The Collector’s Guide to 1936
Texas Independence and 1945 Statehood Centennial Cachets
This first hand account by a journalist of the era gives perspective on
what happened when a small town post office was selected for first day
A Texas Postmaster Said
“Come and Get Them”
And How Collectors Did Is
By DON HINGA
(Written specially for Stamp Digest)
“The little town of Gonzales, where the first shot
was fired in Texas war of Independence against Mexico one hundred years ago,
was the center of attention from stamp collectors all over the world on March 2
when the first Texas Centennial stamps were placed on sale here.
"Gonzales is a small town of about 2,500 persons. It has a handsome little
two-story post office; and Fred Boothe, the genial postmaster, usually has a
pretty easy time of it.
“The main highway between San Antonio and Houston
doesn’t go through Gonzales any more and it is not on a main line railway.
Therefore life goes on leisurely in the post office.
“But that all changed when Post Office Department
officials decided that the honor of selling the first Centennial stamps should
go to the town that fired the first shot for freedom and the town that also
raised the first army to fight against Mexico.
“From then on Postmaster Booth's troubles began to
"As soon as the announcement was made, mail
began to double and treble in his little shop. He told his staff that they
could expect some longer hours. But he head no idea of the rush that would
"Toward the latter part of the last week in
February every mail bag bulged with letters from persons who wanted Mr. Boothe
to send them out on March 2 with the special issue stamps.
“Almost every day he had to add another member to
"A week before Texas’ Independence Day (March
2) Mr. Boothe had some 80,000 pieces of mail. on hand. The stampede continued
and on Saturday and Sunday before the holiday he had to add twenty more persons
to his staff!
“Robert E. Fellers, of the Stamp Division of the
Post Office Department, arrived to lend his trained assistance to the harassed
Mr. Boothe. He was accompanied by Charles H. Anderson, the postmaster of
“In the main mail handling room of the post office
large tables were arranged by putting wide boards on old-fashioned ‘saw
horses.’ Gonzales business men pitched in to help.
"They sat at the long tables from 12 to 16
hours a day, slitting the envelopes and watching the orders for stamps fall
out. Upstairs, Mr. Boothe opened another room and put about a dozen girls and
young men to work stamping the envelopes.
"So hard did they work that calluses began to
appear on the palms of their hands from pressing the stamps down securely. One
young man arranged a couple of blotters on his hand, secured with adhesive
tape, and his device was quickly copied by the others.
"Toward the latter part of the weekend the
larger orders began to pile in. One dealer came through with an order for 35,000 covers. Another ordered 20,000
more. Orders ranging from several hundred to a thousand or more were common.
“The Chase National Bank of New York bought $1,000
worth of stamps; a Gonzales banker bought another $1,000 worth; the Texas State
Health Department sent a check for $600; the Attorney General of Texas asked
for $300 worth more.
"Politicians and State officials made sure that
they were buying goodwill by sending in many more orders.
"Sunday night about midnight I walked through
the post office to see the rush Tall Texans with their characteristic big hats
were standing before the long tables, methodically opening the envelopes.
"Bulging mail bags lay around everywhere. Stack
after stack of unopened mail was piled on every available table or chair. The
floor was littered with slit envelopes.
"In the stamping section, weary girls went
through the motions like machines. Mr. Boothe was everywhere, a little groggy
from many nights of little sleep, but mighty proud of the way his staff was
“When the stamp windows were opened on Monday
morning there was a long line of eager buyers, though they had to brave a
terrific downpour to come to the post office.
"Sales of $100 to $500 each were common. Standing in line were many poor Mexicans,
whose defeat the stamps were celebrating. They seemed just as eager to buy a
stamp as their white brothers and sisters.
“Mr. Boothe had a lot of freak requests. One man
sent a telegraph money order for 25 cents
worth of stamps from Lake Forest, Illinois. Another sent three cents for a
stamp. He put only two cents on the envelope and it was returned to him. Then
he put three more cents on the same cover and forgot to include the letter to
be stamped and mailed back. By the time that he had bought his three cent
stamps it had cost him 10 cents or more.
“Mr. Boothe said that the stamps went all over the
world. The island of Tahiti in the lonely Pacific is the farthest place on the
map from Gonzales - and some letters went there.
“A dusty Ethiopian with an unpronounceable name sent
in an order for several to be mailed to Addis Ababa.
“The movie colony in Hollywood had heavy orders.
“The first stamp to be sold was bought by Lieutenant
Governor Walter Woodul of Texas from Karl A. Crowley, a Texan who is presently
Solicitor General of the United States. Mr. Woodul affixed the stamp to a
beautifully engraved letter to President Roosevelt and it was dropped into the
mails to be speeded to the White House, whose occupant is an enthusiastic
philatelist. Among other dignitaries present at the ceremony, which was
broadcast and recorded also by newsreel companies were C.B. Eilenberger, Third
Assistant Postmaster General; Samuel Scofield, Internal Revenue Collector for
Texas; and several State Representatives.
"At midnight Sunday more than 200,000 covers
had been received for mailing. Monday morning about 11 a.m. Mr Fellers
announced that 700,000 stamps had been sold and that the demand was still
brisk. Total first day sales were 1,0200,000 stamps and 319,150 covers were
“Later in the afternoon a group of young Gonzales
businessmen, headed by Harry Reese, publisher of the Gonzales
Enquirer, chipped in to put the sale
over one million for the day. Mr. Reese arrived at the post office about 4 p.m.
with $5,000 cash in his hand.
“ 'Mr. Boothe, I want to but 45,000 worth of stamps
and put the sale over a million,' he said.
" 'I'm sorry, Henry,' the worn out Mr. Boothe
replied, 'I haven't got that many left. I've just ordered 300,000 more and when
they come I’ll get them to you.'
"Mr. Fellers said that the stamp sale broke
every record for special issues. The nearest approach was the sale of the
Connecticut Tercentenary stamp at Hartford, Conn., a few years ago. Around
208,000 were sold then.
"On the Gonzales square there stands a replica
of the old brass cannon that fires the first shot for Texas' Independence. The
Mexicans came to the Guadalupe River at Gonzales and ordered the Texans to give
the cannon up.
"The Texans replied “Come and Get It,” fired a
blast that scared the Mexicans back to San Antonio and designed a flag that has
the motto “Come and Get It” for the Gonzales company organized to fight for
" ‘Well, I told 'em to come and get 'em,’ Mr.
Boothe said Monday midnight, as he pushed some letters out of his chair and
viewed his disheveled office. 'And believe me they did!’ "