US Stamps

Souvenir from ‘Olympic,’ sister ship of ‘Titanic’

Mar 27, 2024, 11 AM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

I regularly preach in this space about the nice surprises that await collectors who look inside covers. A recent example is the fairly ordinary cover shown in Figure 1.

The cover is franked with three stamps with a total face value of 5¢, paying the overseas surface rate in 1931.

The fact that the franking combines a pair of 2¢ Yorktown stamps, which had just been issued on Oct. 19, 1931, with an old Washington-Franklin 1¢ is not a surprise when the cover is turned over and the sender’s name is revealed. It is Alfred F. Lichtenstein (1876-1947), a premier collector in his era and a contributor to many philatelic causes.

His name lives on today as the Collectors Club gave his name to its annual award for distinguished contributions to philately by living philatelists.

Inside the cover was the postcard shown in Figure 2. The card was once full sized but was cut down to fit in the envelope.

The card features an impressive illustration of the RMS Olympic, the ship Liechtenstein expected would carry the envelope as noted on the front.

I doubt the Olympic postcard is rare, but the connection to the cover makes it interesting, as does the history of the ship.

The Olympic was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the first of three Olympic-class ocean liners of the White Star Line. The others were the RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic.

The Olympic was launched in October 1910, having cost $7.5 million, the equivalent of approximately $245 million today.

The ship’s maiden voyage on June 14, 1911, marked the start of a successful career of 24 years, including service as a troop ship in World War I. The Olympic was retired and sold for scrap in 1935.

Its sister ships did not do so well. Launched in May 1911, the Titanic collided with an iceberg on its maiden voyage in April 1912, and sank with the loss of about 1,500 passengers and crew of the 2,224 aboard, the worst maritime disaster to that time.

The Britannic was launched in February 1914 and placed in service as a hospital ship during World War I. The Britannic hit a German mine in the Aegean Sea in November 1916, and went down in 55 minutes with 1,036 of the people on board surviving.

All this history comes to us courtesy of the postcard in the envelope in Figure 1.

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