The 1982 20¢ Franklin Delano Roosevelt stamp shows the 32nd president of the United States in a lovely engraved design, marked in blue ink. He appears to be leaning out of the side of an open-top car, holding a cigarette and holder in one hand.
The most striking feature of this stamp is Roosevelt’s contagious smile. Considering the many challenges he faced during his presidency, he looks relaxed, happy, and at peace.
Perhaps he had just spent some time with his favorite hobby, stamp collecting.
FDR’s Presidential Challenges
When Franklin D. Roosevelt first took office in 1933, the Great Depression was in full swing. The stock market tanked, people lost their jobs and despair was everywhere.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day, the President went before Congress. "I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”
FDR died just 11 weeks into his fourth term (April 12, 1945) before he could see the end of World War II, on September 2, 1945.
In addition to all of Roosevelt’s professional challenges, he also faced personal ones, such as his ongoing battle with polio.
The Stamp-Collecting President
Roosevelt started collecting stamps as a child. Just like for collectors today, it was a way for him to learn about the world. Stamp collecting is simultaneously a lesson in geography and history. Each stamp teaches us about what was important to people of a certain region at a certain time. It’s easy to imagine young Franklin studying strange stamps from around the world, marveling at the details in the artwork and memorizing the origin stories of each new item in his collection.
Even after he was elected president, FDR continued to collect stamps. He would daily take time from his presidential duties to study his albums. This is how Roosevelt himself explained it: “I owe my life to my hobbies – especially stamp collecting.”
Collecting stamps helped FDR deal with his many anxieties. “I have vivid memories of Father sitting at his desk when he had a half-hour or hour with no appointments,” his son James recounted, “with his stamp books and an expression of complete relaxation and enjoyment on his face.”
It wasn’t just studying stamps in isolation that helped FDR stay calm. He was also a member of numerous clubs and societies, including our very own American Philatelic Society. He was inducted into the APS Hall of Fame posthumously in 1945.
Staying Happy As We Get Older
Developing a love of stamp collecting can be beneficial for your life. Just like FDR, we can take our stamp collecting hobby to the next level by joining philatelic clubs and groups in our area. We’ll get so much more from our hobby if we share it with others. Creating new social bonds is another way to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
We may struggle with mental health, physical health, family problems, and economic problems. Anxiety about these issues can reduce serotonin. Building low-stress hobbies into our life can help us keep those levels up. With the help of stamp collecting, we might be able to smile just like FDR!
This webstory originally posted on February 11, 2020.