Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic
We begin our article with a quiz. The answer will be found at the end of this article. Please choose the one best answer to the following multiple-choice question:
What is the technical term for a stamp collector?
A. a philatelist
B. a philanthropist
C. a philanderer
D. a phlebotomist
In 1965, the U.S. Census Bureau celebrated its 175th anniversary. It was on March 1, 1790 that the U.S. Congress authorized the first Census. On October 21, 1965, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postcard with a pre-printed 4˘ “stamp” to celebrate this 175th milestone. Unfortunately, it was not a stamp printed on a sheet that you could tear off, lick and affix. It was part of the printed design found only on these postcards.
The U.S. Government Printing Office produced 40 million pre-canceled Census anniversary cards. They bear a postmark of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and are dated October 21, 1965, with the cancellation stating “first day of issue.” These were sold to stamp collectors in post offices across the country.
The rectangular stamp itself was designed by Emilio Grossi of New York City. The design contains a contrasting light blue and dark blue background with the text stating, “1790/1965 Bureau of the Census U.S. Postage 4˘.” On the left in two tones: blue and black, is depicted a crowd of faces staring at the viewer. This represents the vast diverse population of the United States.
Illustrated on the right is a punch card (remember those?) which the U.S. Census Bureau used in those days to tabulate the information collected in its surveys. Fortunately, there were no “hanging chad” scandals that skewed the results, and the Census Bureau successfully survived the days of punch cards as it modernized its equipment into today’s computer age.
In addition to the stamp and cancellation, there were a variety of artistic designs for the cards. One was a traditional plain with no text on the left. Another contained the message “US First Day of Issue.” A more elaborate one declared “First Day of Issue 175th Anniversary First Federal 1790 Census 1965,” with the painting “Taking the Census” depicted on the bottom left.” Still another one has thirteen encircled stars with the word “CENSUS” in the center, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia depicted below. The text states “First United States Census Returns Originated from Philadelphia, PA.”
The U.S. Postal Service also issued a Post Office Bulletin announcing the stamp-card, which was displayed on bulletin boards to announce this new commemorative issue. Measuring 8 x 10 inches, it contains a Census postcard affixed with regular photo corner mounts, and a history of the card-stamp below. Imagine being the postal worker in Washington DC who had to lick the corner mounts and affix the cards on each of the bulletins that were sent out to the U.S. Post Offices across the country. During those days, only a couple of individuals did this, and around 2,000 of each design were produced in this manner.
The U.S. Census commemorative postcards are not rare, and can easily be obtained from a stamp dealer for a few dollars. They are cataloged as Scott UX53.
Oh, you want to know the technical name for a stamp collector as per our quiz question. The answer is A: a philatelist. The term is a combination of two Greek words: 1) Philo, meaning friend; and 2) Atelia, meaning exempt from payment. The latter is because a postage stamp affixed to an envelope meant that you prepaid the fee, thus it was exempt from payment when it was delivered. Thus, philately encompasses the study of stamp production, stamp identification, and topics depicted on the stamps themselves. It’s a big hobby, one of which I bet some of our Census Field Representatives are involved in. If you attend a stamp, oh, I mean, a philatelic convention sometime this year, look for a 1965 Census commemorative postcard to add to your collection.
Census Postcard 1965 Philadelphia Hall
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic