Notes from the Past

Notes on the Development of the Electric Eye Perforator - Part II

Early in 1930, Mr. Henry J. Holtzclaw, mechanical expert of the Bureau, conceived the idea of photo-electric control of postage stamp perforation.  Several years of experimentation followed.  The General Electric Company supplied Mr. Holtzclaw with a photo-electric control suitable for adaptation to the Stickney perforator.  After many trials, failures, and changes a machine emerged that offered prospects of success.  On July 13. 1933, experimental plates of the 2¢ Washington design, then current were assigned and numbered 21149 and 21150.  These plates were certified for press usage on November 13, 1933.  An initial printing of 30,000 sheets for experimental purposes only was made.  Plates 21200 and 21201 were also assigned numbers, but as these were only diagrammatic plates, the stamp design not being rolled in, all impressions were destroyed.  These were used to develop certain pertinent information during the development of the experimental perforator.  It was sixteen months later that the Electric Eye perforator was put to work on "real" postage stamps, and the new electric eye sheets were first shipped on Feb. 5 and 6, 1935, to some sixty-five towns scattered throughout the country.  Some 9,000,000 of these electric eye stamps were sent out these first days.  Mr. H. M. Southgate reported in the BUREAU SPECIALIST that February 8, 1935, was the earliest cancellation known, from both Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, and Gibson City, Illinois.  There is also a notation in the records of the Post Office Department of these two cancellations.  These new "eye" sheets were first placed on sale at the Philatelic Agency on April 18, 1935. 

- Nathan Goldstein II
"The Development of the Electric Eye"
The Stamp Specialist -- Emerald Book
H. L. Lindquist 1946

Posted April 22, 2000


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