Notes from the Past

Airmail-Special Dely. 16¢ FDR Design

The late President Franklin D. Roosevelt was proud of the fact that he had sketched the design of the 16¢ blue, Airmail-Special Delivery stamp, issued in 1934 (Scott's No. CE1).  The stamp, as we all know, features the Great Seal of the United States.  In his own collection, FDR had a complete sheet in imperforate form, later reproduced in the Farley reissues (Scott's No. 771).  This sheet, which had been presented to him, bore the inscription: "To President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This is the first sheet of the sixteen-cent special delivery airmail stamp issued Aug. 23, 1934.  James A. Farley, Postmaster General."  In his familiar hand, with stub-pointed pen, the President added:  "This stamp is from my own design.  Franklin D. Roosevelt."

While Mr. Farley certified the issue as August 23rd, the perforated variety was not placed on first day sale to the public until August 30th, at Chicago, Ill., and in compliment to the annual convention of the American Airmail Society.  On the next day it was placed on sale at Washington, D. C., and thereafter, distributed to post offices.  The Farley reissues of of the imperforates were not made available until March 15, 1935. at Washington, D. C.

Two years later the stamp appeared in bi-colors, red and blue, with the Great Seal completely re-engraved, and somewhat reduced in size.  The Scott Catalog indicates that the bi-colored item is a repetition of the first engraving but if you compare the two stamps you will discover they are quite different though somewhat similar and I think the Catalog might note that the bi-colored variety is a revision in a new engraving.

The new bi-colored stamp was issued February 10, 1936, and shortly thereafter Harold L. Ickes, former Secretary of the Interior, and himself a stamp collector, brought a complete mint sheet of the stamps to President Roosevelt for his autograph.  This sheet is now in the possession of Louis W. Charlat.  On the margins, Mr. Roosevelt inscribed the sheet, "FDR (his design)" and subsequently Mr. Ickes added his own auto graph.  It was FDR's pet design, apparently, and he didn't intend that anyone should forget it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt designed a great many stamps, and I have seen and examined many of them in their original rough sketches.  The sketches are remarkable in the fidelity with which they were copied by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in the stamps that followed.  One of these days, perhaps, I will describe them and tell you more about them.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
January 29, 1949
Posted October 17, 1999

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