by Marsha Brandsdorfer
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) began his interest in stamps when he was nine years old and would continue collecting into his adult years. Before FDR ran for the position of the Governor of New York, stamp collecting had been perceived by most as a child’s hobby. His interest in stamp collecting received media attention, giving new respect to the hobby. With FDR’s interest in stamps known, when he was the President (1933 to 1945) he was asked to approve government proofs for all future stamps before they were issued. He personally approved every U.S. stamp that was issued during his twelve years in office.
On May 14, 1938, the Post Office Department released a single blue and carmine airline stamp featuring an eagle which was taken from a sketch made by the President, (Scott C23). Another eight designs would also originate from sketches by FDR, including: Little America commemorate (733); Mother’s Day, (737-738); Susan B. Anthony (784); Virginia Dare Commemorate (796); Statehood commemorative (858); and the Defense Trio of 1940 (899-901).
Prior to 1938, there was a law that made it illegal to reproduce a photograph of any U.S. stamp in its entirety as the Treasury Department felt it was needed to prevent counterfeiters. Finally in 1938, a bill was passed by Congress allowing for reproduction of stamps, but with some r
estrictions. One restriction was that stamps could only be published in black and white. However, having reproductions of stamps could assist collectors as publishers could print reproductions in albums to help collectors with their placement of stamps into the albums. This was the only time FDR had legislative influence on his hobby. However, during his presidency, post office revenue soared because FDR made stamp collecting so appealing to the public. The President’s interest in stamps inspired many new collectors: adults and a new generation of children.
As FDR was a busy man, he did not have as much time to devote to his collection as he would have liked. However, he would spend at least a half hour every evening before retiring to enjoy his stamps. It helped him relax from the stress of his Presidential duties. FDR would also encourage the bedridden and wounded servicemen to participate in stamp collecting to help them get their minds off their troubles. FDR is memorialized on multiple U.S. and foreign stamps, and covers bearing cachets of his likeness. My research was taken from Brian C. Baur’s informative 1999 book published by Linn’s Stamp News, entitled Franklin D. Roosevelt: the Stamp-Collecting President.