US Stamps

By John M. Hotchner

U.S. Stamp Notes: Cover’s contents promote membership in the Red Cross

May 08, 2015 11:54 AM

Today we don’t think of the American Red Cross as a membership organization, but the 1917 cover shown here provides a view of a time when it was.

Inside that cover is a letter dated June 12, 1917, which reads, in part: “You have been designated as a member of the membership committee of the Guernsey Chapter of the Red Cross to solicit members in Valley township.

“The purposes of the organization, the different classes of membership therein, are fully explained in the circular enclosed herewith, and we trust that you will read the same carefully and be thereby fully informed before undertaking to secure membership … The plan of the national organization is to make the campaign from the 18th to the 25th of June, and to that end we trust you will begin the organization in your district at once.”

Despite the fact that World War I was raging, there is only a general call to patriotism in the circular.

Most of the appeal has to do with the work of the Red Cross in its efforts to alleviate suffering in disasters — 86 of them cited since 1905.

The circular says, “Thousands of families have been helped … ”

There also is a small guilt trip presented on the front of the circular, as it notes that the United States has the lowest per capita membership of four nations cited:

Japan population 40 million, Red Cross membership 1.8 million;

Germany population 67 million, Red Cross membership 1.4 million;

Russia population 171 million, Red Cross membership 1.2 million;

U.S. population 100 million, Red Cross membership 600,000.

What has all this to do with philately? As stamp and cover collectors, we often have the opportunity to comb through dealer stocks of covers, family correspondence, and even business mail.

If the contents are still inside the cover, pull them out and take a gander.

Much of it may not be worth a second look, but it is always worth a first look to see what it is about, whether letters, bills, commercial flyers or other material that can provide an interesting window to its time.

Some contents can even enhance the value of the cover.

Cartoon winner

Recipes for stamp glue dominated the entries in the April cartoon caption contest featuring Peruvian-born Felipe Rojas-Lombardi from the 2014 U.S. Celebrity Chefs issue.

Lawrence Segel of White Plains, N.Y., captured the frustration of many U.S. stamp collectors with: “Why won’t they let me cook up some tasty glue, then do away with all those self-adhesives?!”

Richard Hunt of Yellow Springs, Ohio, took a different tack: “No more stamp glue for my soup recipe!”

For fans of the TV sitcom Seinfeld, several entries had Rojas-Lombardi channeling the character known as “The Soup Nazi” and his pejorative “No soup for you!” when customers displeased him.

Always a patron of the arts, I was tickled by the submission of Charles Chiaramonte of Valley Stream, N.Y., who adapted the stamp to a Frank Sinatra song, as follows:  “Come fly with me. Let’s float down to Peru. In llama-land I’m the man who can do a dish that’s right for you … ”

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Our nonphilatelic line winner comes from John Grosvenor of Misenheimer, N.C., who has our chef taunting an even more well-known kitchen-master who has not been pictured on a U.S. stamp.  

On the philatelic side, the winner is David Schwartz, who pokes fun at the USPS with, “I made 100 randomly distributed Strawberry Rightside-Up cakes. So far only 20 have been discovered.”

Both winners will receive Linn’s Stamp Identifier published by Linn’s, or a 13-week subscription to Linn’s (a new subscription or an extension). The book has a retail value of $12.99. Here are a few of the runners-up:

“Even I can’t cook the books to make the USPS more palatable!” from Steve Kotler of San Francisco, Calif.

“My tongue sandwiches are so good they speak for themselves.” by Edgar Dunlap, sent by e-mail.

“I had a heck of a time training our new waitress, Jenny, to serve the food right-side-up,” by Thomas and Laura Tomaszek of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“You want fries with that?” by Bob Bess of Palestine, Texas.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to all who entered. The next cartoon caption contest will be announced in the June 8 issue of Linn’s.


In the U.S. Stamp Notes column in the April 13 Linn’s, I claimed credit for finding and reporting the 1986 Presidential fourth pane (Scott 2219) with a tagging shift, leaving the first two vertical rows with no tagging. Linn’s reader Paul Stempinski wrote to tell me that he also found an example of this error (Scott 2219i), and that he reported his to Scott catalog editors in June 2014.

I found mine about the same time as Stempinski, but I did not report it until September — after getting a certificate on it. When I did, Scott responded that the error would be listed in the next catalog, not mentioning the earlier report.

Thus, I was not aware of the Stempinski find when I wrote the column; and for the record, he gets the laurel for being the first to report the error. I congratulate him.

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