Thank you Kim for those remarks and I would like to thank David and Donald Sundman for their support of the Postal Museum and all of Philately as well. I’d also like to thank the Sundman’s for producing a booklet that you will receive at the end of the lecture on Second Purpose and it has some of the, it touches upon some of the wonderful stories that we’ll be talking about today. Before we begin, I just want to make sure that everyone can both hear me as well as see the screen, because the visuals will be a prominent part of today’s lecture.
Since 1847 stamps have been used to evidence payment to carry the Nation’s mail. Their second purpose has been to tell the story of great changes in American history, culture and technology. America’s stamps have evolved from the portraits and pictures of those who helped build our nation and its government. They are a tribute to our country’s history, society and culture and as our nation has grown and changed so have the small pieces of paper that have evidenced payment to carry cards, letters and parcels down the road, across the nation and across oceans. There have been significant changes in America’s stamps over the last 158 years; some have been subtle, some dramatic, some controversial. For taking postal revenue has also impacted postage stamp development, from the earliest days features were introduced to prevent the reuse of stamps, counterfeiting and stamp theft. The story of our stamps is not without its tribulations smiles and chagrins are no strangers to America’s stamps. As America entered the 20th century, new stamp formats were needed to meet the demand for communication by mail. Experimentation and change have remained a part of the stamp story to this day as evidenced by the ending of stamp production by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing after 111 years. Advances in printing and production technology have brought interesting and wonderful changes to the shapes, sizes and images that frank our mail. America’s stamps offer a visual history of the country. The design, production and use of our stamps have undergone enormous changes since 1847; second purpose takes a glimpse at that stamp odyssey.
The stamps of 1847, the 5 cent Benjamin Franklin and a 10 cent George Washington, were the first general adhesive postage stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office. Issued July 1, 1847, they remained valid for use until June 30, 1851. New York City was the first to receive the stamps and has the earliest documented use, July 7th for the 5 cent stamp and July 2nd for the 10 cent stamp. The 1847 stamps represent an innovation that the post office had previously resisted: providing a convenient method for the public to prepay postage on their letters. While an obvious idea today it was, at the time, considered radical by many. Use of stamps was optional but it was hoped that the availability and convenience would encourage the public to use them. Great Britain first introduced adhesive postage stamps in 1840. In the US, private carriers were using adhesive stamps as early as 1842 and in 1845 local postmasters in several cities issued provisional stamps under Post Office authority. The 1847s were the first postage stamps issued by the post office for use throughout the entire country. They paid the prevailing 5 and 10 cent rates for distance and they could be purchased in advance, eliminating the need to stand in line at the post office to mail a letter. They were easy to apply, they had gum on the back and stamped letters could be dropped at the post office mailing slot not only during regular office hours but at any time. If prepaid postage was accepted by the public, it might be possible to require stamps on all letters which would virtually have eliminated the costly and inefficient postage due system. When postage rates were lowered again in 1851 with a preferential rate for prepaid mail, the popularity of adhesive postage stamps soared. Effective April 1, 1855 the Post Office required prepayment of postage. Even then the use of stamps or stamped envelopes was not required, but they were made mandatory the following year, January 1, 1856.
The firm of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, a long known banknote producer was selected to design and print the stamps. Their initials ‘R’ ‘W’ ‘H’ and ‘E’ appear in small letters at the bottom of each stamp, the only time a printer’s name or initials were ever within the frame of a U.S. postage stamp. Asher Durand, an American artist who later the founder of the Hudson River School of painting did the engraving for the stamps. It’s an interesting curiosity that the Arabic numeral ‘5’ is used on the Franklin stamp while the Roman numeral ‘X’ for ten was used on the Washington stamp. There appears to be no known documentation to explain the use of the Roman numeral. Only three other
U.S. stamp designs have ever used the Roman numerals: the 10 cent value of 1856 issued perforate and imperforate and the 1 cent and 3 cent values of the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress issue. The Washington stamp was also reproduced on the 1876 centennial, as well the 1947 ‘100th Anniversary of U.S. Stamps’ souvenir sheet. Roman numerals are also found on the 1871 $200 internal revenues stamp, the so-called small Persian rug. Since the earliest days of collecting the 1847 stamps have held a special fascination. The study and research of these stamps and their use continues to this present day. There’s a wide range of interest in their cancellations, postal markings and destination usage by postal historians. The stamps and covers of the 1847 issue are the subject of some of the most important collections and exhibits ever formed.
