Bill Tatham, WCS member #563. It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Western Cover Society member and director Bill Tatham, who passed away at his residence in Santa Rosa, California on August 6, 2021. Bill was a stalwart among Western Express and California town cancellation collectors, and a more comprehensive memorial to Bill will appear in the next issue of Western Express. The above photo was taken at the Taos Philatelic Rendezvous in 2013, with fellow WCS member Gordon Eubanks in the background.
William C. (“Bill”) Tatham, son of Norman and Dorothy Tatham, was born in Huntington Beach, California on January 9, 1943. Bill passed away on August 6, 2021 at his home in Santa Rosa, California at the age of 78. Bill’s wife, Shirley, previously passed away on April 5, 2017. Bill leaves behind his son, William Tatham Jr., and grandson and granddaughter, Scout and Leeloo Tatham. Early on, Bill pursued a career in the aircraft manufacturing industry, working first for Douglas Aircraft Co., which he left during the 1970’s to realize his dreams of working in philately full time, and owning his own stamp shop. Bill operated “Tatham’s Stamps” for a period of five years before joining Boeing Aircraft Co., which had absorbed Douglas. At both Douglas and Boeing, Bill functioned as an analyst and cost estimator, known for his ability to accurately project and effectively manage the short-term and long-term costs associated with multifaceted projects in a fluctuating and evolving industry.
Bill was an inveterate collector whose interests varied widely. Seashells, mineral specimens, orchids (grown in his own greenhouse) and Native American rugs all piqued Bill’s interest at one time or another. However, it was philately which reigned supreme, and which stemmed from Bill’s love of global history. While Bill formed notable collections of Bermuda and Eastern Rumelia stamps and postal history (among others), it was the postal history of the American West which increasingly garnered Bill’s attention. His collection of California Postal History was legendary in its scope, completeness, and rarity, and his holding of California town-canceled covers and express covers w as such that if broken down into individual County segments, each would have been exhibit worthy in its own right. On the singular occasion on which Bill did so, his exhibit of Butte County Postal History garnered numerous accolades and awards.
Never content with simply acquiring significant stamps and covers (although he truly reveled in the “thrill of the hunt”), Bill was committed to researching and documenting not only his own acquisitions, but also singular items and major holdings of stamps and covers of others whose material was relevant to Bill’s collecting interests. During the course of one such endeavor, I observed the following anecdotal occurrence resulting from Bill’s voluminous knowledge of diverse philatelic subjects/genres.
Six months prior to the May 13, 2004 Harmer Sale of the Dale-Lichtenstein Collection of Western Express Covers, Bill traveled to New York City at the invitation of Keith Harmer to study and record the collection in its entirety for posterity. I was privileged to have accompanied Bill on that occasion. When scanning a batch of covers which had been segregated for inclusion in a large lot in the future sale, Bill noted a particular cover which he called to the attention of Keith Harmer. Bill mentioned to Keith that the applicable cover was extremely rare and desirable (and why such was the case), and Keith afterwards re designated the cover for single-lotting as Lot #1239 in the upcoming sale. On the day of the sale, the cover elicited spirited bidding, and sold for $20,000, plus commission. Yes, Bill had an “eye,” and the requisite knowledge to go along with it.
Bill joined the Western Cover Society as member #563, and he ably served the Society in many different capacities, including as President and Vice President. At the time of his passing, Bill was a member of the WCS Board of Directors (an elected position which he filled for many successive years), as well as being the California & Nevada Towns Section Editor of the Society’s quarterly journal, Western Express. Bill authored, and co-authored, several fine articles for Western Express, and he was a major contributor to “The Western Express Companies, 1850-1890,” the paramount treatise on Western Expresses and their surviving covers, authored by Oscar M. Thomas. When writing his book, Oscar drew extensively on Bill’s knowledge and expertise concerning Western Covers, and he later often commented on Bill’s steadfast support and participation throughout the many years that it took to complete the project, and the revisions which followed.
Bill was a tremendous asset to philately as a whole, and particularly to those of us in the Western Cover Society who shared his interest in Western Postal History and, most of all, who enjoyed his friendship and camaraderie over the years. Good-bye old friend—you will be sorely missed.
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