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Collecting Navy Day Covers
by John Young (USCS #L-8219), Paul Helman (USCS #L-7378) & Steve Shay (USCS #L-10,821)
Not to be confused with the U.S. Navy’s birthday (October 13th), Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922. Although not a national holiday, it was sponsored by the Navy League of the United States to focus public attention on the importance of our Navy. October 27th was suggested by the Navy League to recognize Teddy Roosevelt’s Birthday.
Roosevelt had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy before the War with Spain. He supported a strong Navy and was consisted by many to be the “Father of the Modern Steel Navy.” During his presidency, construction started on the Panama Canal. Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize (1906) for ending Japanese-Russo War. He sent the “Great White Fleet” to display the American flag around the world (1907-09).
Navy Day has been regularly documented on naval covers since the 1930’s. First, the mail clerks honored collector’s requests by placing the words NAVY DAY between the killer bars of the ship’s cancels. Then individuals provided envelopes with printed cachets i.e., Harry Ioor, Conrath’s Printery, Mike Sanders (STANLOS).
The first Navy Day cachet appeared in 1923, urging people to visit naval facilities on Roosevelt’s birthday. Al Gorman & M.M. Grey provided collectors with a stamped cachet for Navy Day 1930. As more people became interested in naval cancellations, they wanted covers posted on this day. In 1932, there were nine different sponsored cachets for Navy Day. Two years later, the number more than quadrupled with USCS members (28) and USCS chapters (12) producing Navy Day cachet.
In the years before World War II, both USCS and ANCS (American Naval Cancellation Society) battled each other in producing Navy Day cachets. There were even incidents where USCS sponsors refused to service covers for ANCS members. The ANCS was established in April 1935, with its first Navy Day occurring on a Sunday. Usually, ship’s post offices were closed on Sundays. Most 1935 Navy Day covers are canceled on 28 OCT 1935. Some covers bear the ship’s postmark, Sunday, October 27, 1935.
Navy Day 1945 was celebrated with many warships visiting cities along both coasts. There was the Presidential Review in New York City. A stamp honoring the U.S. Navy had its first day of issue in Annapolis MD. The biggest celebration for naval cover collectors was the appearance of the type 2n cancel. For the first time in years, the use of name cancels by naval ships occurred on October 27, 1945.
Navy Day was last observed officially on October 27, 1949. The Secretary of Defense replaced individual Army, Navy and Air Force days with the single-day celebration of Armed Forces Day celebrated on the third Saturday in May. Some hard-core cachet sponsors produced the traditional Navy Day (October 27th) covers i.e., Farragut Chapter #3, E-F cachets, Morris Beck.
Happy collecting! Collecting naval covers is FUN! FUN! FUN!
To see some illustrations of Navy Day covers, click the links below:
The “USCS Log” also published a series of articles written by Paul Helman in 2005 featuring a history of Navy Day and Navy Day covers.
Data Sheet No. 24, published by the Universal Ship Cancellation Society, is a handy reference for anyone interested in collecting covers from ships that are known to have postmarks on October 27, 1945. The data sheet lists all the ships and the postmark types used by each ship on that date. There is one page of color illustrations.