After numerous ill-conceived conservation programs and a century of debate among various interest groups and levels of government, in 1934 Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Act. The Act revealed the federal government's move away from its nineteenth-century "hands off" approach to the affairs of private enterprise, including hunting. It required waterfowl hunters sixteen years of age or older to purchase a federal hunting stamp and to affix the stamp to a valid state hunting license or a certificate provided for that purpose. The Act ear-marked revenues generated by the sale of the stamps for founding migratory bird sanctuaries, an idea credited to Jay N. "Ding" Darling (1876-1962). Darling, a professional artist and Chief of the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Biological Survey, provided the sketches upon which the Bureau of Engraving and Printing based the first federal duck stamp.
A plate block such as this is extremely rare since law allowed postmasters to sell only one stamp per patron. Multiples of the stamp could not be sold until the hunting season ended and stamps were taken off sale on June 30.
Seen here is a block of six of the first stamp, plate 129202, designed by Alvin R. Meissner after Darling's sketches. Carl T. Arlt engraved the vignette, and Frank Lamasure engraved the letters and numerals. The BEP printed the Issue on its intaglio press using plate numbers 129199, 129200, 129201, and 129202. Ding Darling purchased the first duck stamp ever sold on August 22, 1934.