Arago: 50-cent Century of Progress Issue

50-cent Century of Progress Issue

In 1933 the German airship firm Luftschiffbau Zeppelin G.m.b.H (Zeppelin Company) agreed to fly the LZ127 Graf Zeppelin to Chicago if the United States Post Office Department would issue a special postage stamp to help finance the flight. On August 18 postal authorities agreed to issue a 50-cent zeppelin airmail stamp, 42 cents of which would help offset the Zeppelin Company's expenses.

Victor S. McCloskey, Jr., designed the stamp, which features the Graf Zeppelin over the Atlantic Ocean, its destination of the Chicago World’s Fair represented by the Federal Building at left (see also Scott 729 and 731) and a zeppelin hangar at right to represent the origin of the flight from Friedrichshafen, Germany. The text “A Century of Progress” refers to the name of the world’s fair.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing had only six weeks to design, print, and distribute the issue in order for the post office to forward mail to Germany in time for the special flight. First day of issue took place in five cities: New York on October 2, Akron on October 4, Washington D.C. on October 5, Miami on October 6, and Chicago on October 7. The Graf Zeppelin departed from Germany, flew to Brazil, and then headed north for stops in Miami, Akron, and Chicago before returning to Germany. Combinations of one to four stamps allowed collectors to prepare mail for the rates of various legs of the flight.