US Stamps

‘Hubba Hubba’ covers are a Korean War artifact

Jul 3, 2023, 2 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

What does “Hubba Hubba” mean, and why is it handstamped with a wide range of pictorial designs on some envelopes sent by military personnel assigned to units fighting in the Korean War (1950-53)? See Figure 1 for a selection of these markings.

The answers to these questions are imprecise and based on oral history for the most part. I have collected these markings for more than 40 years, together with every scrap of information I could find. I will attempt to provide answers here.

But first, I need to note that these handstamps are not common. The great majority of Korean War covers from the troops don’t have these handstamps. A rough estimate based on my searches would be that I see one Hubba Hubba cover for every 250 Korean War covers I look at.

Over the years, I have accumulated about 150 Hubba Hubba covers in addition to the collections of Robert W. Collins and Dick Sheaff, which puts me at more than 200.

Most of these, more than 50 percent, are versions of the running dog being stung by a bee, shown in the upper left in Figure 1. Other than the running dog, in no instance do I have more than six examples of any other design, and several of the designs are unique.

What does it mean?

The term “hubba hubba” seems to have its origins in languages spoken in the South Pacific and was given meaning by the men serving in that area during World War II, initially as a term of approval, and more specifically, as applied to women. It was brought home after the war, and one example of how it was used is seen in the text on the promotional photo of burlesque queen Evelyn West in Figure 2.

From that start, the term found its way to other uses. An example is Hubba Hubba Bubble Chewing Gum shown in Figure 3 and described in a 1949 letter sent to agents of the American Chewing Gum Products Corp. as “our high quality smooth chewing, refreshingly flavored stick gum. … Flavors are at your choice from an assortment of Spice, Fruit, Peppermint, Spearmint and Licorice.”

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