Did you ever have a stamp collection? While in elementary school I had a very rudimentary stamp collection. It probably violated every rule of stamp collecting. I pasted used stamps into a scrapbook. I had long forgotten about stamp collecting until many years later when, as an agricultural educator, I learned of the existence of U.S. postage stamps commemorating the 4-H and the FFA.
Since then I have learned more about stamps. While I don’t claim to be a professional (or even an amateur) philatelist (a stamp collector), I have learned a few things that might be of interest to extension and agricultural educators. First some basic facts.
On January 15, 1952 the U.S. Postal Service placed a 4-H commemorative 3 cent stamp on sale. This stamp was to mark the 50th anniversary of the 4-H. It was first offered for sale in Springfield, Ohio because the school superintendent there, A. B. Graham, organized one of the first 4-H clubs on Jan. 15, 1902. Graham was in attendance at the Springfield ceremony along with 14 original club members. Background information regarding this stamp can be found at https://4-hhistorypreservation.com/Stamps/. There is also a Canadian 4-H stamp.
An effort was started in 1952 to have the Postal Service issue an FFA Stamp. The national FFA officers visited President Truman and asked for his support for a stamp. The American Vocational Association and the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association joined in the campaign. Hundreds of letters were sent the Postal Service, senators and representatives in support of an FFA stamp. The campaign worked.
On October 13, 1953 the U.S. Postal Service issued a 3 cent commemorative stamp recognizing the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Future Farmers of America. In a special ceremony, the stamp was unveiled in Kansas City, Missouri at the National FFA Convention (FFA at 25).
If you were a dedicated philatelist (or a teacher, 4-H leader, FFA or 4-H member, etc.) there are four stamp related items that you might want to collect. These items can be purchased from stamp sellers or from eBay. The prices are very reasonable, ranging from 25 cents on up. Most items listed below can be bought for less than ten dollars (often less).
- A single stamp – A single 4-H or FFA stamp can typically be bought for less than a dollar from stamp sellers or from eBay.
- A “block” of stamps – a grouping of 4 intact stamps, 2 rows x 2 columns.
- A sheet of stamps – Both 4-H and FFA stamps can be bought in sheets of 50. They sell for a few dollars.
- First Day Cover – A special envelope with a stamp canceled on its first day of issue from the city where it was released. Often there is a cachet which is a design or artwork on the left side of the envelope. I don’t know how many different first day covers there are, but I would guess at least 15 first day covers for both the 4-H stamp and the FFA stamp. There could be many more. It might be fun to try and collect all the first day covers. But be aware there are some hand painted first day covers that are very expensive. The American First Day Cover Society has a brief short course about first day covers. Following are four examples of first day covers. I have linked to a file that contains 23 images of other first day FFA and 4-H covers.
The FFA first day cover in my possession that I value the most is the one below. Why do you think I value it so much (look before reading further)? The answer is below the image.
The person to whom this first day cover was addressed is Neville Hunsicker. He was the national FFA advisor from 1965-1979. So this makes it a special first day cover in my book. Notice the slogan “The Successful Farmer of Tomorrow is the Future Farmer of Today” on the envelope. That is the official slogan of the FFA. It was adopted decades ago, and to the best of my knowledge, it has not been un-adopted.
If you look closely you will see the spelling of the name is Hansucker. Yet as national FFA advisor Neville used Hunsicker. Why the difference? Neville’s ancestors manufactured farm wagons and had an advertising sign painted for a special exhibition. The sign painter misspelled the name; so to avoid confusing the public, his ancestors started using the misspelled name. At some point in time, Neville discovered this error and decided to revert to the original correct spelling when he moved to Washington, DC – Hunsicker.
Stamps are identified with a number assigned by the Scott Publishing Company. The Scott Catalog is the definitive guide for stamp collectors. The 4-H stamp is #1005 and the FFA stamp is #1024. Stamp collectors often use these numbers when referring to the stamps.
- Get one or more of the items above and pass around when you are teaching about 4-H or FFA dates. I have framed sheets of both the 4-H and FFA stamps that I take off the wall and pass around.
- Download images of the items (from Google or eBay) and insert them in a PowerPoint presentation to use in your teaching. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and much more impressive than plain verbiage that there was a FFA stamp in 1953. The linked file contains images of a number of first day covers.
- Have the students do an electronic scavenger hunt to see how many different 4-H or FFA first day covers they can find online. They could share what they found.
- Show your students various first day covers and ask them what type of message is being sent by the various first day cover cachets (designs). Is the image portrayed positive or negative, traditional or modern? One could also critique the design elements. This could be incorporated into the previous idea or could be a stand-alone activity.
- Select four first day covers and have a judging contest. After students come up with their placings, have them give reasons.
- Since most of the first day covers depict “farming” images give your students blank envelopes and have them create new first day covers that are more descriptive of agricultural education today.
- Have your students design a “new” 4-H or FFA stamp.\
If you are looking for a gift for someone that is hard to shop for and they have a connection with the FFA or 4-H, you might consider purchasing a 4-H or FFA stamp related item and framing it.
Remember, the Friday Footnotes are archived at https://footnote.wordpress.ncsu.edu.