US Stamps

Five-year wait for autographed Adlai Stevenson cover

May 23, 2019, 8 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

Talk about pushing a boulder uphill. Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) ran on the Democratic ticket for president against the incredibly popular Republican nominee Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) — not once but twice, in 1952 and 1956.

Arguably, Stevenson never stood a chance. In 1952, the popular vote was approximately 34 million for Eisenhower and 27 million for Stevenson. The electoral college vote was even more lopsided at 442 to 89. In 1956, the loss was 35.5 million to 26 million in the popular vote and 457 to 73 in the electoral college.

To Stevenson’s credit, he threw himself into both campaigns and worked his heart out. It wasn’t that he was unpopular. It was that he was less popular than Eisenhower, the architect of Germany’s defeat in World War II and a man known for his smile.

In 1952, one of Stevenson’s fans, Louis V. Middleton of Grand Rapids, Mich., sent him the cover shown here in Figure 1 with a request for an autograph. The cover is franked with the 3¢ stamp issued June 27, 1945, showing President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the White House (Scott 932).

Because Stevenson was so wrapped up in campaigning, the request waited until 1957 for a response.

In a letter dated Aug. 16, 1957, Stevenson’s personal secretary wrote: “I’m sorry it has taken so long to get this to you, but Mr. Stevenson has been kept unbelievably busy by the past two Presidential campaigns and his many other activities. He is just now catching up with the autograph requests from the 1952 campaign.”

Rather than being annoyed or dismissive, the requester wrote a nice thank-you letter, saying, “During these times of business and political stress, we do not realize how much we add to the burdens of some very popular person by asking favors such as this. This must be the penalty that one pays for popularity.”

Stevenson bounced back from his losses to serve as the United States ambassador to the United Nations under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Stevenson served with distinction until July 14, 1965, when he died of a massive heart attack while visiting London on the way back from a U.N. meeting in Geneva.

Stevenson was honored on Oct. 23, 1965, by the issuance of the beautifully designed 5¢ stamp (Scott 1275), shown here in Figure 2.

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