By Allen Kane, Former Director, National Postal Museum

Presidential Stamp Designer

refer to caption
3-cent Byrd Antarctic Expedition II President Franklin D. Roosevelt sketch

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) is remembered and respected for his strong yet compassionate leadership during the Great Depression and World War II. But did you know that in spite of the strain of such continuing political and economic crises, Roosevelt was able to pursue his lifelong interest in collecting stamps through his presidency? In fact, he went one step further than just collecting. While in office, FDR sketched the original designs for several United States stamps.

President Roosevelt’s stamp designs reveal a great deal about the events that occupied his attention as well as his personal stamp collecting interests. His first stamp design was done as a favor for a friend. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd hoped the president could help promote Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition.

This is Roosevelt's original design for a stamp commemorating the expedition. It is dated April 25, 1934. This stamp itself was affixed to the backing board on which the original design is corner mounted. The President's sketch shows the eastern coast of the United States and South America, the western areas of Europe and Africa, and the routes of Byrd's trans-Atlantic, North Pole and South Pole flights.

The Byrd Antarctic Expedition II stamp was endorsed by the Post Office Department. This three-cent vertical stamp, the same size and shape as a Special Delivery stamp, was intended for the collectors' market. The Post Office Department arranged for philatelic mail bearing this stamp to be carried by the expedition and postmarked at the Little America post office at the expedition's base camp for a fee of fifty-three cents.