First U.S. Olympic Stamp
First U.S. Olympic Stamp
On January 25, 1932, the US Post Office Department issued its first stamp honoring the Olympic Games.
1932 marked the third time the Winter Olympic Games were held, and the first time the event was held in the US. The games were held in Lake Placid, a small town in upstate New York that was home to less than 3,000 year-round residents.
The Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce asked the village postmaster to suggest a commemorative stamp for the event. A New York congressman helped persuade reluctant officials, and the stamp was approved.
The 2¢ Winter Olympic Games stamp was issued on January 25, 1932, just days before the opening ceremonies, and was sold only in Lake Placid and Washington, DC. Demand for the stamp was heavy from the moment the Lake Placid Post Office opened at 7 a.m. until mid-morning when its entire supply of 400,000 stamps was exhausted. State police were called in to control the crowd.
Postal officials were soon embarrassed to learn the stamp design contained an error. Ski jumpers don’t use poles, but the athlete pictured on the 2¢ stamp is clearly grasping a pair as he flies mid-air.
Less than five months later, the Post Office issued its second and third Olympics stamps, honoring the summer games. Both stamps were issued on June 15, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, the site of the games. The first stamp, #718, pictured a runner at the starting mark. Its release was delayed because the first class rate was scheduled to be changed. The increase to 3¢ was signed into law on June 6, and #718 was released the following week. There was a large demand for this stamp, so they were on sale for just a short time.
The second stamp, #719, covered the international letter rate and was used by athletes from other countries. The design as based on a classic Greek sculpture called Discobolus.
It would be nearly 30 years before the US issued another stamp honoring the Olympics. That issue, #1146, commemorated the 1960 Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley, California. All covers were postmarked “Olympic Valley, California” – which was a station for the Tahoe City Post Office. The station had been established specifically to handle visitors to the Olympic games
Since 1972, the USPS has issued stamps for most Summer and Winter Olympic Games. You can see them all here.
Click here for more US and worldwide Olympics stamps.
Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.
2017: A Year in Review – on Stamps!
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