Vintage post mark collector makes his mark

Collector shares his passion for obsolete postmarks from a fast fading era


With more than 35,0000 post offices in the United States, obsolete postmarks preserve an important part of postal history.

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Postmarks may be applied by hand or by machines, using methods such as rollers or inkjets, while digital postmarks are a recent innovation. The marks on the front and back of the envelope above show the letter was addressed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, carried by stage coach and was mailed by Gov. Henry Horner. It was sent to commemorate the dedication of Lincoln's New Salem, Ill., post office.

Presented here are two post office dedication covers that were once in the collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. I purchased these a number of years back in an auction.

The Culver City, Calif., New Post Office dedication cover (shown above) addressed to Roosevelt, was postmarked on the day of dedication, Oct. 26, 1940, with the signature of the postmaster Paul H. Jarrett, who was postmaster at Culver City from May 23, 1939, and was succeeded by Paul A. Helms on Oct. 31, 1957.

The other cover, also addressed to President Roosevelt, was the dedication of Lincoln’s New Salem, Ill., Post Office, which was held on Feb. 12, 1940. This cover was sent from the office of Illinois Governor Henry Horner, who served from Jan. 9, 1933, to Oct. 6, 1940.

The New Salem, Ill., Post Office was originally established in Sangamon County on Dec. 25, 1829, with Samuel Hill as its first postmaster. He was succeeded by Isaac N. Chrisman on Dec. 24, 1831, then Abraham Lincoln became postmaster on May 7, 1833, until the New Salem Post Office discontinued operation on May 30, 1836.

The New Salem, Ill., Post Office was reestablished in Pike County on April 25, 1848, with John Sevier as its first postmaster. It is still operating today using zip code 62357.

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President Roosevelt was a passionate stamp collector, and the media coverage of his collecting activities helped to popularize it as a hobby. During his tenure, he approved personally all the new U.S. stamp designs — a total of 200 stamps, some of which were designed from his personal sketches. Some of them commemorated public holidays and events. He appointed James A. Farley (May 30, 1888-June 9, 1976) as the 53rd U.S. Postmaster General, and Farley increased the number of annual commemorative issues and created other series of stamps, which helped even more to popularize the avocation.

President Roosevelt was honored by the United States Postal Service with a Prominent American series 6-cent stamp, issue of 1966. He also appears on several other U. S. postage stamps.

My one-of-kind post office dedication covers were personally addressed to President Roosevelt. Other covers of this nature do exist of these post office dedication covers — but again, these particular covers were originally in his own collection. Many other new post office dedications took place during the New Deal Era, while he was president — these two covers are just an example of a few of them. ?


Paul Petosky is a longtime collector, columnist and member of the Post Mark Collectors’ Club. His column appears monthly in The Great Lakes Pilot, a newspaper published in Grand Marais, Mich. His work also appears on his website, Postmarks From the Past, which is dedicated to writing about and preserving Michigan postal history and post offices that have closed. He lives in Munising, Mich., with his family. Petosky actively collects old postcards and envelopes with postmarks from Michigan and Wisconsin of discontinued post offices, as well as pictures and/or postcards with post offices. He may be reached via email or 906-387-2101.


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More Images:

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This is the reverse of the envelope shown above from Lincoln's New Salem, Ill., Post Office dedication.
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A postmark is a postal marking made on a letter, package, postcard or the like indicating the date and time that the item was delivered into the care of the postal service. The mark on this letter above was made for the dedication of the Culver City, Calif., post office. It was sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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