1931 50¢ Arlington Amphitheater
Issue Date: September 4, 1931
First City: Washington, DC
The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater is located on a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. This roofless, white marble structure encloses a natural amphitheater (a level area surrounded by sloping ground). A temple facing the Lincoln Memorial (located across the Potomac River) forms the front of the structure. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located just before its entrance. The Arlington Amphitheater was dedicated in May 1920.
This structure has a timeless beauty, which isn’t surprising, considering it was patterned after two classical structures: the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens, considered the prototype of all Greek theatres, and the Roman theatre at Orange, France, built during the reign of the first Roman emperor.
The Arlington Amphitheater was built by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a patriotic organization made up of U.S. Civil War veterans who served in the Union forces. It cost about $1 million to build. The GAR was formed in early 1866. Among its functions was the “defense of the late soldiery of the United States, morally, socially, and politically.”
The organization reached its peak in 1890, with more than 400,000 members. For a time, the GAR was a very powerful political group, which usually allied itself with the Republican Party. In 1956, the GAR was dissolved.
The Most Perfect U.S. Stamps?
Issued as the U.S. spiraled into the Great Depression, the beautifully engraved Series of 1926-31 captures the spirit of America – the wisdom of our greatest leaders, the power of the majestic Niagara Falls, and the romance of the Wild West. This achievement is even more impressive when one considers the limitations the Bureau of Engraving and Printing worked with during the worldwide Depression.
“This series of definitive stamps represents, if not perfection, then at least a high degree of achievement by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.” – Noted philatelic author Gary Griffith
The Series of 1926-31 features the historic designs and patriotic symbolism of the Series of 1922. However, the new series was printed on a rotary intaglio press, saving time and money as it was printed in continuous rolls. The rolls were then threaded into a perforator, pulled through the machine under high tension, and perforated horizontally and vertically in a single step. A 10-gauge perforation had been the standard used to prevent the paper from tearing during production. To overcome complaints that stamps perforated 10 gauge were hard to separate, a quantity of the 2¢ stamps (U.S. #634, the first Series of 1926-31 denomination to be issued) were given experimental perforations of 11 x 101/2.
The experiment was a success – the stamps were sturdy enough to withstand the production process yet easy to separate for postal use. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing applied the compound perforations to the entire Series of 1926-31. In fact, the compound perforation stamps were so successful the format was used for the next 10 years, including the 1938 Presidential and 1954 Liberty Series.