Series of 1916-17 2¢ Washington
Issue Date: November 15, 1916
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 horizontally
Rotary coil production for the Series of 1916-19 Washington-Franklin stamps began in January 1918. They would be the last stamps issued in this popular series. The unwatermarked perf 10 stamps had been produced on flat plate presses, but were also able to be produced as coils. U.S. #487 was printed on Type II plates. Production was later changed over to Type III plates, resulting in a new stamp. The horizontal coil stamps were created on plates of 170.
Some of the features of the Type II Rotary Press Washington stamps are: the left ribbon has only one line on the top fold (Type III has two); the strand of hair between the ear and cheek has a pronounced, curved outline on the bottom; the shaded area above Washington’s eye pushes upwards; a line on the right-hand ribbon appears as three dashes; shading lines in his hair, and in the laurel leaves, are often more pronounced than in Type I stamps, but less pronounced than Type III.
Mail During World War I
Because soldiers didn’t have free franking privileges at the start of the war, the U.S. Post Office issued booklet panes of 1¢ and 2¢ stamps specifically for the American troops in France. When the Act of October 1918 granted that military personnel could send mail free of postage, the booklets were no longer necessary and were returned to the United States.
In addition to the Post Office Department, service organizations such as the Red Cross, YMCA, and the Salvation Army provided our troops with a variety of postal cards. Soldiers were issued cards for Christmas and Easter, as well as special cards which were used when troops embarked on their voyage to France, or when a soldier changed camps.
These cards carried messages such as “The ship on which I sailed has arrived safely overseas.” or “Hello. Am feeling great. Will write again soon. Am going to camp...” and had blanks for pertinent information and the sender’s name. Blank postcards were also provided for short messages home.
Field service cards were another form of stationery issued to the troops. Produced by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), these postcards had pre-printed messages that could be filled out by the soldier without giving away important military information. Some cards had various sentences printed on them which the men could simply cross out if they did not apply, while other cards left blanks for the soldier to fill in regarding where he was stationed and his state of health.
Perhaps one of the most sought-after pieces of wartime postal items is the Christmas coupon. According to general orders, each man was given one coupon and an envelope. This coupon, after being endorsed by an officer, could then be sent to the soldier’s family or anyone stateside from whom he was expecting a package. Using this coupon, packages could be sent at a special rate of fifteen cents. The packages were restricted in size and could not exceed 3 pounds.
In 1989, Mystic Stamp Company Vice President David Sundman presented the Smithsonian Institution with a 2¢ AEF Booklet Pane. This unique piece of postal history is now a permanent part of the National Philatelic Collection that is housed in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.