1929 Kansas-Nebraska Overprints
1 ½¢ Kansas
Earliest Known Use: April 16, 1929
First City: Colby, KS
Quantity Issued: 8,240,000
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 11 x 10.5
The 1 ½¢ Kansas stamp was overprinted on U.S. #553, picturing Warren G. Harding.
Gunslingers, Homesteaders, and Gangsters
The western terminal of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the end of the Chisholm Trail were located in Kansas, giving the state a crucial role in America’s westward expansion. Spurred by the Homestead Act, thousands of acres in Kansas were claimed by settlers. Out of this rough and tumble pilgrimage came some of our nation’s most colorful characters – among them Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp.
Although frontier towns in Kansas would turn out a number of distinguished Americans – including President Dwight D. Eisenhower and aviation pioneers Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart – the lure of the West was tempting for some criminals. By the 1920s, machine gun-toting gangsters had replaced gunslingers, and small post offices in isolated communities were among their targets. Losses in one year alone totaled more than $200,000 (equal to nearly $7 million today). To make it difficult for thieves to sell stolen postage stamps, Postal Inspector Louis Johnson proposed stamps be overprinted with the name of the specific state where they would be sold.
The idea of overprinting U.S. stamps to prevent theft wasn’t a new one – it had been suggested nearly 30 years earlier – but the newly invented rotary press now made the idea possible and affordable. As one of the states victimized by postage stamp theft, Kansas was selected for the experiment. If successful, authorities planned to distribute overprinted postage stamps to each U.S. state within one year.
Issued in Very Low Quantities – Many are Hard to Find
Although it had seen rapid growth, the population of Kansas was relatively small in 1929. Based on projected needs, postal officials distributed relatively low numbers of Kansas overprints. In fact, less than one 9¢ stamp was issued for each person living in the state.
The Kansas Overprints were released in the cities of Newton and Colby – and were met with immediate criticism and confusion. Some postmasters refused to honor them, believing the “Kans.” overprint meant the stamps had been precancelled. In an era when postage stamps were often used to pay for merchandise, mail order giant Montgomery Ward protested that post offices outside Kansas refused to accept the overprinted stamps.
Others argued the stamp overprint program was only intended to save money. They pointed out that small post offices were required to purchase an entire year’s supply of stamps at once under the plan, which cut government distribution costs by more than half. Those critics claimed the overprints were a method to discourage would-be thieves from stealing the huge stockpiles of stamps that would be stored in poorly defended small towns as a result of the cost-cutting program. In the wake of such widespread criticism, officials halted the experiment in less than a year and let the existing supply of Kansas overprint stamps exhaust itself.
“This series...represents, if not perfection, then at least a high degree of achievement...”
To create the Kansas overprints, postal officials overprinted the Series of 1926-28 rotary stamps. Described above by noted philatelic author Gary Griffith, the series features a blend of art and technology. Officials began with the engraved designs of the Series of 1922, which had been printed on flat plate presses and perforated 11. The introduction of the rotary press made it possible to print the Series of 1926-28 in high volumes at low cost. A slight change in perforation – 11 x 10 1/2 – also made them easier to separate. In fact, the 1926-28 stamp series was such a success that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing used the format for another 10 years.
Classic Stamps Document American History and Invention
As you can see, a number of compelling events are represented by the Kansas overprints – the marriage of traditionally engraved stamps with modern technology, the settlement of America’s West and the history of the state of Kansas.
America's 29th President
Warren Gamaliel Harding was born November 2, 1865, in Blooming Grove, Ohio. When he was 10 years old, Harding began working for his father’s weekly newspaper. In college, he worked on the school newspaper and gained a reputation as a gifted public speaker.
Harding then moved to Marion, Ohio, and bought the struggling Marion Star newspaper in 1884. Though he wrote in support of the Republican Party, his fair reporting of both sides earned him the respect of Ohio politicians. Within ten years, Harding’s paper grew to be one of the most popular in the county. And when Harding reorganized his business, he allowed them to buy stock in Harding Publishing Co., the first profit-sharing agreement in Ohio.
