3¢ Torch of Freedom
National Defense Issue
Issue Date: October 16, 1940
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10.5
Color: Bright violet
U.S. #901 was the third in a 3-stamp series issued to raise consciousness of the need for a strong national defense, which President Franklin Roosevelt considered especially important as World War II raged in Europe. The stamp pictures a raised torch, representing enlightenment.
The Defense Trio of 1940
By the summer of 1940, Americans wanted nothing to do with the European conflicts overseas, holding tightly to their isolationist ideals. The only aid President Franklin Roosevelt could provide (as Congress refused to pass any military bills) was repealing the arms embargo enough to allow the U.S. to sell arms to Great Britain. Britain was required to pay in advance and transport the material back on their own. However, German ships sank them almost as fast as the weapons were produced.
Roosevelt realized it was only a matter of time until Adolf Hitler would narrow his focus on the Western Hemisphere, and felt it was his duty to prepare the nation for when that time came. Roosevelt’s first action to put an end to the American isolationism was trading 50 old ships for 99-year leases on strategic bases throughout the Atlantic, which would protect American interests. This began to sway the American opinion on the situation.
The next step to Roosevelt’s plan was to issue postage stamps to educate the public. He provided sketches of what he envisioned to the Post Office Department, and the final designs stayed true to the President’s vision. When the stamps were issued, many more Americans supported the importance of preparedness and the stamps served as a constant reminder of the importance of a strong national defense.
FDR – The Stamp-Collecting President
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the design and issuance of U.S. #901. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother introduced the future President to stamp collecting at a young age. Throughout his life, he turned to his collection to relax and unwind.
Roosevelt was elected President four times, serving in the nation’s highest office longer than any other chief executive – 12 years. During those 12 years, Roosevelt promoted the importance of stamps by personally approving each of more than 200 stamp designs. This included suggesting topics, rejecting others, and even designing some of the stamps himself. He used U.S. postage stamps to educate Americans about their heritage, to buoy war-weary spirits during World War II, and to send a message of peace and hope as Europe faced the overwhelming task of rebuilding.