Notes from the Past

First U. S. Advertising Postmark

The first officially authorized U. S. Advertising postmark was used at the Centennial Exhibition, held at Philadelphia, Pa., in 1876.  The Exhibition opened on May 10th, and closed on November 10th of the same year.  The Post Office Department took a prominent part in the project with special exhibits, including a display of postage stamps, re-issues and special printing so familiar to U. W. Collectors, and the issue of the "Centennial" stamped envelopes, of which quantities were printed for the edification of the public in the Department's building on the grounds.

A special postmark was used at the Exhibition station reading ""CENTENNIAL PHILA'DA PA.," with month, day and hour, a circular type typical of the style then generally employed throughout the U. S.  A "killer" was attached, of which there were several varieties.  The postmark is not common but is generally seen on covers with the 3 green, Continental printing, and on the 3 green, Centennial envelopes, the latter sometimes with a typewritten address.  The typewriter was new and the public was invited to inspect it and for a small fee have an envelope addressed on it.  I do not recall ever seeing one of the 3 red, Centennial envelopes with the "Centennial" postmark, and I suspect that comparatively few of these were sold or used on the grounds.

For early usages of the Centennial postmark, I have reports of May 13, 15, 17, 25, and 29, and many others later.  But the earliest of all and the most extraordinary is the report of Mrs. Kathryn L. Gilpin who has a cover with the printed corner card of the U. S. Centennial
Commission with the special Centennial postmark, dated April 20th.  This tops everything, a usage twenty days before the Exhibition was opened to the public and evidence that the station was already in operation, at least for official correspondence.

Another postmark sometimes erroneously classified as the first advertising postmark, is that reading "Jarrett & Palmer's Special Fast Trans-Continental Train," dated at New York, June 1, 1876.  In the light of what I have shown, the Jarrett & Palmer marking definitely followed the the Centennial, an "also ran," we might say.  Harry M Konwiser draws attention to the Pleasant Grove, Md., postmaster who manufactured post office cancelling devices and advertised it through a postmark used at this office in the early 50s, but I consider this was a whim of the local postmaster, without instructions from Washington.

Thanks for cooperation to:  Chas. H. Baldwin, F. A. Hollowbush, Mrs. Ethel B. McCoy, Donald MacGregor, Roy C. Mitchell, Edwin R. Payne, and Fred C. Schmid.  

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
September 17, 1949

Posted September 7, 1999

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.