USA Express: THE question

Already from the first day that I joined the MFN (and even earlier), there is a difference of opinion about one stamp: what kind of motorcycle is depicted on the USA Express stamps???

USA Express stamp 1922 with motorcycle

Many people say it is an Indan, and others say that it is a composite motorcycle. Most plausible is that it is a Harley Davidson, but if so, what kind of Harley??
By coincidence I found on the internet an official announcement of issue of the first from the series motorcycle express stamps, and this put me on to the right track. By Googling on the name of the 3rd Assistant Postmaster General (APM) W. Irving Glover I discovered the complete story.
After issuing an express stamp with a running postman carrying a letter, the next one in the USA Express stamp series was a postman on a bicycle. Soon after this an express stamp had been designed showing Mercure's (the messenger of the Gods) winged helmet.


USA Express stamp with running postman

USA Express stamp with bicycling postman

USA Express stamp with Mercure's helmet

But because this stamp looked too much like the normal stamp for standard post, and express post was too often handled like standard post, the Post stepped back to the earlier size and type of express stamp. To let the development of the post, and therewith the transport of special deliveries, keep up the pace of the general developments, a motorcycle had been chosen as image for the fast delivery of express post. An excellent choice for us.
And on this point mister Glover comes in. Appointed to be 3rd APM, Glover completely changed the way of presentation of new issues. He decided that the new stamps should get a new look compared to earlier stamps issued in this series. The new design became an express delivery man who had parked his motorcycle in front of the steps of a colonial house, to deliver a letter to the domestic servant.

First design of USA Express stamp with motorcycle
First design of the motorcycle stamp

The National Bureau of Engraving and Printing started to look for a good image of a motorcycle to use for this. And they found it in the Harley Davidson model 22 J.

Harley Davidson Model 22J
The Harley Davidson model 22J that served as a model for the stamp

The final design was approved, and sold for the first time on July 12th 1922 in Washington.

Approved design of the USA express stamp with motorcycle
The approved design with signature of H. Work

To inform collectors about new stamp issues, Glover thought of the idea to issue press announcements about them, containing an image and the first date of sale. The motorcyle express stamp we are discussing here had the honor to be the first stamp that had been announced in this new way.
Many journalists, that could see the stamps only very briefly before the date of issue, thought that the motorcycle was a model Scout, built by the Hendee factory. This factory used an Indian's head as logo (later the name Hendee was changed into Indian Motorcycles), and therefore many collectors thought it was an Indian motorcycle.

Indian Scout
Indian Scout

But.... shortly before the first date of sale Postmaster General PMG Hubert Work issued an order that the old stock of bicycle express stamps had to be used first. Only in Washington 24 sheets of the new stamps were allowed for sale on the announced date. All 24 sheets were signed by M. L. Eidsness Jr., Superintendent, Division of Stamps, W. Irving Glover, Third Assistant Postmaster General and L. W. Hill, Director, Bureau of Engraving & Printing. And guess who bought the first 20 sheets????? Right: PMG Hubert Work.

Only a limited number of FDC's has been made from this issue. In total 80 specimen, of which 51 by mister Worden addressed to himself. In general these FDC-envelopes are regarded to be the first artificial USA postal items. An interesting detail is that 50 of the 51 FDC's have been stamped at 10 o'clock by Worden himself, and only 1 FDC sent to Worden has been stamped at 11 o'clock by M. L. Eidsness Jr. Between 10 and 11 Worden also made 6 other FDC's: 2 sent to his girlfriend, 1 to a friend collector E. C. Worthem te Rahway, NJ and 3 non addressed envelopes. The counter where the stamp sheets have been sold that day did not open before 11 o'clock. Uhh, how is that possible????

But okay, through this article and the information of the USA Postal Service we now know for sure that the motorcycle depicted on the stamp is a real Harley.

Hans de Kloet

Tin version of the express stamp motorcycle
There is also a toy version of the HD available,
sold in a nice tin with an image of the express stamp

Packaging of the tin motorcycle


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