Ordinary postage stamps had been around for nearly fifty years when an enterprising postmaster general named John Wanamaker had the idea to issue a series of stamps to commemorate an historical event in what would become the first commemorative issue of 1893. The set of 16 stamps honor both the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage and the great 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and they prepared the way for the rapid growth of commemorative issues in the 20th century. In his annual report to congress in 1892 Wanamaker announced his intention to “produce a special series of stamps with illustrations commemorating the discovery of America by Columbus,” the idea was a monumental change in the stamp program stamps to commemorate, memorialize and honor people places and events. Until that time, stamps had illustrated important American leaders and objects of patriotism in the case of the 1869 pictorials. Wannamaker signed a contract with the American Bank Note Company announcing that these new stamps would be the same height as the Present series but twice as long. The increased size was thought necessary in order to display the illustrations. After the initial series of fifteen stamps had been announced, a sixteenth, an 8 cent stamp was required when the first class letter rate registry fee was reduced from 10 cents to 8 cents. The illustrations on the stamps were all selected from famous paintings and bronzework, they formed a veritable gallery of fine art, featuring works found in great museums and key government buildings. It’s unfortunate that the beautiful engravings on the stamps were not arranged in chronological order to tell the story of Columbus and his voyages but Wanamaker wanted the stamps with the most important parts of the story on the denominations most frequently used, hence the selection of the low values for the best known portions of the story. It’s interesting to note that on the 1 cent stamp which shows Columbus sighting land Columbus is depicted clean shaven but on the 2 cent stamps which depicts Columbus landing in the New World, just hours away, he’s grown a full beard. Such observations started a tradition of finding odd and allegedly impossible situations depicted on U.S. stamps.
There was considerable public criticism of the issue though. The $15 face value of the dollar value stamps was out of the reach of most Americans and, worse, there was no proper domestic use for the higher dollar value stamps based on postal rates in effect at the time. There were also many other complaints about the new size of the stamps. The public, particularly the business community condemned the fact that people had to lick stamps that were twice as long as regular stamps. The stamps were labeled ‘special delivery size’ a name taken from the rectangular special delivery stamps. Licking the large stamps for an occasional special delivery mail was apparently okay, but not for everyday letters. This brings up another important piece of Columbian history, the 1 cent deep blue Columbian stamp was sometimes mistaken for the 10 cent special delivery stamp and vice versa, therefore, a new orange special delivery stamp had to be issued to replace the original blue versions. The orange special delivery stamp is often referred to as the 17th stamp of the Columbian series. Complaints about the Columbian became so frenzied that legislation to halt their sale was actually introduced on the floor of U.S. Congress. Colorado senator Edward O. Walcott proposed “that the postmaster general of the United States be instructed to discontinue their sale of the so called Columbians except to such persons that may specifically call for them and he be instructed to keep all sale of ordinary postage stamps in use before the printing of the so called Columbian stamps.” Fortunately, the legislation did not pass.
