Refresher Course

Wartime patriotism documented on commemorative envelopes

By Janet Klug

Cachet is a word frequently used in stamp collecting. It refers to a design that has been printed, drawn, painted or otherwise applied to an envelope.

Figure 1. A flag-themed patriotic cachet sent from Ohio to Texas in 1943.
Figure 2. Cachetmaker Pent Arts honors the Army Nurse Corps with pictures on this cachet of three uniformed Army nurses exiting a hospital.
Figure 3. A Crosby-produced patriotic cover using thermographic printing.

Envelopes and postal stationery are often called covers by stamp collectors, particularly those that have postage applied, have been prepared for mailing or have been mailed.

You might find cachets on illustrated advertising envelopes, first-day covers and patriotic covers usually issued during times of conflict.

With Memorial Day approaching, this article is dedicated to all members of the armed forces who served our country and sent and received patriotic covers during their time of service.

The encouragement and pride shown in the covers that emanated during World War II were, with notable exceptions, upbeat and positive. Some were poignant, some were funny, and some would be considered politically incorrect in today's world.

All of these are collectable and reflect the mood of the times. They are history you can hold in your hands, and are still surprisingly affordable.

Many of the people who had been creating cacheted first-day covers prior to World War II turned their attention to patriotic themes during the war.

Figure 1 illustrates a flag-themed cachet sent from Norwood, Ohio, to a soldier at North Camp Hood (now called Fort Hood), Texas in 1943.

Camp Hood was developed at the beginning of World War II to train and test tanks and antitank armored vehicles. The cachet is engraved and intaglio-printed in red and blue. Look closely at the base of the staff. There is very small printing there that identifies Grimsland as the cachetmaker.

The cover also has a perforated label asking the mail carrier to "hurry up" because the letter was going to a soldier.

World War II military personnel depicted on cachets are nearly always male; however, the one shown in Figure 2 by the cachetmaker Pent Arts honors the Army Nurse Corps with pictures of three uniformed Army nurses exiting a hospital.

This cover additionally bears a circular V-J Day handstamp and is postmarked Sept. 2, 1945, the day that the instrument of surrender was signed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Patriotic covers produced by Walter Crosby are instantly recognizable because most of them have postage-stamp size real photographs added to the cachet.

The cachets are printed by a process called thermography. Thermography is a printing process that uses powdered ink. When the ink is subjected to heat, the powder melts and forms the printed image, which has an uneven texture and shine.

You will often see thermography on business cards. The printing is raised so that it has the feel of intaglio printing without the associated costs of intaglio printing.

Figure 3 shows a Crosby patriotic with its expected photograph and two-color thermographic printing.

It was sent from Milford, Ohio, to an Army private at APO 44 in April 1945. It was the waning days of the European war, and APO 44 was moving every few days to a different location within Germany.

It is likely that this patriotic cover chased Private Scheinfeld around Germany for quite some time. The letter may not have caught up with him until after Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. That date is known as V-E Day, signifying the victory in Europe.

Walter Crosby was a fruitful cachetmaker. He joined the Navy at age 17 and spent the next 27 years serving aboard a variety of U.S. Navy vessels.

A few years after he retired, Crosby opened a stamp and coin shop and began creating cacheted covers.

Crosby was strongly interested in producing naval covers, but he also made FDCs, advertising covers and, when war became inevitable, patriotic covers.

Collecting World War II patriotic covers can be complicated because of the sheer number of cachetmakers who were producing them and the variety of subjects shown on the covers.

The good news is that there is a catalog that lists and describes in detail more than 11,000 different World War II patriotic covers.

The book is titled United States Patriotic Envelopes of World War II by Lawrence Sherman.

Check with your favorite philatelic literature dealer to find a copy.

If you are attracted to military history you can hold in your hands, check out the Military Postal History Society.

The organization has a quarterly journal, periodic auctions and annual meetings. Every issue contains articles about the soldiers who fought for our country and the letters that document their service.

Contact MPHS, Box 15927, Seattle, WA 98115-0927; or visit the web site www.militaryPHS.org.

Heartfelt thanks to all who have served in the military.