Notes from the Past

Sanitary Fair Stamps

Sanitary Fair stamps were local stamps issued for bazaars and fairs held in various northern cities by the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War.

The stamps paid for the carriage of mail from the fair to the nearest US post office.

The US Sanitary commission was established in 1861 to use public contributions to provide medical attention and nursing to wounded Northern troops and to supervise sanitary conditions at camps and hospitals.

The fairs were held to raise funds, and the local stamps were issued for eight of the events.

Though not officially recognized, the stamps were permitted in this worthy cause and are listed by Scott in the US Specialized Stamp Catalogue.

Stamps were issued at fairs held in Albany, N.Y.; Boston, Mass.; Brooklyn, N.Y. (two fairs - one in December, 1863, and another in February-March, 1864); New York, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Springfield, Mass.; and Stamford, Conn.

Another function adopted by the Sanitary Commission was to forward soldiers' unpaid and postage-due letters.

Most of the designs of the local stamps were primitive.  Several feature eagles, one design depicts a bird carrying a letter, and another pictures a soldier greeting two women.

Scott notes that in several cases imitations exist. 

- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Three Q-Z
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted October 23, 2000

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