U.S. # 621
5c Sloop Restauration
- First two-color commemorative since the 1901 Pan-American Series
- Commemorates the arrival of the first Norwegian immigrants to America
- Publicizes the 1925 Norse-American Centennial
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Part of two-stamp set
Value: Five cents
First Day of Issue: May 18, 1925
First Day City: Algona, IA; Benson, MN; Northfield, MN; Decorah, IA; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Washington, D.C.
Quantity Issued: 1,900,983
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat Plate
Format: Printed in sheets of 100 stamps 10 by 10, with selvage on four sides
Color: Dark blue and black
Issued with a dual purpose: To publicize the June 6-9, 1925 Norse-American Centennial celebration held at the Minnesota State Fair and to commemorate the Oct 9, 1825 arrival of the first Norwegians.
About the Stamp Design: The 5c stamp shows a Viking ship, based on the 1893 photo from the Columbian World’s Fair. That ship, “the Viking” was built in 1893 in Norway, sailed across the Atlantic and into the Great Lakes to Chicago for the fair. At 76 feet long, the ship was open with one small sail. A dragon’s head adorned the front and dragon’s tail at the end.
Each side has a vertical banner, Norwegian flag on the left and United States flag on right. Top has name of stamp, Norse-American, followed by 1825-1925 Centennial. Bottom: ‘United States Postage Five Cents’.
Why definitive size? We don’t know the answer. It’s unusual for a commemorative to be definitive size and be printed in sheets of 100 with selvage on four sides. This stamp has no straight-edges, also unusual for commemoratives in the 1920’s.
Printing. Printed in sheets of 100 with selvage on four sides. The sheet has two plate numbers on the top of the sheet, one for each color, and four arrows in the center of the selvage, top, left, bottom, right. The arrows created a ‘center-line’ block in the center of the sheet. Each sheet has one plate number block of 8 stamps. The black plate number is over the 4th stamp and second color over the 7th stamp.
Why no inverts? The Bureau of Engraving and Printing had two big challenges with this issue. One was avoiding creating inverts like the 1918 inverted Jenny by printing the ship upside-down. The second, and equally difficult problem, was to keep the 2c and 5c plates, and partly printed sheets separate. Any mix-up might have the 5c Viking ship vignette printed with the 2c frame or visa-versa.
This was the first 2-color commemorative since the 1901 Pan-American series.
Nice sheets are very difficult to find. Most have repairs for perforation separations.
First Day Cities: These cities were in areas near the Norse-American Centennial celebration at the Minnesota State Fair June 6-9, 1925, and areas with many Norse-Americans. All stamps of this era had a Washington D.C. first day cancel.
The five-cent stamp was used for heavier domestic mail and overseas mail.
The Set: Two stamps were issued, #620-21. The 2c is carmine and black. The 5c is dark blue and black.
History the stamp represents: May 1, 1893 the ‘Gokstad-find’ or Viking Ship left Norway with a crew of twenty. She arrived Newfoundland May 28, sailed the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, and reached Chicago for the Columbian World’s Fair July 13. The ship stayed on display in Chicago after the fair ended. In 1994 it was moved to Good Templar Park in Geneva, IL. It’s the largest remaining artifact of the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair.
When issued, some thought the U.S. & Norwegian flags was a design error. It wasn’t. The 1893 ship flew both flags.
History of the 1825 Voyage: The first Norwegians arrived in New York Harbor October 9, 1825 on the ship ‘Restaurationen’, shown on the set’s two-cent value (#621). 52 people arrived three months after leaving Norway. The small ship, 54 feet long and 16 feet wide, had more passengers that allowed by the 1819 Passenger Act. The U.S. ‘welcomed’ the immigrants by impounding the ship, arresting the captain, and imposing a stiff fine. Happily, for the captain, on November 15, 1825 President John Quincy Adams freed the captain, rescinded the fine, and released the ship.
October 9, the day the Norwegians arrived, is celebrated in the U.S., as Leif Ericson Day. Leif Ericson, Norse explorer, is believed to be the first European to reach North America. Ericson is honored on US #1359, a 6c commemorative issued in 1968.
The Norse-American Issue
On May 18, 1925, the US Post Office issued two stamps known as the Norse-American Issue.
One thousand years ago, 500 years before the arrival of Columbus in the New World, explorers landed on the shores of North America. These men were called Vikings and the leader of at least one expedition was an adventurous Norwegian by the name of Leif Ericson. He called the area “Vineland.”
Eight-hundred years later, on October 9th, 1825, the first permanent Norwegian settlers sailed across the ocean into New York Harbor, ready to make America their home. For the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian immigration to America and almost 1,000 years after the Viking explorations, the United States honored both historic events with a beautifully engraved set of two bi-color stamps. It was called – appropriately – the Norse-American Issue and appeared for the first time on May 18, 1925.
These were among the handful of stamps produced since the 1901 Pan-Americans to feature bi-color printing, a costly and time-consuming process. Because the stamps took so long to print, they were produced in much smaller quantities than other stamps of the day. Producing large quantities of the stamps was difficult too, because they were printed in sheets of 100, rather than 400, like most stamps at that time.
When the stamps were released, they were in great demand, with post offices around the country receiving several calls for them daily. A second printing was suggested, but it was far too costly. It has been estimated that less than 300 post offices received the stamps, with some only getting one or two sheets each, making them even more difficult to find today.
Let’s take a look at the history behind the designs on each of these stamps…
The first Norwegian immigrants in America arrived in New York on October 9, 1825, aboard the ship Restaurationen. Upon arrival in America, the captain was arrested for carrying 52 passengers, far too many for such a small ship. President John Quincy Adams pardoned him a month later. The passengers from the ship established their first settlement at Kendall, New York.
With no known images of the actual Restaurationen, the design for the 2¢ stamp was based on a sister ship of similar design, built at the same time and place as the one honored. The stamp’s detailed frame pictures dragonheads and shields similar to those found on ancient Norse ships.
The First Europeans Arrive in North America
Around 1000 A.D., Leif Ericson and his crew of 35 men became the first Europeans to reach North America. They sailed a ship similar to the one shown on the 5¢ Viking ship stamp – which pictures a US flag. Critics claimed this was a mistake, as the American flag wasn’t designed until centuries later. Officials claim the design shows a replica sailed from Norway to America in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which did carry an American flag.