Today’s post is devoted to stamp collectors, also known as philatelists, and everyone else who’s interested in stamps honoring Amelia Earhart in all corners of the world. First, from the opening pages of Volume 1 of the collected Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters (December 1989 to March 2000), we have:
THE ONLY SURVIVING FIRST DAY FLIGHT COVER OF THE 2nd AMELIA EARHART WORLD FLIGHT ATTEMPT OF 1937. Margot DeCarie Miss Earhart’s secretary did not return it in time to be placed aboard the Lockheed Electra aircraft when it departed Oakland, California for Miami, Florida on May 19, 1937 [sic, correct date was May 21]. Miss DeCarie age 83 who died in N. Hollywood, California on March 13, 1983 presented the cover to Major Joe Gervais for his extensive Pacific research [sic] into the Earhart Mystery. The flight cover displays 10 years of U.S. Airmail postage from the period of 1927 to 1937.
Author David K. Bowman offers more about the Earhart flight covers. In Bowman’s 2015 book, Amelia Earhart Philately, “The World’s First Book on Amelia Earhart Philately,” (in 2016 an enlarged second edition was published), he presents an image of the “only autographed souvenir envelope known to survive from Amelia Earhart’s 1937 round-the-world flight. . . . Autographed by Earhart and addressed to Mr. E.H. Dimity, a parachute manufacturer who was her unofficial business manager, the stamped flight cover was among approximately 10,000 sole by Gimbel’s in Manhattan to raise money for the first attempt at a world flight. 6500 [sic]of them were consigned to Earhart to take on her flight.” Bowman continues:
During the takeoff attempt in Honolulu, the plane went into a loop (type of fishtail), its landing gear gave way and it crashed. When the plane was sent back to Burbank for repairs, the mail was placed in the custody of the Honolulu postmaster. A cachet was added to the envelopes reading, “Held over in Honolulu following Take-Off Accident of March 20, 1937.” An additional 1000 covers were also subsequently sold with the cachet “2nd TAKEOFF.” The covers in Honolulu were later returned to Oakland, but before they were loaded into Earhart’s plane in May, Elmer Dimity removed his envelope and part of a joke he planned to play when Earhart returned. He said he had hoped to meet her with the envelope in hand, saying the mail had arrived before she did. On May 2, 1937, Earhart took off on her ill-fated flight [sic, correct date was May 21]. The final number of covers carried on the flight was 7500.
“Mr. Dimity sold the envelope in the 1960s on behalf of the Amelia Earhart Foundation to a dealer,” according to Scott. R. Trepel, a Christie’s consultant, who organized the auction house’s sale. “The collector who bought the envelope from that dealer is the unidentified seller of the Earhart memento, which was sold with an affidavit from Mr. Dimity, bringing in between $20,000 and $30,000.”
Editor’s note: We’ve just been informed of the sad passing of David K. Bowman. Details are unavailable, but for much more on Dave’s life and work, please see my Jan. 18, 2017 post, “The Psychic World of Amelia Earhart.”
May 23 update: There was a good reason by I put quotes around “Only surviving” in the headline for this post, as I wasn’t sure if the claims being made in the pieces from the AES and Dave Bowman were entirely accurate, as I’m no Earhart stamp expert myself.
On May 22, researcher Les Kinney wrote, “For your information, a second flight cover turned up and was sold at auction many years ago. Its provenance is strange; but no doubt it was the real thing. George Putnam and Amelia were less than honest about the flight covers and their trip around the world.”
Next, Woody Rogers, a longtime collector of Earhart memorabilia, checked in with an even more weighty and complex correction:
I have all 3 types of the last flight covers. The one that Dave Bowman posted of the second takeoff is mine. As I heard and have read bits and pieces of, there were 10,000 covers produced. Type 1 has AROUND THE WORLD FLIGHT in the bottom left of the cover. Type 2 has the same words with stars in between around the world and type has “second take off” under around the world flight, as evidenced in the photos that I’ve attached. As far as a total on the plane, nobody has those numbers. You could purchase the covers over the counter at either Gimbels location, with or without her signature. You could also opt to have the cover franked and mailed to you. The last option was to receive your cover carried on her plane by mail after she completed the flight.
The numbers I found were 3500 type 1s, when Gimbels ran out, 3500 more type 2 covers were made with the stars on them. After the disaster in Hawaii, 3000 2nd takeoff covers were made, because of time constraints, all but 12 of the type 3s went on the plane. Those 12 Amelia gave to her mother and told her she would give them to her for good luck and sign them after she completed the flight. Amy eventually gave them away. There weren’t actually 10,000 on the plane because of the over the counter and mailed covers sold before the flight, so there’s no accurate count of what was actually put on the plane. I bought all of mine on eBay starting in 2002. The signed type 1 was $1250, the type 2 was $142 and the Second Take Off cover was $785. A few weeks after I bought it, I saw one sold at auction for $32,000, so mine was a great deal! I have a few pre and post flight documents and letters from Gimbel’s that I’ll send you copies of later today. Enjoy! You may use these photos as you wish.
Cover one (below), which is signed, has no stars in around the world flight. Cover two has the stars. Cover 3 is imprinted with 2nd Take Off. Cover 4 is a cover from a stamp club that was franked and mailed by the stamp club to their member after the crash in Hawaii. On the back of that cover is a stamp from the Treasure Island Exposition, 1938-1939. Paul Mantz gave plane rides in his Sikorsky amphibian during the 2 years of the Exposition. My dad was there with his Boy Scout troop, Paul Mantz was out with his plane, my dad started asking him questions about the plane, Paul handed him a blank ticket with a photo and gave him a ride that morning. This was my dad’s start in a love of flying that eventually led to a 31-year military career in with 23 years of that as a Marine Aviator.
Mike- it’s gratifying to know that she has not been forgotten, and is honored in a manner that can last forever. Such a shame that our government has hidden the truth all these years, and refuses to give Amelia and Fred their due respect.
Mike, if you’re not aware, David Bowman passed on last August. For a few years, I would meet with him along with a few others over lunch in Gig Harbor, Washington. Dave was a good guy and a staunch believer that Earhart and Noonan met their end on Saipan.
For your information, a second flight cover turned up and was sold at auction many years ago. Its provenance is strange; but no doubt it was the real thing. George Putnam and Amelia were less than honest about the flight covers and their trip around the world.
I didn’t know about Dave Bowman, obviously, or I would have said something about it in the post. This is sad news, especially since no one cared enough to tell me until now.
Greetings to All:
Coincidentally, FDR was an avid philatelist.
I’ll add to my information on the covers, one of the first things I discovered when I bought the first around the world flight cover is that’s it was made of rice paper. After some research, I discovered that all of the flight covers printed were made with it to save weight on the carried covers for Amelia’s flight attempt.