5¢ Flag of Luxembourg
Overrun Countries Series
Issue Date: August 10, 1943
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Blue violet, dark rose, light blue, and black
U.S. #912 is part of the Overrun Countries Series, which honors each of the nations invaded by Axis powers during World War II. It pictures the flag of Luxembourg, which features red, white, and blue stripes, taken from the Grand Duke’s coat of arms from the 13th century. The flag was first used in the 1840s, but was not officially adopted until 1972.
Luxembourg History Through World War II
Luxembourg is located in northwestern Europe where Germany, France, and Belgium meet. Siegfried, the Count of Ardennes (a plateau area just north of Luxembourg) built a castle in 963 at the present site of the city of Luxembourg, the nation’s capital city. In 1308, Henry VII, the Count of Luxembourg, became king of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1354, his grandson Charles IV established the Duchy of Luxembourg. Control of the Duchy passed to Burgundy in 1443, France in 1684, Spain in 1697, Austria in 1714, and then backs to France in 1795. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna placed the king of the Netherlands, who was also the grand duke of Luxembourg, in charge of the country. When Wilhelmina became Queen in 1890, Luxembourg declared its independence, as its laws prohibited rule by a woman.
Luxembourg was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. Much of the fighting in the “Battle of the Bulge,” which took the lives of thousands of Americans, was fought in the northern portion of this nation. Luxembourg became a member of the United Nations in 1945, and is presently part of the European Community.
These Stamps Brought Hope to Overrun Countries of WW II
After receiving several designs from artists who felt the current U.S. postage stamps were unattractive, President Franklin Roosevelt began to consider the types of stamps he wanted to issue. He sought to show the world that America was in this war to achieve world peace, not military dominance. With this in mind, the President suggested the U.S. issue a series of stamps picturing the flags of all the overrun nations in Europe.
After receiving several designs from artists who felt the current U.S. postage stamps were unattractive, President Franklin Roosevelt began to consider the types of stamps he wanted to issue that. He wanted to show the world that America was in this war to achieve world peace, not military dominance. With this in mind, the president suggested the U.S. issue a series of stamps picturing the flags of all the overrun nations in Europe.
In the border surrounding each flag, Roosevelt suggested picturing the Phoenix – an ancient symbol of rebirth. He believed “It might tell those suffering victims in Europe that we are struggling for their own regeneration.” The other side of each flag pictured a kneeling woman “breaking the shackles of oppression.”
When the time came to print the stamps, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was unable to print the multiple colors needed for each flag, so the American Bank Note Company received a special contract for this series.
Additionally, a 5¢ denomination – the foreign rate for first class postage – was chosen so the stamps could be used on overseas mail. The stamps were printed in relatively small quantities and were in high demand as soon as they were issued, with stocks across the country running out almost as soon as they were released.
FDR – The Stamp-Collecting President
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the design and issuance of U.S. #912. 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.
Birth of Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois. Harris achieved several firsts in her life. She was the first black woman to serve as an American ambassador, serve in the US Cabinet, be dean of a law school, and sit on the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company.
Harris grew up in Mattoon and Chicago before earning scholarships to five different colleges. She attended Howard University, where she was vice chairman of the school’s chapter of the NAACP. In 1943, she took part in one of the first lunch counter sit-ins in the country. After graduating summa cum laude in 1945, she attended the University of Chicago and American University. Harris later graduated first in her class at George Washington University law school in 1960.
While still a student, Harris had worked as a program director for the Young Women’s Christian Association and assistant director of the American Council on Human Rights. She got her first government job in 1960, working as an attorney in the appeals and research section in the Department of Justice. While there, she met and befriended Robert F. Kennedy.
Harris returned to Howard University in 1961 as a lecturer and associate dean, becoming a full professor in 1963. That same year President John F. Kennedy made her co-chair of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. Two years later, in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson made her the first female African-American ambassador to Luxembourg. Of the appointment, Harris said, “I feel deeply proud and grateful this president chose me to knock down this barrier, but also a little sad about being the ‘first Negro woman’ because it implies we were not considered before.’”
In 1969, after completing her role as ambassador, Howard University made her the first woman to head a US law school. However, she only held the post for a month, resigning after the school’s president opposed her support of student protests. In 1970, Harris became a partner at a Washington, DC, law firm. Soon after, companies including International Business Machines and Chase Manhattan Bank chose her to sit on their board of directors, making her the first black woman to do so.
Harris became the first black woman in the cabinet in 1977, and one of the few Americans to hold three cabinet positions. She served as secretary of: Housing and Urban Development (1977-79); Health, Education, and Welfare (1979-80), and Health and Human Services (1980-81).
Harris’s numerous other achievements include being the first black woman to lead a national political party committee, and the first black woman to serve as the US representative to the United Nations. From 1981 until 1985, Harris was a full-time professor at the George Washington University Law School, and she ran for mayor of Washington, DC, in 1982. Harris died of breast cancer on March 23, 1985. After her death, the Patricia Roberts Harris Public Affairs Fellowship was created for students at Howard University.