Apr 3

Naval Hospital Cover by Notable Cachet Maker Chief Hospital Corpsman J. N. Lawrence

Saturday, April 3, 2010 11:03 AM


Guest post by Glenn Smith:

Prior to the American Civil War, Naval personnel medical needs were met in a rudimentary way at a makeshift facility that was in three separate buildings, one at the Navy Yard, one at the Marine Barracks, and one at the Government Hospital for the Insane of the Army and Navy (later St. Elizabeth’s Hospital). In 1866, a large brick building was built on Capitol Hill and it served as the Naval Hospital until 1906, today it is referred to as the Old Navy Hospital. New Navy Hospital opened on Observatory Hill in 1942 and it served the Navy until Bethesda Naval Hospital (now National Naval Medical Center).

In Christmas 1938, naval cachet maker and pharmacist’s mate, J. N. Lawrence, was stationed at the New Naval Hospital, Washington, DC. According to the USCS Naval Cachet Maker Catalog: “Lawrence (ANCS #154) was a prolific and very good cachet maker from 1934 to 1945. He produced a wide variety of commemorative, anniversary, and patriotic cacheted envelopes – printed, thermographed, photo, and hand done for himself and jointly sponsored cacheted covers with Marshall Hall, ANCS #1, and Louis Nix, ANCS #29. Alex Hesse, ANCS #81, printed some of Lawrence’s thermographed cachets.

During WWII, Lawrence issued a series of patriotic cachets identified “JNL-#”. For the most part, Lawrence did not sign his cachets; however his covers may be identified by his name on the reverse, printed, stamped, or, most often, typewritten.”

This example is a hand screen-printed card from U. S Naval Hospital, Washington, DC. It has an embossed seal “Department of the Navy, USNH Washington DC. The cover is an exception; because it is signed by J. N. Lawrence is the upper left corner using the same purple ink that Lawrence used in the candelabra in the lower left of the card.

Appropriately, the stamp used is the 1931 50 th Anniversary of the American Red Cross US commemorative stamp. The card was mailed to Robert V. Walton, who was a cousin by marriage of Glenn Smith (USCS-8073), and was a gift from Robert Walton’s widow, May Walton, to Glenn’s wife, Ann Marie Smith, in whose collection of Christmas cachets it now resides.

  • Capt L B Brennan USN ret

    A great cover and story thanks to Cdr Smith and USNI. Perhaps Chief Lawrence was a Chief Pharmacist’s Mate. I’m not sure when it changed to hospital corpsman rating. A great illustration of a hobby I’ve enjoyed since grammar school.

  • Captain Brennan,

    Thanks for commenting. What advice would you give someone considering taking up this hobby?

  • Greg Ciesielski

    To take up this hobby, find one or two areas to concentrate on, join the Universal Ship Cancellation Society (www.USCS.org) and then start searching for those gems you would like to collect. As the assistant curator of the Naval Cover Museum (www.navalcovermuseum.org) I will tell you that there are many, many ways to collect and items to find. Research will keep you away from the fakes and forgeries and will help you make good decisions. The USCS members are more than willing to help you with any questions you might have. Good luck and have fun!!

  • LCDR Glenn Smith, USN (Ret)

    Greg C. is absolutely right. There are so many ways one can collect naval covers. It depends mainly on your interests. One way to start is to collect navals from ships named for your city or state. For example, here is a list of ships named for places in Hawai’i:
    • Diamond Head (AE-19): Extinct volcano.
    • Halawa (AOG-12): Cape on Molokai.
    • Haleakala (AE-25): Volcano on Maui.
    • Hawaii (SSN-776): The state. (Note: CB-2 was launched but never commissioned.)
    • Hilo (AGP-2): City.
    • Honolulu (Cargo Ship c.1918, CL-48, SSN-718): Capital city.
    • Kailua (IX-71): Bay.
    • Kaloli (AOG-13): Point of land.
    • Kaula (AG-33): Islet.
    • Kilauea (AE-26): Volcano.
    • Lanakai (Yacht): Village on Oahu.
    • Maui (SP-1514 c.1918, ARG-8 ex-Leyte): Island.
    • Mauna Kea (AE-22): Volcano on Hawai’i.
    • Mauna Loa (AE-8): Volcano on Hawai’i.
    • Oahu (PR-36, ARG-5): Island.
    • Okala (ARS(T)-2): Island off Molokai.
    • Pearl Harbor (LSD-52): Harbor, site of December 7th, 1941 attack.
    Hawai’i is a small list, most states have many more(Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Georgia all have ten times as many as Hawai’i). For a complete list go to http://www.uscs.org and click on Data Sheets, and look for the list of Ships Named for Geographic places.

