Arago: Documents


Special passport for postal employee


This special passport was issued by the Department of State to a postal employee during World War I. It was intended to allow him unrestricted passage to England and France where the Post Office Department was establishing a service to support the deployment of U.S. forces abroad. To ensure it was used only by the correct employee—Charles P. Leary—the passport includes a photograph and a physical description. It also includes an explanation of his business abroad and a request that he is treated well and allowed free movement.

Travel orders of this kind were initially issued to a select number of experienced postal employees that travelled to France shortly after the decision was made to deploy American military personnel to Europe. Soon joined by larger numbers of civilian postal workers they established the Army Postal Service. Within months these workers were dealing directly with a vast amount of U.S. military mail all across Europe.

This network developed into the beginnings of the Military Postal Express Service, the first postal system in the world to be clearly distinguished from an established government postal system. It became a separate organization following tensions over the War Department’s reluctance to disclose to the Post Office Department the locations of military units. Although the military post offices established during World War I were disabled following the end of the war, a precedent was set for the managing of mail in all future conflicts.


Bruns, James H. “Letters in War: The Post Office Department in World War I”. The United States Specialist 662 (1985): 159-166.

Buck, Joseph F. “The Yanks are Writing: A General History of the A.E.F Postal Service”. The American Philatelist 48 (1935): 445-457.

Sackett, Richard W. “The Beginning of the American APO” . The American Philatelist 932 (1978): 857-867.

Perforated "CANCELLED" in multiple locations
paper; ink
Height x Width: 17 5/16 x 12 in. (43.97 x 30.48 cm)
Museum ID:

Charley P. Leary [signed above photograph]

Description of Bearer

Age 38 Years

Mouth medium

Stature 5 feet 11 inches

Chin round

Forehead high

Hair light brown

Eyes blue

Complexion fair

Nose long

Face broad

No. 950 (Special Passport.)

United States of America

Department of State

To all to whom these presents shall come Greeting

Know Ye, that the bearer hereof

Charley P. Leary

a citizen of the United States is proceeding to England and France, under the direction of the Post Office Department , for duty in connection with the mail service for the United States Army.

These are therefore to request all whom it may concern to permit him to pass freely without let or molestation and to extend to him all such friendly aid and protection, as would be extended to like officers of Foreign Governments resorting to the United States.

In testimony whereof P. Robert Lausing

Secretary of State of the United States of America, have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Department of State to be affixed at Washington, this 18 th day of September A.D 1917 and of the Independence of the United States of America, the 142 nd.

Priv Lausing

Charley P Leary

(N.B Cancelled punctured several times across the certificate)

  • Special passport
  • Special passport
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