1908 10¢ Helmet of Mercury
Issue Date: December 12, 1908
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
The sensational Helmet of Mercury stamp, sometimes called the Merry Widow or U.S. #E7, deserves an honored place in your collection.
The 1908 Special Delivery stamp is scarce – it was on sale at U.S. post offices for only six short months! The number of stamps issued was low by today’s standards. And records show it was both controversial and the most disliked stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service up to that date.
Americans of the era were extremely practical – many felt the stamp’s design was frivolous. Even worse, E7 was often mistaken for the 1¢ Capt. John Smith commemorative, so customers didn’t get the special delivery service they had paid for! The stamp quickly earned the nickname “The Merry Widow,” after a Broadway play running at the time.
Today, many experts consider the E7 to be the most artistic stamp ever produced by the U.S. #E7 features the winged hat of the ancient Roman god Mercury – a messenger who wore a winged hat and sandals and carried a snake-entwined staff. Mortal messengers in ancient times wore hats similar to Mercury’s and carried staffs as identification guaranteeing freedom of passage. So the Helmet of Mercury stamp bore the perfect symbol for modern special delivery workers for whom speed was essential.