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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Letters from a Storage Locker #14: Navy Cachets

Awhile back we had a unit where we blogged about a stamp collection we found.   Included in the stamp collection, which spanned the entire globe, there were also some really old postcards and letters from a sailor who was serving in the late 1930s and early 1940s.   We love this World War II era memorabilia, so of course we saved them (even though we sold the stamp collection) so that we could get a better look.   We will eventually sell these as well (or donate them to the D-Day Museum, perhaps), but we thought they'd make a great addition to our "Letters from Storage Lockers"  collection, which we will be putting into book form very shortly.

What's interesting to note about these letters and postcards is that they all contain what we call "cachets", which is probably why the stamp collector had them (he appears to have no relation to either the sender or the recipient).   A cachet is basically a stamped picture on the envelope in addition to the stamp or cancellation that marks a special historical event.  Since our guy was in the Navy, most of the cachets he sent marked Navy holidays, Federal Holidays, and birthdays or launch dates of ships.    If you want to read more about cachets (we are so educational here), you can follow this link:

Our first one is a postcard, postmarked March 17th, 1938 from Vallejo, California.  This one is my favorite because the date is actually Brian's birthday along with my Father's and a few of my other favorite people.    Not saying Brian's birthday is 1938, even though he might act like it!  hahahahahaha.

It reads (in the tiniest print imaginable... you should all be thrilled for me that I got new glasses today.  My first pair, ever):

Dear Folks: 
Greetings on St. Patrick's Day from the Navy yard, Mare Island, California, and me.  These cards were especially designed at this yard's printing shop - a tribute to the Day - First time, I think.  Tho to make the stamp valuable had to be post-marked today.  Thought the stamp might prove interesting to the boys, and in time perhaps of value in their stamp collection.

The launching of the submarine S-6, U.S.S. Sturgeon, took place Tuesday (15th), as scheduled.  It was broadcast I understand over national hook-up (N.B.C.) - no doubt if you were tuned in you heard (Central Time 2:45 P.M.).  It was very beautiful - one of the prettiest launching I have seen out here, as she took to the water very gracefully, as if waiting the moment.  The ceremonies were very impressive as usual- there's something about the launching of a vessel that seems to get you giving you a good crop of goose pimples, & a slight inclination towards a bit of water about the eyes.

The sponsor, a Mrs. Charles S. Freeman, from San Francisco, whose husband is an Admiral in the Navy, in charge of Submarine Warfares, gave a second strike before the old bottle of champagne broke - at that the ship got a good drink, & the little wasted, her coat caught - it seemed anyway, both ladies were christened. 

Love to all, etc --


Here's a picture of what that one looked like:

And another:

Our next one is an envelope only, commemorating the launch of the U.S.S. Swordfish, April 1, 1939:

There's also an envelope from the launching of the U.S.S. Trigger, October 22, 1941:

One commemorating the launch of the Submarine U.S.S. Sturgeon, March 15, 1938:

And by the way, I'm not suggesting our writer was on all of these vessels-- it appears where he was stationed in Vallejo, California was actually the Mare Island Naval Yard -- must have been a cool job to watch all of those sea craft come and go!

Here's one commemorating the launch of the U.S.S. Sperry,  December 17, 1941:

and the launch of the U.S.S. Pompano, March 11, 1937:

This one is interesting because it's not like the others... it's postmarked from New Orleans, LA,  but is addressed to someone else in New Orleans, LA.  It contains two cachets,  one claiming a First Voyage of the S. S. Deltargentino,  a ship that sailed United States Mail from New Orleans to Buenos Aires, Argentina.    The other was basically the same thing, but in another color, and language-- actually from Argentina.

Here's one commemorating the Keel Laying of the U.S.S. Fulton on July 19, 1939:

and the Keel Laying of the U.S.S. Tuna,  July 19, 1939.     I have no idea what a Keel Laying is, so please don't ask.  We'll work on researching that one!

Our next one commemorates the launching of the U.S.S. Fulton on December 27, 1940.   This one was obviously very close to Christmas, so contains a picture of Uncle Sam dressed as Santa Clause with an appropriate caption!

This one also contains a letter:

Vallejo, Cal  27 Dec 1940

Dear Leone:

Went to get this nice cachet stamped envelop off to you, as today is the launching of this ship, the U.S.S. Fulton.  Will also try to get some of the defense stamps - 1 cent, 2 cent, and 3 cent to put on to increase it's value.

Will write you later, as soon as the rush of Christmas visiting is over - missed everybody tremendously at Christmas - in fact I never had a bit of the Christmas spirit - will write you fully on that subject a little later on -

Love to everybody and a very Happy New Year to all.


Here's another random letter I found late in the game:

I love my job... it's so nice to be able to read things like this!  By the way, it's at this point that I'm realizing the only letters that this collector left in the envelopes were the ones that mentioned things about increasing the values of the stamps or envelopes because of the cachets.  That explains why we have some letters but not others.

These last two both have to do with Navy Day, which apparently was a time for the Navy families to come visit the guys at Mare Island Navy Yard.    

This first one is a cachet advertising Navy Day, October 27, 1938:

And the second is an envelope about the Commissioning of the U.S.S. Henley, August 14, 1937:

... but inside, it has an invitation to this sailor's family, along with the program for the expected events of Navy Day.  Here's the pictures of that:

That's it for now!   We tried to get this one out as close to D-Day as we could--  pretty close to Memorial Day as well.    Thanks to all of our Armed Forces past and present, for all of the work that is done.  Words cannot express our eternal and complete gratitude!

Until next time,

Storage Heroes


  1. Just wondering, what would you ask for the collection? My dad worked at Mare Island for 25+ years & would get a kick out them, I'm sure.

  2. The going rate on them is between $5-15 each... ours are in poorer quality, so I'd say maybe $7 each and there are 12 plus a program... so the collection is probably worth roughly about $84. Since yours is for someone who actually might have some sort of sentimental attachment to them, I'd say give us $50 plus shipping... sound fair?

  3. Steven W. WilliamsJune 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    The keel is the "spine" of a ship and the first thing that is constructed when building a vessel. So the Keel laying is a big deal as its the start of a new vessel.

  4. Hey there, very cool collection. I actually worked at Mare Island in the 80's before it was shut down. Navy Day was changed to Family Day and friends and families could go into most of the shops and waterfront where the "boats" (subs) were being worked on. I had lots of fun back then and met my future husband there. I too would be interested in the collection if the other gentleman doesn't buy it.

    Thanks for sharing all great finds!


  5. I just found your blog, and while I still hold some internal discussions over the ethics of what you do,...I love the blog. Do you ever try and reunite the belongings with the owners, or the owners' families? Awesome find, as a Navy BRAT this stuff is so cool.



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