Postmaster General Will Hays left a legacy to stamp collectors even though his term of office was only from 1921 to 1922. At the urging of his third assistant postmaster W. Irving Glover, Hays created the Philatelic Agency so that collectors could purchase stamps in choice condition. He announced in December 1921 that “it is the purpose of the Philatelic Stamp Agency to keep on hand specimens of all future issues and all such discontinued issues to offer for sale to collectors and dealers and a small stock of the current series of ordinary stamps well centered and perforated.” For the first three decades of operation, customers received their purchases via registered mail, however, unlike today when indicia are used all of the mail from the philatelic agency was franked with new stamps. Glover changed the culture of stamp collecting in other ways too. In 1922 it was announced that henceforth every new stamp issued would have a designated first day of issue. On July 12, 1922 the 10 cent special delivery stamp debuted as the first stamp under this new policy. The 11 cent Rutherford B. Hayes stamp issued in Hayes’ birthplace in Fremont, Ohio on October 4th of 1922 was the first stamp to have a first day of issue in a specific city. Beginning in 1937 the words ‘first day of issue’ appeared in the cancel, making first day covers easier to recognize. The Philatelic Agency opened on December 1st of 1921 operating out of room 217 on the second floor of the city post office…the building that you are sitting in today. It was the home of the Philatelic Agency from 1921 to 1934 and as you all know it is the home of the National Postal Museum today. In the summer of 1938, stamp collecting president Franklin Roosevelt and his postmaster general James Farley conceived the idea of a philatelic truck that would tour the United States and philatelically educate millions of Americans. The truck, a postal museum on wheels, would display an example of every
U.S. postage stamp issued from 1847 until 1939 and carry a supply of stamps currently on sale at the Washington Philatelic Agency. A major purpose of the truck was to promote stamp collecting among children, thus the tour would take it to many schools throughout the country. On May 14th, the truck started its two and a half year journey across the nation. In all, the truck visited 490 cities and towns in 39 states and welcomed over 470,000 visitors. The tour ended in San Diego in December 13, 1941 due to the outbreak of World War II. As part of the exhibit, a small souvenir sheet was printed and given to visitors. The sheet was printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and initially made into rolls that were cut and dispensed on a miniature model of the Stickney press that was part of the truck’s exhibit. A model on loan from the bureau is currently on exhibit here at the Postal Museum. In 1953 the agency moved from the Division of Stamps to the Division of Philately and in 1957 it was renamed the Philatelic Sales Agency. In the mid-1960s the name changed once again to the Philatelic Sales Union. Under that name, the agency celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1971, the same year the Post Office Department became the United States Postal Service which continued supplying stamps and related stamp products to consumers and collectors. Today the agency is named Stamp Fulfillment Services it publishes U.S.A. Philatelic a quarterly catalog for collectors and in July of 1982 storage and handling was moved to a huge underground limestone cave complex near Kansas City. A highly automated complex handles thousands of stamp product requests received by mail and the internet daily.
The second international philatelic exhibition held in the United States was held in the Grand Central Palace in New York from October 16th to October 23rd of 1926. The show received great support and representation from the Post Office Department, including Postmaster General Harry L. Snew. Additionally, the Philatelic Agency set up a branch at the exhibition to sell U.S. issues. Even president Calvin Coolidge lent support from Washington D.C. where he pressed a button that lit a lamp to the entrance of the exhibit officially opening the New York show to the public. A 2 cent stamp issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle of White Plains, was issued for the show. The stamp in panes of 100 from 400 subject panes were first placed on sale on October 18th at the post office in White Plains New York and at the Philatelic Agency branch at the exhibition. The stamp did not have a first day cover issued at the Washington Philatelic Agency, possibly because the Postmaster General and other higher-ups were in New York promoting the exhibition. That didn’t stop collectors from creating covers to mark the event. On October 28th, the actual anniversary of the battle of White Plains, the stamps were available at the Washington Philatelic Agency and a number of larger post offices. The stamp was also issued in a special mini-sheet of 25 gummed stamps with marginal inscriptions ‘International Philatelic Exhibition’ and the event dates on the top and ‘New York, NY USA’ on the bottom. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing had produced four 100 subject plates to print the mini-sheets. They delivered most of the sheets to the Philatelic Agency’s exhibition branch where they were placed on sale October 18th.The remaining sheets were placed on sale at the Washington Philatelic Agency and none were distributed to post offices. These sheets of 25 stamps were the first commemorative issues of what collectors now call souvenir sheets. Only 107,398 were printed and all were sold to the public. For many years stamps in the panes were broken up by the dealers to use as postage but today the panes are prized by collectors. Collectors at the show eagerly purchased the souvenir sheets to create first day covers in every imaginable way. They could get the covers canceled with a machined slogan worded ‘International Philatelic Exhibition Station’ or a large circular exhibition cancel. As a special feature of the exhibition, the Bureau demonstrated plate printing on a hand operated roller press. During the event a total of 700 White Plains sheets were printed from a previously unused plate 18772. These full sheets were not gummed nor perforated and none were sold to the public. They were all returned to the Bureau and eventually destroyed with the plate.
