Series of 1916-17 $2 Madison
Issue Date: March 22, 1917
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat plate
Color: Dark blue
The U.S. Postal Service was faced with a sudden and unexpectedly high demand for high-denomination postage stamps early in 1917. The large numbers of heavy machine parts shipped to Russia required high postage amounts. U.S. #479 was also used to send valuable Liberty Bond shipments.
The Post Office did not have time to prepare new designs to meet the need, so the Series of 1902 master dies were used for the $2 Madison and $5 Marshall issues. The original plates and transfer rollers had already been destroyed.
Mail During World War I
During the first part of World War I, soldiers didn’t have to use stamps to send letters within the U.S. Instead, the letters could be marked as “solder’s mail” with an officer’s signature added. The letter would then be delivered with the appropriate postal fee collected from the mail recipient. These rules didn’t apply to registered and Special Delivery mail. When the fighting began in 1917, the requirement for an officer’s signature was dropped, and from then on, all military mail carried the postmark of the U.S. Postal Service.
As U.S. troops began arriving in France, it became apparent that a postal system needed to be organized. Arrangements were quickly made with the French government for soldiers to use the French postal service. It was decided that mail to the troops would be marked “par B.C.M.” (Bureau Controle Militaire), while mail from military personnel would be marked “F.M.” (Franchise Militaire) as well as “soldier’s mail.” Letters bearing these marks would not be charged postage.
However, many soldiers were not made aware of these privileges and sent their mail through the U.S. Army Post Office’s (APO) setup in France. These early letters carried stamps or postage dues. Finally, in October of 1917, an act provided that “soldiers, sailors, and marines assigned to duty in a foreign country could mail letters for free.” The upper-left corner had to carry the sender’s name and the unit in which he was serving. In addition, the letter had to be marked “On Active Service” (OAS) and “soldier’s (sailor’s, marine’s, etc.) mail.”