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  • Writer's pictureFlea Market Love Letters

Secret Language of Stamps.

If I've said it once I've said it before that oftentimes the envelopes can tell us almost as much as the contents inside them. That especially includes the stamps! In today's blog we'll take a look at some of the stamps from the archive and how they were creatively applied to envelopes, both accidentally and on purpose.

Flipping the Stamp.

Are you a found letter or postcard collector? Ever noticed a quirky placement of a stamp and imagined it must have been in haste, or by mistake? Well, you might be right or you might be missing a secret clue! The secret language of stamps can be linked back to the Victorians.

Source: Postal Museum U.K.

In the 19th Century when postage stamps were first introduced their placement didn't matter so much, according to this interview with Daniel Piazza, Chief Curator of Philately at the Smithsonian Postal Museum. But in the mid-19th Century as the Industrial Revolution took root, the necessity for a standardized placement for machine processing led to their home in the upper right hand corner of the letter.

It seems that this complex codex of meaning behind the placement of stamp was, when known between writer and receiver, communicable. However, we first learned of the secret language of stamps from the World War II tradition of inverting the stamp between sweethearts as a final "kiss" of sorts.

The Gay Letters.

While the Gay Letters are pre-WWII -- the U.S. enters the war efforts in 1941 -- it appears that Katherine and her beau Jimmy were well versed in the symbolism and romantic meaning of the upside down stamp.

Every letter but one in the series of 20 features an upside down stamp. Making this the most intact and deliberate example of the Language of Stamps in the archive to date. While Jimmy and Katherine never discussed the unique postage placement in their letters, check out this excerpt below try not to imagine that there's a deeper motivation at play!

"I’ll swear I can’t think of a thing, darling, but how much I love you.
It just seems like I love you more and more every day and every minute. It seems like ages since Monday. The days and nights without you seem like nightmares and all that I live for is to be with you again.
That thing that worries us just is a terrible blot on our dream of happiness. A thing that just can’t happen to us. I can’t let it. We deserve perfect happiness and we must have it at all costs. "

Applications Today?

Supposedly in the U.S. Military inverting stamps is still a thing! In this fantastic New York Times article, several military spouses and family members talk about inheriting the tradition whilst on base. I don't know about you but I find it terribly romantic and am glad to hear that it has continued for generations.

Get in Touch.

Do you have a story about the Secret Language of Stamps you'd like to share? Or perhaps you and a loved one use the inverted stamp yourselves as a love note? We'd love to hear! Send us a note

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