Arago: Helmet of Mercury Issue

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Helmet of Mercury Issue

The 1908 green 10-cent Helmet of Mercury, like the 1888 Special Delivery Issue, was too easily confused with the standard postage stamp of the time—in this case the green 1-cent Franklin. The stamp’s design, though rooted in Roman mythology and emblematic of mail delivery, also posed a problem. The helmet of Mercury was very similar to a then-popular ladies hat that was called the 'Merry Widow'. The stamp was soon referred to by this somewhat derogatory name.

Because of the ridicule associated with postal misuse and fashion fancies, the stamp saw little use for over a year. The Post Office Department finally recalled the entire supply of the stamp, although it was still useable for prepayment of the Special Delivery fee. Officials recommended that it be scrapped rather than be confused with the 1-cent regular issue.


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