HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U. S. POSTAL SERVICE, FROM THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY
It seems a bit ironic (as Republicans and Democrats once again dance around sequestration and its repercussions to federal spending) that on this day in history, February 20, 1792, our first President George Washington signed the legislation that created the nation’s first federally funded postal service. Although in early colonial times, horse-drawn coaches and riders picked up and dropped off mail at frequented taverns, it wasn’t until 1707 that the British government saw fit to establish a Postmaster General for the American colonies.
Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster General in 1737 and remained in that position until 1774 when he was dismissed for subversive acts in support of the colonies in rebellion. It was Franklin’s recommendations to the Continental Congress that resulted in the establishment of the Constitutional Post in 1775.
This woodcut portrait comes from a biography of Benjamin Franklin with woodcuts by the prolific American artist, Charles Turzak (1899-1986). Turzak also has a postal service connection as he was also responsible for several depression-era murals made for Chicago’s main post office, the Lemont, Illinois Post Office, and other federal government buildings.
During the War of Independence and Confederation era, Congress was empowered to establish and regulate interstate post offices, but the creation of a formal, federally funded service began only after President Washington signed the legislation in 1792.
To commemorate the recent passing of President’s Day and the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service, I thought that I would focus today’s blog post on some “first day covers” in the Wolfsonian library collection.
A first day cover refers either to a stamped envelope, postcard, or other postal material processed at the post office where the stamp was issued, and marked with a cancellation indicating the same.
GIFTS OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO-DE LUCA
Often the cancellation stamp was designed specially for the occasion and frequently will say “First Day of Issue” or note the significance of the date being commemorated.
Collecting First Day Covers is a popular aspect of stamp and postcard collecting. Many collectors are interested in “cachets”—the artwork on the envelope complementing the stamp, while others are more interested in collecting a historical artifact.
THE VICTORY GOLD LEVI COLLECTION
These Fluegal cover envelopes commemorate the surrender of the Axis nations. The first was published the day after German Colonel General Jodl surrendered to American Lieutenant General W. Smith on May 7th, 1945 and is illustrated with a design by L. W. Staehle depicting Allied flags, a phoenix rising from the ashes and a woman breaking free of her chains. The second, also illustrated by Staehle, celebrated Victory over Japan with an illustration of Miss Liberty as a knight with the flag of the rising sun under her feet.
THE VICTORY GOLD LEVI COLLECTION
This last envelope with a cachet sponsored by The Evening and Sunday Star, celebrates the liberation of Europe with postage stamps arranged in a V for Victory formation.