Series of 1916-17 3¢ Washington
Issue Date: October 10, 1917
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 horizontally
The unwatermarked perf 10 stamps had been successfully produced on flat plate presses, but were also found suitable for coil production. The horizontal coil stamps were created on plates of 170. The change of the domestic mail rate to 3¢ meant #489 was in great demand. It was printed on Type I plates.
The Series of 1916-17 3¢ Washington Type I stamps have several distinguishing features: a pronounced white line underneath Washington’s ear, and the bottom two strands of hair behind his ear are shorter than the ones above it. Other features are often less distinct than found on Type II or Type III dies.
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.
At that time, a special 1¢ war tax stamp was issued to be used on fourth class mail. Internal Revenue stamps were supplied for this purpose and distributed to postmasters to sell to the general public. These stamps had to be affixed to any parcels, except those of the American Expeditionary Forces.
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. These cards were issued 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 AEF, these postcards had pre-printed messages which could be filled out by the soldier without giving away important military information. Some cards had various sentences printed which the men could simply cross out if they did not apply, while other cards left blanks for 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. Packages, which were restricted to size and could not exceed 3 pounds, could be sent at a special rate of fifteen cents.
In 1989, Mystic Stamp Company Vice President David Sundman presented the Smithsonian Institute with a 2¢ AEF Booklet Pane. This unique piece of postal history is now a permanent part of the National Philatelic Collection, which is housed in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.