In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed his political chum James A. Farley as postmaster general, the highest political patronage position in the nation. Roosevelt, a devoted stamp collector, took particular interest in Farley’s position, and the two frequently shared ideas for stamp designs and their political uses.
For all the visibility Farley brought to the Post Office Department, most people remember him for “Farley’s Follies.” Using his position as postmaster general, he purchased the first sheets of imperforate, ungummed stamps for use as political favors. He and FDR often signed and dated these sheets, thus creating valuable philatelic collectibles. When philatelists complained, demanding access to the sheets, Farley ordered additional special printings of those stamps, now called “Farley’s Follies.”
Farley donated fifteen of the original imperforate, ungummed, autographed sheets to the Smithsonian. He also donated thousands of pieces of 1938 National Airmail Week mail and stamps and souvenirs from his time as postmaster general. The collection is now part of the holdings of the National Postal Museum , and can be explored using the following Finding Guide: James A. Farley “National Air Mail Week” May 15 – 21, 1938
Mary T. Sheahan, National Postal Museum
Related content: “Farley’s Follies” Uncut and Ungummed Press Sheets