It all started when the Spring 2002 issue of Minnesota History arrived in the mail.Stamp Collector cover date Dec. 16, 2002
Collector's cacheted covers recall Lindbergh's feat by Todd Ronnei
I couldn’t put it down. I found it to be a real page-turner, a thrilling account of Lindbergh’s feat.
Figure 1. This cover marks the beginning of
Lindbergh's journey. It is postmarked in San Diego, Calif., on May 10,
2002--the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh's departure from that city-- in
The Spirit of St. Louis, seen on the 13˘ 50th anniversary
commemorative in 1977.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been making covers for first days and anniversaries of historic events. The Lindbergh flight--with its 75th anniversary then fast approaching--was begging for a commemorative cover.
My view on commemorative, or “event” covers, is that all three components--the cachet (envelope design), the stamp and the postmark--should tie together, with the end result being a unified whole.
I sat down at my computer and started pulling
together the elements of my cachet. After a few hours of trial and error, I
finally achieved the look I wanted.
It is, to my eye, perhaps my best cachet to date. Now that the cachet was ready, I needed the right stamps.
Figure 2. The next leg of the historic 1927 flight began in St. Louis, where
Lindbergh departed for New York on May 12, 1927. This cover is franked
with a 1927 10˘ Lindbergh airmail stamp and a 1993 29˘ National Postal
Museum stamp portraying America's "Lone Eagle."
Some time ago, I learned that if I wanted to
be sure I could add to my collection a single cover with a clear and well-placed
postmark, it was necessary to submit about 10 covers. With 10 covers, the odds
of getting at least one acceptable cover back were greatly improved. This
“better-safe-than-sorry” approach meant I would need a bunch of Lindbergh
For the stamps, I turned to my friend and fellow collector Richard Knight of Tennessee. Dick has large holdings of U.S. stamps in quantity, and what he doesn’t have, he can get quickly at wholesale prices.
Figure 3. This
May 20, 2002 New York City cover marks the 75th anniversary of the start
of Lindbergh's solo attempt to reach Paris in one nonstop transatlantic
We also discussed the Celebrate the Century pane, but
buying them in quantity at $4.80 each just to obtain one stamp from each pane
was too much. We hardly discussed the 1927 stamp at all, since its current
catalog value is $7.75 to $8 for a hinged copy, and I certainly couldn’t afford
to obtain any quantity of them at that price.
Dick pulled the stamps together and sent them to me. What he didn’t tell me before he sent them was that he had managed to find a small quantity of the 1927 airmail stamp from a wholesaler at a fraction of the catalog price. I was thrilled!
The cachet was done, and the stamps were on hand. Now for the postmarks. New York was an obvious choice. But after reading Lindbergh’s book, I realized there were other appropriate places from which to obtain a postmark.
Ryan Airlines, Inc., of San Diego, Calif., built Lindbergh’s monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh spent considerable time there in early 1927, supervising the construction of the aircraft. He left San Diego in the plane on May 10, 1927.
Figure 4. Lindbergh's nonstop solo transatlantic flight originated from
Roosevelt Field, located near Garden City, N.Y. This cover has the May 20
pictorial postmark created by the Masonic Study Unit of the American
Topical Association, offered by the Garden City, N.Y. post office
commemorating the 75th anniversary of the
Lindbergh flew from San Diego to St. Louis, Mo. Lindbergh’s financial backers were St. Louis businessmen, hence the name of his plane.
Lindbergh wanted to spend more time in St. Louis, but competition for the New York to Paris flight was becoming intense, and he felt he should get to New York as soon as possible. He flew on to New York on May 12, 1927.
The Figure 2 cover notes the anniversary of the St. Louis to New York leg of Lindbergh’s journey. I had some doubt whether the St. Louis post office would postmark my covers on the date requested, since it fell on a Sunday. I need not have worried, as my covers were postmarked as requested. The “Main Office Finance Unit” handstamp used to cancel the stamps is unusual, but the city and date are clear, so I am satisfied.
Figure 5. About 12 hours into the transatlantic flight, Lindbergh flew over
St. John's, Newfoundland, so those on the ground would see him. This cover
received a St. John's postmark of May 20,
The Figure 3 cover was postmarked in New York City on the 75th anniversary of the start of the flight. But Lindbergh didn’t actually depart from New York City; the flight actually left from Roosevelt Field, near Garden City, N.Y., just outside of New York City on Long Island.
My cover from Garden City, where the post office offered a pictorial postmark for the anniversary, is shown in Figure 4.
Lindbergh’s flight arc took him over the New England states and then over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. While in the air, Lindbergh decided to change his course slightly to fly over the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, so people there would see him and report that he was still airborne.
Figure 6. Crossing the Atlantic, Lindbergh's course took him over the
British Isles. This cover has a May 21, 2002, British Forces Postal
Services pictorial postmark.
As Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, May 20 became May 21. When he was 28 hours into his flight, he reached the Irish coast. Soon he was flying over England.
Figure 6 shows the May 21, 2002, cover featuring the British Forces Postal Services pictorial postmark for the anniversary. Ian Billings of Norfolk, England, assisted me in obtaining this Spirit of St. Louis postmark. The cover is franked with a current British Machin definitive stamp.
To truly complete the collection, I knew I had to get covers postmarked in Paris on May 21, 2002. Two significant obstacles presented themselves: I don’t know French; and I don’t know anybody in France! I despaired of being able to add this finishing touch to my collection.
I turned to the Internet search engine Google for help. A search for “French topical covers” brought me to the web site of Loďc Marchant of Villeurbanne, France. His site was in English, so I knew I could communicate with him.
Hopefully, I sent him an e-mail introducing myself and describing what I had in mind. To my delight, Loďc responded quickly and positively. My covers were soon in the mail to him.
Figure 7. After 33-1/2 hours in the air, Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget
Field, Paris, to a tumultuous welcome, on May 21, 1927. This cover is
canceled in Paris on the 75th anniversary date and is franked with a new
French stamp for the bicentennial of the French government's highest
award, the Legion of Honor. Charles Lindbergh was a recipient of that
award shortly after his arrival in the French
Figure 7 is the final cover in the series, postmarked in Paris on May 21, 2002. No special Lindbergh postmark was available in Paris that day. The cover has a pictorial postmark noting the European Space Agency. By coincidence, it is also a first-day cover for the Legion of Honor stamp.
My small collection of Lindbergh 75th anniversary covers successfully spans 11 days and four countries. Although any number of things could have gone awry in the process, I was successful in getting every cover I wanted to commemorate this heroic man’s odyssey from San Diego to Paris three-quarters of a century ago.
I thank everyone who helped me with this project, especially the unknown postal employees in each city who handled my postmark requests with such care.
© 2002 Krause Publications. Used by permission.