story & photos
by John Stratton
As stamp-collectors know, great adventures can be measured out in envelopes, addresses, stamps, and the willing hands of postal employees who cancel them, lovingly affixing the precise date and time of the day the mailing entered the system.
In this case, the philatelic history was created on the morning of August 9, and the place was the Dime Bank in Stonington Borough, which occupies a sturdy stone building constructed in 1851. It’s right across from Cannon Square, itself commemorating the August 9, 1814, attack on Stonington by a British fleet of five frigates bent on capturing the village and controlling access to Long Island Sound.
The bank opened its doors this August morning to host the official issuance of a “pictorial postmark” applied to a “philatelic cover with a Cannon Square cachet.” In layman’s terms, these are mailable envelopes bearing a picture of the Square and the Bank building. Their cancellation stamp depicts an outline of one of the town’s two 18-pound defensive cannons, and bears the inscription, “Stonington CT 06378, 198th Anniversary Station, Battle of Stonington, 9 August 2012.” The souvenir covers are thus entered into the history of the town…and into the collections of stamp-lovers everywhere.
On that morning, some 50 covers were immediately stamped, cancelled, and sold within an hour or so…but more are available, said Alan Bentz. The designs are among several he’s created over the years; he was painstakingly canceling them with the commemorative stamp of his design, and Postal Service approval. Alan, a retired Naval Academy professor and scientist with the Coast Guard R&D Center, has been interested in stamp-collecting since World War II; he and his wife, Ann, have been residents of the Lord’s Point area for many years.
The cancellations were duly authorized by Chris Ackles, the Lead Sales and Service Associate attached to the regional, Pawcatuck USPS office. He has run the Stonington facility’s 468 mailboxes and window services since 1996.
Dime Bank President Nick Caplanson was there in honor of the event, working with Laraine Cellucci, the bank’s Site Manager.
Reflecting on the building’s long history as a bank and informal community center, Nick said that “when Dime Bank moved here in August 2009 we thought we should keep the tradition going. People stop in, say hello, meet friends, grab a cup of coffee or a cookie, do their banking. It’s kind of nice.”
The bank also housed the historic Stonington Battle Flag for many years, pointed out Elizabeth Wood of the Stonington Historical Society, which has owned the building itself since 1942. The massive flag, torn by shrapnel in the British bombardment, has been carefully preserved and is now a centerpiece in a current exhibition at the Lyman Allen Museum in New London.