About Stamp Collectors - Part 1

The people began to gather early. By 9 A.M. they stood from building to curb, as much as ten abreast, and the lines extended in both directions along the west side of Lexington Avenue, around the corners of 46th and 47th streets along both long blocks back to Park Avenue, and on the other side of Park Avenue thousands more awaited the opportunity to cross. Restaurant owners, storekeepers and the managers of hotels along the east side of Lexington Avenue opposite Grand Central Palace made another little gathering as they stood in wonder at what was going on across the street. "What's going on?" each newcomer to the group watching would ask. "What's all the commotion about?" "Stamp collectors!" someone would answer and the newcomer would join the silent group staring in amazement at the enormous queues waiting for the doors of Grand Central Palace to open.

Yes, stamp collectors! Little ones and big ones, small boys and aged women, millionaires and street urchins - stamp collectors all. Before the week had passed two hundred and fifty thousand of them had filled Grand Central Palace to its eaves from early morning to ten o'clock at night. They were all there to attend the Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition. The hotels were crammed, restaurants could not handle the crowds awaiting to eat, stores of every description saw their stocks depleted beyond belief. It was a bonanza. As one restaurateur said, "I've seen plenty of crowds at the 'Palace' but this beats anything I've ever known!"

CIPEX 1947
Crowds waiting for doors to open at CIPEX 1947.

Within minutes after the doors at the "Palace" had opened that first day the fire wardens called on the show directors to advise that the inaugural ceremonies would have to be stopped. "Too many people, get that band out of here or we shall have to close the doors!" was the order. The radio broadcast was cut short, the band scurried for cover - and still the people poured in through the doors in such great numbers that the doors were finally closed for a few minutes to allow the crowds to disperse through the three huge floors of the building which the stamp show occupied. It was only for a few minutes, to be sure, that the doors remained closed but that they were closed at all is some kind of a record that probably has never been equaled at the "Palace."

Stamp crowd
Photo by Adrien Boutrelle, N.Y.