Collecting First Day of Issue Covers Was Educational Hobby for 1950s Youngsters
In 1954, I became acquainted with another hobby to add to my numerous others. I was already hooked on collecting American and foreign stamps, thanks to Pat Watson who operated his Pat's Trading Post at 124 Spring Street. Pat further introduced me to the collecting of "First Day of Issue" covers.
At nine a.m. on July 12, 1954, the United States Postal Service issued a brown 3-cent "First Day of Issue" George Eastman commemorative stamp from Rochester, NY in honor of the photographic pioneer. Rochester was the home of Eastman Kodak Company and George Eastman was its founder.
To obtain a stamped cover, you simply self addressed a standard envelope, inserted enough money in it to cover the required postage and mailed it to the post office of the city where the stamp was being issued. The post office treated it like an ordinary postal transaction. Upon receipt, they held your letter until the stamp's issue date, at which time they would open your letter, remove the money, place the new stamp on the envelope, cancel it and mail it back to you.
Since Dad was employed at Tennessee Eastman Company, he ordered several of them. Each contained a black and white Artcraft cache on the lower left side of the envelope. The right upper corner contained the stamp with the words in upper case letters, "FIRST DAY OF ISSUE" stamped over it.
The company had this to say about the new stamp: "It is very rare for a stamp to be issued honoring an industrialist. It is being issued in recognition of Mr. Eastman's contribution to photography, his work as a pioneer in the field of employee relations and for his philanthropy."
My second cover came from one of my two sixth grade teachers, Miss Gordon Grubbs, at Henry Johnson School. She introduced her after-hours geography class's "Super Sticker Stamp Club" to the subject and asked us to self address a standard letter size envelope using the school's address of 812 W Market Street. For each student order, she included 23 cents (20 cents for the Special Handling stamp and 3 cents for a regular Thomas Jefferson stamp).
Soon our much-anticipated covers, containing the new stamp arrived. The postmark showed 9 a.m., Oct. 13, 1954, Boston, Mass. The total cost of 23 cents was quite a bit of money in those days and I feel sure she paid it out of her own funds. This great lady was always thinking of her students.
Enclosed in the envelope was a brief note she wrote each student: "Dear Robert... This "first day cover" of the new Special Delivery stamp is a little gift from me to each member of the "Super Sticker Stamp Club"... Very sincerely... Miss Grubbs." I saved her note.
I acquired additional first day covers from Pat's Trading Post, including about 12 of them bearing the name of "Wallace Morris Bolding" at 800 Wilson Avenue in the city. Most were military issued stamps containing the black and white Artcraft cache on the left side of the envelope.
I soon started sending off for my own first-day covers and even designed my own cache on a couple. If a collector wanted a fancy cache on the envelope, he or she had to send it directly to the cache envelope company with the required postage amount and an additional charge for the cached envelope. Years later, the product was beautifully printed in color. I continued to collect them into the late 1960s.
Davy Crockett First Day of Issue Cover
Of course, I still have them. I retrieved them recently to motivate me to write this column; it worked. I counted 72 covers, my favorite being the Aug. 17, 1967 stamp honoring Davy Crockett, as noted in my column photo. The postmark shows "San Antonio, Texas. I only wish it read, "Limestone, Tennessee." Note the two different caches in my column photo: Artmaster (top) and Artcraft.