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First Philatelist, FDR

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Smithsonian National Postal Museum Collection Franklin D. Roosevelt examining his collection at the White House (Photograph, Smithsonian National Postal Museum Collection )

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 From the campaign through his presidency, FDR’s stamp collecting activities were highlighted in the mainstream and philatelic press. During the presidential campaign of 1932, the Wall Street Journal discussed the candidates’ hobbies telling readers they were choosing between an avid fisherman in Herbert Hoover and a voracious stamp collector in Roosevelt. George W. Linn, publisher of Linn’s Weekly Stamp News, openly endorsed FDR by printing on the front page of his widely-read philatelic paper, “Boost a Philatelic brother,” proclaiming, “a million stamp collectors want a stamp collector for President.” Seemingly concerned about capturing the stamp collector vote, then-President Hoover spoke at the convention of the Society of Philatelic Americans to declare that his entire family had collected stamps for many years even if he wasn’t actively collecting at the time. Discussing leisure time pursuits in the 1930s gave voters another way of identifying with the elite male candidates.1 These discussions boosted popular awareness and interest in stamp collecting.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Mekeel’s Weekly and other philatelic papers were thrilled when American voters elected the first active philatelist as president. Stories about Roosevelt’s collecting habits generally repeated that he began collecting stamps when he was eight years old, a practice he learned from his mother. His interest piqued when he traveled abroad as a youngster and again later in life when he served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. To the disappointment of philatelists, FDR would not display his albums publically or appear at philatelic club meetings. Any meetings he arranged with fellow philatelists took place in private. While he was a very public advocate of stamp collecting, FDR guarded his collection.2 Yet, Roosevelt’s collecting activities were covered in the mainstream and the philatelic press. New York Times readers learned that he stayed up sorting his stamps to relax while waiting for the 73rd Congress to vote on bills proposed during his famous first 100 days. White House staffers reportedly gathered stamps from letters sent to the president, other executive offices, and the State Department, and brought them to FDR’s private quarters for him to sort through in the evenings. Philatelists honored Roosevelt for his role in increasing exposure to stamp collecting with the Hanford Cup, awarded by one of the oldest philatelic clubs in the United States.3

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Shy about displaying his own collection, Roosevelt boldly used his power as president to influence stamp production. He submitted ideas for stamps that promoted current government and quasi-public programs that supported economic recovery and national unity. Often, he sketched the design he wished to be printed, or suggested an artwork to use as the model for engraving the stamp. Some have suggested that his stamp subjects were designed in light, soothing, colors to reflect a sense of optimism during the Great Depression.4

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Avid philatelists grew skeptical of FDR’s efforts to encourage collecting, after learning that the President and his Postmaster General, James A. Farley received their own sets of first-day issue souvenir stamps that would not be available for other collectors to purchase. In 1935, a Congressional inquiry asked the USPOD to respond to complaints by philatelic societies about this practice that appeared to give the executive office special privileges. While no Congressional action was ever taken, Postmaster General James A. Farley announced soon after the inquiry that any souvenir sheets printed by the Department would be made available for collectors to purchase through the Philatelic Agency. As demonstrated in previous administrations, philatelists closely watched activities of the USPOD to see how it influenced their hobby. Collectively, their voices were strong.


  1. 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0
  2. “Wife Says Balked Sea Career Led to Roosevelt’s Ship Hobby,” New York Times, January 13, 1931, 34.; “Stamp Collecting vs. Fishing Is Issue in Some Quarters,” Wall Street Journal, August 3, 1932, 8.; “Stamp Collecting Included Among Roosevelt Hobbies,” Washington Post, November 9, 1932, 11; C.W.B. Hurd, “Roosevelt Among His Stamps,” New York Times, September 10, 1933, sec. SM, 17; “Roosevelt Given Cup for Philately Work,” Washington Post, April 15, 1934, 9; “Philatelic Society Honors Roosevelt,” Washington Post, December 2, 1934, sec. SO, 11. Interestingly, Herbert Hoover applied for membership to the American Philatelic Society in 1935, something that brought a chuckle to President Roosevelt according to M. Ohlman,“President Roosevelt Talks Stamps,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News (September 2, 1935): 430. FDR’s interest in collecting was sparked by his mother’s stamp collecting habit, and his mother gave Franklin her collection. 

  3. 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 “Collected Stamps as a Boy,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, January 2, 1933, 9; Philip H. Ward, Jr, “The New Administration,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, March 20, 1933, 135; Lewis Sebring, Jr., “President Roosevelt Stamp Collector,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, March 20, 1933, 133, 143; Jas. Waldo Fawcett, “The Roosevelt Collection,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, December 18, 1933, 601, 612; M. Ohlman, “President Roosevelt Talks Stamps,” Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News, September 2, 1935, 430. 

  4. 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 “Roosevelt Among His Stamps,” New York Times, September 10, 1933, sec. SM, 17; “Philatelic Society Honors Roosevelt,” Washington Post, December 2, 1934, sec. SO, 11; The Garfield-Perry Stamp Club of Cleveland, Ohio (formed in 1890) awarded FDR the Hanford Cup, but he was not present to receive it: “Roosevelt Given Cup for Philately Work,” Washington Post, April 15, 1934, 9. 

  5. 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 “Delivering Hope: FDR & Stamps of the Great Depression,” exhibition, National Postal Museum, Washington, DC (June 9-June 6, 2010). 

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Source: http://stampingamericanmemory.org/2014version/representing-unity-and-equality-with-new-deal-commemoratives/first-philatelist-fdr/