Some people are easily recognized as being responsible for the creation of certain postage stamps like Sir Roland Hill and the 1840 penny blank, Franklin Roosevelt and the 1934 mother’s day stamp, Ladybird Johnson and the 1966 beautification of America stamp. Some others are less recognized. This charming group influenced the creation of the Kansas and Nebraska state overprinted stamps of 1929. A series of post office robberies in the Midwest was the stated reason for this ill-fated experiment. Over
$200,000 worth of the stamps had been stolen from post offices during the year 1928 so the post office conceived the idea of overprinting stamps with the abbreviated names of individual states where they would be shipped. It was believed that stolen overprinted stamps would be difficult to fence in or out of state. Kansas and Nebraska were selected to initiate the experiment. The stamps would be available at all the post offices in the two states with the exception of the largest cities of Topeka, Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha and Lincoln where ordinary postage stamps would be continued in use. Since only small run protected post offices had been robbed, security at the larger offices was considered adequate. The stamps were printed on the rotary Stickney press and the state imprint was added at the letterpress station which was normally used to print precancel overprints. A one year supply of the stamps, imprinted with Kansas and Nebraska in denominations of 1c to 10c values, were created. Higher values were not included since they were not printed on the rotary press and could not be easily overprinted. The basic rule was that the overprinted stamps could only be sold at post offices in their respective states but they were valid for postage throughout the United States or wherever U.S. regular stamps could be used. Shipments of the stamps began on April 15th 1999 and they were placed on sale at the Philatelic Agency on May 1st.
Actually, economics rather than theft played a big role in the promotion of the state stamp idea. Kansas and Nebraska postmasters were required to requisition overprinted stamp quantities for a years supply, not the normal 4 month quarterly requisition. Had the experiment been successful, the Post Office planned to extend the scheme to over 48 states, hoping to cut the fulfillment costs by 75%. Though the large inventories would make post offices a greater target for thieves, the overprinting was deemed a less desirable product to steal. However the seeds of failure were present almost from the start. Postal clerks misunderstood the rules and tried to assess postage to replace entirely legal use of the Kansas and Nebraska stamps. Postmasters were told not to precancel the overprinted stamps, requiring separate inventory for precancel use. Of course, some post offices pre-cancelled them anyway. Mail order houses that often received postage as payment for customers’ orders which were normally used in a precancelled form for their own future mailings were not permitted and therefore the Kansas and Nebraska stamps had to be exchanged for ordinary stamps. This was cumbersome both for the business and for the Post Office. Moreover the Post Office Department lacked the willingness to prohibit the use of non-overprinted stamps in Kansas and Nebraska making robbery prevention seem a moot point. On March 29, 1930, a year after their introduction, the state overprinted stamp program was halted.
Collectors are now familiar with the story of the 1935 unauthorized special printing of postmaster general James A. Farley that he gave to family, friends and dignitaries including the president of the United States. As a result of pressure from the general public, most particularly philatelists and the Congress, Farley reissued all of the uncut ungummed and imperforate sheets, mostly representing the National Parks issue. This episode has appropriately been dubbed ‘Farley’s Follies’. An event occurred 27 years later that produced another special printing, however, this time it was not the result of pressure from the public or philatelists. On October 23, 1962 the Post Office Department issued a stamp to honor Dag Hammarskjöld. Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat active in promoting world peace had been elected secretary general of the United Nations in 1953. Tragically, the highly regarded Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash in 1961 while on a UN mission to Africa. The 4 cent black brown and yellow stamps were printed on the Bureau’s Giori press and sold in panes of fifty stamps.
