US Stamps

John M. Hotchner

The Pentagon and philately

September 20, 2018 03:00 PM

  • Figure 1. Picturing the Pentagon, this 1944 postcard was sent by a new employee who wrote, “You can get lost quicker here than in the woods.”
  • Figure 2. Addressed to Clyde Jennings Jr., this first-day cover for the 1945 3¢ Army stamp bears a meter imprint that reads “Mailed in the Pentagon.” The first-day-of-issue handstamp is on the reverse of the envelope.
  • Figure 3. The Pentagon Philatelic Society was formed in 1947. This cover, canceled Oct. 28, 1948, celebrates its first anniversary.

U.S. Stamp Notes — By John M. Hotchner

The Pentagon is 75 years old this year. Opened on Jan. 25, 1943, it has 17.5 miles of corridors, 85,000 light fixtures, 7,748 windows, and 4,900 plumbing fixtures. Built on the Potomac River floodplain in Virginia, it rests on 41,492 concrete piles.

The Pentagon cost $87 million to build in 1943 dollars, a significant cost overrun from the $35 million planned. 

Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and another 3,000 nondefense support personnel work in the Pentagon today.

How did the Pentagon appear to employees in its early years? The April 1944 postcard from a new employee to his family in Philadelphia gives us a hint: “This sure is some place. You can get lost quicker here than in the woods. I will try to tell you something about it when I get back. I’m afraid I could not write it.”

The postcard is shown front and back in Figure 1.

The Pentagon has six ZIP codes and its own post office. At one time, it had its own meter machine that placed a “Mailed in the Pentagon” imprint on mail.

I have two examples of this imprint, one on a 1945 cover and the other on a 1948 cover. Both have the same meter number: Pitney Bowes No. 51034.

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The 1945 cover is addressed to Capt. Clyde Jennings Jr. (1916-2006), one of the great stamp collectors of the second half of the 20th century and one of my mentors in the hobby.

It is actually a first-day cover for the 3¢ Army stamp, and as shown in Figure 2, it has a first-day-of-issue hand cancellation on the reverse.

There also was a time when the Pentagon had its own stamp club. According to the cachet on the cover shown in Figure 3, the Pentagon Philatelic Society was founded Oct. 2, 1947. The cover is canceled Oct. 28, 1948, shortly after the society’s first anniversary.

Note that both the Pentagon covers shown here were canceled Washington, D.C. While the Pentagon is on the Virginia side of the Potomac, it is on federally owned land, so I suppose the government can assign whatever location they wish. Its six ZIP codes are 20301, 20310, 20318, 20330, 20350 and 20380.