<<<<             >>>> 

page 3

Embossed postcard with train image - 20th Century Limited


Sc. 0922 - issued 5/10/44

Issued to mark the 75th anniversary of the historic completion of the first transcontinental East-West railroad line in 1869, this stamp depicts the 4-4-0 type wood- burning locomotive "Jupiter" in the painting "Golden Spike Ceremony," by John McQuarrie. "Jupiter" was built in 1868 and commissioned into service just two months before the Golden Spike Ceremony. It had not been intended for this use, but took over when "Antelope", the locomotive originally intended for the purpose, was badly damaged in an accident.

For more about the story behind the events depicted on this stamp, here is another CJRRU member's article about the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad, culminating with the Golden Spike ceremony.

Max Johl provided his usual essential background to the design and production aspects of this stamp.

In 1939, civic leaders in Omaha had petitioned the Post Office Department for a stamp in honor of the 70th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, which was celebrated bv three days of pageantry. This request made no headway in the Department. In 1944, for the 75th anniversary, the suggestion was favorably acted upon.

On April 13, 1944 Postmaster General Frank C. Walker announced that he had approved four new postage stamps having relation to the "war effort." Two of these were to be stamps in commemoration of out-standing transportation systems ? railroads and steamships ? which were playing such a vital part in the prosecution of the war. During 1944 the 75th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad was to be celebrated and this "offered a splendid opportunity to pay tribute to so important a facility on which the welfare of the nation depending in times of war or peace."

On April 25 designs were submitted and on the following day, Postmaster General Walker approved one of them. This design was then turned over to the engravers at the Bureau to prepare the master die. Little time was lost on this work as the die proof was approved April 26 by Postmaster General Walker. Printing was started on May 2 and the following day the first deliveries left the Bureau for San Francisco, California, Omaha, Nebraska, and Ogden, Utah. These three towns had been designated as points of first day sale on May 10, 1944.

The original order for this stamp had been 40,000,000. Two days after it made its initial appearance the order was increased to 60,000,000.

For this stamp the Post Office supplied a photograph of a mural by John McQuarrie, which is on one of the walls in the Union Pacific Railroad Station in Salt Lake City, Utah. Two designs based on this picture were submitted to the Postmaster General. One showed a closer view of the proceedings which allowed a smaller section of the mural to fit inside the frame.


The other design, which was accepted, showed almost the entire picture. William Roach was the designer. He modified the photograph of the mural to fit his frame design by adding a heavy cloud of smoke and steam in the added space this allowed. In the mural the arched frame almost caps the engine funnel. On the master die Carl T. Arit did the vignette and Axel W. Christensen engraved the ornamented frame, lettering and numerals.

Three plates were made of which two went to press. There were no worth-while plate varieties but one unusual oddity was reported. This was a single used copy with a distinct, though lighter, second impression on the back. This was found to have been faked and is reported merely for the record.

Sooner or later someone always protests that this stamp's design is flawed, that the flag is blowing one way and the smoke another. I happen to think wind doesn't always blow so neatly, and the image could be accurate, but looking at the source mural, and considering Johl's comment that the cloud of smoke and steam was added by the stamp's designer, I can envision a different smoke cloud more consistent with the flag's direction, so perhaps the designer did exercise a bit too much artistic license.

As with all commemorative stamps since the 1930's in this country, Scott 922 was issued in such a large quantity (61 Million), and saved so heavily, that it still has little more value than its face amount, 3 cents, which is fine with me, since it means I can afford to keep a stock on hand to dress up my mail.

Sc. 0922 on Dorothy Knapp FDC

Mellone lists 59 cacheted First Day Covers for this stamp. The one above is an all-time favorite of mine.
It's a Knapp, of course, and epitomizes her best work - bold, colorful, dramatic, relevant.

FDC cachet for SC. 922 - sent FREE - soldiers mail!

Of the 59 cachets in Mellone, 4 have a patriotic theme, reminding us that this stamp was issued during World War II,
when the primary concern in most Americans' minds was when the war would end.
The example above is one of those four, but with an unusual, yet appropriate use - as Soldier's Mail, with a Free Frank.
How the envelope wound up getting used like this I sure would like to know!

01/25/19 - Collector Kevin P. Tucker wrote me to say this about the "Free Frank" cover above:

The cover bears the name of J.N. Lawrence, who was a Chief Pharmacist in San Diego during World War 2. He also was a cachet producer specializing in patriotic covers. He utilized the "Free Frank" system to correspond with his clients. I have a few letters written by him to various clients.

