Updated: December 14, 2016
DON MARSHALL FIRST DAY COVER
The cachet line, which began in 2008, was created for several reasons including to fill the void of philatelic covers depicting African Americans and Black Heritage, to educate collectors about Black stamp subjects or topics of interest, and to express Black culture in an atypical medium. The official first cachet was Charles Waddell Chesnutt whom cachet maker Don Neal wanted to depict in a way that was unique and in a way that would make the subject educational and collectible.
The theme of 6° Cachets is that they have a Black connection. Some of the cachet subjects and the stamps relate or connect directly to Black heritage, but other cachet subjects or stamps may have to be "connected" to Black heritage, and 6° Cachets can do that in six or fewer steps with biographical information that is included with the cachet. The concept is based on the idea of six degrees of separation (also referred to as the "Human Web") which theorizes that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called "Chains" and was popularized by the contemporary trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon which assumes that any actor can be linked through his or her film roles to actor Kevin Bacon. Don Neal applied that "connection" concept to make a unique twist to his cachet line, linking for example Edwin Hubble (from the 2008 American Scientists stamp series) to boxing champ Jack Johnson. While attending the University of Chicago, Hubble gained a reputation as a gifted boxer. Promoters courted Hubble as the next "great White hope"—their pick to dethrone controversial African-American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Instead, Hubble accepted a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, earned a degree in law, and ultimately turned to astronomy. Don likes to jest that Hubble chose to "see stars" through a telescope rather than on his back in a boxing ring.
Don also has made Black connections between the Frank Sinatra stamp and cachets of fellow rat pack member Sammy Davis, Jr., singer Billie Holiday, boxer Joe Louis, and architect Paul R. Williams—between the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy and Shani Davis, the first Black male to win an individual gold medal in a Winter Olympics—between the 2007 Jury Duty stamp and Oprah Winfrey, noting that even celebrities have to serve—between the 2008 Love: All Heart stamp and prominent Black couples—between the Chinese Lunar New year stamps and Black people born in the particular zodiac year—between various statehood stamps and African Americans born in or associated with those states—and between other stamps besides those obviously connected to Black heritage. 6° Cachets also has several covers commemorating President Barack Obama.