've got many to share, even going back to a Mercury carried flight procedures simulator cover, as I am sure others will have as well.

Hey, it might lots of fun...

cosmos-walter
Member

Posts: 406
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 07-27-2012 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A cover prepared by Barbara Baker flew on Apollo 12, another one on Apollo 15. Unfortunately the cover flown on Apollo 12 was stolen, when she took it to a stamp exhibition back in the 1970ies. This very cover never appeared again.

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