By Janet Klug
All sorts of decorations have been added to envelopes to make them more attractive, to sell products or to promote causes. Stamp collectors call these decorations "cachets," pronounced ka-SHAYS.
During times of war or civil strife, many people showed support of their country or cause by using stationery illustrated with patriotic themes.
In the United States, the Civil War spurred many patriotic envelopes expressing both Union and Confederate sympathies. Figure 1 shows a cover printed with a romantic scene of a soldier saying farewell to his tearful sweetheart. It was mailed from Philadelphia in 1862.
Civil War patriotics are highly prized not only by cover collectors but also by Civil War memorabilia collectors.
A litany of other wars followed the Civil War, with covers devoted to patriotic themes produced for each.
A patriotic cover from the Spanish-American War with its "Remember the Maine" slogan is shown in Figure 2. The cover was mailed May 5, 1898, from Louisville, Ky.
The American Expeditionary Force World War I patriotic cover that is shown in Figure 3 bears a waving flag cachet.
This "war to end all wars" didn't, and WWII produced its share of patriotic covers.
Although patriotic covers for the Korean War exist, similar covers seem to have fallen completely out of favor by the time of the Vietnam War. Some viewed patriotism then itself as outmoded, while others considered it their patriotic duty to protest the war. Patriotic covers produced during the Vietnam War would probably have been a commercial failure. Do any exist?
Patriotic-cover collecting got a huge boost in 1999 when the Collectors Club of Chicago published Lawrence Sherman's book United States Patriotic Covers of World War II. This book contains a wealth of information about the covers, their designs and the cachetmakers.
Patriotic cover collecting seems simple at first glance, but interesting byways lie just beneath the surface.
Patriotic covers can be classified in several ways: by war or time period, by event, by designer or publisher, or by topic or theme. Topics and themes can be further broken down into subcategories such as cartoons and caricatures, people or places in the news, battles and slogans.
Patriotic covers have been produced by many nations. Figure 4 pictures a patriotic cover from New Zealand showing Hitler being squeezed by a giant fist.
Flags of the Allied nations fighting in the Pacific grace the cachet of the WWII patriotic cover from Australia shown in Figure 5. Flags are a popular patriotic cover topic.
Several years ago I began collecting patriotic covers produced during WWII by Etsuo Sayama. Sayama was a nisei, a Japanese-American born in America. Sayama was born and raised in Honolulu.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Sayama was employed as a civilian draftsman with the U.S. Army.
Sayama's cachets bring an interesting perspective to patriotic cover collecting. They reflect Hawaiian culture, and they show patriotism from the point of view of a Japanese-American.
Figure 6 shows a poignant multicolor design Sayama produced in 1944 to commemorate the third anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Titled "Sunset and Shadows," the cachet shows the Grim Reaper overtaking the Empire of Japan against the background of the Rising Sun of the Japanese naval ensign.
The cover is a military free franking and was mailed from Army Post Office 309 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The letter was self-censored by the officer who mailed it.
Another of Sayama's covers, shown in Figure 7, commemorates the famous 100th Infantry Battalion, which was composed entirely of Japanese-Americans from the former Hawaiian Provisional Battalion.
When called to active duty, it became the 100th Infantry Battalion, known colloquially as the "one puka puka." The battalion trained for eight months at Camp McCoy, Wis., followed by advanced training at Camp Shelby, Miss.
The 100th Infantry Battalion saw no action while attached to the Fifth Army in North Africa. After landing in Italy in 1943, the soldiers of the 100th saw bitter fighting as they clawed their way up the peninsula from Salerno to Rome.
In June 1944, the 100th Infantry Battalion was combined with another Japanese-American unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was "Go For Broke!"
A book and a movie about the 442nd used that motto for their titles. The 442 RCT had an outstanding record of service.
At full force, there were only 4,500 men, yet they earned more than 18,000 individual decorations, including 9,486 Purple Hearts and 5,200 Bronze Stars. It was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.
Herman Fluegel, who was responsible for some of the most colorful WWII patriotics, produced the cover shown in Figure 8. Throughout the war years, Fluegel produced more than 40 covers, beautifully printed in color. A complete set tells the American story of WWII.
A great many caricature patriotics would not be considered politically correct by today's standards. Figure 9 is an example that shows Hitler in a deservingly bad light, although there are even stronger examples that denigrate and dehumanize the enemy to a much greater degree.
Patriotic cover collecting is a vast field full of interesting material offering collectors a connection with important events in the past.
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
blogMy previous blog post focused on a mystery: the apparent indentations of paper clips on United States Purple Heart forever stamps that were used to mail payments to the circulation department of my employer, Amos Media in Sidney, Ohio. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.