Engine Stamp Idea Backed by Readers

1912-1913 issue

1912-1913 issue.

Content Tools

The proposal of a steam traction engine stamp, which would be issued as a commemorative by the U.S. Postal Service, has drawn enthusiastic support from readers of this magazine.

Charles O. Harthy, of Grand Haven, MI, stated it very aptly in his letter:

'We have honored the chicken, almost every service organization, and animals; therefore, the machine that began the evolution of labor-saving for agriculture is an appropriate subject for a stamp.'

Harthy is a longtime collector of commemoratives. He offers to help the effort.

Iron-Men Album suggested that a stamp be sought, since many types of engines and machines have been shown on U.S. postage, and so little attention has been paid to the steam traction engine.

If you like the idea, tell your Congressman. Make a copy of this article and send it to him or her. Meanwhile we will forward the article with a cover letter to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee in Washington. No decision can be expected in less than two years.

The steam traction engine is a key element in American farm history. It enabled farmers to multiply the energy of their labors as a new source of power for the growing nation. President Abraham Lincoln saw the value of the engine. Billions of tons of crops were prepared for market through its use. The crews who used it the operators, the takeoff boys, the harvesters and the threshermen became heroes of progress.

Support for an engine stamp has come from various sectors.

Capt. John Leonard, of 195 Dalhousie Ave., St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, sent along a copy of a card on which Canada postal officials featured steam locomotives. He thinks Canada may also have shown a return-flue steam engine in a threshing scene in western Canada about 70 years ago, but does not have definite information.

David R. Bowie, of Mercer, PA, suggests that a stamp could show a Case or a Huber. Michael L. Barber, of Mt. Pleasant, MI, is for a Case or a Nichols & Shepard. However, opinions certainly do vary. Gerald W. Yoder, of Hicksville, Ohio, urges, 'please don't make it a Case... We have plenty of good engines to choose from.'

Among others favoring a stamp were Mr. and Mrs. Vern Keszler, of Clearfield, SD, and T. H. DeWees, (winter Yuma, AZ; summer Cedar Rapids, IA).

Thomas C. Wilfred, of Palisades, NY, said he thought the proposal for a steam traction engine stamp was a great idea, but also added other suggestions. We quote most of his letter in full...

'To my knowledge, the steam traction engine appeared only once on a United States stamp. That was the 75 cent Parcel Post issue of 1912-1913, which depicted a threshing scene (see illustration).

'The ideal format for a steam traction engine would be a first class commemorative-size stamp. This would be the best way to show the engine, and ensure the widest distribution.

'If Postal Service officials do not consider the steam traction engine historically important enough to occupy a whole sheet of stamps, they should consider a sheet devoted to steam power, which was very important in this country until World War II.

'Steam engines could be featured on a four subject Historic Preservation sheet like one issued in 1971. The four subjects could be: a steam traction engine in action (similar to the 75 cent Parcel Post issue), a stationary steam engine of the Corliss type (which powered many an industry until relatively recent times), a typical late model steam locomotive (like a Pacific or Hudson type), and perhaps a steam shovel and steam roller combined on a stamp to represent the construction industry.

'Such a series could also appear as a booklet pane of five subjects, like the current early locomotive set. The fifth stamp of a booklet pane could represent the lumber industry with a Shay geared locomotive in action.

'To me, the least acceptable format for displaying the steam traction engine is the small vertical stamp of the current Transportation series, like the 2 cent locomotive stamp. It would not display the traction engine very well at the angle required to fit the stamp. Also, it may be relegated to an odd-value stamp like the 4.9 cent buggy, the 8.3 cent ambulance, or the 17.5 cent race car, which are seldom seen on mail, and are sold only in coils of 100 or 3,000 stamps.

'I think that much more support can be mustered for a multiple subject sheet showing steam used in agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and construction, than simply a steam traction engine.'