July 12, 1922
The U.S. Post Office Department (USPOD), which was replaced by the present-day U.S. Postal Service in 1971, issued the first American stamp depicting a motorcycle. This blue 10-cent U.S. special delivery stamp focuses on a postal messenger making the rounds with a motorcycle. This motorcycle was likely based on a Harley-Davidson model. The stamp’s specific freeze-frame image shows the messenger — with his motorcycle parked nearby — standing at the doorstep of a house and delivering a letter to a resident there.
This first-of-a-kind-stamp, while not notable for either its rate (in effect since 1885) or color (likewise the same as earlier issues), does nonetheless have a few other claims to fame. It was the first in the series of 1922 stamps, for example. In addition, it was the first American stamp in a generation with a new design.
This stamp’s most distinctive aspect, though, was arguably its transportation theme. The depiction of a motorcycle was a departure from a similar stamp issued in 1902 that showed a messenger on a bicycle. (That 1902 stamp, in turn, had replaced a 19th century one of messenger running on foot.) The 1922 stamp’s portrayal of a more modern means of transportation reflected an ever-growing nationwide fascination with technological advances in how people traveled from point A to point B.
The guiding force behind the development of the stamp was W. Irving Glover, third assistant postmaster general between 1921 and 1925. Glover’s key responsibilities at USPOD included overseeing the production and distribution of stamps, and he was the one who directed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) to create a special delivery stamp featuring a motorcycle. This updated image was drawn by C. Aubrey Huston, BEP’s chief stamp designer at the time.
Glover, using his finely honed instincts for public relations, also made sure that the formal introduction of this particular stamp received heightened media attention. He accomplished this by persuading Hubert Work, postmaster general in 1922 and 1923, to stand in line at the USPOD’s Philatelic Stamp Agency office in Washington, D.C., so that he could be the first person to buy that new stamp.
Image Credit: Public Domain
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