Leonard Sherman, a New Jersey jeweler, purchased a pane and discovered that the yellow background was inverted. The inversion produced white space where there should have been yellow and conversely printed yellow in unintended areas, most prominently of which was the denomination. Shortly thereafter a second pane was reported. How did it happen? According to the Post Office, during the printing a few sheets were misinserted into the Giori press during the second run that printed the yellow background. Considerable publicity about the error followed. As this invert was the first to elude postal inspectors since the “Jenny” invert of 1918. There was significant speculation about the value of the panes and that led Postmaster General J. Edward Day to be quoted saying “the Post Office Department is not running a jackpot operation.” For reasons that escape the logic of most philatelists, Day ordered the Bureau to print 40 million more stamps reproducing the error with the yellow background inverted. The stamps were issued on November 16. The official reason given was the reprint was in line with Day’s policy to avoid the production of rare or overvalued stamps and that now all collectors could possess a philatelic error. Well, there was considerable uproar from the collecting community who naturally did not favor the reprinting of the issue. It’s reported that one collector wrote to Postmaster General Day asking that the famous 24 cent inverted “Jenny” be reprinted as well because he’d like one for his collection. Since the Hammarskjöld error, 4 stamps have been discovered with inverted errors and fortunately none of them have been intentionally reprinted. Leonard Sherman, whose dreams of wealth were shattered by Day’s actions, donated his discovery sheet, or pane, to the American Philatelic Society in 1987.
Though Postmaster General Day was credited with reducing postal deficits and introducing ZIP codes, like James Farley he is secured a place in philatelic history with the Post Office’s first official error which will forever be known as Day's folly.
Mail delivery actually began during the civil war. Joseph Briggs, a Cleveland Ohio postal employee, convinced postal officials to deliver letters to the cities’ citizens for free and the Post Office Department took notice. Free city delivery service officially began on July 1, 1863. It was limited to 49 northern cities, employing 450 letter carriers. The first carriers wore whatever they chose on the job but, by 1868 uniforms were required. By 1869 free city delivery was rapidly expanding and the new system provided employment to Civil War veterans as letter carriers. The service brought unexpected but valuable benefits; postmasters could insist on certain civic improvements before agreeing to initiate free city delivery. Postmasters could ask that the city’s sidewalks be paved, the streets be lit, houses be numbered, and street names be placed at intersections. By the end of the 19th century, nearly 14,000 letter carriers were employed in over 400 cities delivering mail directly to businesses and people’s homes. The Post Office celebrated the 100th anniversary of free city delivery by issuing a 5 cent stamp based on a Norman Rockwell picture. It was issued October 26, 1963 and introduced a new concept in the automated mailing process. It was the first generally issued U.S. stamp entirely coated with a phosphor tagging. The phosphorescent solution produced a greenish glow under the ultraviolet light of the new NCR Mark II Facer/Canceller. The machine could identify the stamp with luminescent ink, separate it from untreated mail and properly face it for cancelling at an overall rate of 30,000 pieces of mail per hour. The idea was conceived and developed by the post office research scientists working with NCR for over three years. Experimenting had been conducted in August in Dayton, Ohio introducing 8 cent capitol airmail stamp that was tagged with the phosphorescent solution. An airmail tag with the same coating was also produced and handed out to postal patrons and postal employees during the experiment. Collectors could only purchase the tagged airmail stamp at Dayton or the philatelic agency. The invisible, inorganic phosphorescent inks were extensively tested for safety by ATW. Convinced that the coating would not affect the aesthetic qualities of the adhesive stamps, the Post Office decided to tag the city delivery stamp. The stamp was printed on the sheet fed Giori press and tagging was subsequently done on an offset press. Earlier facer cancellers had used photoelectric eyes to search out darker stamp images. The phosphorescent tagging identification was a significant improvement and obviously continues to this day.
