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Linprint Cachets For National Parks Series

by Marjory J. Sente

On April 4, the U.S. Postal Service released its Greetings from America stamps, 50 adhesives resembling the large-letter postcards popular in the 1930s and ’40s. But this is not the first time that United States stamps have been called into service to promote tourism and provide information on our domestic sites.

In 1934, another well-known set of commemoratives were used to create interest in domestic travel. These 68-year-old stamps brought a visual dimension to the slogan “See America First” as they arrived in the mailboxes of many Americans.

Can you guess what stamps I’m talking about? You are right. I’m referring to the 1934 National Parks Series. The National Parks series had been more than 20 years in the making. As early as 1912, it had been suggested to the postal powers that be that scenery and not men should be placed on our stamps.

The U.S. Post Office Department responded by introducing slogan cancels to promote visiting the parks. One of many examples was a 1922 Denver machine cancel advertising that Rocky Mountain National Park was open June 15 to October 1.

In 1933, the pressure to release a set of stamps increased when the new Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes announced that 1934 was National Park Year. He also began to gather the support of President Roose-velt for a set of National Parks stamps.

According to Johl, in The United States Commemorative Stamps of the 20th Century, “On May 16th, 1934, it was announced that the Postmaster General had authorized the issuance of a series of National Park stamps, ‘in conjunction with the Interior Department’s observing of this year as National Park year.’ ”

Within two months, the first National Parks stamp was issued on July 16. The release of the other nine commemoratives in the series quickly followed and, by Oct. 8, all 10 were available. Each honors a different national park — Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Acadia, Zion, Glacier Park and Great Smokey Mountains. And each was released at its respective park and in Washington, D.C.

Most cachetmakers produced sets of 10 different cachets — one highlighting each park. While there are exceptions, the cachets seem to fall into three broad categories: photos; sketches; and map designs.

Ioor, Top Notch, Beazell and the “See America First” cachets used photos of the parks, giving collectors a very true-to-life view of sites that many had never visited.

Sketches of the parks also proved popular as cachets. Gundel, Dyer, Beverly Hills, Parsons, Grimsland, Fawcett, Fairway, Roy and Anderson are among the standouts that used this cachetmaking technique.

Travel was much more difficult and less common in the 1930s than it is today. Also, eight of the 10 stamps commemorated parks in the western United States, and many Americans were unfamiliar with their size and location. So it is no surprise that map motifs were popular designs, too.

Bates and Kapner incorporated maps into their cachets, as did Covered Wagon and Aeroprint.

One of the more interesting of the map designs are the M.A.P.S. cachets that were produced by the Michigan Alumni Philatelic Society. Each shows an outline of the state where the park is located and pinpoints the park site within the state.

Philatelic publisher and commercial cachetmaker George W. Linn elected to print one design and offer it for use for all the stamps in the series. Produced in black and bluish gray, his Linprint designs were a collage of landmark features from several parks, as shown in Figure 1.

Linprint cachets might not be noteworthy, except that they included a stamplike motif at left that quickly ran into problems with the USPOD, enlarged in Figure 1.

At the Washington, D.C. post office, the design was judged to be “too stamplike.” The word “Postage” had to be obliterated in order for the cover to be accepted and canceled. Linprint FDCs are found with the word “Postage” crossed out, as in Figure 2. Park postal clerks often were less vigilant, canceling the covers without a problem.

Linn protested and won the right to use the original design.

Modifications, however, were made to the cacheted covers printed for servicing FDCs for National Parks stamps issued later. Linn added two black bars and “CENSORED” over the stamp motif, as in Figure 3. On others he eliminated the stamplike text.

Linn was not the only cachetmaker to run into censorship problems during the 1930s but that is another story.

Did the National Parks stamps stimulate travel? My guess is not much. Did the stamps and their FDCs raise awareness of the parks? You bet they did. They were yet another window to the beauty and wonder of this great nation.

Both National Parks and Greetings from America stamps were issued at times when the United States faced critical issues. And both serve to help Americans celebrate things that are great about this country.