$1 Duck Stamp on Graf Zeppelin South America Flight Catapult combination cover
Intended to raise funds for the purchase of migratory bird refuges or sanctuaries, the federal duck stamp is not valid as postage. It is, rather, a revenue stamp, which is a stamp that pre-pays a tax on specific items or services. The United States issued its first adhesive revenue stamps in 1862, the funds ear-marked for Civil War expenses. A stamp affixed to items such as playing cards, matches, or a telegram verified that the consumer had paid the tax.
The single known example of a zeppelin cover franked by only a duck stamp, this unique item ranks among the most spectacular associated with the migratory bird hunting stamps. Not only was the revenue duck stamp not valid for its postage, at least six modes of transportation carried it, and it traveled through the mails for over ten thousand miles without detection.
The cover was mailed soon after Ding Darling purchased the first duck stamp on August 22, 1934. G.W. Bartlett, a collector from Glen Ridge, New Jersey, franked the cover with a plate number 129201 single and addressed it to an associate in Rio de Janeiro. Dr. Hugo Eckener, commander of the Graf Zeppelin, signed the cover.
September 19, 1934: The cover left New York on the ship Europa. It was dispatched at the on board U.S. seapost office. Further, it was postmarked on the reverse by the German seapost office.
September 23, 1934: The purple cachet signifies that a catapult plane carried the cover from mid-Atlantic to Southhampton, England, from where it was carried by surface mail to Croydon.
From Croydon the cover traveled by regular airmail via Cologne and Hannover to Berlin Tempelhof airfield, where the red cachet "Carried by airmail - mit Luftpost befordert" and the airfield postmark were applied.
September 29, 1934: The cover was forwarded from Berlin to Friedrichshafen by train to connect with the ninth Graf Zeppelin South American flight of 1934, which departed at 1911 GMT.
October 2, 1934: The cover arrived at Recife at 2028 GMT and was then transferred by Condor airmail on a flight to Rio de Janeiro.
October 3, 1934: The cover arrived in Rio de Janeiro at 1535 GMT.
The pencil mark on the cover—C761—was added in Brazil, but its meaning remains unclear.
Thank you to Dieter Leder and James Graue for their assistance in interpreting the cover's markings.
Gift of Jeanette Cantrell Rudy