Electric Eye

An electric eye: nothing more than a detector that can determine where an object is, by reflection of a ray of light. Often used in machinery, for instance to check whether a cap has been put on a bottle in a soda factory.
Regularly I see First Day Covers with a U.S. Express delivery stamp with the message "Electric Eye".

FDC with imprint "Electric Eye"

Seeing that I always thought of an application as mentioned above, to detect the postal item for placing the cancellation stamp, but in reality it refers to a completely different application.
The Management of the US Post got more and more reports about stamps that were wrongly perforated. Therefore they decided to solve this issue.

Wrong (left) and correct (right) perforated USA Express stamp

Excesses as shown above occurred, but in fact it is just a matter of wrong centering of the image in the stamp. To prevent this the automatic perforation machine was equipped with an "Electric Eye".

Perforation machine with "Electric Eye"
A perforation machine equipped with an "Electric Eye"

In the margins of the printing sheets rows of blocks were printed, that started the perforation when passing the electric eye. In this way nicely divided areas with stamps were produced.

USA Express stamps with blocks for perforation machine

Already in 1933 stamps were sold with this kind of blocks in the margin. But our motorcycle stamp, introduced in 1927, would be the first stamp perforated with an Electric Eye that was available in the USA for the public, on September 8th 1941.

FDC on the occasion of first use of the "Electric Eye"

FDC on the occasion of first use of the "Electric Eye"


Hans de Kloet


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