This cover featuring the Transcontinental Railroad was produced by Don W. Neal from Kokomo, Indiana.

Thanks, Kevin - that's a better explanation than what I would have guessed!
But was that legal? I thought Free Franks were valid only on personal mail. I think he was at least stretching the rules.

FDC SC. E17 with Sc. 922

Here's a nice use of 922 on cover, to pay the First Class postage on this FDC for Scott E17.


Before the Trans-Continental Railroad

What does the cover above have to do with this stamp? This cover is a personal favorite (though I own only a photograph from a Siegel auction catalog), because of the handstamp - Via Nicaragua, Ahead of the Mails. It dates from around 1855 (based on the stamps), and emphasizes how big a difference was made by the completion of the trans-continental railroad. In 1855, the fastest way to send a letter from San Francisco, where this originated, to the East Coast, was via an Express company, on a steamship down the West coast to Nicaragua, across the isthmus via mule and train to the Gulf of Mexico, and then via steamship up the US coast to the Northeast! I've no idea how long that journey took, but it must have been over a month; and the idea that it was faster via Nicaragua amazes me, as well as the fact that completion of the Transcontinental Railroad cut the travel time to less than a week. (The Scott US Specialized catalog shows this handstamp in the section titled "Local Handstamped Covers", under the heading "Accessory Transit Co. of Nicaragua".)

So how did the "Jupiter" get to California to make its journey from West to East to participate in the Golden Spike Ceremony? There were not yet any factories west of the Mississippi capable of building locomotives. Built in Schenectady, The Jupiter travelled disassembled, by steamer, 115 days, from New York around Cape Horn, to San Francisco. Yet the moment it achieved its mission, new locomotives could be brought in within days.

By the way, the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad in the US is a fascinating chapter in American History - an Internet search on the topic will yield you hours of interesting reading and viewing. You may know that the line was built by two separate companies, working from opposite sides of the country. But did you know they SHOULD have met weeks earlier than they did, and were laying parallel grades, because the government had granted them money (and land) per mile of track laid, with no stipulation that they ever had to meet!? It took a special act of Congress to force the final meeting in Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869.

Click here to view an excellent illustrated article on the Postal History of the First Transcontinental Railroad .
(WARNING - the images may take a long time to load - go get a cup of coffeee or something, it's worth the wait.)


Sc. 0924 - issued 5/24/44

Collector Steve Okonski sent the following suggestion back in late January of 2014:

Since you're including 2981i due to rails, I thought you might also consider 924. Via a magnifier: above "States" the distant pole line is almost certainly following tracks. As you may know, the first telegraph line paralleled the B&O rails between Baltimore and Washington.

I sent a non-commital reply, then copied his message to my friends at the Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA, and they published it in their newsletter, The Dispatcher. Today (5/20/2014) I received the latest issue, with the following letter from a member:

In the March-April issue of the Dispatcher, you solicited comments on whether the 3c telegraph commemorative stamp (Sc. 924), issued in 1944, could be considered a railroad stamp, as the distant pole line depicted is almost certainly following B&O railroad tracks between Baltimore and Washington.

One of the many nice aspects of topical collecting is that a topical collector can define the parameters of his or her collection by adopting a strict, moderate, or liberal interpretation of what constitutes the collection.

Thus, someone who collects only trains depicted on stamps, for example, would not necessarily add the telegraph stamp to his or her collection. To such a collector, it's not a railroad stamp'

Yet a railroad topicalist whose collection includes stamps with indirect or even remote connections to the topic just might include Sc. 924. To such an individual, the stamp is a railroad stamp.

For the CJRRU member with a moderate viewpoint of what belongs in his or her collection, adding the telegraph postal emission might be a toss-up, depending on the indivual's perspective of what is, or is not, a railroad stamp.

Of course, regardless of one's collecting philosophy, some historical knowledge about the stamp's railroad connection also helps. You're likely to get numerous reader responses to your aforementioned inquiry, and I'm looking forward to reading them in the next issue of The Dispatcher.


Mark H Winnegrad

Based on all of that, and in the spirit of inclusiveness, I have decided to add it here.

continued on next page...

Click on image above to continue

Top of Page

Previous Page         HOME         Next Page

All text Copyright © 2000, William M. Senkus

Send feedback to the author: CLICK HERE

Revised -- 05/12/2019