1959 4¢ Ernst Reuter
Champions of Liberty
Issue Date: September 29, 1959
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 10 ½ x 11
U.S. #1136 is part of the “Champions of Liberty” series. This stamp shows Ernst Reuter, the mayor of West Berlin during the early years of the Cold War.
After World War II, the German capital of Berlin was split into East and West Berlin – the East run by the Soviet Union and the West by the U.S., Great Britain, and France. Reuter became West Berlin’s mayor at this time. As the Soviets tried to block access to West Berlin, Reuter became the spokesman for the West Berlin citizens, appealing to the world before a crowd of 300,000 to not abandon Berlin. In response, the Allies coordinated the “Berlin Airlift,” a massive effort of over 200,000 flights to provide supplies.
Reuter continued his efforts to unify West Berlin, which had a population of over 2 million people. He helped for the “Free University of Berlin,” since the University of Berlin was in Communist-held territory. Reuter served as mayor until his death in 1953. His funeral was attended by more than a million people.
U.S. #1136 is one of two stamps issued for Reuters in 1959. It was printed on rotary press, in a single color (gray), with 10 ½ x 11-gauge perforations.
Champions of Liberty
In 1957, the Post Office Department issued a stamp honoring Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay as a “Champion of Liberty.” Magsaysay’s stamp marked the beginning of a 10-stamp series honoring non-Americans who fought for freedom in their homelands.
After Magsaysay’s single commemorative stamp was issued, the rest of the series had two stamps printed for each subject – one in a single color, and one with three colors. The pairs were also of different denominations. The series was issued from 1957 to 1961. It featured Ramon Magsaysay, Simón Bolívar, Lajos Kossuth, José de San Martín, Ernst Reuter, T.G. Masaryk, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Gustaf Mannerheim, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Giori Press Added Color
In 1955, the Post Office Department acquired a new stamp press designed by Gualtiero Giori. Called the “Giori Press,” the new machine could produce stamps in two or three different colors, all in one pass. Different rollers each applied a different color.
The new press began producing stamps in 1957, with U.S.# 1094, the American Flag. It soon was used on the Champions of Liberty stamps. In 1962, the press was used for a secret project – some speculated that it was making money. Instead, the result was the “Project Mercury” stamp (U.S. #1193), printed in secret even among Post Office employees.
The stamp was shipped in sealed packages to over 300 postmasters across the country, with strict instructions not to open it until instructed. The secrecy was dependent upon the success of John Glenn’s historic space flight orbiting Earth – if the mission had failed, the stamp would not have been released.