This Project Mercury stamp was postmarked at 11 p.m. on February 20, 1962, in Baltimore, Maryland. That's the date of John Glenn's historic Friendship 7 orbital space flight.
According to Joe Frasketi's Space Covers:
"305 post offices all over the country released the Project Mercury stamp for sale to the public at 3:30 p.m. upon the successful splashdown of astronaut John Glenn Jr. This stamp was designed and printed in secret and distributed to the 305 post offices. Even these post offices did not know what they had received until word was given to open the packages and put the stamps on sale. Since this was a surprise stamp issue, many post offices only had the stamps on sale for a couple of hours. Collectors did not have much time to prepare first day covers and they used whatever envelopes were handy."
Joe Frasketi's website contains much more information about this stamp, and I recommend that you check it out.
More great information about the stamp's history can be found within this collectSPACE.com article. Here are some fun tidbits:
- "The Post Office Department wanted to keep the stamp a secret in case the mission failed. Keeping the production and distribution of more than one million postage stamps a surprise though, required some creative logistics."
- "The stamp's designer, Charles Chickering, worked from home to create the blue and yellow depiction of Friendship 7 circling the Earth while all along claiming to be on vacation. The picture engraver also gave the impression he was on leave, but came in at night. Another engraver who did the lettering worked on weekends."
- "Without a way to coordinate nationwide, collectors couldn't know however if such 'first day covers' existed for all 305 stations. To this day, 50 years later, as many as 20 cities are still missing examples. ... [I]n Warren, Pa., the mailbags were not opened until after the office's customer windows had closed.1 ... Covers have [also] yet to be found for Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee, Fla., Atlantic City, NJ and Durham, NC, for example."
TANGENTAL NOTE: Check out my wife's homeschooling learning guide for space exploration and the solar system. (It is not, however, updated to included the Iranian space monkey.)
These are two of the four stamps that appear on an envelope that was mailed from China to Edith and Julia Jones of Catonsville, Md. The date is unknown (to me) because the postmarks are in Chinese.
The pre-printed return address is for E. Pearce Hayes of "Foochow, Fukien, China."
Foochow is a no-longer-in-use romanized spelling for Fuzhou, a city of 7.2 million in eastern China.
Fukien is a no-longer-in-use romanized spelling for Fujian, the province that includes Fuzhou.
Does anyone know what the Chinese structure is that's shown on these stamps?
California Pacific International Exposition
Elkins, West Virginia. It commemorates the California Pacific International Exposition, which was held in 1935 and 1936 in San Diego, California.2 The stamp shows the exposition grounds and, according to Wikipedia, more than 100 million were printed, making it a very common issue. There was also a commemorative silver half dollar featuring Minerva, the head of Medusa, and a California grizzly bear.3
The California Pacific International Exposition stamp, by the way, appears on an envelope that commemorates another event all away across the country — the sixth annual Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkin. That festival is still going strong!
1. Yes, indeed, there are two previous Papergreat posts involving Warren, Pennsylvania:
- Obscure nostalgia: 1970s plastic mugs from Whirley Industries
- A groovy response from the CEO of Whirley-DrinkWorks!
3. Sarah is now studying Greek and Roman mythology and, to complement that, we recently watched 1981's "Clash of the Titans."