Oleanders on the Desert & Cancellation Stamps

Dear Ones All;

We’re sure chilly down here too down to 30° last nite isn’t nearly so pretty as usual. The desert in a green carpet everywhere but not blooming. We’re at the same place as Pallockp. We both have the same cabins we had last year. Not doing much

Myrtle + John

Cancellation Stamps

When you look at the back of a postcard, there’s the obvious things, a message, an address and a stamp, but there are a couple of other parts that matter only to post offices but can be fascinating in their own right. Take for instance the “Pray for Peace” cancellation stamp on the back of this postcard. 

Every bit of mail that passes through the United States Postal Service requires postage because it functions as the payment for your mail. However, it’s only good once and It’s not difficult to separate a stamp from a letter so USPS needs a way to ensure that your postage won’t live on to mail many more packages.

After the mail is picked it up it heads to a sorting facility and at that facility, a machine would both mark the parcel’s place of origin and cancel the stamp- it’s a receipt that stamp has been used and it’s value redeemed.

The cancellation stamps/marks of today are pretty boring, they’re just lines across the stamp, but they weren’t always mundane, hundreds of “Machine Slogans” were used as cancellation stamps and nearly all of them were introduced through legislation— and, interestingly enough, “Pray for Peace” was a relic of the cold war asking Americans to ask God to save us from a nuclear holocaust.

In the 1950s the U.S. started to take big leaps towards making Christianity the de jure religion of the state. At the time, state atheism was pushed by the communist party in the U.S.S.R and the American cure to the communist front, therefore, became a complete and total embrace of Christianity. Christ was shoehorned into day to day events and objects via the pledge of allegiance, on our currency, in the form of “In God We Trust” and even on the US Mail via cancellation stamps. 

Louis C Rabuat (D-MI) was at the forefront, a member of the House of Representatives & champion for Christ, he’s most often credited in adding “Under God” to the pledge of allegiance but his influence didn’t stop there. In 1955 he introduced a bill for a cancellation die for sent mail, bearing the words “Pray for Peace,” in House Bill 9120 and it was sent to the Senate where the bill died. However, the following year, god-fearing anti-communist that he was, Rep. Rabuat reintroduced HB 9120 as HB 692 and Congress passed the bill on June 20, 1955 and sent it to the Senate. The Senate approved the bill, and Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law on June 20, 1956.

Reading in Congressional Record it seems like his peers were falling over themselves to sing the praises of Rep Rabuat’s lastest law.  My favorite quote I found while researching this cancellation stamp came from Postmaster General Summerfield “This motto, ‘Pray for Peace,” epitomizes the highest aspirations of the American people,” Mr. Summerfield added. “I believe that by repeating this message on millions of letters and other mailed matter passing through the cancellation machines, we will reaffirm our faith in prayer to achieve the Nation’s most cherished hope—everlasting world peace.” 

At an estimated cost of $250,000, the U.S. issued 10,000 cancelation dies for each first and second class post office. Adjusted for inflation, the cost would have been equivalent to $2,377,555.15 a small price to pay to “reaffirm our faith in prayer to achieve the Nation’s most cherished hope—everlasting world peace”.

I can’t help but wonder if The Occupants of 2825 High St. in Pueblo prayed for everlasting world peace because of this postmark, or if anyone did?

In any event, it’s interesting to find out that such small bits of history and a house bill from the 94th Congress live on the back of the postcard I picked up from a junk shop.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s bit of history, and I hope you send someone a postcard today or tomorrow.


Card Details

To: The Occupants 2825 High St. Pueblo

Published by: Petley Studios, 4051 E. Van Burren Phoenix Arizona S-1615-7 

Inventory: K-507 Color Photo by Bob Van Luchene 

Postmark + Cancellation Chandler Feb 28 2pm 1962 ARZ  Pray for Peace 
Stamp: #1035 – 1954 Liberty Series – 3¢ Statue of Liberty

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