    As to where to find naval covers, there are currently about 12,000 listed on EBay, put USS in the search block and the category of Stamps. Of course stamp shows are a great place to rendezvous with knowledgeable dealers, many of whom are members of the Universal Ship Cancellation Society (USCS).

    The most enjoyable part is sharing knowledge with folks who love the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard!

    Have fun!

  • Pete Leenhouts

    The USCS also has local chapters in many areas that meet on a regular basis. The Society has been around since 1932.

    When I began collecting I belonged to the Seattle chapter of the USCS, but have been active in the Washington DC, Newport RI and now the South Puget Sound Chapters as well. The USCS website also has a chat room on it which many of us new and old collectors frequent from time to time (I haven’t been collecting all that long).

    I collect minesweepers, mine countermeasures craft, and mine layers, for the most part, as well as the US Navy in Japan and Japanese maritime forces (Navy and Coast Guard). Someone could could collect ship types, specific types of envelopes (those signed by the ship’s Commanding Officer, for example, or the postal clerk), postmarks or cachets (the silk-screened drawing on the left side of the envelope above), envelopes commemorating a specific event (a battle, a holiday, the first day the ship’s post office was open and so forth), the postmarks used by the ship or shore stations – there are a lot of possibilities. One of my friends collects envelopes from ships named for towns and cities and famous people from his home state.

    I find it to be an enjoyable corner of Navy history!

  • @ Pete and Glenn, Many thanks for sharing your wisdom with our fellow readers. Much appreciated as it is indeed an enjoyable corner of naval history!

  • Phil Saaachreiber

    I’ve seen covers from Lawrence in which he identifies himself as PH which was the designation for a navy warrant officer Pharmacist. The covers were issued in the 1930s or early 1940s. The Hospital Corps designation appeared after World War II and replaced the Pharmacist designation.

  • Rich Hoffner

    Can’t wait to see more of these interesting pieces of artwork and postal history. Having served in the Coast Guard I will be waiting to see some covers honoring the USCG! Semper Paratus.

  • John Young

    Ahoy Mates!
    Great Christmas cover. Been collecting (gathering) naval covers since 1978- icebreakers (Arctic & Antarctic)- battleship, cruisers,
    detroyers. Then got into 1934 Naval Review in New York City- when
    FDR ordered U.S. Fleet to east coast, as sailors had a million $$$
    payroll- then started looking for pre-WW Two Fleet Problems and then Neutrality Patrol vessels.
    Another area of interest- Holiday covers with great cachets of
    the 1930s and Navy Day- honoring Teddy Roosevelt- the father of the
    modern American Navy. Always looking for mail from the oldest sea-
    going establishment founded in August 1790.
    Happy is a man (women) with a hobby- as they have two worlds to
    live in. Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to look for Coast Guard mail

  • Thanks John! Great hobby indeed! Happy collecting and thanks again for the comments! Tell your fellow hobbyists about us.

  • Thanks Rich! Stay tuned!

  • Thanks Phil for the clarification!

  • Dennis Brophy

    I started collecting several years ago and collected generic DD covers, however I now lust for Navy Day covers. I have 2 sons and a brother who also collect. My soon to be 16 year old son collects Naval space covers.
    The topics are incredible and researching your covers will lead to a wealth of Naval history. Joining the USCS will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the hobby AND you will make friends who will become like shipmates.

    Brof in SC

  • Capt Lawrence B. Brennan, USN Ret.

    Simple advice for new collectors. Test the waters by sending your own covers to ships in commission now for postmarks. This is a fun part of the hobby — nothing like mail in the mail box to keep the interests going. Also, join the Universal Ship Cancellation Society, USCS. see http://www.uscs.org. It is the one organization for naval cover (postmark and cachet collectors). Capt Bob Rawlins writes an excellent series for new collectors. Join a stamp club, go to local shows, talk to dealers. Focus your interest. There are lots of uscs chapters around the country and overseas. Great sources for information. If you have questions contact me at [email protected].

  • Caroline Schaefer

    Aloha Collectors,
    I have a 1946 postcard written and signed by Ch. Pharm. J.N. Lawrence, R-1 Box 203, U.S. Navy, Encinitas, Calif. (that is how he wrote his name and address on the back).

    I was going to list it on ebay this week, and in my research I find this blog and just how important the sender is.

    If you are interested in this card, I would be curious and glad to share the particulars about message he wrote on it, who it is addressed to, and or see a copy of the scan of back of postcard, where his message is written so you can read his words and see his handwriting for yourself.

    I’m very glad to have read your comments.