Franklin D. Roosevelt's stamp design

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One of the most wonderful pieces of USA philately resides amongst the superb philatelic collections of the British Library in London. It's the Air Special Delivery stamp, which was designed and annotated by Franklin D. Roosevelt (US President from 1933 to 1945).

Roosevelt was a great champion of USA stamps, not only was he an avid collector but he also rid his country of outdated laws on postage. If that wasn't enough he also designed stamps. During his 12 years of office he approved over 200 stamp issues - this was a man who knew and loved stamps.

The 16 cent special delivery airmail issue came into being as there was a need for a stamp that included payment for postage and the special delivery fee on airmail. This stamp was the first combination type ever issued. The central design was at the express request of Roosevelt and featured the Great Seal of the United States.

Teething problems

It first went on sale on August 30, 1934 in Chicago. Despite its unique concept it had painful teething problems. It was printed in the one colour blue with white gothic lettering. This caused major hassles for postal workers as it wasn't distinctive enough and resulted in some letters not being sent airmail thereby causing a less than efficient service.

Wisely it was re-issued on February 10, 1936 in the same design but with the border a distinctive red and the centre in the original blue. Aside from the odd colour blind postal worker the stamp became a success. The British Library piece, in the Fitzgerald Collection, is eight of these stamps. What makes these so special is that hand-written beneath is 'This stamp is from my own design, 'signed 'Franklin D. Roosevelt 1934'.