Frederick Remington’s painting “The Smoke Signal” was depicted on a stamp in 1961. The stamp was the first in a series that would honor American artists over the course of a decade. The 7th stamp of the series honored painter and sculptor Thomas Eakins, born in Philadelphia in 1844. Eakins is indisputably one of America’s great painters. Eakins’ passion for exactness and technical precision is evidenced through his work of the anatomical studies he did as a student to his meticulous paintings of boaters and other sportsmen. It’s no accident that some of Eakins most famous paintings are done of men of science, especially surgeons. The painting “The Biglin Brother’s Racing” that resides in the National Gallery of Art was chosen as the subject of the Eakins stamp. In the decade following the Civil War, rowing became one of America’s most popular spectator sports. When its champions, the Biglin brothers of New York visited Philadelphia in the early 1870’s, Thomas Eakins made numerous paintings and drawings of them as well as other racers sculling on the Schuylkill River. Eakins, himself an amateur oarsman, was a friend of the Biglin’s. The post office desired that the stamp images reflect as closely as possible the coloration of the painting and felt that it could not be achieved on the bureau’s multicoloring intaglio Giori press. The citizens stamp advisory committee, with the approval of Postmaster General Lawrence F O’Brien, decided to use photogravure, a printing method not previously used to print a U.S. postage stamp. Printing the Biglin brothers stamp was quite an undertaking. For the second time since 1894 a U.S. postage stamp would be produced by a non-government printer, the Photogravure and Color Company of Moonachie New Jersey on their sheet fed Gravure press. The plates were made and retouched by the Beck Engraving Company of Philadelphia. The American Banknote Company, which had produced the 1945 “Over our Nation’s Flag” series, was the subcontractor that monitored quantities and perforated the sheets of 200 prior to their delivery back to the Bureau in Washington where they were cut into post office panes of 50 stamps. During the retouching phase, the plates were carted to and from, Moonachie and Philadelphia, under a novel security. Ed G. Bliss drove the Photogravure and Color station wagon while Robert Schmidt of the bureau rode as shotgun. On site security at Photogravure Color was quite a unique experience. Heavy steel wire mesh was used to fence off the press and the storerooms where paper and printed sheets were kept under lock and key and under 24 hour surveillance by guards from the bureau’s detective agency. In the photogravure process, the design to be printed is photographed through an extremely fine screen that breaks the color reproduction into tiny dots. The dots are etched into the plate creating depressions that hold the ink which are lifted when the paper is pressed against the plate. The ink, unlike in intaglio printing, is not raised from the surface. The Eakins stamp actually had 2 runs through the press. The first was of 4 colors, yellow red blue and black. The second press run was for the gold frame a different black ink for the title imprint and the phosphor coating. The gold frame was created using a special coated powder that would be protected by the phosphor coating. The stamp was issued November 2nd 1967. The Mr. Zip insignia that had appeared on sheet stamps since the Sam Houston issue three years earlier had not been included in the original art work for the Eakins stamp. The official Post Office release said “Mr. Zip would not appear on the selvage of the stamp. Mr. Zip has been granted a brief vacation from his postage stamp duties.”
The changeover from flat plate printing to a rotary press in the 1920s went unnoticed by the general public and the introduction of phosphorescent tagging in 1963 was not a major news story. However, when customers were able to simply peel a stamp off a sheet of backing paper and stick it on an envelope, the public noticed. In this respect, the introduction of self-adhesive postage stamps could be regarded as the most important stamp innovation since the introduction of perforations 150 years ago. The post office issued a special Christmas stamp on November 15th in 1974 in New York City. It featured the dove shaped weather vane that is atop Mt. Vernon. The bureau printed the stamps on the Giori press and utilized additional equipment from Avery labels systems and The International Machined Products Company—both experienced producing self-stick labels. Those companies finished parts of the production on similar equipment that die cut, stripped, rouletted and cut the finished panes. The stamp differed from other U.S. stamps in several respects; the stamp adhered to a slippery backing sheet called a liner. They were roulette horizontally and vertically between subjects to facilitate the detaching of stamps from their liner and from the pane. The stamps had straight edges and round corners and each was separated from its neighbor by a space where the die cut order had been cut away and the center was crosscut, a security device to prevent their reuse which would cause them to disintegrate when they were peeled from an envelope. The stamps were inscribed ‘precanceled’ thus, postal cancellations were not required. A feature intended to speed the processing of holiday mail. The stamp was placed on sale in post offices in only 5 postal districts where they were to be operationally tested. Each of the 50 stamps also had 10 self-adhesive tags, similar to the selvage paper found on regular stamp paper. These tags contained plate numbers as well as various instructional remarks. Three were specifically for the new stamps and they read: “Self-sticking stamps,” “remove from backing,” and, “please do not moisten.” From standpoint of both the Postal Service and stamp collectors, this first self-adhesive stamp was a failure. They were five times more expensive to produce than normal stamps and perhaps the most discouraging fact was that despite the crosscut on the stamps, they were being re-used. The stamps were not tagged because it was discovered that the tagging dulled the die cutting equipment, that caused the stamps to be issued on November 15th instead of October 23rd when the two other seasonal Christmas stamps had been issued. 14 years after the stamps were issued, Linn’s Stamp News described the self adhesive Christmas stamp as “a tiny time bomb” gradually nearly all of the stamps became discolored with ugly mottled brown stains. A condition caused by the rubber based adhesive that had bled through the stamp paper. Unfortunately it was too late to preserve most of the stamps.
Unstained or lightly stained stamps could still be rescued by completely removing the adhesive using organic solvents. This treatment meant unfortunately that the stamps could no longer be regarded as “in mint condition” and was a poor solution for collectors of the attached multiples such as plate number blocks.
15 years after the failed Christmas dove issue the postal service again experimented with self-adhesive stamps this time using an acrylic based adhesive on a so-called extraordinary product. The 25 cent eagle and shield stamp was issued on November 10, 1989 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In panes of 18 stamps that were sold for 5 dollars a premium of 50 cents over their face value to cover production costs. The format was the now familiar convertible booklet. The stamps were also issued in coil on a liner spaced for use on affixing machine. Both formats were distributed in 15 cities for a 30 day test period and also sold through the philatelic sales agency. Those who purchased the stamps were given a questionnaire containing nine questions asking how well they liked the new self-adhesive stamps and if available, would purchase them again in the future. The experiment was not deemed a success but this was probably due more to the 50 cent premium than acceptance by the public. The appearance of the 29 cent eagle and shield stamp on September of 1992 marked the end of the experimental period of self- adhesive stamps. They were issued in convertible booklets and coil formats. Three printers were selected to print the issue to meet the expected demand. The stamps had the same basic design but were distinguishable by the color. The pane of 17 stamps was offered for $5, a premium of 7 cents but that was eliminated on March 1st of 1993. This issue and the ones that followed were distributed nationally and were a hit with the public. In 1990 the post office issued experimental self adhesive stamps for use in bank ATM machines. Each pane of the 25 cent flag design contained 12 stamps that were printed on plastic. They were the exact size shape and thickness of US paper currency. They were tested by Seafirst bank for a period of 6 months at 22 ATMs at 10 Seattle locations and sold at face value to the public. A non-denominated ‘f’ stamp, 29 cent rate, also in plastic, was issued in 1991 for the new domestic letter rate. The Seattle experiment was considered a success and the next ATM self adhesive stamps, the liberty torch was printed on paper rather than plastic as were all subsequent issues.
Self-adhesive technology paved the way for other innovations; linerless coil stamps issued like rolls of tape without backing paper that arrived in 1997. Die cut to shape Victorian Valentines Day stamps followed in 1999.
Numerology, important in many cultures and societies actually played a role in a new self adhesive product in 2005 the 12 stamp Chinese Lunar New Year design was originally planned as a single-sided pane of 12 symbolic 37 cent stamps which would be sold for $4.44 cents. In Chinese culture the number four is very unlucky, associated with death and to be avoided. Fortunately, the postal service decided to issue the first pane with back to back stamps. A pane of 24 stamps instead of 12 which costs $8.88, a very wise decision since the number 8 is the luckiest number in Chinese culture, thus, avoiding the first stamp folly of the new millennium.
