Notes on U.S. Stamps by John M. Hotchner
Some stamps jump out at you. Maybe you can explain why. Maybe not. It may be a single philatelic item you have seen that has piqued your interest.
As a child of the 1940s, I was struck square in the face by the cover shown in Figure 1. What’s not to like about 13 copies of the Scott C32, the great 5¢ airmail DC-4 Skymaster, on the front of a special delivery cover from New York to England? As a bonus, there are five more examples of that 5¢ airmail stamp on the back cover.
Total postage is $1.11 making this triple weight cover (six times the airmail rate of 15¢ to England), plus 20¢ for special delivery charges and an over- paid 1¢.
The large 5¢ DC-4 Skymaster airmail was issued on September 25, 1946 to pay the domestic airmail rate, which was lowered from 8¢ to 5¢ effective October 1, 1946. The 5¢ rate lasted until December 21. 1948, a total of 27 months.
A small version of this 5¢ stamp (Scott C33) was issued on March 26, 1947, six months after the large stamp. Figure 2 shows the two stamps.
Nearly one billion small versions were produced before the end of the 5¢ tariff period. By comparison, not quite 865 million of the large DC-4 Skymaster air mail was issued.
The large DC-4 Skymaster stamps continued to be sold until supply ran out, but good uses were not easy to find. Most of the covers seen on dealer stands are for early domestic or other philatelic use.
Although I also collect interesting domestic uses of this stamp, the intricate international uses are much more desirable and always catch my eye. I thought I’d share a few more examples.
What could be a more unusual destination than Stonington Island in Antarctica? It was the base of operations for the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition of 1947-48. The expedition arrived in March 1947.
An envelope sent from Philadelphia in August 1947 with two each of the large and small DC-4 Skymaster stamps is shown in Figure 3. It is addressed to Mrs. Finn Ronne and Mrs. Harry Darlington at Stonington Island.
Edith “Jackie” Ronne was the expedition leader’s wife and Jennie Darlington was the expedition’s chief pilot’s wife. Jackie Ronne kept the journal of the expedition and sent press releases to American newspapers.
Both became the first women to winter in Antarctica. After the expedition, Jennie Darlington carried the first child conceived in Antarctica.
The main objective of the expedition was to find out if Antarctica was a single continent or if there was an opening between the Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea. During the expedition, Finn Ronne led the exploration of 250,000 square miles of unexplored land, and the expedition took over 14,000 aerial photos.
During its 12 months, the expedition mapped the world’s last unknown coastline along the Weddell Sea and discovered, named, and claimed many new geographical features for the United States.
In February 1948, as warmer weather returned to Antarctica and the sea ice began to melt, the expedition drew to a close and, with the aid of a United States Navy icebreaker, sailed to the north to return home. It was the last privately funded American Antarctic expedition, although it did receive assistance from the US Navy and US Air Force.
To read the rest of this column on the large 5¢ DC-4 Skymaster postage stamp, subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News.
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