Harding began his political career in 1899, when he won a seat in the Ohio State Senate. After serving two terms, Harding ran for governor of Ohio in 1903. He was defeated, but was given the position of lieutenant governor. In 1914, he was elected to the US Senate, a post he held until his presidential inauguration in 1921.
In running for the presidency in 1920, Harding promised to return America “to normalcy” and healing from World War I and the policies of President Wilson. Harding conducted a front-porch campaign from his home in Marion, Ohio, while his opponent traveled over 20,000 miles. Over 600,000 people came to visit him. In addition, entertainers such as Al Jolson and Mary Pickford entertained the crowds. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison also met with Harding and supported his campaign.
The results of November’s election were the first in US history to be covered on the radio. Harding and his running mate Calvin Coolidge received 60 percent of the national vote, the highest percentage ever recorded up to that time.
During his campaign, Harding promised to appoint the best men he could find for his Cabinet. Some of his choices fulfilled this promise. Unfortunately, he also felt a sense of duty to men who supported his run for office and gave them influential positions as well. These men, later called the “Ohio gang,” would damage Harding’s presidency. Many historians believe Harding was not aware of the corruption happening inside his administration. However, his choice of questionable men to serve in his Cabinet tarnished the reputation of his administration.
Harding worked to make the Federal government smaller and more efficient. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 said the President must submit a budget to the Congress each year. The General Accounting Office provided oversight for Federal expenses. As director, Charles Dawes reduced government spending by 25 percent the first year and cut it in half after two years.
The President felt lowering tax rates would help the country recover from the postwar depression it was experiencing. Under the guidance of Andrew Mellon, the top tax rate was reduced from 73 percent to 25 over the course of four years. Unemployment fell and tax revenue increased. Historians Schweikart and Allen wrote the economic policies “... produced the most vibrant eight year burst of manufacturing and innovation in the nation’s history.”
Ongoing labor disputes led to violence during Harding’s administration, and more than once he had to call in federal troops to bring peace. In a time when the rights of African Americans were severely limited, Harding supported civil rights and educational opportunities. He advocated for a Federal anti-lynching bill, but it was defeated in the Senate.
On November 21, 1921, Harding signed the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, which funded health centers around the country. It was the first large Federal social welfare program in America. The law encouraged doctors to offer health care to prevent illness as well as treating it. Child welfare workers were trained to make sure children were being taken care of.
Harding relied heavily on Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to conduct foreign affairs. Hughes led the Washington Armament Conference to reduce naval power in the hopes of maintaining peace. The U.S. hosted Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy, China, Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal for the three-month conference. The agreements reached brought stability to the Pacific region. Trade agreements with China were also signed.
Harding improved the nation’s relationship with countries to the south. The Thomson-Urrutia Treaty awarded Colombia $25 million as payment for land used for the Panama Canal. The President also improved relations with Mexico, which had been strained during Wilson’s administration. Under Harding’s direction, the military began leaving occupied areas of Central America and the Caribbean.
In 1923, scandals in Harding’s administration were beginning to surface. He told a journalist, “I have no trouble with my enemies, but my friends, they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor at nights!” The President’s health was suffering, so he decided to take a tour to the West and Alaska to reconnect with the people and promote his agenda. Accompanied by his wife and trusted advisors, Harding’s train left Washington on June 20. After giving speeches throughout the Midwest, he and his party traveled to Alaska. Harding was the first President to visit there.
On the way back to the lower 48 states, Harding toured British Columbia, the first sitting President to visit Canada. As the trip continued, Harding became progressively weaker. The train traveled to San Francisco. On August 2, Harding died in a hotel suite of an apparent heart attack. The President’s body was transported by train across the country. Millions of Americans lined the track all along the route to pay their respects. His state funeral took place on August 8 in the Capitol building. Harding’s term was the shortest of any President in the 20th century.