In 1936 the Pitney Bowes Company introduced an automatic mailing machine called “Mail-O-Mat”. It was a coin operated self-service machine that imprinted a meter indicia directly onto a letter and retained that letter for collection. As the last of the Mail-O-Mat machines were withdrawn in the early 1970’s the Post Office Department briefly experimented with postage stamp stamp printing and vending machines. Unlike Mail-O- Mat, these machines actually produced a label like stamp which could be used at any post office at any time. NCR made the first machine that was places in the main post office in Austin, Texas for a few months in the spring of 1971. They printed a stamp that could only be used for parcel post. The second experiment was the parcel post mailing facility manufactured by the Design and Development Company of Cleveland. It operated in the Jacksonville, Florida main post office starting May 14, 1973 and lasted 36 days. The machine produced a stamp limited to first and fourth class mail. The computer printed stamp represented nothing else that had ever been used for postage before. 16 years later, the postal service again experimented with computer vended postage, the Autopost, hailed as a complete mailing system that included a scale, made its debut at World Stamp Expo in 1989. Six Autopost machines were used in pairs at three post offices, Washington, D.C. Kensington, Maryland, and the 20th UPU Congress postal station also in Washington DC that was not open to the general public. There were two self stick autopost stamp designs, one was used for first and third class priority and express mail the second was used for fourth class parcel post and priority mail weighing more than two pounds. Autopost stamps, like ordinary stamps, could be used at any post office at any time though they were not valid for international mail. The Autopost experiment ended in May of 1990 but it was termed a successful learning experience though the machines were plagued with mechanical and programming failures. In 1992, the Postal Service began testing a new kind of postage stamp called the variable rate coil or VRC. The stamps were dispensed from a machine named the Postage Mailing Center or PMC, manufactured by the Eckerard Company. The intaglio engraved water activated stamps were printed by the bureau in vertical coil roils of 3,000 but the denomination was applied to the stamps by the PMC machine. Initially customers could print stamps of any denomination but eventually the machines were set to only print denominations of 19 cents or higher. The 2nd version of the PMC was made by Unisys Corp. in 1994 dispensing horizontal gravure coil stamps produced by the American Bank Note company. PMC machines often did not work properly and they were a nightmare for postal clerks who frequently did not recognize or accept the stamps as legitimate postage. The tagged stamps with denominations as low as penny rate were often delivered without challenge for first class mail and the testing was discontinued in 1995.
An important and lasting innovation came in April of 1992. In San Diego the postal service introduced a new label backed with pressure sensitive adhesive called postage validation imprint or PVI. There were three different types of PVI, one for letter sized mail, the second for use on flats and a third on parcels. Postal clerks affixed them directly to mail and they are not supposed to be available to collectors. PVI terminals were being deployed at post offices nationally through the end of 1992 replacing post office meters. With that changeover self stick postage overtook lick and stick as the standard. On March 31, 1998 Postmaster General Marvin T. Runyon announced a new form of computer generated stamps. With the phenomenal growth of personal and small business computers, the postal service approved a relationship with Stamps.com, a private enterprise which enabled customers to generate and print postage directly from their home computer and printer. Two other providers of internet postage were PitneyWorks the small business division of Pitney Bowes which offered “ClickStamps,” and Neopost which offered “Simply Postage.” The latter designed for small businesses provided a dispenser with a scale that automatically calculated the postage. In 1999, testing of 2 self service postal machines, the NCR and the IBM Neopost were conducted in central Florida. At the end of 2000 the NCR system was discontinued but the IBM Neopost continued until 2004. The machines could dispense stamps for First Class, Priority, Express and Certified Mail. Prior to the phasing out of these experimental machines, some were deployed in other areas, one in New York City and a few scattered in the Washington DC area. As a result of the IBM Neopost test, automated postal centers began appearing in post office lobbies in April of 2004, the touch screen activated APC accepts debit and credit cards but no cash. By December of 2004 a total of 2,500 machines, at least one in each state were in place throughout the nation. The APC can weigh, calculate and dispense postage in any amount for items weighing up to 70 pounds. The APC’s self-adhesive stamps are available for First Class, Express, Priority Mail and Parcel Post. The machine also dispenses stamp booklets as well as looks up ZIP codes and displays Postal Service mailing information.
In 2004 Stamps.com introduced PhotoStamps, a product the Postal Service termed “customized postage” where personalized images could be incorporated into computer generated stamp meter labels, as the Postal Service does not consider them postage stamps. The PhotoStamp experiment was conducted from July 29th through September 30th and reintroduced in May of 2005 for a one year test period. Customized postage became a competitive business in June of 2005 when the Internet postage service provider Endicia announced it would market customized postage under the name of “PictureItPostage” and Pitney Bowes entered the competition this July with a product called “ZazzleStamps.” The topics discussed today are a brief glimpse of the second purpose of American stamps. It’s an adventure that’s spanned over 160 years. Let’s hope that future historians and collectors can say that the odyssey continued through the 21st century. I hope you enjoyed today’s lecture.