|The U.P.U. established a basis for a special service to speedily deliver mail for an extra fee in 1885. The United States issued the first express stamp on October 1, 1885; only 555 first class post offices provided service. On October 1, 1886 service was extended to all offices. In late 1888, the text tablet changed to "at any office", to reflect the availability of the service beyond first class offices. The United States issued eleven collector recognized stamps during its first 37 years. Only 12 additional stamps were issued during the final 75 years of this service. During the life of the Special Delivery service there were nine basic designs and 5 designs for a combination of services which included airmail.|
|We hope this primer provides you with an appreciation of the subject and encourages you to study the field of Special Delivery as there are still discoveries to be made and fun to be had. You may wish to refer to the Special Delivery Introduction, a presentation made at the Garfield-Perry club for more information on the issues.|
Additionally, two general exhibits on the subject of United States Special Delivery service covering specific year periods - 1885-1917 and 1922-1997 and four specialized exhibits are presently on the exhibiting circuit - 'The Merry Widow' issue of 1908, 'The Truck' designs of 1925 & 1951, Airmail Special Delivery combination issues of 1934-1935 and the Bi-color Airmail Special Delivery combination issue of 1936.
Special delivery mail was squeezed out by Express Mail on June 7, 1997, significantly ending on the last day of the Pacific 1997 International Stamp Show in San Francisco, California.
The Postage Stamp Issues
|The first United States Special Delivery stamp design incorporated the likeness of a messenger boy on foot to indicate a speedy delivery.
Issue of 1885Only 555 domestic first class post offices initially provided service. On October 1, 1886 service was extended to all first class post offices.
Issue of 1888In late 1888, the text tablet changed to "at any office" to indicate expanded use of the service to 4000+ post offices.
Issue of 1893In February, 1893 the stamp's color changed to orange to avoid confusion with the one cent 1893 Columbian issue.
Issue of 1894The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, modifying the American Banknote Co. dies, printed Special Delivery stamps using an unwatermarked paper, perforated 12 in October, 1894.
Issue of 1895The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, due to perforating difficulties and paper shrinkage during printing, switched to a double line watermarked paper, improving printing quality. The color returned to the familiar ultramarine.
Issues for PossessionsThe issue of 1895 was overprinted for use in Cuba, Guam and the Philippines.
|In 1902 and continuing for 20 years, messengers were issued bicycles and a new design denoted this change.
Issue of 1902The bicycle design was adopted to signify Special Delivery service as part of the newly issued series of 1902.
Issue of 1909The Bicycle design was reintroduced and looks identical to the earlier printing. Some of the earliest printing does not have the '-09' and is therefore difficult to identify.
Issue of 1911A single line USPS watermark was adopted, perforation 12.
Issue of 1914A single line USPS watermark paper, now perforated 10.
Issue of 1916The Bureau introduced unwatermarked paper, perforated 10.
Issue of 1917The Bureau utilized unwatermarked paper, but perforated 11.
Issues for PossessionsThe issue of 1902 was overprinted for use in the Philippines.
|runner | bike | widow | motorcycle | truck | hands | arrows | seal|
|In 1908 New York architect, Whitney Warren, presented his idea for a novel stamp design, a green special delivery stamp, the most artistic design ever produced for a United States stamp. Warren studied art in Paris and the first designs were prepared there.|
Warren used the Helmet of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, as a central feature. In 1903, a hat inspired by Viennese composer Franz Lehar's operetta, the "Merry Widow", a large cartwheel straw sailor hat for summer. Immediately, the philatelic press dubbed the stamp the Merry Widow and to this day, it is so called.
The stamps enjoyed but a short official life allegedly because the stamp looked like the then current one cent regular issue; therefore the mail did not receive Special Delivery handling.
|Keeping up with the advances of technology, the Bureau employed a motorcylce design, and printing on a flat plate press.
Issue of 1925(Parcel Post) The motorcycle design was revised with a new value for the parcel post delivery service.
Issue of 1927The design was reused for the Bureau's new rotary presses.
Issue of 1931The, design was adapted and printed on the rotary press.
Issue of 1944(Other than First Class) The 17¢ stamp was issued for postal matter up to two pounds.
(First Class) The first class Special Delivery rate was increased to 13 cents near the end of World War II.
|The United States Special Delivery system was nearly 40 years old when its stamp design changed to reflect modern transportation, a truck, for delivery of its mail. The original model for the design was made from a photograph taken at the old City Post Office in Washington, D.C. More than 30,000,000 stamps were issued, printed from the flat bed press.
Issue of 1925(Parcel Post and Treaty Rates) The Postal Service Act of February 28, 1925, instituted Special Delivery rates based on weight. The stamp also paid the Special Delivery treaty rates to various foreign countries. Its primary usage, however, was on heavy packages.
Issue of 1951The truck design was re-used for revised Special Delivery fees on first class mail and postal matter under two pounds, starting January 1952. The stamp was printed in black on the rotary press.
Issue of 1954Fee for first class matter increased to 20 cents for up to two pounds.
Issue of 1957Fee for first class matter increased to 30 cents for up to two pounds.
Issue of 1969Fee for first class matter increased to 45 cents for up to two pounds.
Issue of 1971Fee for first class matter increased to 60 cents for up to two pounds.
Issue of 1934This issue formally acknowledged combined airmail and Special Delivery service in one design.
Issue of 1935When the uproar over limited edition imperforate national park series stamps surrounded James A. Farley, Postmaster General of the United States, the airmail Special Delivery stamp was included in the issue known as Farley's Follies of March 15, 1935.
Issue of 1936The design was reused in 1936, this time in two colors. Numerous printings took place over the next five years.
|A special electronic version of this article is available here.|
The file is in Adobe .pdf format and is 266kb in size.
|Additional items of interest may be:|
|Garfield Perry Stamp Club Presentation|
|U.S. Special Delivery Bibliograhy (.pdf - 596kb)|