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Airmail, Registered, Special Delivery First Day Washington Bicentennial Cover, 1932

This first day cover from 1932 has a lot going on. Let's start with the stamps.

On January 1, 1932, in celebration of George Washington's 200th birthday, the Post Office issued a set of 12 stamps (US Scott #704-715) with different portraits of Washington. (The Post Office also issued six stamped envelopes for this celebration, U523 through U528.) It is an attractive set in my opinion. This cover bears three of those stamps:

A block of four of US Scott #706, a 1-1/2 cent stamp that depicts Washington at about age 40 when he was a colonel in the Virginia militia. This portrait was drawn by Charles Wilson Peale in 1772.

A single copy of US Scott #708, a 3-cent stamp showing Washington as the Revolutionary War's General Washington. This portrait also was drawn by Charles Wilson Peale but in 1777.

Finally, there is a block of four of US Scott #712, a 7-cent stamp showing Washington in a colonial uniform. This is based on a portrait painted by John Trumbull in 1780 (i).

There is a total of 37-cents of postage affixed to this cover, a considerable sum for the Great Depression. It is actually more than was needed, but it's not unusual to find excess postage on a special cover like this. The amount of postage needed for this cover was 30-cents:

5 cents for airmail;

10 cents for special delivery; and

15 cents for registry service.

There are several auxiliary markings to indicate the services provided:

A nifty blue "VIA AIR MAIL" mark;

A magenta "Special Delivery" mark together with a mark stating "Fee Claimed by Office of First Address"; and

A magenta "REGISTERED" mark along with the item's number - "616401" - for tracking purposes.

This cover was canceled in accordance with postal regulations (see the Postal Bulletin for November 26, 1910) by the originating post office in Washington, DC. The stamps have a mute cancel, meaning no date or time, although there is a January 1, 1932, Washington, DC registry service postmark to the left of the stamps - an exception, I suppose, for the special occasion. On the back of the envelope, there are two January 1, 1932, Washington, DC registry service postmarks over the flap. There is also a January 2, 1932, Philadelphia registered postmark, and a January 4, 1932, postmark from Darby, Pennsylvania, which was this cover's destination post office. All those postmarks over the flap were how the post office proved that the letter passed through its system without any signs of tampering.

As for the mark "Fee Claimed by Office of First Address," I believe that refers to the fact that the special delivery fee was kept by the Philadelphia post office when it forwarded this cover to Darby for final delivery. That would be consistent with this provision in the Postal Bulletin of January 25, 1932:

After special-delivery matter has been taken out for delivery and returned with the information that the person addressed has removed to the delivery of another office, and such matter is then forwarded, it is not entitled to special delivery at the office of second address. Such matter shall be indorsed by the forwarding postmaster "Forwarded, fee claimed by office of first address."

The cover was addressed - probably self-addressed - to Earl E. Moore, In 1932, Earl would have been 20 years-old, and I believe he designed and printed the cachet on this cover.

I don't have Mellone's Planty catalog for this issue, but I found two articles in First Days, the publication of the American First Day Cover Society, from April and June 1987 that list more than 100 cachets for the Washington Bicentennial issue including two by an Earl Moore: #704-44 "First Earl Moore Cachet" and #704-78 "Black portrait, red text" (iii). Fortunately, both of those are pictured in First Days, and the cachet below is most definitely #704-78. Also note the notation on the back of the envelope: "Washington Cut Printed On My Hand Press." The name that follows is hard to make out, but the first letter seems to be "E" and the signature certainly could be "Earl." All in all, I feel pretty confident that the 20-year-old Earl E. Moore who lived at 515 Commerce Street in Darby, Pennsylvania in 1932, is the same Earl Moore mentioned in the First Days articles.

Earl Edward Moore lived a full life. He was born in Philadelphia on January 11, 1912. At the age of 18, he worked as a stenographer for an insurance company, and by 1940, he worked his way up to the position of insurance adjustor (see 1930 and 1940 US census reports).

On January 6, 1942, about a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and a few days shy of his 30th birthday, Earl either enlisted or was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served stateside for a year before he shipped off for New Caledonia in the South Pacific. He served for three years in the South Pacific and fought in several battles before returning to the US. He was discharged honorably in March 1946.

By 1950, the US census shows Earl working as an insurance agent in Massachusetts. He was married by that time, and he and his wife Jane had two young sons. I don't know what happened to Jane, but in 1959, Earl married Catherine Elias Bullowa, whose first husband passed away in 1953. Earl and Catherine were married until Earl's death on January 5, 2001.

Earl and Catherine must have shared a passion for collecting. According to Earl's obituary in the January 9, 2001, Philadelphia Inquirer, Earl was a member of both the American Philatelic Society and the American Numismatic Association (ANA). Catherine, who passed away in 2017, was a prominent coin dealer in Philadelphia and a national leader in numismatics (iv).

Earl did not stay in the insurance industry for his entire career. By 1960, he was an appraiser for historical societies, estates, banks, and libraries. He also collected historical documents and was a past trustee of the Manuscript Society (v).

Earl is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Philadelphia - Drexel Hill to be specific.

(i) United States Postage Stamps, US Postal Service, 1982.

(ii) U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-2011, 3rd Edition, Henry W. Beecher and Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz.

(iii) First Days, Vol. 32, Nos. 3 & 4, articles by Barry Newton and Bill Wise.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

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