1937 Five-Cent Army Stamp: United States Military Academy at West Point

Army and Navy Commemorative Stamp Series 1936-1937

Between December 1936 and May 1937, the United States Post Office issued a series of commemorative postage stamps honoring the Army and Navy.

The Army stamps feature Generals from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and both the Union and Confederate armies in the Civil War, as well as the United States Military Academy where many of them were trained. Naval heroes are similarly featured on the Navy stamps.

These commemorative stamps provide a great introduction to the military history of the United States.

Facts about This Stamp

  • Date and Place Issued: May 26, 1937, in West Point, New York
  • Quantity issued: 36,839,250
  • Designer: Capt. L. E. Schick
  • Engravers: C. T. Arlt (vignette), E. M. Weeks (lettering)
  • Scott Catalog No. 789

Five-Cent Army Stamp

The ultramarine 5¢ Army stamp features a view of several buildings on the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York — Washington Hall, North Barracks, the Cadet Chapel, and the Old Observatory — with the motto “Duty - Honor - Country.”

This is the fifth stamp in the five-stamp Army series, which also includes

The corresponding five-cent ultramarine Navy stamp, featuring the United States Naval Academy, was issued in Annapolis, Maryland, on the same date that the five-cent Army stamp was issued in West Point, New York.

The Great Chain at West Point
The Great Chain at West Point | Source

Brief History of West Point

The United States Military Academy is located on the bank of the Hudson River at West Point, New York, some 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. It is the oldest service academy in the nation, founded by an Act of Congress in 1802.

West Point during the Revolutionary War

The site was first occupied by the Connecticut Militia in January 1778, making West Point the longest continually occupied military post in the United States. A Great Chain was built across the Hudson at West Point to prevent British ships from navigating farther upriver, and the construction of additional fortifications was supervised by Polish military engineer Tadeusz Kosciuszko. George Washington had his headquarters at West Point for much of 1779. The following year, the treasonous General Benedict Arnold plotted to sell the fort to the British.

Establishment of the Military Academy at West Point

After the Revolutionary War, a small garrison of soldiers remained at West Point. President Washington urged the creation of an academy to teach the art and science of war, but Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and many in Congress argued against it. An informal training school was established at West Point, but an official Academy was not authorized by Congress until 1802, when Jefferson was President. The curriculum was based on science and engineering, and Academy graduates built much of the nation’s transportation infrastructure in the early years. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the superintendent of West Point from 1817 to 1833, is recognized as the “Father of the Military Academy” for his work developing the Academy’s curriculum and teaching methods, as well as the emphases on discipline and honor that are the hallmarks of the institution today.

Expansion and Modernization of the U.S. Military Academy

The prestige of West Point was enhanced during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), when numerous graduates received battlefield promotions and commendations for bravery. Virtually all notable generals in the Civil War, in both the Union and the Confederate armies, were West Point graduates. The Academy accelerated graduations to meet the need for officers in the Spanish-American War and World War I. After World War I, Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur became superintendent and began a program of sweeping academic reform, modernization, and expansion. In 1935, Congress increased the size of the Corps of Cadets to 1,960, and as this stamp was issued, another building program was underway.

Cadets and Statue of George Washington at West Point
Cadets and Statue of George Washington at West Point | Source

The West Point Campus Buildings on the Stamp

Washington Hall, built in 1929 and expanded in 1964, contains the Cadet Mess, where the entire Corps of Cadets eats family style meals together at breakfast and lunch. The mess hall is decorated with military and historic artifacts, and a huge mural depicts weapons used in twenty of the most decisive battles in history. Washington Hall is also home to several academic departments.

The Cadet Chapel was designed by the firm of Crum, Goodhue, and Furgeson (CGF) after a design competition in 1903. Built of native granite, the chapel was dedicated in 1910. The chapel’s organ is the largest church organ in the world. The large stained glass sanctuary window is inscribed with the Academy’s motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”

The North Barracks was also built by CGF but was subsequently demolished and replaced by the MacArthur Barracks in 1972.

The Observatory was built in 1841. In 1880 it was moved to the location at the top of the hill as depicted on the stamp in order to make room for a train tunnel. The observatory was demolished in the 1950s.

Visiting West Point

To experience West Point for yourself and learn more about its history, plan a visit. West Point is located about 40 miles north of New York City and may be reached by car, bus, or train.

The Visitors Center and the West Point Museum are open to the public daily, except for a few major holidays. From the Visitors Center, you can take a guided tour of West Point (partially by bus, partially on foot). Several different tours are offered. All include a visit to the Cadet Chapel, Battle Monument, and other points of interest.

Because West Point is an active facility of the U.S. Military, tour times can vary, and the Chapel and other venues may be closed at the discretion of the Garrison Commander.

See the West Point website for more information about visiting West Point.

A markerUnited States Military Academy, West Point, NY -
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 10928, USA
[get directions]

Learn History by Collecting Stamps

You now know some of the history behind the five-cent Army commemorative stamp of 1937.

Adults and children can learn a lot about history by collecting stamps, especially commemoratives. The United States alone has issued hundreds of commemorative postage stamps, and thousands more from around the world tell interesting stories about people, places, and events.

Most commemorative stamps are affordable and accessible to collectors. Try collecting stamps today. It's fun and rewarding!

© 2011 Brian Lokker

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Comments 4 comments

Indigital 4 years ago

I've never been a stamp collector, although this does make me want to start!

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brianlokker 4 years ago from Washington DC metro area Author

@indigital, thanks for your comment. There is a huge variety of stamps. Many collectors choose to collect stamps of only one country, or to start with a theme -- birds, flags, writers, etc.

Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 12 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

USMA Class of 1959 (the last undefeated Army team 1958-59, the year that Cadet Captain Peter Dawkins won the Heisman Trophy; Pete is still the president of our class.)

This is a fine introduction to our military academy, and to stamp collecting.

Stamp collecting was my introduction to the world and to history, and I recommend it to any parent as a worthwhile activity and lifetime hobby for their children; the earlier the better.

brianlokker profile image

brianlokker 12 months ago from Washington DC metro area Author

Perspycacious, thank you for your comment. My second cousin, Al Vanderbush, class of 1961, was on that Army team (linebacker, I think), and was Army's athletic director in the 1990s. We were Army fans in our household, partly as a result of that connection and also because of my dad's WWII service. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and are an advocate of stamp collecting!

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