US Stamps

By John M. Hotchner

May cartoon caption contest: U.S. Stamp Notes

April 20, 2016 12:05 PM

  • The cartoon caption contest stamp for May is the 1932 2¢ stamp showing the planting of a tree in honor of Arbor Day. Put yourself in the picture and tell me what you might be thinking or saying about the stamp, our hobby, politics, or anything else. There will be a prize for the best philatelic and nonphilatelic lines. The rules to enter the contest are in the accompanying article. Entries must be received by May 27 for a chance to win a prize.
  • Grinning out from this photograph used for the design of the 1932 Arbor Day commemorative stamp are Alvin W. Hall Jr. and Ruth Hall, children of former director of the Bureau and Engraving and Printing Alvin W. Hall.
  • Postmaster General Walter Brown sent examples of the Arbor Day stamp to concerned government officials and citizens a week before the designated day of issue.

By John M. Hotchner

Spring is the planting season and summer is the growing season, so the Arbor Day stamp of 1932 (Scott 717) is a good selection for the cartoon caption contest for May.

This was the first U.S. stamp where the people shown on it were both alive when the stamp was issued and were depicted large enough to be identified.

Who are they? They are the son and daughter of a former director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Alvin W. Hall. The photograph from which the stamp design was modeled is shown nearby. (The photograph was shown in the May 1966 issue of the Scott’s Monthly Stamp Journal courtesy of the U.S. Post Office Department.)

The Arbor Day commemorate also was one of the few U.S. stamps that was used prior to the first day (April 22, 1932) with official blessing.

This is how it happened. Postmaster General Walter F. Brown sent a letter dated April 15, 1932, on his official embossed stationery announcing the forthcoming stamp to county agricultural agents and others concerned with tree planting.

Lightly affixed to the top of each letter was an example of the Arbor Day stamp.

This, of course, was an open invitation for recipients to take the stamp off and use it prior to the first day. Many such uses are known, though not so many that I have been able to find an example!

To enter the cartoon caption contest, picture yourself holding the tree or the spade, and tell me what you might be thinking or saying about the event, the stamp, philately, or anything else that trips your fancy. 

The important thing is to use your sense of humor, because entries with a humorous twist have the best chance of winning a prize.

Put your entry (or entries) on a postcard if possible and send it to me, John Hotchner, Cartoon Contest, Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125, or email it to Be sure to include your mailing address.

For each winner, the prize will be the book Linn’s Stamp Identifier, published by Linn’s (a retail value of $12.99), or a 13-week subscription to Linn’s (a new subscription or an extension).

To be considered for the prizes, entries must reach me no later than May 27.

Why not enter now, while you’re thinking about it?